Watching your baby take his first steps is an exhilarating moment. But once they are mobile, your toddler also needs lots more of activity. The baby walker was designed to solve this problem.
Your baby can scoot around in their chair and be active, leaving you free to get on with other things. However, within the past 15 years research has shown baby walkers can hinder your child's development and make them far more prone to serious injuries.
Are baby walkers bad for my child?
Safety experts and health professionals strongly discourage the use of baby walkers, since they can cause accidents and injuries in the baby. Though some countries still widely use them, it is largely agreed that a baby walker can cause the baby to incur injuries more frequently, as well as cause growth and development to be hindered. Canada has banned baby walkers outright and possession of a baby walker can lead to fines or a prison sentence. Most injuries are caused by falls when the baby walker tips, and the baby falls downstairs, or clashes against furniture. Dangerous objects that were previously out of reach, such as candles and hot drinks, could also represent and extra risk to your little one. A baby walker also allows your baby to reach potentially dangerous things such as perfume or alcohol.
Though it seems that the baby walker gives you the freedom to let your baby go unwatched for short periods of time, in fact, extra care is probably needed. Even with supervision, accidents in a baby walker can easily occur. Baby walkers allow babies to travel one metre per second, which is quite fast! This may sound cute, but your baby could suffer an accident before you have the time to stop it.
But does the baby walker help my baby walk?
At around six months to nine months babies develop a strong desire to move across the floor. This is hard work at first, as they develop muscles in their arms and legs, but gradually they learn to stretch, roll, scoot or crawl. Next, the challenge is to pull themselves upright and finally take steps. Some believe that infants who use a baby walker skip some of this developmental journey, as walkers allow mobility beyond natural growth. Baby walkers tend to position toes unnaturally, so as the baby glides across the floor it is not replicated the natural movement and mobility of toddlers.
Can the baby walker hinder development growth?
The biggest delays, however, have been found in a child's mental development. In studies conducted in children who used baby walkers, general developmental levels are found to be lower. Furthermore, this lag in development is still present 10 months after the initial use of the baby walker.
Final facts to consider
Baby walkers must comply with safety standards and shops must give clear safety guidelines when selling them. Newer walkers are being built bigger so they cannot fit through most doors. Some others have added brakes to stop them at the stairs. However, this can’t prevent all injuries from baby walkers. They still have wheels, so children can still move fast and reach higher. It is probably best to consider other toys that may be suitable for your baby's age such as play stations or static exercisers. Or, you could choose a parent-assisted baby walker, that allows children to exercise their legs in a way which is conducive with natural walking. Alternatively, let your baby exercise on the floor and they will be quite happy too!