Are Baby Walkers Safe?

At first glance, baby walkers may seem like a grand idea: long before a baby is even steady on his own feet, walkers enable him to zoom around with ease! And therein lies the problem -- increasing their locomotive abilities means babies can get themselves in a whole lot of trouble.

Think it's worth the trouble just so baby can zoom around? Think again.

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"Walkers are very dangerous and should not be used," says Bridget Boyd, MD, a pediatric safety expert and director of the newborn nursery at Loyola University Health System. "There are multiple safety concerns that range from falling down stairs to knocking over objects that could result in injury."

From 1973 to 1998, walkers were linked to 34 infant deaths and, in 1999, led to hospital visits in 8,800 children younger than 15 months. In 1997, the safety watchdog ASTM International tried to address the issues with new voluntary manufacturing standards that called for walkers to be wider than a 36-inch doorway or have a braking mechanism designed to stop the walker if the wheels drop off a riding surface, like at the top of a stairway.

But those standards don't go far enough according to many child safety experts. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a ban on all walkers.

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Given the concerns, why are walkers still used by parents?

"Many believe walkers to be sort of a 'walking exerciser' that brings about walking faster," says Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA.

Yet studies suggest walkers may actually do more harm than good on that front. "Research suggests that children with walker experience reached sitting, crawling, and walking milestones later than no-walker controls," Bowman points out.

Bottom line? Baby walkers don't help your baby walk -- in fact, they delay those first steps and can be dangerous, too. All in all, the risks outweigh the benefits, and it's best to steer clear.

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Image via Consumer Products Safety Commission

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