Don't Use Infant Walkers
Please do not use baby walkers for your infant. Baby or infant walkers, which consist of a circular top, a feeding tray and a base with wheels, may appear to be a safe and simple device to keep your infant occupied and let him or her them explore, but are actually the most dangerous toy in your nursery.
In 1994 the US Consumer Product Safety Commission stated that baby walkers are responsible for 23,000 emergency room visits annually with 1,000 of those requiring hospitalization. The most common injury caused by baby walkers are falls down stairs which account for 18,500 injuries annually. Between 1989 and 1993, there were eleven deaths attributed to walkers.
Over the past ten years the American Academy of Pediatrics, of which we are all members, has tried to ban the sale of baby walkers. We have not been successful yet, but our colleagues in Canada have been successful in convincing their government to ban the current version of baby walkers with wheels. In the US we have seen the development of popular walker alternatives such as the exersaucer and the infant treadmill.
In 1995, Infant Walker sales in the US were estimated at over 3 million. Studies at that time showed that between 55% and 92% of infants between 5 and 15 months of age used walkers. Parents use walkers for many reasons but are unaware of the dangers to which they are exposing their children. Parents give various reasons for using walkers including keeping the infant quiet and happy, to encourage mobility and promote walking, to provide exercise and to hold the infant during meals.
There is no evidence that babies who use walkers learn to walk early. To the contrary, studies have shown that infants use different sets of muscles for getting around in walkers and that walker use deters crawling and may delay early walking. If the infant can get around in their walker they do not have an incentive to crawl or walk.
The most common injury seen with walker use is head injury. This is due to falls down stairs or tipping over. Even if your stairs are gaited they may fail when bumped into by a moving walker. Walkers may tip over on uneven floors, carpet edges or raised thresholds. The severity of head injuries in walker falls is due to the exposure of the head above the walker. While the rest of the body is shielded by the walker the head is left unprotected and can hit the floor with full force. Skull fractures commonly result from walker falls.
Other common walker injuries are burns which account for 5% of all walker related injuries and poisonings. These result from the walker enabling the baby to reach up onto tables and countertops. Infants less than nine months old have a tendency to grasp at objects to explore them. Burns have resulted from babies in walkers reaching and grasping cords of hot appliances or containers of hot liquids.
There are now good alternatives to walkers. The exersaucer is a stationary seat in which the child can spin around and play with toys that are attached to the tray in front of them. The treadmill is also stationary and allows the child to run on a revolving tread. If you have a walker or are given one as a gift, please return it to the store with this article.