Myths and realities of baby walkers

The walkers are rigid structures, with an outer ring, that are supported on legs with wheels and provided with a harness inside to place the baby.
There is still a popular belief that children should be “taught to walk.” Therefore, it is not surprising that baby walkers were invented, with the intention of speeding up or stimulating the process. The reality is different, since not only do they not help babies walk, but they are also a very important cause of childhood accidents.

What is a walker?

They are rigid structures, with an outer ring, which are supported on legs with wheels and provided with a harness inside to place the baby. In this way, the child remains standing with his feet resting on the ground. The fact of having wheels, makes that babies can move with minimal effort.
Another type of baby walkers are trailing ones, that is, they consist of structures with wheels where the child grabs a bar and pushes them. This gives you stability when you start walking and you can move forward more easily. In this case, the child does not wear a harness and must be able to stand up.

When do babies start walking?

The correct question would be: when are pediatricians concerned that a baby will not walk alone? The child begins to move by crawling, then crawling, and finally, when his body is ready, he stands up and begins to take his first steps. Until eighteen months we are “in time” to let our child develop at his own pace and walk alone. If a baby does not walk, there is something that is preventing it, that it is not mature and that it needs time. This does not mean that parents do nothing with our children… What we can do is encourage the baby to achieve each developmental milestone: putting him on the floor to crawl and playing a lot with him to develop the muscles that will allow him walk. All children are different in their rate of development and in their abilities. Everyone has their time. Everything comes when it has to.

The danger of baby walkers in numbers

  • The alerts from the American Pediatric Association and the American Pediatric Association on the use of walkers are based on the large number of childhood accidents that they cause each year. For example, in the United States, about 600 walker-related injuries occur to children under the age of four each year.
  • From a developmental point of view, physiotherapists in the United Kingdom say that baby walkers have been able to cause up to 4,000 injuries per year and that they distort children’s ability to develop visual and walking skills, because, through its use, the exploration of the environment is not correct.
  • Countries like Canada have banned its use since 2004 as it was the most common cause of head injury in babies under two years of age.
  • The European Alliance for Child Safety does not recommend their use due to the high risk of injury they pose to children and urges healthcare professionals not to encourage their use.

Myths or false beliefs about baby walkers

  • Babies will learn to walk faster: as we have said before, each baby has its own rhythm and must be physically and maturely prepared to reach each developmental milestone. In addition, putting a baby in a walker with the desire to walk without letting him crawl at ease, would be a mistake, since crawling brings many benefits in the short and long term.
  • Babies are more entertained and safe while we do other tasks: To think that the walker is safe because it is a rigid structure is a dangerous mistake. The reality is different, since, with the walker, babies can move faster and their reach to things or objects is greater. This can lead to falls down stairs, accidents with stoves, table spikes, or glass structures.

Why are they dangerous?

The injuries that a walker can cause to a baby are potentially very serious, some can even cause the death of the little one:

  • Falling down stairs: it is one of the most frequent causes of serious injuries and head trauma in some countries. The risk is greater if there are no security barriers in them.
  • Reach for potentially dangerous objects: with the walker, babies achieve greater height and be able to reach objects that, in a normal situation, they would not pick up: cables, heavy objects, hot food…
  • Poisoning: related to the previous point, it has been shown that walkers increase the risk of ingestion of toxic products due to the greater reach that the child achieves with the walker, it makes it possible to reach alcohol, tobacco, medicines or cleaning products.
  • Rollover: Walkers can tip over when crossing uneven surfaces like doorways or carpets.
  • Burns: using the walker in the kitchen, in rooms with stoves or other heating systems can lead to burns due to contact with these hot surfaces. They can also occur because the child is within reach of the table or kitchen and can overturn containers or pots with boiling oil, soups or coffee.

If you are still interested in buying a walker for your child…

If, despite everything, you want to buy a walker for your child, you should know that it must be used under adult supervision and only when the crawling is well established.
These are the precautions you must follow to avoid regretting accidents:

  • Check that the walker complies with the European standard EN 1273: 2005.
  • It should not fit through the doors to avoid the free movement of the child through all the rooms of the house.
  • Check that the walker has a gripping mechanism to stop the walker at the edge of a step.
  • If there are stairs in the house, safety barriers should be put up and kept closed.
  • Do not use the walker in the kitchen.
  • Take special care with cables, plugs and other electrical appliances(such as the iron).
  • Avoid its use in rooms with fireplaces and other heating systems that can cause burns to the baby.
  • Stay away from pools or bathtubs filled with water.
  • Permanently monitor the baby while he is in the walker.

What you should know…

  • The alerts from the American and Spanish Pediatric Associations on the use of walkers are based on the number of childhood accidents they cause each year.
  • Putting a baby in a walker with the desire to walk without letting him crawl at ease would be a mistake, since crawling brings many benefits in the short and long term.
  • If, despite the data on injuries and dangers that its use may entail, you want to buy a walker for your baby, you should know that it has to be used under adult supervision and you should start using it when the crawling is well established.

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