Like many individuals, I find myself only able to absorb a fraction of the news I see in a day. We live in such a fast-paced world where we no longer wait to hear about things that have happened. Instead, we can usually watch the news as it’s happening. Our phones are constantly chirping with news updates and if we miss a news story, we usually get filled in by another individual about it on social media. I myself like to stay current in the news regarding early childhood development and within these past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that there is a very popular topic being discussed in the news. Lots of people are confused about this news, while others have expressed frustration, and some are celebrating what they believe to be a victory for children. So, what is this news I’m referring to? Do you have any guesses?
The news that seems to have a lot of people talking has to do with pediatricians and baby walkers. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) (2018) “has called for a ban on the manufacture and sale of infant walkers in the United States.” Now some of you reading this blog might be thinking, “I thought pediatricians haven’t been recommending baby walkers for years.” If you’re having this thought, you are correct. In the year 2001, the AAP did release a journal article describing their concerns about infant walkers and how they recommended a ban on the manufacture and sale of these walkers in the United States (American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention, 2001). Even though pediatricians have had concerns about baby walkers for many years, a new study has been released by the AAP and it became available online in September, which lead to a lot of talk about this study in the news.
As you read this, you might be wondering what is fueling the AAP’s recommendation to ban baby walkers. Infant walkers have been a part of America’s culture for many decades. I know there are countless baby photos of myself cruising the floors of my childhood home in my infant walker. Many people view baby walkers as a toy for infants, so it’s shocking to individuals when they hear that pediatricians want to ban the production of a toy that has been a part of our culture for years. There are probably many parents who have memories of their children giggling, squealing and smiling as their little feet scurried across the floors of their home in their walkers. When we think about infant walkers from this perspective, it can be difficult to imagine a toy that brought cherished memories to families being banned. So, what are pediatricians’ reasons for wanting baby walkers to be removed from stores?
I’m not a doctor and can’t speak for the pediatricians that are advocating for a ban on infant walkers, but if I had to guess, I think pediatricians are trying to create cherished memories for families. Even though many parents only have good memories of their infants using their walkers, studies are showing that walkers are creating serious dangers for babies. From the years 1999 to 2014, there have been about 230,676 children younger than 15 months treated in the emergency room for injuries involving infant walkers. Of these children, about 90% of them were treated for head or neck injuries and around 74% of the injuries were caused by children falling down the stairs while using their walkers. (Sims, Chounthirath, Jingzhen, Hodges, & Smith, 2018). These are the statistics that have been released in the AAP’s Pediatrics Journal and they’re causing a great debate among parents.
Though some parents stand behind this proposed ban on infant walkers, many parents feel that baby walkers are safe as long as parents watch their children while they’re in use. If you’re a parent or work with children, you probably know how fast young children can move and how it only takes that one second for them to get hurt. When it comes to infant walkers, we’re learning that supervision isn’t enough. Pediatricians tell us that most of the children who are injured in baby walkers are being supervised by an adult when the injury occurs. This is because a young child can move more than 3 feet in just 1 second while they’re in a walker! (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2018). It’s just not possible for parents to keep up with their children when they’re using an infant walker.
According to the AAP (2018) and the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program (2002), infants can experience a variety of injuries while using a walker. These injuries might include: burns, head/spinal injuries, fractured arms/legs, drowning and poisoning. When babies are in infant walkers, they’re capable of reaching or grabbing so many more things that can cause them harm. For example, a child can reach higher when they’re sitting in a walker meaning they might be able to pull down that hot cup of coffee or grab the handle of the pot on the stove. While children are in walkers, they might even be able to reach something poisonous that is typically out of their reach when they’re not in their walker. Children might also fall into areas with water while in a walker such as a pool or bathtub which can lead to drowning. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2018).
In addition to the research on infant walker injuries, the name “infant walker” can be misleading for parents. It’s easy to assume that walkers help teach young children how to walk. However, research has shown that walkers can delay a child’s motor and mental development. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2018; American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention, 2001). As pediatricians push for a ban on infant walkers in the United States, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to recognize the country that is leading the globe in setting an example on baby walker safety. In the year 2004, the federal Canadian government determined that walkers were unsafe and banned the making and selling of them throughout the country. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2018; Government of Canada, 2007). Canada is the first country to create a law like this surrounding baby walkers. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2018). As pedestrians in the United States advocate for a law similar to Canada’s, I encourage you to also be a voice for children.
I thank you for reading our October blog and hope this information clears up any unanswered questions you might have about what you have seen in the news recently regarding infant walkers. If you work for an organization that uses Growing Great Kids Curriculum, remember to check out the subsection Walking, Walkers and Physical and Cognitive Milestones. This subsection is located in the Birth-12 Months Manual within the 10-12 Months Physical and Brain Development module. I wish you a wonderful October and hope that you’ll check out our special topic in November.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018, September 17). Baby walkers: A dangerous choice.
Retrieved from: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018, September 17). Infants walkers remain a source of serious
injury in the U.S.. Retrieved from: https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-
American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention. (2001). Injuries
associated with infant walkers. Pediatrics, 108(3). Retrieved from:
The Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program. (2002). Baby walker survey: Results and next steps.
Paediatrics Child Health, 7(6). Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles
Government of Canada. (2007, October 25). Archived – Injury data analysis leads to baby walker
ban. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/science-
Sims, A., Chounthirath, T., Jingzhen, Y., Hodges, N. L., & Smith, G. A. (2018). Infant walker-related
injuries in the United States. Pediatrics, 142(4). Retrieved from: