If you are the parent of a baby and you are considering buying walker -- think again. Whether you see a baby walker at a yard sale, thrift shop or department store that sells baby items -- just keep walking. Even though the image of your baby happily scooting around the house in his new wheels may seem cute -- the truth is -- baby walkers expose your baby to countless dangers that you could otherwise avoid.
It is a common misconception that confining a baby in a baby walker keeps him safe. This belief could not be further from the truth. Baby walkers allow your baby to reach higher and move faster through the house. They also offer no benefits when teaching him to walk. According to Dr. Alan Greene, a well-known pediatrician, walkers actually decrease a baby's interest in walking. Walkers strengthen the lower muscles of a baby's legs, while neglecting, and thereby weakening, the muscles of his upper legs and hips, which are crucial to the walking process.
The mobility that a walker offers puts a baby at a risk of falling. The most common risk associated with this freedom of movement is a fall down the stairs. Falls down stairs are responsible for at least 60 percent of walker injuries, according to the University of Washington website. Head injuries are common and are often severe. This is usually due to the baby’s head making contact with the stairs and the added impact of the weight of the walker falling on top of him.
Burns and Poisoning Risks
The height of the baby walker gives your baby access to things that they would not be able to reach otherwise. If the baby-on-the-go steers herself towards the stove, she may be able to reach a pot of water boiling on the stove and pull it off -- resulting in serious burns. A baby in a walker may be able to reach poisonous substances, states the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Despite the developments of voluntary safety standards by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, manufacturers of baby walkers are avoiding their implementation. Emergency rooms around the U.S. continue to treat thousands of babies -- most under the age of 15 months -- for baby walker related injuries each year, according to the University of Michigan Health System website. Due to continued risks, the American Academy of Pediatrics seeks to ban the manufacture and sale of all baby walkers.
If you own a baby walker, dispose of it. However, before tossing it in the garbage, destroy any attached toys, along with the wheels and seat -- making it impossible for someone else to use it for her baby. You may also want to consider a baby walker alternative. The University of Utah Health Care website recommends safer choices such as a stationary walker that tilts, rotates and bounces -- but has no wheels. A high chair or playpen is also a safer choice that gives babies a safe place to play.