Will A Baby Walker Slow Down My Baby’s Development?
Baby Development Expert, Fiona O'Farrell, gives her professional opinion.
Do baby walkers slow development?
While baby walkers are a fun activity for your baby, there are an estimated 4,000 injuries per year in the UK according to research by UK Physiotherapists.
The main reasons why baby walkers are not safe are:
- The increase in speed they provide for your baby
- The elevated height and reach which your baby obtains while in the baby walker
- The increase in fall hazard. While in a baby walker your baby has increased mobility, speed and reach potential
- Most of the injuries are as a result of babies tipping over. When your baby attempts to cross over an uneven surface, your baby has not yet developed sufficient balance reactions and the baby walker can tip over
- The increased reaching potential. Previous safety hazards which were out of reach when your baby was on the floor may be now accessible when your baby is in the baby walker e.g. electric cords
- Poisoning. When your baby is in a baby walker, they may now be able to reach household plants previously inaccessible which could lead to poisoning
Why are baby walkers not beneficial for your baby’s development?
- When in a baby walker, your baby will not be able to see what they are doing. A baby needs to be able to look at their body parts and how they are moving - it's really important for the development of body awareness.
- Body awareness is an important skill for your baby to develop to help with the development of skills required for enabling purposeful exploration of their environment
- Baby walkers may encourage the use of inappropriate movement patterns of the legs and delay the development of balance reactions
- Due to the position of your baby whilst in the baby walker, your baby is encouraged to ‘Slump over’. This is not good for your baby’s developing posture
What to use instead of baby walkers?
The best place for your baby to learn and develop is on the floor with toys placed within their reach whilst supervised. Whilst on the floor, your baby will be encouraged to participate in active, free movements. These active movements are important for helping to build up the necessary muscle tone and strength to aid normal development. Your baby should spend time on the floor, rolling, crawling, pulling up to stand at furniture e.g., the sofa, reaching out for and playing with toys. All this will help optimise normal development. Remember, if your baby walks early, it does not necessarily mean they are 'more intelligent' than their baby friends. It is important that your baby spends time rolling and crawling before walking. This will ensure development of all the skills needed for later developmental skills. Anywhere up to sixteen months is within normal limits for walking. If you have concerns about your baby’s walking, please speak to your GP or public health nurse. For more expert advice, visit FionaOFarrell.ie