Are walkers safe for babies? Here’s what pediatricians have to say about the controversial topic.
What can you read in this article?
- 3 reasons why experts don’t recommend walkers
- Are walkers safe for babies?
- Alternative to baby walkers
As a work-from-home mom, I’ve tried all possible ways to distract my kids. I’m guilty of sometimes propping them down beside me, gadget in tow, just so I could finish all my deadlines for work.
When they were babies, they also experienced using a baby walker which was a gift from their lola. My eldest passed it down up to her baby brother. For me, it was useful because they enjoyed “cruising” around the house. They were also entertained with the different buttons that make sounds, which the manufacturer claims as “educational.”
I have to say, this particular baby gear proved useful in distracting my babies. They liked the independence. They would just go around and around the room, exploring the things that their tiny arms can reach.
But of course, the whole time that my baby is using a walker, I still need to keep an eye on him. Because if I turn my back on him even for a few seconds, he might just touch something dangerous or put something in his mouth. There was also a time when my child fell from his walker. It’s a good thing the fall wasn’t too high and he wasn’t badly hurt.
Eventually, my child learned to crawl out of his walker. That’s the time we decided to put it away. My children are big kids now. But if you ask me, if I ever get pregnant again, will I let my baby use a walker? My answer is no.
Are walkers safe for babies?
Infant walkers used to be very popular years ago, and still continue to enjoy widespread popularity to this day. But recently, more and more doctors and parenting experts have spoken up about the dangers of using walkers. One theAsianparent Community user asked the community about the safety issues of using a walker:
Here’s what the theAsianparent Community community had to say:
“Saucers, jumpers, walkers, etc. do nothing to enhance development, and can actually delay the achievement of milestones by several weeks,” wrote an anonymous user.
“We used to have a walker but our pediatrician told us the danger of them falling down the stairs, or pulling things off the table and hurting themselves,” wrote Kong M. “So our walker is kept in the store room forever.”
Like me, a lot of parents used a baby walker for their children. They believed that because of its name, it helps your child to start walking at an early age. Imagine, you just have to prop him up in that chair with wheels, and he can already start cruising around the house without any assistance.
But according to medical experts, the use of a baby walker is not advisable because aside from it being not safe, it doesn’t help in your child’s development to teach or train him to walk. In fact, it does the opposite.
Why you shouldn’t buy a walker for your baby
Are push walkers bad for babies? According to baby experts, here are three reasons why you shouldn’t let your baby use a walker:
Using a walker could hinder walking abilities
Doctors have actually found that baby walkers don’t help with the process of learning to walk. In fact, baby walkers could eliminate your child’s desire to learn how to walk.
Prolonged use of a walker could also negatively affect your baby’s muscle development. When using a walker, your baby’s hips and knees are bent, and your baby would be walking on his/her toes more. This could form habits that would be difficult to correct in the future.
“What I don’t like with using a walker, the earlier you put a baby in the walker, let’s say 6 months, the more they become dependent on it. At the same time, you can’t exercise their muscles and their coordination using a baby walker,” said Dr. Jennifer Tiglao, a pediatrician from the Makati Medical Center.
In fact, studies reveal that babies who used baby walkers got lower locomotive development scores compared to babies who did not use walkers.
At the same time, the use of baby walkers may also affect an infant’s natural stance in walkin since it causes babies to tiptoe while using it, which is not the correct form of walking and standing.
According to Dr. Tiglao, it’s better to follow the chronological stages of motor development, where the child learns to sit and crawl first before he can stand and walk.
“We have stages in walking. For me, what’s important is not walking right away, but crawling, because it’s the most important part of motor development. Once you crawl, you can stand, then you can walk later on.
So just let your baby crawl first. Don’t get ahead of things and try to make him walk before he can crawl,” the pediatrician explained in Filipino.
Through crawling, your child learns to stand, balance, and support his body, which is very important in learning how to walk. But when a baby starts cruising using a walker, it seems like he is walking, but in reality, he is just dependent on the wheels to move around, so his motor and mental development slows down.
Walkers put to get your child in a bad fall
A few parents on theAsianparent Community advocated using walkers sparingly and keeping a close eye on the baby. However, plenty of walker-related accidents happen under the supervision of a parent or caregiver—babies on walkers can move 3 feet in 1 second!
In fact, according to a study that was published in the medical journal Pediatrics, from the year 1990 until 2014, over 230,000 accidents that lead to the emergency room were recorded (in a span of 15 months) in the United States that were related to the use of baby walkers. Most of these incidents were because the child was using a walker when he fell on the stairs and injured her head or neck.
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, 4,000 cases of baby walker-related accidents happen every year. Dr. Tiglao agreed with these statistics.
“There’s a danger of the child’s neck and back getting hurt, even if you use a high-tech walker with back support.
The primary reason being it has wheels. If the child walks fast and he cannot control himself using the walker, accidents can really happen. In my practice, I’ve seen babies who fell off the stairs using a walker,” she said.
Walkers can put your child in all sorts of danger
Aside from falling down the stairs, your child can also get into other accidents while in his walker.
Because he is able to stand using it, it’s easier for him to reach things that are usually off-limits. He can reach for sharp objects or put stuff in his mouth that is dirty and are possible choking hazards.
Even if we just turn our backs for a few seconds, our baby might do or get something that might put him in danger. He might get burned by reaching for hot objects, drown by falling into a body of water, and so forth.
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Safer alternatives to baby walkers
Because of the risks mentioned above, the use of walkers have been banned in Canada, and the AAP is also advocating the same thing.
Instead of using a walker, here are other things you can buy or use that are beneficial in his development and may encourage baby to walk:
- a stationary activity center, which looks like walkers but has no wheels and just stays in one place.
- play yards or playpens, which are great safety zones for children who are learning how to sit, crawl, or walk
- high chairs, which are ideal for older children who can sit up and play with toys on the tray.
However, although they are the safer option, you should avoid letting your child spend too much time on any of the above three alternatives. Studies have shown that babies who spend too much time in play stations learn to crawl and walk at a slower pace than babies who are allowed to roam free.
Just supervise your baby closely as she learns to walk around your house, practicing being on all fours, pulling herself up to a standing position, and so forth. She’ll be walking in no time.
So to answer the question, “Are walkers safe for babies?” Pediatricians say that they’re not. It’s probably one of those things that you shouldn’t splurge on. Instead, save your hard-earned money and invest in safer, more useful baby gear.
Additional information by Camille Eusebio
Healthy Children.org, Harvard Health Publishing, NHS