Baby walkers are a highly contested piece of baby equipment. Supporters love them for their convenience and the adorableness of seeing babies “walk,” but most child experts recommend against them and encourage a stationary activity center. And for good reason – in baby walkers’ heyday between 1973 and 1998, they were blamed for 34 infant deaths and thousands of injuries, mostly from falling down stairs.
Regardless of which side you’re on, data gives us important facts about baby walkers.
- Injuries occur in different ways, including falls (either from trying to climb out of the walker or falling down stairs), poisoning and drowning.
- Babies who use walkers tend to walk later than non-users.
- Baby walkers can lead to an abnormal walking motion (gait), which is short-term and corrects itself down the line.
Studies show that baby walkers are more dangerous than helpful. They have led to dozens of infant deaths and thousands of injuries – an estimated 8,800 injuries in 1999 alone. Even when responsible parents take precautions, the risks aren’t eliminated.
BABY GATES DON’T KEEP BABY SAFE
Most injuries related to baby walkers are from stair falls. What might be shocking to you is that one-third of stair falls occurred when a baby gate was present.
Some parents believe that if they use a baby gate to block off stairs, their baby will be safe. Unfortunately, studies don’t show this to be true. When a child gets moving in a walker, she can get momentum going that will have her moving up to 3 feet per second, which is rather fast for a large object carrying your child. The speed can take out seemingly sturdy baby gates and outpace parents who aren’t within arm’s reach.
CHILDREN CAN REACH ITEMS THEY SHOULDN’T
Burns, poisoning and drowning are other injuries that baby walker-users have suffered. It’s tempting for caregivers to give babies a little independence while in the baby walker, but this is never a good idea. Their increased height and mobility allows them to reach items they normally can’t, and because they’re little kids, they do.
These startling statistics show how quickly baby walkers can become hazardous:
- 78 percent of children in one study were being supervised at the time of the injury.
- Many of these injuries happened with at least one parent in the room.
- In baby walker deaths from 1989 – 1993, four were from drowning and four were from suffocation.
Alternatives to Baby Walkers
Many caregivers are convinced that the benefits of baby walkers outweigh the risks, but this isn’t true. If your baby needs a safe place to sit while you enjoy some hands-free time, consider a similar activity center, such as an exersaucer. These popular baby items stay in one place. Babies sit in the fabric seat, which rotates 360 degrees, and can bounce in the seat while playing with different items that are safely attached to the tray area.
Remember, children’s health professionals do not recommend baby walkers, and they have been shown to be unsafe even with supervision. Additionally, they offer no mental or physical benefits to your child. One study showed that walker-experienced kids sat, crawled and walked later than kids who didn’t use walkers, and some children developed a slightly unusual gait when they did start walking.
With a reputation like that, why bring one into your home?
Editor’s note: Baby walkers are not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics due to risk of injury and/or death. Please consider buying a stationary activity center, such as an exersaucer, as an alternative. This article references many statistics. They are available for your review on the AAP’s website.
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