The use of mobile baby walkers is a controversial topic.
The position of the American Academy of Pediatrics is clear though. In their fact sheet 'Baby Walkers are Dangerous!' they advise that you should 'throw away your baby walker' based on the fact that:
- Baby walkers send more than 14,000 children to the hospital every year, and
- 34 children have died since 1973 because of baby walkers.
The AAP has gone so far as to call for 'a ban on the manufacture and sale of baby walkers with wheels '
Mobile baby walkers are still popular though.
Older infants seem to enjoy them, as they often quickly get bored in stationary walkers, even the newer ones with all of the bells and whistles.
Will they help your infant learn to walk sooner?
No. It is generally believed that infant walkers don't help your kids learn to walk sooner than if they didn't use a walker. In fact, one study, Effects of baby walkers on motor and mental development in human infants, concluded that 'walker-experienced infants sat, crawled, and walked later than no-walker controls, and they scored lower on Bayley scales of mental and motor development.'
Another study, Infant walkers: developmental tool or inherent danger, found that 'the use of the infant walker did not influence the onset of independent walking.'
So while it is maybe not clear on whether or not using a mobile infant walker will delay the time that your child learns to walk, there have been no studies showing that it will help you child walk sooner than if you didn't use one.
Are infant walkers safe?
As the statistics from the AAP show, many infants are injured when they use a mobile infant walker.
- falls, especially down stairs
- pinch injuries to fingers and toes
Most of these injuries aren't because the walker itself is dangerous, but only that it makes your child more mobile, which can cause injuries if your house isn't well childproofed. Afterall, your infant isn't going to get burned or poisoned by the walker. Instead, using a walker, he can get to and knock over a hot cup of coffee, pull something off of the stove, get too close to a fireplace or grab something poisonous out of a cabinet.
Using an Infant Walker Safely
Millions of infant walkers are sold each year, so I don't think that the AAP's call to ban mobile walkers will ever become popular enough to become a reality. So we should all likely move towards making sure that parents use walkers safely.
Most importantly, that means making sure your home is childproofed and keep the walker away from stairs, your pool and parts of your home that are not childproofed.
Many parents don't think about childproofing until their child is crawling or walking, but if you are using a non-stationary walker with wheels, then your infant is going to be mobile and you have to get things childproofed, including:
- placing covers on electrical outlets and latches on drawers and cabinets
- prevent poisonings by keeping household cleaners, chemicals and medicines completely out of reach
- removing furniture with sharp edges or use soft guards.
- removing heavy objects and breakables from low tables and shelves
- not carrying hot liquids or food near your child and not allowing your child near stoves, heaters or other hot appliances (especially curling irons)
- locking rooms (with a childproof lock or door knob cover) that are not childproof and the exterior doors of your house so that your child can't get out the front door or into the garage, attic, or backyard without help
See our childproofing guide for more childproofing tips.
You also want to make sure that you are using a newer model infant walker that meets new voluntary safety standards, including having a wide base so that they can't fit through most doorways and a braking mechanism so that the walker stops if one or more wheels come off of the ground, like if it was going down stairs.
And be sure to always supervise your child in a mobile walker. Remember that most infants are quite fast in these walkers and can quickly get away from you and the AAP does say that 'walkers are never safe to use, even with close adult supervision' and that many walker injuries occur while the child was being supervised by an adult.
Buy them online: mobile infant walkers
Stationary Activity Centers
As many experts do believe that the risks of using a mobile infant walker far outweighs the benefits, you might consider avoiding mobile walkers and just use a stationary activity center instead.
Many, like the Fischer-Price Step and Play Piano are fairly sophisticated and will likely keep your infant entertained, even if he can't move all around the room. Although it is stationary and doesn't move, your child can move back and forth along tracks built into the center.
In others, like the Evenflo Portable Fun Ultrasaucer and Little Tikes 3 Way Entertainer, your child can spin around and have access to many different toys and activities.
Buy them online: stationary activity centers