Does Your Baby Need A Walker?
The baby walker is a rather controversial device that some parents believe help their children walk sooner. But is this really true? Keep reading to learn what experts and mums have to say about walkers and find some great alternatives to this.
The baby walker — a rather infamous device that supposedly helps a baby walk faster — has been creating quite a buzz, with experts and parents both questioning its safety and actual purpose.
The evolution of the walker
The walker dates back to the late 1800’s when it was used as a device that helped a baby who still couldn’t walk to be mobile. Although it has lasted the test of time, the walker comes with its own set of hazards.
In recent years, many incidences of walker-related injuries have prompted organisations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to issue warnings to discourage parents from buying walkers.
In 1995 a design standard was set that would be instrumental in the reduction and prevention of many injuries. The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association certified walkers that met two safety criteria: the base of the walker should be wider than a standard doorway (around 36 inches) and should have some kind of braking option. Manufacturers displayed a sticker if their product matched this criteria.
Although walker-related injuries decreased due to this, they didn’t stop. In 2004 the sale of walkers was banned in Canada. However, In spite of the AAP’s warning, walkers are still being sold in many countries — including here in Singapore.
Parents should therefore be warned about the safety hazards posed by a walker:
- The biggest hazard posed by the walker is the risk of tipping over and falling. If you live in a place with more than one floor, as is the case for many Singaporean families, babies in walkers can roll downstairs and get seriously injured. Dr. David Geller, a pediatrician from Massachusetts and a fellow of the AAP, says that doctors see thousands of babies coming in to be treated for injuries caused by either falling from walkers or bumping into furniture. These include skull fractures, broken limbs and injuries to fingers and toes.
- A baby in a walker can travel as fast as 3 feet per second, making a fall much more dangerous than if the baby was either walking or even running.
More safety hazards of the baby walker on the next page…
- There are even reports of babies drowning while in walkers. As they go really fast and cannot control the speed of the walker, they could easily fall into a swimming pool or pond.
- While in a walker babies can reach higher places, meaning they are able to reach for hazardous objects on counters and stoves. There have been reports of babies getting burnt as a result of this.
Do walkers help babies start walking faster?
Contrary to many parents’ belief that a walker encourages their baby to walk faster, experts say that it actually hinders baby’s muscle development. When a baby is placed in a walker, they are forced to ‘walk’ without the use of the right muscles. They often tiptoe while in a walker, causing their leg and heel muscles to tighten.
Children usually follow a natural development pattern, meaning they reach certain milestones when their bodies are ready. Once a baby gains control of his neck muscles, he is ready to gain control of his back muscles to help him sit steadily. Babies usually don’t need any aids to help these muscles develop, especially a walker which can place babies in a standing position before their leg and back muscles are fully developed.
Furthermore, part of the learning to walk process is visual, and involves babies watching how their feet and legs move. If they are placed in a walker with a tray, their view of their legs are blocked and they aren’t able to make a visual connection.
What do mums say?
In addition to getting advice from the experts, it always helps to know what fellow mums have to say about certain topics. Here are the opinions of some mums from our 2013 Facebook group:
“Better not use a walker. Need lotsa supervision and it doesn’t really help bb to walk. Why not try a push walker instead?”
“I did but I am restricting the time spent on walker. My bb is tiptoeing probably due to walker. Now I try as much as possible to hold him to walk”.
“Walker is not good for baby’s hips development. Can avoid, avoid. Use push carts instead”.
Alternatives to a walker
If you are thinking of using a walker to encourage your child to walk sooner, try a push walker. Both my kids used the Fisher-Price Bright Beginnings Activity Walker . It has fun activities in the front and can convert into a pull cart when baby is bigger.
Remember that all children will start sitting, crawling and walking at their own pace. To encourage movement when they are little, make sure baby gets enough time on her tummy and later, to crawl around freely — under your close supervision of course.
If your reason for getting a walker is to keep baby entertained while you get some work done, why not try a playpen? Put some of her favourite toys in with her, but always remember to keep a close eye on her too.
What is your opinion about the walker? Let us know by leaving a comment below.