As parents we often assume that if a baby good is on sale, it must be safe for our baby. We can fall under the assumption that if it’s available for the general public and most parents use them, it must be ok.
Unfortunately this is not the case when purchasing all baby items and good research is needed to ensure the baby product does meet the necessary Australian standards. It’s also important to have a good understanding on whether there are any dangers in using certain baby products with your baby.
One baby item that has come under scrutiny in recent years is the baby walker. Baby walkers are activity set, mobile devices for babies aged 6 to 15 months, that assist them being mobile. Baby walkers require babies to use their feet to move around. It’s almost like a walking frame, but for babies. It was one of those activity toys that our parents used on us as kids and over the years they have become more modern with lights and sounds. The baby walker has become an anticipated baby item on the baby needs wish list.
Misconceptions and Misuse
Baby walkers are used as a way to contain your baby if you need to do a chore around the house or you need 5 minutes so your baby is kept in the one place, because by 6 months, some babies are on the move. The sling in the baby walker keeps a hold of baby within the baby walker frame, while they can still use their legs to move around.
The baby walker seems the perfect solution for situations like these but keeping a baby in a baby walker unattended is not safe.
Another misconception around the baby walker is that it will assist your baby to learn to walk. This is further from the truth as Paediatric physiotherapists believe they can cause a delay in your child’s ability to walk.
The two main concerns about baby walkers are these:
Babies can injure themselves once placed in a mobile environment. They can reach higher than they are used to and their legs and arms can get trapped by moving themselves into furniture and walls and not having the experience or understanding to move away. They can also wheel themselves into danger like fires and hot surfaces like ovens. Babies can fall down stairs if left mobile in a baby walker, they can tip on uneven surfaces, trapping your baby. Siblings can also play rough and push a baby walker which can dislocate babies feet or cause other injuries if pushed into danger. If a baby walker is used, your baby should not be left unattended. Some studies show just under half of babies that are placed in baby walkers get injured. In 2000 to 2008 there were 135 injuries to babies from being left in baby walkers.
Babies will learn to walk when they are developmentally ready. They have to learn so many skills to get to that point. Allowing a baby to sit on the floor and crawl will help them learn to walk quicker than placing them in a baby walker.
Many studies have shown that baby walkers can hinder the baby’s motor development milestones which can delay your baby in learning how to walk.
There has been a push to ban baby walkers in Australia, like Canada, but so far these laws haven’t come into play.
If you do decide to use a baby walker, it’s recommended that parent supervision is maintained during your baby’s time in the walker and to ensure your baby isn’t in there longer than 15 minutes.
Alternatives to Baby Walkers
I have so been there needing a place to put my baby so I can do a 5 minute chore. Some alternative activities can include:
- Using a gate to keep baby contained in one area with an array of toys on the floor
- Using soft furniture to keep baby contained to they can learn to pull themselves up, a necessary skill for walking.
- Set up the baby portacot with some toys or sensory items for sensory play. Babies want to be able to see what’s going on around them so the mesh sides of a portacot allow this interaction, while still keeping them contained.
- Set up activity areas for baby to interact and play.
Any concerns about whether to use a baby walker should be directed to your GP or Paediatric Physiotherapist to get their recommendation on whether to use a baby walker so you can make an informed decision.
Did you use a baby walker for your baby? Did you have any accidents or concerns using a baby walker for your baby?