Are Baby Walkers Safe for your Baby? Find out about the pros & cons of baby walkers as well as alternatives to help your baby grow healthy, happy & active.
As parents, we are ecstatic every time our baby achieves a milestone, like rolling over or sitting up. We worry when there’s any sign of a delay and we feel proud when our baby does everything ahead of her peers. And probably the most anticipated milestone is the incredible moment when baby takes her first step.
To reach this glorious moment faster, many parents get their babies baby walkers. The reasoning is that it offers a safe way for baby to move around and practice being on her two feet. It also keeps baby entertained, and gives Mom and Dad some time to relax with a coffee.
However, there’s been a lot of noise in the news regarding the safety of baby walkers, and this has got some parents confused. So are baby walkers really safe? Let’s find out!
Are Baby Walkers Safe for your Baby?
The answer to this question is simple – it’s a big NO!
Baby walkers don’t serve any of the purposes they’re allegedly supposed to. Neither do they help babies walk faster nor are they safe enough to leave babies unsupervised. Baby walkers have been banned in Canada, with experts in many other countries asking for a ban in their nations too. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages parents from getting baby walkers, and advises them to discard any they may have got as gifts.
Dangers of using Baby Walkers
Emergency rooms in the United States have reported an average of 23,000 injuries caused by baby walkers every year. Most of these are head injuries, with one in every ten being a skull fracture.
Baby walkers move pretty fast. An energetic baby in a walker can move nearly four feet in a single second, which is too fast for a parent to react in case of impending danger.
Walkers raise the baby’s height, so even if you’ve childproofed your home, everything that was previously inaccessible now comes within baby’s reach. This gives babies access to sharp objects, hot cups or plates or household poisons like cleaning liquids. This added height also helps babies reach stove knobs and electrical outlets.
Several accidents have been because babies have toppled down stairs or drowned in the pool or toilet. No matter how safe manufacturers state they are, baby walkers still pose a tipping risk, especially if the floor is uneven or if the walker trips on a toy. And if the walker is a foldable type (as most of them are), the folds and hinges can pinch baby’s delicate skin or fingers and toes.
Here is a quick summary of the risks of putting your baby in a baby walker:
- Tripping and falling
- Rolling down stairs
- Poisoning from household substances
- Burns and cuts due to access to hot or sharp objects
- Drowning by falling into any body of water (babies can drown in less than 2 inches of water)
- Pinched fingers or toes
How Baby Walkers affect Walking in Babies
Several studies have been conducted to study the effect of baby walkers in helping babies walk, and they’ve all pointed to one fact – baby walkers don’t help babies walk. In fact, they may actually hinder a baby’s natural development that makes him able to walk on his own. Studies also show that baby walker-users learn to sit, crawl and walk later than other babies, and also show delayed mental and motor development.
To be able to walk, babies need to spend time on their tummy, trying to sit and crawl and puling up to stand. These actions strengthen the muscles needed for walking independently. This ‘roll-sit up-crawl-walk’ sequence helps babies strengthen each muscle group in the right order and also helps them learn to balance themselves. Besides, babies need to see their legs so they understand what kind of actions trigger a certain movement.
Being in a baby walker hinders this natural process. Walkers strengthen only the lower legs, whereas the hips and upper legs, which are crucial for walking, are left out. Babies who spent time on the floor strengthening all their muscles don’t just walk earlier, they are found to be stronger and more stable when they move.
Safer Alternatives to Baby Walkers
If you would like to entertain baby without affecting her normal development, there are many safer alternatives to baby walkers. Here are some of them.
1. Push Walker
This kind of walker is actually suitable to toddlers or babies who’ve already started taking their first steps. The child holds the handle of the walker and moves, pushing the walker forward. Most walkers also have fun elements that provide entertainment when not walking.
Stationary walkers are becoming increasingly popular as a much safer alternative to baby walkers. It offers all the entertainment options of a traditional walker, but without the mobility. Some of these offer bouncing features, along with lots of attached toys for baby to play with.
This device has wheels, but only when used as a push walker. When the baby is seated, the wheels fold in, turning it into a stationary play center. This kind of walker can last you as the baby grows from crawling to toddling and offers age-appropriate safety.
4. Baby Rocker
A rocker offers baby some movement while strapped in safely and securely. Most rockers also have toys within easy reach of baby’s grasp to keep them entertained.
An activity center is ideal for babies who’re sitting up, all the way to toddlerhood. It offers a stable option for babies to pull up and play with, and can offer hours of entertainment.
This is a great idea for active babies and toddlers when you want to contain them for a short while. The ‘room’ can be made to fit your toddler’s age and some brands offer extension kits so you can make it bigger as the child grows.
7. Play Pen
For smaller babies, a play pen may be more practical than an activity room as it’s easier to put baby down and safer. Keep a few toys for baby in it so he doesn’t get bored of staying in an empty pen.
While these options are certainly safer than a baby walker, by no means are babies to be left in them unsupervised. Too much time spent in such devices can also hamper normal development, since babies need floor time to workout all their muscles and to satisfy their budding curiosity. Babies should not be placed in these to sleep. Please remember that your company and the floor are all that baby needs to grow into a healthy, happy and active child.