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Baby walkers-why don’t physiotherapists like them?

Lots of parents choose to put their baby into a baby walker. These activity centre style walkers tend to be advertised as being for babies as young as 6 months old and are often marketed to parents as a way of encouraging a child’s mobility. So….why don’t paediatric physiotherapists recommend them?

A baby in a baby walker

An example of a baby walker activity centre.

 

There are 2 main reasons why we would not recommend a baby walker: The first is due to safety and the second because of development.

Safety: Any parent’s first priority is to keep their child safe. However every year there are many reports of babies being injured whilst in a baby walker. These accidents include trapping arms/legs, head injuries and burns/scalds. Some studies have shown that just under half of the babies that are put into a baby walker will experience some form of injury whilst using it. If you do use or decide to use a walker, never leave your child unattended.

Development: A baby will walk when a baby is developmentally ready. In order to get to the point of walking, a baby has to learn so many other things. The timescales for a baby to walk will also depend on their body shape, motivation, personality and many other factors.

Various studies carried out have shown that not only do baby walkers NOT encourage a child’s development but they can actually cause a delay in a baby’s motor development milestones. Spending lots of time in a walker limits the amount of time spent in other positions like lying on the floor. Here your baby will learn skills that are crucial to their motor development like rolling, sitting and using their arms and hands to lean on. Walkers also alter a baby’s ability to see their legs and feet. At such a young age babies are learning where their bodies parts are, relative to themselves and to their environment…again a skill that is essential for a developing baby. There is also evidence that suggests that the use of baby walkers can cause a child to walk on their toes. This may be because their muscles and joints are not ready to take their own body weight at such a young age. The toe walking may also continue once your child is walking independently.

It is for these reasons that baby walkers are not recommended. However if you do decide to use one with your baby, the APCP (Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists) have published a parent leaflet that advises that your child is ALWAYS under close supervision and that they use a walker for no longer than 20 minutes at a time. Also ensure your child’s feet are flat on the floor, not up on their toes. This can be found at http://apcp.csp.org.uk/publications/parent-leaflets

If you require any further advice or information about the use of baby walkers or your baby’s development, please contact Therapy Stars on 07813 764938 or info@therapystars.co.uk