We grew up in the age where everyone used walkers for babies. Local mom Brandi Binkley Howton says, “We started out with a rolling walker then a push behind toy.” “Contrary to what the name suggests, these devices do not help the process of learning to walk,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “While they strengthen the muscles in the lower legs, they don’t do a good job of strengthening muscles in the upper legs and hips, which are used most in walking and need the workout,” adds the AAP. “These walkers actually eliminate the desire to walk, since they allow the baby to get around too easily.”
Will baby walkers be banned for good, then? The AAP now calls for a ban on the manufacturing of infant walkers due to the high number of walker-related injuries that won’t go away. More than 9,200 walker-related injuries happen each year in the U.S., according to a study published recently in Pediatrics. Most of the injuries are related to the neck and head. Although the government mandated safety standards in 2010, injuries continue to happen because of walker popularity. A baby can move four feet in just one second, and that’s not enough time for a parent to intervene should the walker start tumbling down steps. Meanwhile, parents love the independence that walkers give babies.
So What’s the Solution?
Keep them away from steps. Or, a stationary activity center with no wheels. Problem solved. But, if you really want Baby to learn to walk, take the time to create a safe and fun environment for him in your home. James Edwin Conley, M.D., of Saint Thomas Medical Partners, Nashville, recommends non-movable items that are sturdy and allow him to pull to stand as well as cruise are useful, too. Clear space to encourage him to walk to you instead of crawling and sitting. “Cheering your baby on and getting excited about every step that is made builds trust in their mobility,” adds Conley.