Thursday, April 5, 2012

Baby Walkers

Each time I take Fox to the doctor we receive a piece of paper with information and milestones to expect at his age. I noticed that each paper recommends against using a walker. I had never heard this before so I posed the question in a group of moms on Facebook if they had heard the same thing.
To my surprise I learned that several people were not going to be using walkers based on how dangerous they are. I started doing some reading online and I have learned so much over the last 24 hours.

First there are the obvious environmental dangers. Putting a baby on wheels makes it easier for them to roll down stairs, reach hot or sharp objects, and even get fingers and toes trapped. Most of these things are likely to happen whether or not a baby is in a walker once they become mobile. However  most of the injuries happen while parents are watching! Why? Because a child in a walker can move much quicker - three feet a second - making it difficult for parents to respond in time.

Then I was really shocked to read that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that baby walkers actually delay motor and mental development. Babies who use walkers skip developmental milestones by being upright before they are physically ready. Walkers now have a large tray which blocks a child's view of their feet and they don't get visual feedback, which the AAP says is necessary in learning to walk. Studies have shown that babies who have used a walker sit up, crawl, and walk later than those who have never used one. Another tidbit that came as a shock to me was the effect on mental development. They can have lower scores on mental testing which can last months after the use of walkers has ended.

Walkers are banned in several countries and the AAP is pushing to ban them here in the U.S.

Some good news is some newly made walkers are being equipped with safety features such as making them wider so they can't fit through doorways and fall protection which stops them from going down stairs. But if you're like me you have a hand-me-down which may not have any safety features. My pediatrician suggested using stationary activity center like jumpers and saucers instead.

I want Fox to learn at his own pace, so I am going to opt out of using a walker and keep him on the floor where he is currently sitting, scooching, rolling, reaching, and grabbing right on track.

Sources: NY, Baby Center, Brainy Child, AAP Grand Rounds


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