Baby Walkers

Why use a baby walker?

Some parents believe that baby walkers help a child learn to walk sooner. Baby walkers do not help your baby to walk earlier. In fact, they can delay learning to walk. The muscles used to move a walker are different than the muscles needed to walk independently. Babies in walkers tend to walk on tiptoe, which can tighten heel and leg muscles. This means they do not strengthen the muscle groups they need for sitting, crawling, and walking.

Parents also use walkers as a way to entertain and stimulate their children. Children can be entertained in other ways or placed in a safer piece of equipment. A stationary activity center is much safer than a walker. Stationary activity centers look like walkers, but without the wheels. They allow children to bounce, rock, spin, and play with lights, sounds, and objects on the center. Playpens, infant swings, and high chairs are other ways to keep your child safe and happy.

Are baby walkers safe?

Many countries do not allow the sale of baby walkers. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that walkers not be sold in the United States because:

  • baby walkers put children at risk for injury
  • there are no clear benefits from using a baby walker.

Each year thousands of children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for walker-related injuries. Walker injuries can be serious, such as:

  • skull fractures, bleeding inside the head, or broken legs and arms from falls, especially down stairs
  • pinch injuries to fingers and toes
  • drowning
  • burns.

Adult supervision is not always enough to prevent walker-related injuries. Most baby walker injuries happen while at least one parent is at home watching the child. A baby in a walker can move at a speed of 3 feet per second. This is much faster than a baby can move on his own. Baby walkers put children at higher risk for injury because the child can move around faster and reach dangerous objects. Before you choose a child care facility, check to see if they use baby walkers.

Safety tips

If you choose to use a baby walker, make sure that you:

  • Use a newer model infant walker that meets new safety standards. Look for the "Meets Safety Standards" label (ASTMF977-96). Safety standards require that baby walkers have a way to stop the walker at the edge of a step and a wide base so that they can't fit through doorways.
  • Install baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs. Also use safety gates in front of forbidden rooms or areas. Safety gates that fasten to the wall are safer than the gates held against the wall by pressure. Gates do not prevent babies from tumbling down stairs in walkers. Children can take the gate down or the baby walker can knock the gate loose.
  • Use toddler-proof locks on doors and screens. Keep outside doors locked at all times, even when you are at home.
  • Put corner and edge bumpers on sharp edges of furniture such as coffee tables, end tables, and your fireplace hearth.
  • Put away all delicate, breakable, and valuable items from tables and shelves.
  • Fasten heavy objects such as TVs, lamps, or stereo equipment to the wall so the baby doesn't accidentally knock them over.
  • Fasten bookcases and other movable furniture pieces to the wall with a wall anchor so your child can't pull the piece of furniture over on himself.
  • Keep plants out of children's reach.
  • Cover unused electrical outlets with plastic caps. You can also get boxes to cover outlets that are being used. Where possible, place furniture in front of outlets and cords.
  • Either avoid using extension cords or tape cords down. Keep phone cords out of children's reach.
  • Turn handles of all pots and pans to the back of the stove so your child can't reach them. Use the back burners of the stove when possible.
  • Avoid using tablecloths that can be pulled down.
  • Put safety latches on drawers and cabinets.
  • Store cleaning products and all other poisonous chemicals in a high cupboard out of a child's reach. Make sure it has a lock or safety latch.
  • Keep hot drinks out of reach of your child. When handling hot liquids or foods, check to see where your child is BEFORE you pick up the tea kettle or pan.
  • Always keep your child within view while in a baby walker. Walkers require constant supervision.
Written by Suzanne Glaser, RN, and Norine Hemphill, RN, MS.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-06-17
Last reviewed: 2009-12-01
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.