Are baby walkers good for babies?
While there exists a school of thought that baby walkers can be useful to a baby’s development, there is documented evidence by experts and reputable organizations such as AAP that claim that baby walkers are not safe for babies and can actually delay their walking development.
Since their invention in the early 15th century in Europe, baby walkers have been advertised as products that can help your baby learn to walk. That marketing hype swept most parents and continues to even today, by the feet with a notion that they help your baby learn how to walk. A baby walker features a design that allows your infant to sit in a stable standing position with toes touching the floor allowing them to move without your support – your baby essentially pushing it and using the toes a lot more than other body parts.
I remember when bringing up my firstborn daughter, Jasmine, and I had a lot of antagonism from family and friends for not buying her one. Truth be told, if I had money then, like now, it would have been in my baby registry. Both kids and parents have a soft spot for infant walkers.
Baby walkers do not help in learning to walk
The normal pattern for a baby to learn how to walk includes milestones such as rolling on the floor, sitting, crawling, or scooting or creeping, pulling themselves up to stand and moving using furniture and other stationary objects around them and at no point is a walker necessary in this process.
As parents, we have diverse viewpoints and hypotheses regarding the role of a baby walker in our kids’ lives. I don’t know about you but knowing what I know now about their side effects, I’m on the banning side. Anyway, we all are entitled to our beliefs, right?
Are walkers bad for babies hips
Baby walkers are bad for a baby’s hips as they strengthen the lower leg and not the upper leg and hip section and this limited development of your baby’s hips cause a potential risk of hip dysplasia/dislocation later in life.
How long should a baby be in a walker
The recommended amount of time your baby can use a walker is 5 minutes and the maximum amount of time before it starts causing damage is 15 minutes.
Why walkers delay baby walking development
Babies need to spend a good amount of time on the floor practicing certain repetitive movements needed as part of their walking milestones. When they use a walker, they tend to use the toes more and tighten their leg muscles and interfere with their normal walking development.
One important milestone in learning to walk is being able to sit up and balance and when they use a walker, they miss this essential step.
Dangers of baby walkers:
Walkers impede the development of key milestones of baby walking and because they tend to facilitate faster walking they are unsafe in the following ways;
- risk of falling down
- tipping over
- falling into sharp objects
- accelerated move to danger zones such as fireplaces
Safe guidelines for baby walkers:
While there are risks with baby walkers, there are also benefits, and below are some guidelines we recommend in order to be safe;
- let your baby use it only on flat surfaces
- let your baby use it only when you are close by to supervise
- allow your baby to only use it in baby-proofed areas
- choose one with a safety lock
- don’t let your baby use a walker before they can walk. more details on recommended age below
- don’t let your baby use a walker for more than 15 minutes.
What is the right age for a baby walker?
The answer to this question is highly debatable given the different opinions from experts and parents. Those who support their use, however, say that you should place your child on the infant walker when they are 4 to 5 months old. Your child should use it until he or she is approx. 10 months while others say 16 months old.
At 10 months old, your baby development milestone says that they should start crawling or pulling themselves from a seated position to stand. In short, they should be a couple of months away from walking without supporting themselves with an object. So, do you see where we want to rush our children to? I don’t know where you are standing now at the sound of that.
Baby walkers come in different designs and sizes allowing you to choose the most appropriate one for your lovely angel and the place you live. Read more on the best baby walkers for small spaces here.
Why are baby walkers banned?
According to an article by the NCBI, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) clearly affirms that baby walkers do not encourage your child’s independence to walk. On the contrary, they are said to interfere with your baby’s normal development and motor control or skills. That is why the production and use of baby walkers are being banned in some countries. Canada spearheaded the banning of the sale, importation, and marketing of baby walkers since 2004. The ban followed a report by the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP) about 1,935 walker-related injury cases between 1990 and 2002.
A ban on baby walkers had been called by the Monash University’s Victorian Injury Surveillance System in 1993 in Australia, followed by the Australian Consumers’ Association in 1995, and the Australian Injury Surveillance and Control Unit in 1996. Although the country has not banned baby walkers, they instituted strict laws of standard safety in February 2013 to reduce injury rates.
According to a study conducted by Pediatrics and published on Vox.com, approx. 2,000 kids are treated in the ERs with walker-related injuries in the US. It’s even higher than in Canada. That is why many pediatrics, including the AAP, are voice out that they should be banned.
What can I use instead of a walker?/Alternatives;
The best alternative to a walker if you want to see your baby walk is through assisted walking where you stand behind them and put your hands around their upper arms. You can then pull them up to stand and gently pull one arm after the other. Their feet will certainly follow as they spin their hips to step.
Below are some alternatives;
Mary Stephens is our infant development and baby fun activities specialist here at MotherhoodHQ. She has over 10 years of experience dealing with kids, previously as a K3 teacher and now as a K9-12 teacher specializing in physical education and Social Studies. She is certified to teach in New York and Massachusetts and when not teaching trampoline jump tricks or giving toddler safety guides, she enjoys writing and providing helpful guides to parents on baby fun activities from infancy to toddlerhood. Mary is also an independent consultant providing parents with fun activities at home and appropriate toys and baby gear for infants and toddler development. She can be reached at her email, mary.s(at)motherhoodhq.com.