Baby walkers

Q: Do baby walkers help babies learn to walk? Are they recommended by chiropractors?

A: The use of baby walkers has raised numerous concerns among medical doctors and chiropractors. Chiropractors as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics have discouraged the use of baby walking devices as they pose various health risks to infants.

Emergency room statistics collected in 1994 indicated that baby walker injuries were the third most common cause of injury to infants (7-14 mos. old). The physical trauma resulted from the device tipping over or falling down stairs. A 1994 study published in Pediatrics cited that an alarming figure of 29% of infants who use baby walkers suffer severe injuries including concussion, skull and neck fractures, brain hemorrhage and even death.

In addition to the immediate dangers associated with using baby walkers, other long-term developmental risks are at issue. Babies placed in walkers are forced to assume an upright, erect posture prematurely, before adequate bone strength and muscle coordination have developed. As a result, the baby may develop a faulty walking pattern.

A study published in Perceptual and Motor Skills by Kauffman et al. revealed that the use of baby walkers altered the mechanics of locomotion, establishing mechanical errors in the infant’s walking pattern. Encouraging an infant to walk prematurely with a walker can also have harmful effects in the development of proper spinal curvatures.

There is still more evidence linking baby walkers to delayed or poor motor skill development. Another 1991 study by McEwan et al. published in Perceptual and Motor Skills, indicated that infants placed in walkers during the crawling stage instead of being allowed to crawl scored lower average performance scores on pre-school assessment tests.

Baby walking devices may seem like a convenient alternative to letting a curious infant roam on the floor. However, parents are well advised to avoid their use. But rather, let an infant experience the crawling stage until the child has the natural inclination to learn how to walk.