Both of my kids used baby walkers and they loved them. It was one of their first opportunities to demonstrate free will while sitting upright and having snacks easily attainable on the tray in front of them. It wasn’t until recently that I heard my choice to use walkers with my kids was controversial.
I caught a segment on the morning news detailing how the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) maintains that baby walkers are hazardous and should be banned in the US, just as they were banned in Canada. The words “Banned in Canada” echoed in my ears long after the segment ended.
I popped open my laptop to do a little research. Immediately I found the October 2018 Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics published a study entitled “Infant Walker-Related Injuries in the United States.” The study found that 2,230,676 children, ages 15 months and younger, were treated at hospitals in the United States for baby walker-related injuries between 1990 and 2014. The majority of these injuries were related to falls down stairs that lacked a baby gate. Starting in 1990, the number of walker-related injuries decreased by 84% and decreased again by 22% after 2010.
The suspected reason for the decrease in the 1990s is the voluntary safety standards written to manufacture walkers wider than an average doorway and to add a mechanism to stop if 2 wheels left the ground (as they do when falling down the stairs). These recommended safety standards became mandatory in 2010 resulting in an additional decrease in serious injuries.
While injuries are becoming far less common, the AAP is still pushing for a ban. Their position is that there are still too many preventable injuries and the walkers pose no real benefit to the child. Aside from the potential of falling down the stairs, children can reach higher, resulting in potential burns or poisoning, they can fall out of the walker, or worse still, they can walk into an ungated pool.
Further, there are many other options from which to choose to keep our children stimulated and entertained. Stationary entertainers, bouncers, and high chairs are all viable alternatives to the infant walker with far lower incidents of injury.
While Canada seems to be the only country to successfully institute an outright ban on walkers, the European Child Safety Alliance and the ANEC (European Consumer Protection Agency) holds an almost identical stance to that of the AAP in that walkers are a danger to children while serving no advantage. However, some other countries do not have such standards and unsafe walkers are still sold around the globe.
Our little ones are accident prone, this much is true. Under an ordinary set of circumstances young children can suffer injuries due to otherwise “safe” items around the house. Let us heed the words of the experts and not introduce an item that is known to be hazardous to them without any real benefit. Baby jumpers are cuter anyway.