Infant Walkers…Just Say NO!

Infant Walkers…Just Say NO!

The most exciting thing that many parents experience is watching their children conquer all their “firsts” – first time rolling over, first time sitting up, first time crawling, and first time pulling up to stand. In this excitement, many parents are eager to see their baby walk “early”, leading many parents to lean toward the use of a widely used baby item that many do not realize can be extremely dangerous – a baby walker.  A baby walker is a seat on wheels that confines the infant. This does not refer to toys that infants push/walk behind. 

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Every year, baby walkers send thousands of children to the hospital. These are dangerous because they offer your baby the chance to:  

Move quickly: These walkers allow infants to move fast, allowing them to access danger before the parent realizes the risk. The top heaviness of these walkers also poses a risk for tipping over easily when encountering an item, such as a toy or rug, on the floor.  

Access higher objects: Being raised higher off the ground allows your baby to reach things he/she may not normally have access to. This increases the risks for burns and poisoning. Some examples include: 

  • Pulling a tablecloth and spilling hot coffee or accessing sharp utensils 
  • Reaching a hot stove/oven 
  • Grabbing pot handles on stove 
  • Reaching radiators, fireplaces, or space heaters 
  • Grabbing hot hair appliances off counters 
  • Pulling heavy objects onto his/her head 
  • Reaching cleaning products/medicines on counters 

Roll down stairs: One of the biggest risks of infant walkers is the risk of rolling down stairs. These types of accidents usually result in head injuries or broken bones.  

Access to water: Access to a pool may allow an infant to roll in and drown. Walkers also provide baby access to climb or tip over into a full bathtub and drown.  

Aside from the physical dangers of using walkers, some delayed motor development can be associated with their use. Contrary to popular belief, a baby walker does not help your child learn to walk faster. Read below for ways that walkers may delay your baby’s development. 

  • Walking is not just about “using” the legs. It is more about learning to pull to stand, balance, and then take steps without support. While in a walker, infants cannot practice any of these.  
  • Walkers take away from time on the floor, which is important to allow your baby to practice important repetitive movements needed to reach their walking milestones.  
  • Babies tend to use their toes when they are in a walker. This tightens their leg muscles and interferes with normal walking development.  
    • When they are out of the walker, they will often continue to want to walk on tier toes.
    • Babies mostly “propel” themselves across the floor while in a walker. They do not bear much of their body weight. 
  • Time is taken away from baby being able to practice crawling position on hands and knees. This is important to develop weight bearing through the pelvis and shoulders.  
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What can parents do? 

  • Throw out your baby walker! Also, ensure that there are no baby walkers being used whenever your child is receiving care.
  • Try a safer alternative in moderation: 
    • Stationary activity centers: These usually have seats that rotate, tilt, and/or bounce. 
    • Play pens or play yards: These are great safety zones for children as they learn to sit, crawl, or walk. 
    • Highchairs: Older children may enjoy sitting up in a highchair and playing with toys on a tray

Though baby walkers have been used for years, the evidence of the risks associated with their use is very clear. Protect your baby and encourage good motor development by avoiding the use of walkers. 
When in doubt, throw it out!!
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