Most health and safety experts discourage the use of baby walkers because they lead to injuries in babies. Babies have fallen into hot stoves, heaters, and pools while using a walker. If you do decide to buy one, be sure it’s well-constructed and sturdy enough to support your baby’s weight.
Walkers are a leading cause of injuries in babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you don’t let your baby use a walker until he or she is able to support his or her head, roll over and push up on hands and knees.
Walkers are a leading cause of injuries for babies. Over time, the number of babies injured in walkers has decreased; however, the number of babies killed in walkers has not. During their first year, most babies can’t control their heads or necks well enough to avoid bumping into things.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reminds parents to carefully consider the risks of walkers when purchasing them for their babies. Injuries include skull fractures, limb fractures and burns.
Are Walkers Bad for Babies Development
I’m pregnant with my first child. My mom wants to buy me a baby walker, like I had when I was little. But I’m worried about the safety of these devices. Are walkers a hazard or am I just being a paranoid first-time mom?
Sounds like your mother’s intuition has already kicked in. Walkers — devices with wheeled frames and suspended seats that let babies move around using their feet — are indeed a safety hazard. Walkers are a leading cause of injuries in babies, so health and safety experts strongly discourage their use.
While in walkers, babies can roll into hot stoves, heaters, and pools. Because walkers let babies reach higher than normal, they’re more likely to grab dangerous objects (like hot coffee cups and kitchen knives) or touch stovetops, which can lead to burns and other injuries. They also can fall over objects or down a flight of stairs. In fact, falling down stairs is one of the most common injuries from walkers. Babies who fall can suffer broken bones and serious head injuries.
Research shows that walkers do not provide any advantage to a child’s development. They do not teach infants to walk or help them walk sooner than they would without one. Babies need opportunities for pulling up, creeping, and crawling, which they can’t do in a walker.
To provide a safe play area for your baby, choose an activity center or bouncy seat, stationary rocker, swing, or play yard instead. And be sure that everyone who cares for your child knows about the dangers of walkers.
“If you’re thinking about getting an infant walker, don’t,” says Dr. Ben Hoffman, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. It turns out infant walkers — specifically those saucer-shaped ones with wheels that let babies toddle around a room before they know how to walk, not the kind toddlers can push around once they are already mobile — are rather dangerous. That’s supported by a new study, published in the journal Pediatrics this month; Dr. Gary Smith, founder and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy, of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and his team looked at baby walker–related injuries across the United States and found that about 230,000 children were treated in the ER during that time period.
The biggest concern with baby walkers is falling, says Dr. Hoffman. “The most severe injuries tend to result from falls down stairs and off of desks, but there is still a significant risk even on flat surfaces, just with tip-overs,” he says. Both Dr. Smith and the AAP, as an organization, are calling for a nationwide ban on the sale and manufacture of infant walkers. “The take-home message is if you’ve got one, get rid of it. Take the wheels off and dispose of it,” Dr. Smith says, and Dr. Hoffman wholeheartedly agrees. But taking away your kid’s infant walker doesn’t mean you have to take away your kid’s ability to bounce up and down. “Kids like that kind of motion, so something like a stationary activity center, which looks like a walker but doesn’t have wheels, is a great alternative,” says Dr. Smith. In a paper from 2001, the AAP also recommended stationary activity centers as a safer alternative to infant walkers, though it stopped short of endorsing specific products.
Instead, for developing infants, Dr. Smith suggests looking at the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) to find stationary activity centers that meet basic government safety requirements. According to its website, “To become certified, each product is sample-tested at an independent laboratory to verify it meets the highest standards for safety, performance and functionality.” We went and picked seven of the most stylish and practical, including a couple of portable stationary activity centers.
This baby activity center from Creative Baby is most similar in style to a traditional baby walker, except without the wheels.
It’s available with the motif of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, for the more literary types.
now 18% off
The other common type of activity center, like this one from Fisher-Price, transforms from a place for a baby to sit to a toddler-sized play table once they’re old enough to stand.
This activity center from Skip Hop is arguably the most luxe and customizable, since it has a foot support platform that you can perfectly adjust to your toddler’s height.
now 23% off
There are also a couple of portable stationary activity centers, like this one from Summer Infant that comes with an umbrella so your child can play outdoors.
now 29% off
This portable stationary activity center from KidCo is even more simple, with no toys or other bells and whistles. But it packs up small and only weighs seven pounds, so it’s a great travel option.
If you want to go even simpler, Dr. Hoffman recommends a pack-and-play, which does not move around. Dr. Smith also likes “good, old-fashioned belly time,” during which you simply place your child on their stomach and let them bob around to help develop their muscles and coordination. “They’re going to get as much out of a cardboard box as they will out of an expensive toy,” says Dr. Hoffman, “so I think not overthinking it and not worrying, just being a present parent and having lots of opportunity to engage the child in play,” is the best thing you can do for their development.
GET THE STRATEGIST NEWSLETTER
Actually good deals, smart shopping advice, and exclusive discounts.Email
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
Right Age For Baby Walker
In Canada, the sale of baby walkers is banned. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) would like the same to be true in the US.
Why? Because baby walkers are dangerous. According to a study in the journal Pediatrics, between 1990 and 2014, more than 230,000 children less than 15 months of age were treated in US emergency departments for injuries related to walkers. The majority of injuries happen when children fall down stairs in a walker, usually injuring their head or neck, sometimes seriously.
But it’s not just stairs that can be a problem. Children in walkers can get their fingers caught, pull things down on themselves, or grab dangerous things (such as sharp objects or hot liquids) that would otherwise be out of their reach. Children can fall out of walkers and get hurt — and have drowned when they scooted into a pool or spa. There have also been injuries from toys attached to a baby walker.
Between 1990 and 2003, baby walker injuries decreased by 84.5%, as voluntary safety standards were instituted, and more families started to buy standers that didn’t move. In 2010 mandatory federal safety standards took effect. Among other things, the standards include measures to help prevent walkers from falling down stairs or tipping over, and to ensure that babies inside them are well-supported and can’t get stuck inside them. The rules also require a parking brake, to keep the walker more stationary, and have standards for the wheels themselves to keep the walkers safer. Even still, in 2014 2,000 toddlers were seen in emergency rooms for injuries due to walkers.
So why would parents use a baby walker?
Some parents buy them because they think that walkers help babies learn to walk faster. However, the opposite is true: using a walker can delay independent walking. That’s because learning to walk isn’t so much about learning to use your legs. It’s more about learning to pull to stand and then balance and take steps without support. When babies are plopped into walkers, they don’t learn any of that. They learn it by being put on the floor with something they can pull up on, like a couch or a caregiver.
The other reason is that babies like them and will play happily in them. This is absolutely true. Starting at around 6 months babies love to be upright — and love to be mobile, so that they can explore and be in the thick of things. However, there are other and safer ways to get babies upright, such as in stationary standers. As for mobility, the inconvenient truth is that not only do babies need to learn mobility by themselves, they need constant supervision as they do. Walkers can give caregivers a false sense of security and make them think that they don’t need to be within arm’s reach of the baby — when not only is that exactly where they need to be, it’s where babies want them to be.