By baby walkers, I don’t mean babies that walk, I mean those moving chairs that babies are placed in.
I wanted to bring up this topic because I recently saw a patient that was nearly 2 years old but not walking yet. The patient’s parent told me that the patient cruised a little around their home, but mostly walked in a walker like the one pictured above.
I told the parent to just toss that walker right in the trash or to give it away (though I wouldn’t want anyone else using a walker!). The day after removing the walker from their home, the patient began taking their first steps. The parent thought I did something great, but mostly it was removing the walker from the home along with some tips and tricks that I will bring up in a later post (stay tuned to next week’s Tips and Tricks Tuesdays!)
Here are the reasons why PTs say No way to baby walkers:
- Walkers are simply NOT SAFE!- From a study in 2006 that investigated Walker-related injuries, “An estimated 197200 infant walker-related injuries occurred among children who were younger than 15 months and treated in US emergency departments from 1990 through 2001.” Canada has banned walker use since 2004 and can fine someone up to $100,000 or 6 months in jail. “Trauma to the head region occurred in 91% of cases. Skull fractures were the most common (62%) type of fracture. Falls down stairs was the mechanism of injury in 74% of cases.” (link to study here)
- Walker use delays motor development #1. When you’re sitting in a chair surrounded by a giant bumper and then allowed to walk anywhere you want and crash into anything, it really doesn’t force your brain/body to practice balancing on its own.
- Walker use delays motor development #2. This relates to #1. Being in a walker doesn’t allow a child to see where their feet are when they walk. Being able to see our hands/feet as they move is important for brain development, and specifically proprioception. Proprioception is basically our brain’s ability to know where our limbs are in space without looking at them. So if a child doesn’t have the opportunity to learn this, it can affect their balance later.
- Walker use delays other milestones. Children are typically placed in walkers soon after they can stand, which is usually before they can crawl. Placing them in a walker can delay crawling because being in a walker doesn’t allow further development of hand-eye coordination for crawling. You can read my previous post about the benefits of crawling.
- Walker use can lead to mental delays. In the October, 1999 Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics [1999;20:355-361]- “On a standard test of mental development, no-walker babies had the highest average score, followed by babies who used “see-feet” walkers and those who used newer walkers.”
- Walker use can lead to greater delays in a child who is already developmentally delayed. “The authors note, other investigators have found that in developmentally-challenged babies, babies born prematurely and very young infants, walkers may be particularly likely to cause problems with balance and alignment.”
Alternative to walkers:
Exersaucers (though don’t leave your children in here for an extended period of time either!)- Need to make sure your child can stand well in these so they do not try to stand on their toes or stiffen their legs to stay balanced.
Or just try simply walking holding hands! (but remember to keep hands at your child’s shoulder height.
Resources I used for this post:
Categories: Child Development