Effects of Walkers on Babies: What Scientific Studies Reveal

According to the findings of six studies, using infant walkers does increase the odds of accidents and injuries. In addition, babies who use walkers sit, crawl and walk later and have slower mental development than those who don’t.

The following are the details of the findings: 50% of infants between 8-14 months who use walkers experience at least one accident, even though in many of the cases there is adult supervision. The accidents include tipping over, falling down stairs, or jamming their fingers. For more severe cases of infant walker-related injuries, according to one study reported in 2001, “soft tissue injuries and lacerations represented 63% of the injuries. Trauma to the head region occurred in 91% of cases. Skull fractures were the most common (62%) type of fracture. Falls down stairs was the mechanism of injury in 74% of cases.” 

Babies who use walkers sit, crawl and walk later than those who don’t; they also score lower on mental development. These results may be due to the design of the walkers which may prevent visual access to the moving limbs, thus depriving thechild of visual feedback while developing his/her motor systems.

Created on November 21 2015 at 08: 00 AM


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Details of Scientific Answers: Click on each bullet to Read References

Pros

References:

1: "Effects Of Baby Walkers On Motor And Mental Development In Human Infants.," Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 1999, by AC Siegel, RV Burton. (Citations: 67).

Because baby walkers enable precocious locomotion in very young, otherwise prelocomotor infants, walker experience might be conceptualized in terms of early enrichment. However, walker devices prevent visual access to the moving limbs by design. Therefore, prelocomotor walker experience may be conceptualized in terms of early deprivation, reminiscent of that created in a classic series of animal experiments on the critical role of visual feedback in developing motor systems. This study analyzed motor and mental development in 109 human infants, with and without walker experience, between the ages of 6 and 15 months. Walker-experienced infants sat, crawled, and walked later than no-walker controls, and they scored lower on Bayley scales of mental and motor development. Significant effects of walker type, frequency, and timing of walker exposure were observed. Considering the injury data along with the developmental data, the authors conclude that the risks of walker use outweigh the benefits.


2: "The Effects Of Babywalkers On Early Locomotor Development," Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 1986, by M Crouchman. (Citations: 59).

The mothers of 66 infants were interviewed to obtain information on their children's motor development. The children were divided into three groups according to the length of time they spent in a babywalker. There was no difference between the groups in age at onset of sitting or walking, but children in the high-user group showed a significant delay in onset of prone locomotion compared with the low-user and non-user groups. This suggests that for some infants the excessive use of babywalkers alters the pathway of normal locomotor development.


3: "Infant Walker Use, Injuries, And Motor Development.," Injury Prevention, 1997, by MM Thein, J Lee, V Tay, SL Ling. (Citations: 49).

OBJECTIVES: To study the impact of infant walker use on motor development and injuries. POPULATION: One hundred and eighty five parents or primary care givers who attended a Singapore government polyclinic from September 1993 to February 1994, with their infants between 7 to 10 months, for a developmental assessment session. SETTING: A government polyclinic in Singapore. METHODS: The parent or primary care giver answered questions pertaining to infant walker use and injuries attributed to its use. Each infant was then given the Singapore modified version of the Denver Developmental Screening Test (DDST-S), along with a full clinical examination; both testers were blinded to walker use. RESULTS: One hundred and sixty seven (90%) of 185 infants used walkers regularly, and 21 (12.5%) of the users had one or more injuries. Most injuries were minor, such as bruises and swellings on the head, forehead, face, and cheeks. None of the children who did not use walkers showed any abnormal DDST-S results whereas 18 (10.8%) of the 167 walker users had either abnormal or questionable DDST-S results. CONCLUSIONS: 12.5% of walker users had one or more injuries and walker use may also delay the child's motor development. These findings will help the physician or nurse in primary care settings to advise parents about the potential hazards of walker use.


Cons

References:

1: "Babywalker-Related Injuries Continue Despite Warning Labels And Public Education," Pediatrics, 1997, by GA Smith, MJ Bowman, JW Luria, BJ Shields. (Citations: 65).

