Toss Your Baby Walker, Pediatricians Say
Safety is your top concern for your child. Just as you put your infant in a car seat, you may think that putting your child in a baby walker is safe, too.
"Safety is a misperception," says pediatric emergency physician Joseph Wright, M.D., a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Injury, Poison, and Violence Prevention.
The AAP calls baby walkers dangerous and says you should throw them out. According the AAP, one of the reasons why a baby walker is not safe is because a child is able to move more than three feet in one second.
An estimated 3,600 children under age 5 were injured in 2008 because of baby walkers, jumpers, or exercisers, according to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report released in 2009. In children younger than 15 months, the CPSC estimates that more than 21,000 injuries annually related to baby walkers will require hospital emergency room visits. Falling down the stairs in a baby walker causes the majority of these emergency room injuries.
Walkers can cause children to:
Roll down stairs, causing head injuries and even death. This is the most common way children get hurt in walkers. A child also can get hurt if the walker tips over.
Get burned. Children in a walker may be able to reach a hot cup of coffee on a table or a pot on the stove.
Drown. A child can roll into a pool.
Be poisoned. A child may be able to reach poisonous items you thought were out of reach.
Pinch fingers or toes. A child's tiny digits can get caught between the walker and furniture.
"Parents should avoid all mobile walkers," Dr. Wright says. For safety's sake, also make sure there are no baby walkers anywhere your child spends time.
The current manufacturing standard for walkers requires them to have a braking mechanism that kicks in when one or more wheels drop to a lower position, the CPSC says. This prevents a walker from rolling over the edge of a step. The standard also requires walkers to be wider than 36 inches, to prevent them from fitting through a doorway.
Playpens are safe for children learning to sit, crawl, and walk. High chairs are great for older children, who can safely play with toys on a tray.