Grandparents should know baby walker pros and cons before using one.
Raise your hand if you think baby walkers are safe as long as they aren’t used around stairs.
Unfortunately, stairs are not the only hazard to a child in a tray walker. Although stairs are involved in 75% of injuries involving walkers, there are other hazards as well. The second most common cause of injury is babies falling out of the walker itself. And because walkers give a baby mobility and reach they would not have otherwise, there are numerous injuries from burns and poisons. Between 1990 and 2014, over 230,000 children under the age of 15 months went to the ER for baby walker-related injuries.
There is a reason that baby walkers are banned in Canada, and safety is only one issue. Another is that walkers can delay motor and mental development.
From the New York Times review of a study by Dr. A. Carol Siegel:
On average, infants who did not use walkers sat at 5 months, crawled at 8 months and began to walk in their 10th month, while babies who used walkers that blocked their views of their feet first sat near the end of their 6th month, crawled at 9 months and walked at almost 12 months. Babies whose walkers permitted them to see their feet sat and crawled at an age midway between the other two groups.
It's important to note that this study was far from definitive, and subsequent small studies have had mixed results. But when it comes to our grandchildren, we certainly want to avoid all the risks we can!
A third issue is the effect of walkers on a baby’s developing body. The seats in walkers (and jumpers and exersaucers) put the baby’s hips in a position that can lead to hip dysplasia or dislocation when they are older. If their feet don’t rest fully on the floor, they can develop tightness in their heel cords, which can lead to toe-walking.
According to The Children’s Rehabilitation Institute TeletonUSA:
Research shows using these kinds of toys does not help your child achieve independent skills sooner, because they are able to “walk”, “sit”, “jump” in a seated, supported, and poorly aligned position. This means they are not able to fully practice the muscle control and balance reactions necessary for moving outside of the device.
CRIT goes on to point out that the ill-effects of these toys are unlikely if a child is in an exersaucer for a short period each day. It’s when a walker is used for hours to keep the baby occupied while the caregivers are busy that both safety and development become an issue.
What should you, as a grandparent, do with this information?
Like all information on this website, our purpose is to educate you so you can better understand the choices your adult children are making as parents. If they are using a baby walker and you are worried about it, send them this blog post and ask if they have seen studies like these. Don’t, however, try to dictate what they do with the information.
On the other hand, if you are using a baby walker when your grandchild is at your house, you might want to find a new way to entertain the baby. Hopefully, now that you’ve seen the pros and cons of using a baby walker, you can make an informed decision.