Baby walkers are such a common and ubiquitous part of childhood that many of my patients are taken aback when I tell them that baby walkers not only pose a potential threat to their children, but that they’ve been banned in other countries all together.
Asking for a Ban
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently called for a ban on the sale of baby walkers, following in the footsteps of Canada, who banned the products in 2004. Why? Researchers there found them to be dangerous. Some of their dangers are probably obvious, but some are a little less obvious – so let’s talk about these dangers to help you make an informed decision as to whether or not a baby walker is right for your baby, with or without a ban.
Why Baby Walkers Are Dangerous
Lots of baby walker injuries are sustained when an active, curious baby with the newfound freedom of a walker falls down the stairs. Head and neck injuries are unfortunately pretty common with regard to walkers, and some of those are very serious injuries. Stairs aren’t the only problem. A less obvious issue is that walkers give parents a false sense of security. There’s a feeling that the child is still confined and safe, but new mobility at a new height can put a curious child at risk of getting into things that their parents might not think about. These babies are suddenly at a height where their fingers can get caught in drawers, pull scissors, hot drinks or sharp objects off a counter or even wander outside and fall into a pool. It’s also very east for kids to fall out of walkers, stairs or not, and hurt themselves. Many times, parents aren’t in the room when these things happen because they assume their child will be safe for the short amount of time they’re out of the room.
They Impede Learning to Walk
I’ve talked to many parents who feel walkers are necessary for their baby’s development when, in fact, they’re not. A common myth is that walkers are necessary for babies to learn how to walk. On the contrary, research has shown that walkers can impede an infant’s ability to learn to walk. Children need to be able to pull themselves up and walk on their own, either by holding on to stable furniture or a loved one, to learn their limits and build their own strength.
Therefore, even if a ban on baby walkers doesn’t go through, it’s a good idea to skip the walkers.
Dr. Siddiqui is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s The Woodlands Clinic located in Shenandoah. Her clinical interests include newborns, asthma, development disorders, allergic reactions, and infectious diseases.