Advice on using a baby walker, the opportunity to purchase a range of baby walkers (actvity, wooden and stationary) plus some of the potential risks explained.
Baby walkers seem to be extremely popular with parents and babies alike - parents love them because they keep baby happy and entertained, while babies love them because they enable them to move about of their own accord before they are able to walk or crawl.
Despite their entertainment value, if not used under strict supervision baby walkers can be incredibly hazardous. Their main problem is that they enable babies, who would usually be restricted to resting on the floor, the ability to reach and grab objects and substances that would usually be way out of their height. They also pose a severe risk of infant injury by baby falling down the stairs, knocking into sharp objects or tipping into open water or fire.
A baby in a walker can move at a surprising speed so even while under the surveillance of a responsible adult accidents still occur. Literally thousands of infants are admitted to hospital every year suffering from injuries sustained while they were using a baby walker.
If you do choose to buy a baby walker for your little one you should check that it meets the most recent EU safety standards, has a base that is too wide to fit through an average door frame and is fitted with braking or gripping mechanisms that help to prevent stair-related injuries by halting the walkers movement if one wheel lifts off the ground (such as on the top of a step).
However, even with these safety measurements in place you should only let your baby use the walker in an area with no sharp or hot objects, no steps or uneven surface, no large doors or windows and no accessible water source (i.e. a filled bath or toilet). Additionally, you should ensure that your baby is under constant supervision whilst in the walker.
Aside from the safety aspect, baby walkers have also been condemned from a developmental view point. While the common belief is that baby walkers babies to learn how to walk, research has shown that if anything, infants who regularly move around in a baby walker are slightly delayed in acquiring this skill compared to babies who learn to walk naturally.
Additionally, baby walkers should only be used from approximately 6 months of age when your baby is confidently able to sit up unaided - use before this developmental milestone could result in problems with posture later in life.
There is still some concern that baby walkers adversely effect the development of the hip joints and leg muscles needed for walking. Therefore you should restrict the time your baby spends in their walker to periods of no more than 20 minutes at a time.
Because of the well documented dangers associated with baby walkers, many manufacturers have begun to introduce 'stationary walkers' that enable baby to move up and down and spin around freely without travelling. If you decide to go for a 'stationary walker' check that it has a wide base that is stable and secure, has lots of activities to keep baby amused (or at least an activity tray) and can be folded away for easy transportation and storage.
However, before investing in a baby walker you should seriously consider whether you have the open space and time for careful supervision that are necessary for safe use of a walker. If you have any doubts, it may be best to choose another nursery toy to keep your little one entertained.
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