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Walking the Line: Pros and Cons of Baby Walkers

Hello Moms (and Dads) 💕

 

This blog post is going to touch on the topic of baby walkers. I think this is somewhat of a controversial topic and something that I think all of us have perhaps considered at one time or another.

 

I genuinely think that the reason why we consider this is maybe because our babes look like they’re struggling and we’re willing to do literally anything to help them move around more freely. Or, and let’s be honest, sometimes we just want a break and we need a straightforward way to allow our baby entertain themselves that doesn’t require our immediate and undivided attention.

 

Enter the baby walker. Baby walkers were known as early as the 15th century in Europe. An illumination in the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, a Dutch manuscript from that time, depicts the infant Jesus in a wooden baby walker (I got this from Wikipedia, I’m a mom of two toddlers – give me a break).


Vintage baby walker
Via: https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/wicker-walker-old-photos/

I too was a baby walker kid, I think most of us millennials were. Look, we’re fine, right? Or are we? I think sometimes it’s great that we have so much information literally at our fingertips now, that we are easily able to make more informed decisions for our kids.

 

So let’s jump in, should we? Are they good or bad?

 

Understanding baby walkers

 

Firstly, let's discuss what we are labelling as a baby walker here. A baby walker is a device which is usually circular in shape. It has a hard plastic base with wheels and a suspended fabric seat. Some also have an activity tray which placed at belly level, to keep the kiddies entertained. The baby is placed in the sitting/standing position in the seat with their feet touching the floor so that they can “walk around” while the walker helps them to maintain their balance.

 

Baby walkers are intended to help a baby learn to walk. So it would be used for a bigger baby, who is not yet walking, to help them learn the skill of walking.

 

The pros of a baby walker

 

  1. Baby walkers are great for entertaining and stimulating your baby – as I mentioned, sometimes we just need a break. I mean, it takes almost no effort on the caregiver’s part and they’re being stimulated!

  2. They’re also amazing at encouraging early exploration - which is one of the Montessori principles (great system, different blog post, maybe?).

  3. Again, it gives caregivers a handsfree activity to do with a baby, great for dinner cooking or taking a quick break.

 

 

The cons of a baby walker

 

  1. The safety of it. Putting a baby unattended in a baby walker poses major risks in terms of safety (we’re going to dive into that in just a minute). But in summary, the key safety risks include: tipping, falling (down stairs or into pools), and bumping into things that can injure a baby. Now I know we all like to say that we constantly watch our babies but it’s hard and anything is possible if you take your eyes off of them just for a few seconds to run to the loo.

  2. Believe it or not, baby walkers can actually delay milestones and learning to walk.

  3. There isn’t really any evidence to support that baby walkers actually help babies to learn to walk faster.

 

Developmental problems caused by baby walkers

 

As I’m sure you’ve heard, baby walkers may cause some developmental delays – but is this true?

 

One research paper found that the use of a baby walker is connected to the motor development of your baby. This study found that babies who used a walker were 3 times more likely to not crawl than those who did not use a baby walker. Remember, crawling is incredibly important for linking the right side of the brain with the left – something that really helps with hand eye coordination later on in life.

 

Another study found they possibly delay walking by at least two weeks. This being said, how long the walker is used at a time makes a huge difference - for every 24 hours your baby spends in a baby walker they may learn to walk three days later and to stand four days later than they would have. 

 

It has also been reported that babies who used a walker took longer to develop their way of walking and walking posture. This poor posture and way of walking can cause issues like knock knee and flat foot, which have many long-term implications on that person when they are older.

 

Safety considerations when using a baby walker

 

According to one study an estimated 230 676 children under the age of 15 months old were treated for baby walker–related injuries in emergency departments in the United states from 1990 to 2014. 90.6% of these children sustained head or neck injuries and 74.1% were injured by falling down the stairs in an baby walker. Among the babies who were admitted to the hospital 37.8% had a skull fracture.

 

These are some scary numbers. So how do we keep our children in walkers safe?

 

  • Only use the walker on flat, stable surfaces. Try to avoid paved or outside areas when your baby is in the walker.

  • Make sure you have baby locking gates, like this one at the top and bottom of all stairs.

  • Make sure you remove all dangerous objects from the area where your baby is walking. These could include loose and heavy objects or sharp objects.

  • Never leave your baby to walk around unattended, in their walker.

  • Consider using something such as a push toy instead.

 

Baby walker alternatives

 

Luckily for us there are many safer and better alternatives to baby walkers.

 

The first is tummy time (again another topic for another post). In short, though, tummy time is the best activity for your little one to develop the muscles of their neck, back and core. Doing plenty of tummy time will have them up and moving in no time at all.

 

Another great alternative is caregiver assisted walking or walking with a push toy – both of which are safer and encourage better muscle development for walking.

 

I know neither of these provide you with a simple solution to hands free time,  but at the end of the day the most important thing is baby safety and development.


Baby with a push toy
Via: https://www.istockphoto.com/

In conclusion, the choice is yours. Your baby will probably walk whether or not you use a baby walker. I encourage you to carefully consider the pros and cons of baby walker use. Don’t be afraid to engage in these conversations; ask your pead, physiotherapist or your baby’s teacher. Find out all you can and then decide for yourself if this is something that you want to do or not. No matter your decision , you’re still an absolute star parent – so keep it up!


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