By Ginny Cruz
Baby walkers are back in the news.
According to a new study published October 2018 in Pediatrics, more than 230,000 children under fifteen months of age were treated in U.S. emergency departments for injuries related to baby walkers from 1990 through 2014. Most of those injuries were from falls.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has long held the view baby walkers with wheels should be banned from manufacture and sale in the United States. While the number of babies injured from wheeled walkers has decreased since enhanced safety measures went into effect, injuries continue to occur.
When a child tumbles out of a walker, the most common injury is to the head.
Wheeled baby walkers allow the baby to move around the environment much faster than is safe. A child can quickly bump into tables, become tangled in electrical cords, or tumble down stairs. They can fall into swimming pools, go headfirst into a toilet, or fall off a porch and it can happen before the supervising adult can stop it.
When a child tumbles out of a walker, the most common injury is to the head. Concussions, skull fractures, cuts, and brain injury are possible. And all of these can be prevented by not using baby walkers.
Many parents and loved ones believe baby walkers, even exersaucers, help the baby learn to walk faster. They also tend to believe getting the child upright and active is more beneficial than allowing the baby to continue to move around on the floor.
Research has not proven this. In fact, current research indicates babies who are placed in baby walkers or exersaucers demonstrate delays in development of approximately one month in mobility and cognitive skills.
As a child learns to move around in his/her environment, he/she develops muscle strength in the abdominal and lower back muscles, commonly called the core muscles. He needs to see, reach, and touch his feet and lower body. She should learn to crawl well before she walks.
The support provided by a walker or exersaucer allows a child to move around without building adequate muscle strength.
Sitting in walkers and exersaucers prevent lower body exploration. The baby cannot see, reach, or touch his feet. She cannot practice squatting. Squatting builds leg and hip strength.
The support provided by a walker or exersaucer allows a child to move around without building adequate muscle strength. For example, when the child is tired, she can sit in the sling seat and still propel herself. This movement does not mimic walking.
Lack of strength in the core muscles is unhelpful for your child and may cause her difficulties later in life. A child with weak core muscles may have difficulty sitting erect for long periods of time to complete table top activities, such as writing or scissoring. A child with weak core muscles may struggle to ride bicycles, climb playground equipment, and enjoy other common play activities with peers. Lack of participation in these play activities may interfere with social skill development as the child is not part of the group or the activity.
In conclusion, current research findings demonstrate wheeled baby walkers are not safe. Yes, they are safer than they once were, but, they are still not safe. And, the latest studies indicate use of walkers may actually delay your baby’s physical and cognitive development.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is no research indicating walkers or exersaucers are helpful to your child’s development.
About the Author
Ginny Cruz, PT is a pediatric physical therapist with 30+ years of experience. She has a BS degree in physical therapy from the University of Florida and an MPA degree from the University of West Florida. She currently provides evaluation and consultation services to the Early Steps program in Pensacola, FL. As a Christian writer, Ginny writes to encourage and instruct families in God’s ways. You can follow her at ginnycruz.com or see her weekly blog at https://ginnycruz.blog