Are Baby Walkers Safe?
Do you put your baby in a baby walker? These are devices in which a child is suspended, feet touching the ground, in a hammock-like seat surrounded by a wide, hard plastic base on wheels. A baby walker may seem like a safe place that allows an infant who hasn’t learned to walk to get around.
But that increased ability to move can result in serious injury for your child. A baby walker can put your child in dangerous situations by allowing your small child to reach objects he or she might not be able to otherwise, such as a hot oven door, sharp objects, electrical outlets, or household poisons.
“Infant walkers continue to cause serious injuries in young children, and parents should not use them,” says pediatric emergency physician Jerri Rose, MD.
Many U.S. pediatricians have long opposed the use of baby walkers, saying they are unsafe. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called for banning them in 1992.
Walkers are a leading cause of injuries in babies, so health and safety experts strongly discourage their use.
Now, a new study that looks at infant walker-related injuries has prompted the AAP to renew its call for a ban. The walkers were banned in Canada in 2004.
Because walkers let babies reach higher than normal, they're more likely to grab dangerous objects (like hot coffee cups and kitchen knives) or touch stovetops, which can lead to burns and other injuries. They also can fall over objects or down a flight of stairs. In fact, falling down stairs is one of the most common injuries from walkers. Babies who fall can suffer broken bones and serious head injuries.
Many parents mistakenly believe that infant walkers can help their children learn to walk sooner, Dr. Rose says. Research shows that walkers do not provide any advantage to a child's development, and actually might delay development of the skill. They do not teach infants to walk or help them walk sooner than they would without one. Babies need opportunities for pulling up, creeping, and crawling, which they can't do in a walker.
To provide a safe play area for your baby, choose an activity center or bouncy seat, stationary rocker, swing, or play yard instead. And be sure that everyone who cares for your child knows about the dangers of walkers.
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