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Baby walkers are wheeled devices consisting of a suspended fabric seat with leg holes that allow infants to push themselves around before they can walk. Some people believe that baby walkers can help their baby learn to walk. While these devices might seem like a great way to entertain or stimulate a child, they may delay a baby’s ability to walk independently and can cause serious injuries from the device tipping over or moving towards dangerous areas, such as an oven or a swimming pool.
There is some research to suggest baby walkers may cause a delay in motor development. A previous study showed that 102 infants who used baby walkers started crawling about a month later and started walking about 3 weeks later on average than the 88 infants who didn’t. The delay was shown to be about 3 days for every 24 hours of walker use. According to many physicians, the explanation is that babies use their leg muscles in a different way while being suspended in a baby walker compared to pulling themselves up and learning to walk. Since the infants can’t see their legs or feet in the walker, they are not receiving the visual feedback normally associated with moving their limbs. When a baby is spending time in the walker rather than playing on the floor or learning pre-walking skills, such as rolling over, sitting up, and pulling up, they are not practicing movement and balance.
The enhanced mobility also puts the child at risk for falling down the stairs, crashing into something, or easily reaching for potentially harmful items, even under a parent’s watch. Rather than using walkers, parents are encouraged to allow their baby to spend lots of time on the floor in a playpen to practice the movements needed for them to reach their walking milestones.