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 4 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? In this article, our team outlines the hidden dangers of a baby walker, why you should avoid using walkers for your baby and the effects they can have if you don’t.
So, are baby walkers safe? Paediatric physiotherapists and other health experts strongly discourage the use of baby walkers because of the accidents they can cause and the potential developmental problems they contribute towards. Baby walkers give babies unnatural height and speed which increases the risk of injury, whilst also forcing walking before the baby may be developmentally ready.
Read on to learn more about the dangers associated with baby walkers and why physiotherapists advise against using them.
Are Baby Walkers Safe?
In short, no, sit-in baby walkers are not safe for your baby despite them being heavily advertised by brands around the world for babies as young as four months. Although they are advertised as a way of encouraging a child’s mobility they can be very harmful both immediately and long term for your child. There are two main reasons why we would not recommend a baby walker; firstly due to safety and secondly in relation to a baby’s development. We’ve highlighted these factors in more detail below.
Any parent’s first priority is to keep their child safe, and although you won’t mean to, every time you place your child in a baby walker, you do increase their risk of injury. Every year there are many reports of babies being injured whilst in a baby walker. These accidents include;
- Trapping of limbs
- Head injuries
- Burns and scalds
- Tripping and Falling
When you place your child into a baby walker you’re aiding them to have unnatural height and speed which increases their risk of accessing hazardous things which may cause them injury. This could include knocking objects from a height that is usually out of reach, falling down the stairs, and trapping limbs in between the walker and objects around them. 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.
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 and walkers also alter a baby’s ability to see their legs and feet. At such a young age babies are learning where their body parts are, relative to themselves and to their environment, another 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.
How Long Should a Baby Be in a Walker?
Although we strongly recommend that you avoid using baby walkers, we understand that some parents may still choose to use them. 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 to prevent persistent toe walking beyond a normal development point.
If you’re worried that your baby is continuing to tip toe walk, physiotherapy is a great way to help rectify and resolve the abnormality, we discussed the topic in-depth in our recent blog.
What Are Some Alternatives To Baby Walkers?
Ideal alternatives to baby walkers include letting your baby do natural activities without the need for aids such as crawling or tummy time. If you’d like to read more about tummy time and its benefits, read one of our recent blog posts – Tummy Time What to Expect.
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. It also supports crossing information in the brain which helps the baby’s development, as the left half of the brain controls the left side of the body and vice versa with the right side. This is a development that is missed when using a baby walker.
If you use a baby walker to help contain your child, why not try using a stationary activity centre? This allows them to experience sensory stimulation and development without having to move around.
Paediatric Physiotherapy From Therapy Stars
At Therapy stars, we have an expert team who are professionally trained physiotherapists and hydrotherapists working with babies, children and young adults who are diagnosed with genetic and mobility-limiting conditions or who are experiencing developmental delays. We have a range of excellent facilities and packages that can be tailored to your child’s needs, whilst providing treatment that is engaging and fun.
To contact us simply book a complimentary call with one of our team to discuss which child physiotherapy services we can provide.