Bad Baby Walker, Good Baby Walker
By Dr. Stella Kandyba, PT, DPT
They come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. However, they all have one big thing in common: they are all bad for your child's development. I’m talking about bad baby walkers, the ones with the support system which suspends babies' bottoms in the air. They are marketed to make parents believe they promote walking in kids, when, in fact, they only promote trouble.
Not only do developmental milestones have to be achieved, they also have to be achieved on time and in a certain sequence. Babies need to roll before sitting, sit before crawling, and crawl before walking. What baby walkers do is encourage skipping one of the most crucial milestones of our lifetime - the crawling. Most of the time, parents unknowingly put their young babies in the walkers before they can crawl, taking the desire to crawl away from babies and, thus, slowing down the development of eye-hand coordination.
However, even if babies are put in the walkers after they have learned to crawl, there are still many dangers for developmental delays. Let's name a few:
The walker visually divides the baby’s body into two parts: the top and the bottom. That confuses the developing brain into not understanding how to operate the invisible lower part, and that leads to proprioceptive problems like inability to figure out the position of joints in space without looking at them.
The walker, especially with poorly adjusted height, promotes toes reaching for the floor and ambulating on tippy toes. That often leads to toe-walking which may become permanent. (In my practice, since 2005, out of hundreds of kids with toe-walking problems, I saw only two patients who had underlying causes other than those from the walker use, and the rest were mild to moderate walker users. My first question to every parent of toe-walking kids is always about the use of the walker in the past, and, unfortunately, the answer is always “yes”).
When babies are placed in a bumpered device, in which they can bump into things around while not learning how to avoid obstacles and balance their bodies, their brains are not forced to learn to balance, and we all know how important balance is in our lives. Kids may later on have problems excelling in sports or just catching up with their peers.
Believe it or not, the walkers may play a role in diminishing kids’ mental abilities. As research demonstrates, “on a standard test of mental development, no-walker babies had the highest average score, followed by babies who used “see-feet” walkers and those who used newer walkers” (1).
Walkers are especially bad for babies already developmentally delayed for different reasons. They most likely will cause bony misalignment and balance problems.
“An estimated 197200 infant walker-related injuries occurred among children who were younger than 15 months and treated in US emergency departments from 1990 through 2001” (2). These are very scary statistics that speak for themselves.
With all of these facts known to science, walkers still are made and sold everywhere in the US. Interestingly, in 2004, Canada banned the production, import, sale, advertising, trading, and gifting the walkers. Those breaking the law face fines of up to $100,000 or 6 months in prison. The hope is that, one day, all countries will follow Canada’s example.
As for now, all we can do is educate parents on the use of the good devices for our kids. The best thing parents can do for their child is allow him/her to explore the environment by cruising along furniture and walking while hands are supported by an adult. The next best thing is the use of the good baby walkers resembling adult walkers. They do not restrict the vision, do not promote disbalance, and allow for proper development.
(1) October, 1999 Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics [1999;20:355-361]
Article source: Ezine Articles at ezinearticles.com
If you ever suspect your child may have developmental delays or other problems, speak to your pediatric physical therapist immediately. We are experts in child development.
Chance To Advance, LLC is a private home pediatric physical therapy company servicing kids in Monmouth, Middlesex, and Ocean counties, NJ. We visit your child at home, on a playground, or in a daycare. Most major insurances are accepted. Please explore our site www.CTA-PT.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.