Objective. To describe the epidemiology of babywalker-related injuries to children treated in a pediatric emergency department despite current prevention efforts, and to investigate the beliefs of parents regarding babywalker use. Design. A descriptive study of a consecutive series of patients. Setting. The emergency department of a large, academic children's hospital. Participants. Children treated for babywalker-related injuries during the 3-year period of March 1993 through February 1996. Results. There were 271 children treated for babywalker-related injuries. The mean age was 9.2 months, and 62% of patients were boys. Ninety-six percent of children were injured when they fell down stairs in their babywalker. The number of stairs that a child fell down was significantly associated with skull fracture and admission to the hospital, and a fall down more than 10 stairs had a relative risk (RR) of skull fracture = 3.28 (95% confidence interval, 1.35 < RR < 7.98). There were 159 children with contusions/abrasions (58.6%), 35 concussions/head injuries (12.9%), 33 lacerations (12.2%), 26 skull fractures (9.6%), 9 epistaxis (3.3%), 4 nonskull fractures (1.5%), 4 avulsed teeth (1.5%), and 1 burn (0.4%). Three of the skull fractures were depressed, and three also had accompanying intracranial hemorrhage. Ten patients (3.7%) were admitted to the hospital, and all had skull fractures resulting from falls down stairs. Supervision was present in 78% of cases, including supervision by an adult in 69% of cases. Forty-five percent of families kept the walker, and 32% used the walker again for the study patient or another child after the injury episode. Fifty-nine percent of parents acknowledged that they were aware of the potential dangers of babywalkers before the injury event. Fifty-six percent of parents favored a national ban on the sale of walkers, and 20% were opposed. Conclusion. Despite the currently used prevention strategies, including adult supervision, warning labels, care giver education programs, and stairway gates, serious injuries associated with babywalkers continue to occur to young children. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission should promulgate a rule, similar to the voluntary standard adopted in Canada, regarding design requirements for babywalkers that will prevent their passage through household doorways at the head of stairs. The manufacture and sale of mobile babywalkers that do not meet this new standard should be banned in the US. A recall or trade-in campaign should be conducted nationally to decrease the number of existing babywalkers.


References:

1: "Effects Of Baby Walkers On Motor And Mental Development In Human Infants.," Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 1999, by AC Siegel, RV Burton. (Citations: 67).

Because baby walkers enable precocious locomotion in very young, otherwise prelocomotor infants, walker experience might be conceptualized in terms of early enrichment. However, walker devices prevent visual access to the moving limbs by design. Therefore, prelocomotor walker experience may be conceptualized in terms of early deprivation, reminiscent of that created in a classic series of animal experiments on the critical role of visual feedback in developing motor systems. This study analyzed motor and mental development in 109 human infants, with and without walker experience, between the ages of 6 and 15 months. Walker-experienced infants sat, crawled, and walked later than no-walker controls, and they scored lower on Bayley scales of mental and motor development. Significant effects of walker type, frequency, and timing of walker exposure were observed. Considering the injury data along with the developmental data, the authors conclude that the risks of walker use outweigh the benefits.


How

References:

1: "Baby Walker Injuries," Pediatrics, 1982, by LE Fazen, PI Felizberto. (Citations: 75).

In a study of 49 children between the ages of 8 and 14 months, parents were surveyed with a written questionnaire and a follow-up phone interview to determine the utilization of baby walkers and the frequency and severity of baby walker injuries. Most respondents (86%) placed their children in various types of baby walkers between 4 months and 1 year of age. Half of the 42 infants who used walkers experienced at least one accident involving a tip over, a fall down stairs, or finger entrapment. Two of those accidents resulted in injuries serious enough to require medical management. Both infants sustained head and neck injuries after falling down stairs in a walker. Whereas stairway and finger entrapment accidents occurred before the age of 7 months, tip overs were much more likely to occur after the age of 8 months. Injuries are more common but less severe than previously reported. Pediatricians and other child health advocates can inform parents about the health risks, encourage regulatory agencies to improve product labeling, and stimulate manufacturers to adjust the product to age and weight specifications of the growing infant.


2: "Success In The Prevention Of Infant Walkerrelated Injuries: An Analysis Of National Data, 19902001," Pediatrics, 2006, by BJ Shields, GA Smith. (Citations: 42).

OBJECTIVE. Here we describe the epidemiologic characteristics and secular trends of infant walker–related injuries among children who are younger than 15 months in the United States. METHODS. A retrospective analysis was conducted of data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, 1990 –2001. Sample weights that were provided by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System were used in all analyses to adjust for the inverse probability of case selection and make national projections regarding infant walker related injuries. RESULTS. An estimated 197 200 infant walker–related injuries occurred among children who were younger than 15 months and treated in US emergency departments from 1990 through 2001. Five percent of these children required admission to the hospital. The number of infant walker–related injuries remained relatively constant from 1990 through 1994, averaging 23 000 cases per year. After the introduction in 1994 of stationary activity centers as an alternative to mobile infant walkers and the implementation of the revised American Society for Testing and Materials F977 voluntary infant walker standard in 1997, there was a marked decrease in the number of infant walker–related injuries. Overall, there was a 76% decrease in the number of injuries from 1990 to 2001 from 20 900 injuries in 1990 to 5100 in 2001. Soft tissue injuries and lacerations represented 63% of the injuries. Trauma to the head region occurred in 91% of cases. Skull fractures were the most common (62%) type of fracture. Falls down stairs was the mechanism of injury in 74% of cases. CONCLUSIONS. The adoption of passive injury-prevention strategies, such as use of stationary activity centers as alternatives to mobile infant walkers and redesign of infant walkers to prevent falls down stairs, were associated with a marked decrease in the number of infant walker–related injuries.



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