The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a ban on the manufacture and sale of mobile infant walkers because of the risk of injury and death from their use.
Over three million baby walkers are sold in the United States annually, and between 55 percent and 92 percent of infants use a baby walker, while approximately 8,800 infants are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries associated with these devices each year.
Since 1973, 34 infants have died in walker-related accidents. There may be as many as ten times more injuries as reported that are treated at home or in a doctor’s office. Warning labels, public education, adult supervision and stair gates have not been effective in preventing these injuries.
On June 30, 1997, a voluntary safety measure was enacted requesting that all walkers be wider than a 36 inch doorway or have a braking mechanism to stop the walker if one or more wheels drop off the floor, as at the top of a stairway.
Pediatricians Discourage Baby Walker Use
Pediatricians say that baby walkers are never safe to use and put children at higher risk for injury because a baby in a walker can move at a speed of three feet per second and run into hidden dangers, often faster than a watching parent can respond. According to a study by American Academy of Pediatrics in 2001, 75 percent of walker injuries happened while adults were watching.
Walker injuries can be serious, such as:
- Falls on stairways and bumps into furniture, skull fractures, bleeding inside the head, or broken legs and arms from falls, especially down stairs
- Burns and Scalds from pulling hanging electrical appliance cords or pulling a tablecloth off a table and spilling hot coffee or other hot liquids
- Poisonings because reaching high objects is easier in a walker
- Pinch injuries to fingers and toes
Using a Walker Delays a Child’s Development
Walkers are designed to support a pre-ambulatory infant, whose feet can rest on the floor and push while the infant is learning to walk. Despite the name, a walker doesn’t help a baby acquire walking skills. In fact, infants who use a walker may actually learn to walk about a month later than those who don’t.
Walkers allow babies to move around before they are physically ready for it, which can cause unusual movement patterns and delayed muscle control. Babies in walkers tend to walk on tiptoe, which can tighten heel and leg muscles. This means they do not strengthen the muscle groups they need for sitting, crawling, and walking.
A baby should first learn to crawl. This strengthens neck muscles and encourages a normal neck curve. Then later (after about one year) a child can stand assisted and then walk. At that time the normal lower back curve, muscles and overall body strength and coordination develops.