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Read about some potential pros and cons of using baby walkers, and why so many people are opposed to them nowadays.

Parents love them or hate them — No middle ground

A baby walker consists of a rigid frame usually made of plastic or metal that holds a fabric seat with leg openings. Most of them have a plastic tray or some kind of activity center at the front. A baby walker is designed to support a pre-walker and give the child mobility while they are still learning to walk. Estimates are that more than three million of baby walkers are sold annually. [1]

Baby walkers have been in use for at least four centuries, perhaps even longer, but in the last few years they have caused considerable disagreements and controversy. Some parents swear that their children benefited from a walker, and others have experienced accidents, and even blame them for children's developmental delays [2]. Despite all the comments, baby walkers are still loved and used around the globe as an easy and fun way to entertain a child and catch a break.

What does science have to say about baby walkers?

In many parts of the world, people think that babies learn to walk faster if they've been put into a walker, but research says the opposite. A study conducted on children between six and 15 months old showed that infants who had a walker sat, crawled, and even walked later than babies without walkers, and even scored lower on the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development. [3]

It is thought that for every 24 hours that a baby spends in a walker, she learns to stand on her own four days later, and walk on her own with a delay of three days [4]. Since I'm not one of those parents who competes with other parents regarding whose child learned to walk before and don't consider it very important, I'll put the timing of the first steps aside and talk about the real dangers.

The worst thing about baby walkers is their mobility and speed. A child alone with the walker is prone to tip-overs, and likely to collide with electric appliances. Parents should also consider the chemicals that may become more easily accessible if a baby is free to explore the house in a walker. [5]

In a study conducted on 49 children, only seven of them were not put in a walker. Most respondents (half of the 42 parents that used walkers) reported at least one accident, either a fall down stairs, a tip over, or finger entrapment. [6]  Parents often put their baby in a walker wanting to get some rest. We've all been there, tired and just wanting him to play all by himself.

A walker itself is not a danger; walkers become risky when we fail to pay attention to our babies while they're using one. [7]

Some of the worst injuries related to baby walkers were three skull fractures, and the most common reason was a fall downstairs. Baby walker-related injuries occur with a similar prevalence as injuries caused by road traffic accidents. [8]

Should we ban baby walkers?

Canada was the first country to ban the usage and sale of baby walkers. Since 2004, they've banned everything regarding walkers including possession, advertisement, importing, even garage sales. If someone in Canada breaks this rule and decides to smuggle a walker in, they can be fined to 100.000 Canadian dollars or convicted to six months in jail. [9, 5]

Apparently, baby walkers are dangerous only in some circumstances, not when used as directed, so most countries advise educating people about the proper use of the product rather than putting a ban in place.

The bottom line

The baby will walk independently sooner if you don't use a walker, according to research, contrary to the popular belief that it will speed up the process. A baby's first steps are one of the most important milestones, and only a parent can decide whether they want to interfere with nature. We didn't want to.

We shouldn't blame walkers for accidents, but rather those who were "watching“ the baby at the moment. We've never owned a baby walker — I don't believe that I (or anyone else for that matter) can be fully focused all the time and watch the baby at every moment. Accidents occur within seconds, and I'd rather avoid walkers completely than have someone, including myself, leave my baby girl inside it in a hallway to get something done.

Of course, a baby can (and probably will) get hurt if you let her move around by herself, and you're in another room. You don't have to aggressively advocate against walkers, just be mindful of their use.

Keep your child safe by removing all dangerous products from his reach — think cleaning products, extension cords, pots, bug repellents, and related items. Baby-proof sockets and sharp edges. It is recommended to get down on all fours to check for the situation from a child's perspective. [10]

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, public education, the use of warning labels, the use of stair gates, and even adult supervision have proven insufficient strategies in injury prevention [1].

Never let a child move around the house alone, and limit walker use only to those moments when both you and the baby are in a good mood for play. Pediatricians and other health experts, as well as manufacturers, should warn the public about the risks and encourage safer use of infant walkers worldwide.

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