Baby walkers were once on every new parent’s wish list.
But in recent years, there have been various studies which have shown they pose some significant risks, from sustaining head and neck injuries to delaying independent walking.
According to one study, an estimated 230,676 of children under 15 months old were treated for walker related injuries between 1990-2014 in the US.
It was partly due to these reasons that my wife and I decided against using a baby walker with Mia..
..but there are some alternatives which can encourage your little one to walk as part of their natural development.
History of Baby Walkers
Baby walkers have been around longer than most people realize, although they didn’t always look the same as the walkers of today. Baby walkers were first introduced in Europe in the 15th century. An early wheeled version was then called a go-cart.
The earliest versions of baby walkers were made of wood and were used mostly to keep the child from touching something dangerous, such as a hot oven. In addition, an ornately decorated manuscript from the 15th century, entitled The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, shows a baby Jesus utilizing a baby walker!
Even in the earliest years, there were alternatives to baby walkers, including an item that consisted of a padded wooden ring on a pole that was attached to the floor and ceiling. In this device, the baby would sit inside of the ring and move in a circle around the pole, keeping himself out of danger while his mother did other things.
What Is The Problem With Baby Walkers?
Regardless of how well they are made, there are many concerns surrounding the use of baby walkers.
When children use one, there is always the likelihood that they could slip or fall, even down a flight of stairs. The walkers can also make it easier to reach pots on stoves that could then spill hot liquids and food onto the child.
Indeed, many advocacy groups recommend that parents do not use baby walkers because of the inherent dangers attached to them. The possibility of real harm to the baby is always there, which is why Canada was the first country to ban these items in 2004.
However, one of the biggest reasons against walkers is that they can actually delay independent walking, the very thing they’re supposed to help with.
Here are some alternatives though to get your little one walking around in no time…
5 Alternatives to Baby Walkers
1. Baby Bouncers
Baby bouncers look similar to infant seats and allow babies to bounce up and down because they are flexible and respond to the baby’s natural movements. Many of them are operated electronically, allowing them even more bounce and motion, and they can be turned on or off any time that you wish.
Just as with walkers, baby bouncers have certain good and bad points. For instance, these bouncers are super comfortable for babies and often come with additional features such as toys and activities. They are portable, they support the baby’s spine well, and their straps and headrests are great for keeping babies safe.
On the other hand, bouncers can make falling asleep without them difficult and can reduce floor mobility if you keep babies in them for too long. There are also weight limits associated with them and they should never be used for premature infants.
2. Baby Jumpers
Baby jumpers are attached to the top part of a door and allow babies to jump up and down while in the seat. They are comfortable and fun but not without their shortcomings.
Babies love them and so do parents because they give parents and caregivers time to do something else while the babies are being occupied elsewhere.
Some pediatricians, however, have concerns about these jumpers. If the clamps that connect to the top part of the door break, the baby could fall and suffer injuries.
In addition, if babies stay in them for long periods of time, some doctors believe that their development could be affected, especially their muscle development.
If you’re going to use a baby jumper, it is crucial to consider both the pros and cons first.
Playpens have been around for a very long time and today’s playpens are safer than ever.
They create small, safe play areas for babies that allow parents to keep an eye on them while they do other things. Because parents control which items go into a playpen, it is very simple for them to make sure that baby’s play area is safe.
Concerns associated with playpens usually involve babies who spend too much time in these devices. Spending a long time in a playpen can affect the child’s ability to explore and learn in a much bigger area than what the playpen offers, which can inhibit both creativity and the ability to learn.
However, limiting the time they spend in playpens doesn’t seem to harm them at all.
4. Activity Centers
Activity centers for babies are very similar to walkers except they include a variety of activities and toys to enjoy, meaning that babies can learn and enjoy various activities even if they’re not walking around.
The main advantage of these devices is the variety when it comes to the activities because they are always educational activities that are both fun and serve an important purpose.
As far as the disadvantages are concerned, much as with other toys, activity centers can inhibit children’s curiosity and learning ability if they are allowed to stay in this device for too long. However, parents can avoid this trap simply by limiting the amount of time that their children remain in the device.
5. Natural Walking
Baby walkers can give babies a false sense of security and can actually inhibit their ability to walk on their own, which is why more and more parents are choosing not to use them.
In fact, many parents are simply waiting until their children are old enough to walk on their own and letting them learn to walk that way without the assistance of a baby walker.
Choosing natural walking allows babies to learn on their own terms, which many experts believe is a lot healthier both physically and emotionally.
Are baby walkers safe?
Despite the warnings, today’s walkers are safer than they used to be and can be trusted as long as you use them with a little common sense and keep an eye on your baby when they’re in one.
Do baby walkers make learning to walk easier or faster?
No. However, they often provide the confidence that babies need to try to walk on their own. If you decide to buy one, just don’t use it for long periods, and mix things up with some of the other alternatives in this article.
Do baby walkers make it more difficult to learn to walk?
They do not necessarily make it more difficult for babies to learn to walk but it can actually take longer to learn simply because babies feel confident about walking in them and are sometimes hesitant to learn to walk on their own.
Should parents purchase baby walkers for their babies?
This is a question that only you can answer but it is recommended that a little research is conducted beforehand so you can make the best decision for you, your baby, and your family.
As I mentioned earlier, my wife and I decided not to use one, but we did use a baby bouncer and a baby jumper.
Are baby walkers banned anywhere?
So far, the only country that has banned baby walkers is Canada and that was in the year 2004. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that they be banned in the U.S. but that has not happened so far.
Do baby walkers hinder development?
Baby walkers won’t hinder development if babies aren’t kept in them for long periods of time. Just use some common sense and encourage your baby to walk naturally, or use some of the other alternatives in this article.