WHY, AS A PEDIATRIC PT, I SAY NO TO BABY WALKERS
By Clara El-Khawand, Physical Therapist, Specialized in Pediatric rehabilitation.
Whether you’re pregnant, a new mom or out shopping for your 2nd or 3rd kiddo – And Thinking about getting a Baby Walker, please DON’T. And if you already have one, get rid of it!
Myth #1: “A baby walker is a safe place to put my baby for a few minutes”.
No! Putting a baby in a baby walker is like giving a teenager a Ferrari – A dangerous risk. They give young babies [that are not supposed to walk yet] the liberty to walk freely around the house putting them at risk of serious injuries such as :
. Trauma, especially head trauma – Result from falling down the stairs or tripping in the walker.
. Burns & Intoxications – Baby walkers allow babies to move quickly and raise them to a height where they can reach for hazardous items.
Myth #2 : “Using a baby walker will help my baby to learn to walk”.
Many researches show that baby walker use is not associated with achieving standing or walking milestones. Babies learn how to walk by rolling from side to side, sitting, crawling, pulling themselves up to stand & moving around the house. Let’s take it this way : baby walkers are used between the age of 3 to 12 months. At this age interval, your baby is nowhere close to walking & you’re just putting him in a position he is not ready for yet. Skipping important milestones by containing your little one in a baby walker is not how babies learn how to walk.
Myth #3 : “Using a baby walker will help my baby’s development”.
Being in baby walker, your little one misses on the chance to sensorially explore their body & the environment around them. The device itself blocks the visual field of the feet & floor which is a huge part of your child’s development. Also, a variety of movements is needed when babies are developing their walking skills, but they get fewer chances to practice them in a walker. When babies sit & pull themselves up, they are learning how to balance. Being in a walker also means less time on hands and knees in a crawling or pre-crawling position important for weight bearing through shoulders.
Myth #4 : “Using a baby walker will strengthen my baby’s legs”.
In fact, baby walkers encourage the activation of muscles that are not necessarily the same used for walking – therefore potentially delaying independent walking. They also promote pushing through the toes to move forward and can increase the risk of toe walking later on & embrace in toeing in kids. In addition, infant walkers put unnecessary pressure on the hips & joints that don’t even have the strength nor the bone density required for standing yet.
It has been found that parents use baby walkers because it keeps their baby busy whilst they tend to other tasks in the house & because their kid enjoys it. Of course kids enjoy standing & moving when they can’t do it independently. Taking away your baby’s infant walker does not mean you have to take away your kid’s ability to move around and enjoy themselves. Here are some great alternatives to encourage motor development.
Floor Time – Give your baby Floor Time. Between 3 to 6 months, your baby should be able to hold his head, roll from side to side. Encouraging play whilst on tummy help strengthen the neck muscles & is very beneficial for motor development. Toys as simple as a mirror or a play matt on the floor can keep your baby interested for hours whilst exploring his body movements freely.
Suction Toys – Around 6 to 8 months, your baby should be hitting the sitting milestone. Suction toys in exciting colors & textures stick to mirrors and are great for helping your little one enjoy his time sitting or side sitting. I find that kiddos enjoy looking at their reflection in the mirror and playing.
Play Table – Between 8 to 10 months, your baby is exploring pull to stand. I love a good play table with different kinds of buttons to press on, lights to flash and music to enjoy. Baby can pull to stand on the table without hazardous constraints. They can even play on tall knees at the play table encouraging core & pelvic stability.
Push walkers – Around 10 months, babies begin to take their first steps whilst holding on to furniture and between 12 to 18 months gradually walk independently. The best alternative to baby walkers are Push Walkers. They encourage better positioning of the legs & feet appropriate for walking without placing harmful pressure on joints. It’s a safe & fun alternative giving your baby the freedom to walk and enjoy themselves at the appropriate time & the appropriate way.
. Effects of baby walker use on the development of gait by typically developing toddlers, 2019 – Paula S.C. Chagasa, Sergio T. Fonsecab, Thiago R.T. Santosb, Thales R. Souzab, Luiz Megalec, Paula L. Silvad, Marisa C. Mancinie.
. The Effect of Baby Walker on Child Development: A Systematic Review, 2017 – Badihian Sh, Badihian N, Yaghini O.
. A Study on the Effect Of Baby Walker on Mean Age Acquisition of Motor Skills In Infants, 2009 – Ahmad Talebian, Ali Honarpishe, Abbas Taghavi, Esmail Fakharian, Mahdi Parsa, and Gholam Abbas Mousavi.
. Babywalker use (baby-trot, youpala): an unsafe practice, 2006 – I. Claudet, S. Fédérici, C. Debuisson, E. Laporte-Turpin, P. Micheau, C. Pajot, E. Grouteau, C. Sérignac, M. Huguenin.