Baby Walkers Are Not Safe and Should Be Banned

Child Safety Basics

Baby walkers were probably invented in the 1400s.
Even though they have been around for 100s of years, baby walkers still aren't safe. by George Marks/Getty Images

Are baby walkers fun? Sure.

Are they dangerous? You bet.

Are Baby Walkers Safe?

Mobile baby walkers are not safe.

In addition to falls down stairs and falls out of their baby walker, many infants are injured each year as their mobile baby walker makes them a little too mobile. This helps them to get to things that would otherwise be out of reach. For example, they may be able to reach countertops and get burned or poisoned by things they pull down, drown by falling into a pool, bathtub, or toilet, or simply hurt their fingers and toes if they get pinched.

The number of injuries from baby walkers led the Canadian government to ban the 'sale, advertisement and importation of baby walkers in Canada' in 2004.

Although they haven't been successful, the American Academy of Pediatrics is urging the US government to do the same. Instead, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been promoting new safety standards for baby walkers that are supposed to lead to fewer injuries, especially from falls.

Are those new safety standards working? Hopefully, they are helping to keep kids safer, but they certainly haven't eliminated baby walker injuries.

Before you buy a baby or infant walker, consider these recent accidents and tragedies involving baby walkers:

  • a 9-month-old who died after he fell down the stairs in his baby walker. (2001)
  • an 11-month-old who died after he fell down the stairs leading to his home's basement. (2001)
  • a 7-month-old who died after her necklace got caught on her baby walker and she became strangled. (2002)
  • a 10-month-old who died after he hit his head after falling out of his baby walker. (2003)
  • an 11-month-old who died after he stood up in his baby walker and pulled a heavy chair back on top of him, hitting his head and snapping his head backward and causing the walker to flip over. (2004)
  • a 10-month-old who died after pulling on an electrical cord which then pulled a slow cooker filled with hot water and cooking beans on top of him, causing deep scalding burns on 38% of his body. (2004)
  • a 9-month-old who died after using her baby walker to get to the family's swimming pool and then falling in and drowning. (2005)
  • a 10-month-old who died after he fell down a flight of stairs. (2006)
  • a 7-month-old who died after his baby walker rolled down a driveway and was hit by a truck. (2006)
  • a 12-month-old who died - she was found at the bottom of an inground swimming pool in her baby walker. (2007)
  • a 12-month-old who died after she ingested some glass etching cream (a strong acid) that had fallen onto the tray of her baby walker. (2008)
  • a 12-month-old who died after falling his baby walker tipped over into the family's backyard swimming pool, submerging his head and causing him to drown. (2009)

And there continue to be even more non-fatal injuries involving infant walkers:

  • an 8-month-old who developed a subdural hematoma after falling and hitting her head (2013)
  • a 15-month-old who developed a femur fracture after her leg got caught on something (2013)
  • an 8-month-old who burned her thigh after pulling her mother's hot tea onto herself (2013)
  • an 8-month-old who suffered a head injury after falling down at least 14 steps (2013)
  • a 12-month-old who suffered a skull fracture after his baby walker flipped over (2013)
  • an 8-month-old who suffered burns on her face, arms, and thighs after a pan of grease that her mother was carrying spilled on her (2014)

Not surprisingly, these are exactly the type of injuries that safety experts warn about.

At least 12 infants and toddlers have died in baby walkers since 1999. Does your baby really need a mobile infant walker?

Baby Walker Pros

Baby walkers are fun and can keep your infant entertained.

Baby Walker Cons

Baby walkers aren't the must-have baby product that many parents think they are, though.

The arguments against baby walkers mostly involve child safety:

  • more than 14,000 children under age 15 months have to go to the emergency room because of injuries related to using a baby walker each year
  • 34 children died from using a baby walker between 1973 and 1998
  • even with new voluntary safety standards, children continue to be injured using baby walkers, even when they are supervised

And unlike what many parents believe, using a mobile baby walker won't help your baby learn to walk any faster. In fact, it may delay your child's development.

Baby Walkers - Where It Stands

New walkers that meet the voluntary Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) standards (1997), including being too wide to fit through a standard doorway, or having features, such as a gripping mechanism, to stop the walker at the edge of a step, are safer than older ones, but they are still a possible source of injuries for children.

Baby walkers must also now comply with the ASTM infant walker standards and additional requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. These standards help to make sure that mobile baby walkers are lead-free, won't tip over, and are made to prevent infants from falling out of the leg openings, etc.

Before buying a baby walker, it is important to note that while the CPSC states that "there are at least seven manufacturers or importers supplying walkers to the United States market," they do "not believe that the two foreign manufacturers and the domestic importer are making walkers that are compliant with the voluntary standard."

Parents should also be aware that stationary activity centers are a good alternative to mobile walkers.

If using a mobile walker against the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should buy one that meets current safety standards and follow the Consumer Product Safety Recommendations and:

  • close the door or gate at the top of the stairs
  • keep children within view
  • keep children away from hot surfaces and containers
  • beware of dangling appliance cords
  • keep children away from toilets, swimming pools and other sources of water

Since 75 percent of injuries are related to falls down stairs, in addition to the above recommendations, don't use a baby walker near stairs, even if you have a gate on the stairs.

Dr. Iannelli's Opinion on Mobile Baby Walkers

While I have been a little torn in the past about agreeing with the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics for a "ban on the manufacture and sale of mobile infant walkers," I do now agree "because data indicate a considerable risk of major and minor injury and even death from the use of walkers, and because there is no clear benefit from their use."

My twins used, enjoyed, and were never hurt in their mobile baby walkers. In their vote on whether or not to ban baby walkers, the CPSC stated that only one-third of injuries were 'more severe' than simple mild injuries and that was 'similar to that of other commonly used juvenile products, such as cribs, playpens, high chairs, and changing tables.'

Still, we can't do without cribs and highchairs and we continue to work to make those products safer. A mobile baby walker isn't necessary and is easily replaced with a stationary activity center.

I agree that they should be banned and that parents shouldn't buy them while they continue to be sold.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Injuries Associated With Infant Walkers. Pediatrics Vol. 108 No. 3 September 1, 2001. pp. 790 -792

Consumer Product Safety Commission. Safety Standard for Infant Walkers. Final Rule. 2010.

Consumer Product Safety Commission. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). Accessed October 2015.

Siegel, Andrea C. Effects of Baby Walkers on Motor and Mental Development in Human Infants. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: October 1999. Volume 20 - Issue 5. 355–361

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