Shayna Gavin, Splash Principal Physiotherapist
Are baby walkers helpful?
Baby walkers continue to be sold in toy shops and used in child care centres. However I strongly discourage their use, as does the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne and the Australian Physiotherapy Association. In fact, sale and ownership of baby walkers has been made illegal in Canada.
What is a baby walker?
Baby walkers are rigid structures on wheels that have a fabric seat for the child to be supported through their pelvis. They are designed for a child to begin to learn to walk. Some models also have mechanisms to allow for bouncing, toy attachments, or to be folded up for storage.
There's not many things that I have a black and white opinion on. But this is one of them!
There's two main reasons why:
1. Risk of injury
The most common injuries through use of baby walkers includes:
falling, especially down steps or a change in level
burns and scalds when children move to reach for hot drinks, kettles, heaters or ovens
choking after moving to reach toys or attachments for play equipment
finger injuries or breaks from baby walkers that collapse
poisoning after moving to reach for cleaning or bathroom products, or medications.
2. There's no evidence they help babies learn to walk!
There's a common misconception that children can learn to walk earlier through use of a baby walker. However research has shown that baby walkers are in fact linked to delays in learning to crawl, stand and walk.
Playing on the floor is a wonderful way for children to learn to roll, sit, transition between positions, crawl, pull to stand and begin to cruise along furniture.
As with everything, families should use their own discretion in making choices about their child. There will always be some families who find equipment useful, and who choose to weigh up the risks and benefits. The RCH fact sheet has recommendations on how you can minimise risk if you choose to go ahead with using a baby walker.
If you'd like to see the resources referenced in this post, here's:
The Australian Physiotherapy Associaiton position statement on use of baby walkers
The Australian Competition and Consumer Comission (ACCC) safety alert about baby walkers
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) 'Keeping Baby Safe' guide to infant and nursery products
The Royal Children's Hospital fact sheet on preventing falls
I discourage use of baby walkers, and am very happy to help with plenty of alternatives to help your little one get on the move.