Baby Walkers

Baby Walkers

Babies love to be on the move. But is it OK to satisfy your little one’s craving for motion by putting him or her in a walker?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the answer is no. In fact, the organization has called for a ban on the manufacture and sale of baby walkers with wheels.

So why is there much ado about walkers? The AAP and other experts cite the following reasons when discouraging parents from using them:

  • Walkers can lead to developmental delays. Because babies can get around too easily, they don’t have the normal urge to move around the floor, so they don’t learn to crawl, creep or scoot. These are important developmental milestones. And despite the device’s name, it actually interferes with learning to walk. Besides decreasing the desire to learn, walkers also strengthen the wrong muscles. The lower legs may get stronger, but the most important ones for walking—the upper legs and hips—may become weaker.
  • Walkers can roll down stairs, causing broken bones and head injuries. Newer safety measures enacted in 1997 made it mandatory that walkers have brakes that stop them at the edge of a step (walkers are also made wider now to prevent them from going through most doors). But accidents can and do still happen.
  • Walkers can lead to burns. Because your child is sitting higher in the walker, it makes it easier for him or her to yank a tablecloth down and possibly spill hot beverages, grab a pot handle on the stove or reach for things like radiators, fireplaces and space heaters.
  • Walkers can result in drowning. All it takes is a few seconds for your child to get rolling and fall into a pool or bathtub.
  • Walkers can cause a poisoning accident. Again, the ability for your child to reach higher than normal means it’s easier for little hands to get a hold of something dangerous.

If you think it’s still OK to use one if you’re watching your baby, think again. The AAP points out that most walker accidents happen when the parent is watching. It turns out that your baby moves faster than you can react—as much as three feet in a second.
Opt for the alternatives

So how can you keep your little one entertained? Consider stationary activity centers. They resemble walkers, but don’t have the dangerous wheels. Your child can jump, bounce, rotate or tip till his or her heart is content and it won’t interfere with development.

Another possibility is a play yard or playpen. Your child can still explore their ability to sit, crawl or walk—but in safer confines. A high chair can also do double duty: Try sitting your baby up in it and place some toys on the tray.

Finally, push-cars or wagons are excellent choices for babies learning to walk. It might look like a lawnmower or car, and can help your child strengthen the right muscles and aid your child in learning to get around upright. Like any other toy, just make sure they’re sturdy enough not to tip over and be careful with those stairs!