Your baby has been crawling and exploring the world on his own for some time now. One more effort and she/he can walk. What an exciting milestone!
You’re thrilled to see your baby getting up, and you want to assist towards the walking stage. But a baby walker is not the solution. Here’s why.
A false friend
A baby walker looks like a good and fun thing for several reasons. It is often believed that:
- It makes the baby’s legs stronger.
- The baby walker is good for development (balance, coordination, and motor skills).
- The baby’s learning of walking is faster.
- The baby gets more mobility and independence.
- It is safe.
Sorry, but these assertions are all myths (1). Let’s see why.
These figures are brutal but explicable:
Reason #1: A baby In A walker equipped with wheels can escape the radar of the most attentive parent
The vast majority of all these injuries have two main causes: speed and elevated height. The baby moves faster in a walker and gets more reach for hazardous places like stovetops, table pads (with a cup of hot tea on it), electrical outlets, and shelves.
Reason #2: The Bad Consequences on babies legs and strength
The baby walker can develop the wrong muscles in the legs by moving along using their toes. It has a biased impact on balance and joint development. It hampers the regular posture of the child because of the unnatural position in the walker.
Reason #3: The Impact On The Development of the baby
Have you heard about the Bayley assessment? It measures mental development and motor skills. Well, babies using an infant walker tend to score lower. The walkers give mobility to the babies before they have found their core balance and strength. They can’t practice the moves that will comfort them in naturally acquiring their balance. Moreover, the prolonged upright position conflicts with the usual evolution of the brain.
Reason #4: It Delays the Walking Learning Process
The baby has to experiment with all the essential steps of walking. It’s a lot of work and time to develop the motor skills for it. The entire time standing upright in a baby walker is not spent developing these skills. A recent study showed the correlation between extensive use of baby walkers and developmental delay (2).
The baby is more mobile and independent:
The babies get more mobility in a walker, but it’s before they’re fully ready for it. The accident risk is greater. They can fall into bathtubs, toilets, or tumble down the stairs. The baby in a walker does not go through the essential stage of learning perceptual notions such as in/out, on/under.
- Baby walkers were banned in Canada back in 2004. A 100,000 CAD can apply for publicity or import of these items. In the EU and UK, there were appeals for a complete ban, but it has not been done yet (3). It is officially forbidden for use in childcare centers and accredited nannies in France since 2008.
- In the USA: the product is still available on the market. Despite their repeated calls for baby walkers’ prohibition, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has not been successful (4).
New safety standards for baby walkers have been issued by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSP). These standards include a wider base, improved leg openings to prevent entrapment, suppression of wheels, and grips system at the bottom. Check the final rule here.
All the baby walkers produced or imported in the USA must be Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) certified and comply with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) voluntary standard. It is important to note that according to the CSP, two foreign brands and one importer present on the market are not compliant with the voluntary standard.
There are safer options than the baby walker
Following age requirements, there are several better substitutes for a baby walker. (all definitions by CPSP)
“An infant walker is a mobile unit that enables a child to move on a horizontal surface when propelled by the child sitting or standing within the walker.” There is actually no own definition of the push walker on the CPSP website. It all falls under the same infant walkers category. Push toys are my personal favorite, as they really grow the baby’s confidence.
The push walker stimulates their imagination, too: they can help mom and dad pushing their own shopping cart or mower. There are many built-in options and themes available. One with a slowing mechanism is preferable if your baby just came from sit to stand.
Stationary activity center:
“freestanding product intended to remain stationary that enables a sitting or standing occupant whose torso is surrounded by the product to walk, rock, play, spin or bounce, or all of these, within a limited range of motion.”
The baby can explore sounds, textures, movements, and perception all at once in this feature. It is all designed to feed the immense curiosity of a 6 to a 15-month little one.
It is not intended for extended use, though. Limit the activity to 20 minutes at a time as the center’s prolonged seated position can have the straps put tension on your baby’s hip joints.
Playpen (or play yard):
“framed enclosure with mesh or fabric sides. Play yards are intended for use in or around the home, for travel, and for other purposes. Play yards provide sleeping and playing accommodations for a child who cannot climb out and is less than 35 in. (890 mm) in height”.
It is a safe space for your baby while you’re busy elsewhere. You can also use it as a travel bed. Some parents are a bit reluctant to confine their baby in a playpen for a long time, but you can get things done. There are interesting extra features such as storage space, bassinet, toys, activity bars. Some parents think a playpen restrains the baby’s development because of the space limitation. But that would be if you never took the baby out of it.
Your baby can learn walking with better alternatives
The best baby walker is the one you won’t buy. It is not worth the risk. Your little one can sharpen his coordination skills using better options. One of the many fun and safe tools for the apprentice walkers is a push walker. Check the age recommendation for each toy as it should suit your baby’s physical capabilities.
The most important is that babies find their own balance and have fun without harming the learning process. They now can explore the world with confidence. It is a whole new adventure that is starting.
- Harvard Medical School ‘Parents, don’t use a baby walker’ Sept’18.
- US National Library of Medicine ‘The effect of a baby walker on child development, a systematic review’ Oct’17
- European Joint Safety Alliance and ANEC ‘Baby walkers: joint statement.’
- American Academy of Pediatrics ‘Infant walker injuries support AAP’s call for a ban’ Sept’18
- United States Products and Safety Commission (CPSC)
- Best baby activity table review