Are baby walkers safe? This is a question you’re probably asking yourself as your infant is getting to the age when most people get one for their child. Baby walkers may be a popular gift and toy, but they are actually quite unsafe.
You may have even used a baby walker as a child yourself, but in this day and age, we have a lot more information about just how hazardous walkers can be. If you’re considering getting one or putting one on your registry, or if you already have one in your home, read this important information first.
The short answer is no! The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for a ban on the manufacture and sale of baby walkers with wheels. It says baby walkers send thousands of babies to the hospital every year. While they have not been banned in the U.S., Canada has had a ban on manufacturing, importing, advertising, or selling baby walkers since 2004. The National Library of Medicine also has warnings about baby walkers.
The term baby walker can refer to two types of walker: the kind pictured above that a baby learning to walk can push in front of them, and the kind pictured below that a younger baby sits inside of with wheels. Both are unsafe.
What makes them so dangerous? Here are five reasons they can pose harm.
When young children aren’t ready to walk and are being artificially helped by a device instead of a caretaker’s hands, the walker can slip from in front of them when they push on it. They can fall face-first into the handle or the floor. If another object is around like the corner of a table, this can cause further injury.
In the case of walkers that the baby sits inside, they can roll right down the stairs. Your child can even use the walker as a battering ram to knock down a baby gate. The AAP says that rolling down the stairs is the leading cause of injury from baby walkers and can lead to broken bones and head trauma.
According to the AAP, most baby walker injuries occur when a parent is watching. It’s physically impossible to react quickly enough sometimes because once the fall or other dangerous situation is happening, it’s already too late. A baby in a walker can move 3 feet in 1 second, so walkers are not safe even when supervised. At those speeds, they can go right down the stairs, over a balcony, out a door, or into a piece of furniture that could fall. It’s just too fast to control or to stop.
With a walker, a child can reach places they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. They could get stuck in a part of a room, they could reach a pool or bathtub, or they could make it to a fireplace. All these have happened and can be avoided by making sure you don’t use a walker for your child.
If a baby is sitting in a walker, they are higher up than they would in their pre-walking stage. This means they can now grasp at objects and places that wouldn’t be available to them. This includes substances and objects that can be dangerous to them like pills or hot drinks and breakable things like glass on tables. Babies could also pull tablecloths off surfaces, bringing everything on top of the tablecloth down on them. They may also be able to reach hot stoves with pot handles sticking out or hot radiators or space heaters.
This isn’t as dangerous as the other reasons, but walkers actually interfere with babies learning to walk instead of helping them. The AAP says there is zero value to a walker and they actually delay when a child begins to walk. They decrease a child’s desire to walk on their own because they prefer the walker doing the work for them. Walkers hurt the development of their muscles and motivation.
Not only should you not buy a walker, but you should also throw away (not donate) one if you have one. You should also make sure there are no walkers at other places your child is cared for, like grandma’s house or the day care center. If you are looking for a convenient place to contain your crawling baby, use a playpen. If you’re looking for a way to help your baby walk with assistance, hold out your hands to guide them along. Stationary activity centers provide the same fun buttons on a walker without the wheels that can lead to trouble.
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