A baby’s first steps are an exciting – and anxiety inducing – time. They are learning to become even more mobile and independent, able to access things parents may not have had to worry about before. Of course, babies don’t immediately go from crawling to walking without a little aided practice along the way. Many parents provide little ones with baby walkers, but walkers that the baby sits in rather than simply pushes have shown to pose dangerous safety risks.
- Stairs: All too often, it is easy for babies to get to stairs in a walker, resulting in rolling down before an adult even has the chance to grab them. A tumble down the stairs in a walker can cause broken bones and severe head injuries.
- Higher Reach: Walkers allow children to reach up higher, making it easy to grab dangerous items. They can be seriously burned by grabbing a hot beverage off a table or counter, reaching pots on the stove, and even touching fireplaces or space heaters. They may also have easier access to poisonous items, from cleaning supplies to plants.
- Drowning: With the inability to stop themselves easily, babies could fall into a pool or even a bathtub while using a walker, resulting in drowning.
Unfortunately, most of the injuries occur even with adult supervision because they happen so quickly, the caregiver is unable to respond in time.
Not only are baby walkers dangerous, but they may actually hinder the baby’s walking development and create a delay in learning the skill. Using a seated walker, babies are not learning to use their arms in the event of falls and aren’t necessarily developing balancing skills since all they are doing is pushing themselves around with their legs.
So, how can you help your baby learn to walk safely? If you want something they can use independently, try a walk-behind walker. Babies stay at their own height and practice their balance on two feet. Falls are bound to happen, but they will be more apt to catch themselves as they learn to put their arms out in front of them. If the baby isn’t quite sure yet about putting one foot in front of the other, supervise the use of the walk-behind as the baby may lean too far forward and fall easily. You can either hold the walker firmly to help move it slowly forward, or purchase a walk-behind that offers wheel speeds that require a firmer push to move.
There are also several other fun ways to help your baby learn and play that are much safer than a seated walker:
- Activity Centers: These resemble walkers, but do not have any wheels. Babies can enjoy all the fun toys and buttons by swiveling the seat around or bouncing if the particular center comes with that capability.
- Use Play Yards: This is a great way to allow baby the freedom to play and explore within a specific “safe zone.” It has enough room to sit, crawl, roll, stand and walk, and you can put a few of their favorite toys in with them for extra entertainment.
- High Chairs: Some babies enjoy being higher up to see what mom and dad are up to. Give them a better view by putting them in the high chair with some toys – you can even find specific high chair toys that suction to the tray to help avoid drops. When using a high chair, be sure to supervise the child at all times and buckled in to prevent any potential falls or other accidents.
If you currently own a seated baby walker, the best thing you can do is throw it out. It is not recommended to donate the item because of the many dangers it can pose. Be sure that any childcare centers or others’ homes where your child may be cared for do not have walkers, either. Canada has actually banned these walkers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics is attempting to ban the sale and manufacture of them, as well. In the meantime, encourage any friends and family with infants to stop using these products and help spread awareness about their potential dangers.
For questions or concerns about baby walkers, or other safe ways to help encourage your baby’s first steps, contact us today.