Let's Talk About ... Infant Walkers
Let’s talk about infant walkers – pediatricians don’t like them, and we never have. I’d like to explain why!
We worry about them because kids get hurt in them sometimes. It’s also because they actually don’t encourage walking –they hinder the natural neuromuscular development that needs to happen for walking to occur.
Just to be clear - the walkers I speak of are the ones that you sit your child down into. There is a seat into which you slide their legs, and there are usually wheels on the bottom.
A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that from 1990-2014, over 230,000 kids visited ERs across the country because of injuries related to infant walkers.
The majority of the kiddos in the study ranged from age 7-10 months. Most of the children suffered head and neck injuries (90%). Almost 75 percent were injured by going down stairs in the walker.
I’ve also seen kids get neck and chest injuries from being whipped around by an older sibling. And some even get finger injuries from gripping the sides of the walker and then slamming into a wall!
The study states that “walker–related injuries can be severe and can include skull fracture, brain injury, burns, poisoning, and drowning” and that “from 2004 to 2008, infant walkers were associated with 8 pediatric fatalities”. This is absolutely eye-opening to me.
Another thing that is troublesome about walkers is that they keep kids from doing that very thing: walking.
If you sling a child’s pelvis in a sack, it lifts the child’s weight for them while they pull along the ground with their toes/feet. It doesn’t force the kiddo to lift his own weight. It keeps certain hip and pelvic muscles from developing the strength and coordination they need to actually learn the process of walking. This is the reason physical therapists have disliked walkers for a long time.
This article does not apply to the “push walkers” that kids stand up and push. We actually like those more, because there are less injuries involved with these devices, and kids are lifting and moving their own weight properly.
My advice is to throw out your sit-in infant walker. It seems they’re even more dangerous than we initially thought, and to me, the fun freedom of movement is just not worth it. Throw that sweet kiddo on a soft rug or blanket, spread out some toys on the ground and on the couch, and watch that child learn how to move on his own.
Get to know Diane Arnaout, M.D.
Dr. Diane Arnaout joined the Cook Children's Willow Park practice in 2011. You can stay connected with Dr. Arnaout on her Instagram account and the Willow Park practice on Facebook. Dr. Arnaout was born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She attended college at Texas A&M University and medical school at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio. She did her pediatric internship and residency at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and M.D. Anderson at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, TX where she served as a leader on the medical education committees. She is a board-certified pediatrician. Click to learn more.