Baby walkers are often considered dangerous due to the reported infant hospitalizations and deaths from accidents associated with them.
These accidents have often resulted in head trauma or death, and the most common accidents are from falls down stairs.
Source: AAP, “Injuries associated with infant walkers”
The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) has warned parents of the dangers of using baby walkers. They advise not to use them and warn that babies in baby walkers are at a higher risk of rolling down stairs, reaching higher objects that could get them burned or poisoned, or falling into pools of water and drowning.
Source: AAP, “Baby Walkers: A Dangerous Choice”
It’s also already illegal to advertise, import, or sell both new and used baby walkers in Canada. If you try to travel to the country with a baby walker they will even be detained at the border, or face fines of up to $100,000.
Source: Health Canada, “Canada Consumer Product Safety Act”
It’s important to be aware of these warnings and restrictions on baby walkers. Not only because they could become illegal, but because of the extra safety precautions you’ll want to take if you’re going to be using them.
Indoor Baby Walker Safety
Babyproofing your home may be something that you haven’t fully finished if your baby is not walking on their own yet.
Since a baby walker will let them move around even quicker than walking would, it is crucial to make the indoor area safe for your baby first. This means paying special attention to stairs, door openings, safety gates, and all other objects that might become within their reach.
Use baby walkers only in rooms that have no stairs leading down. Even though modern baby walkers have friction strips that are supposed to prevent falls down stairs, those strips are not reliable enough to guarantee your baby’s safety.
Don’t use one in upstairs rooms if the walker can fit through a door opening. Modern baby walkers should be wider than a 36-inch doorway but make sure the baby walker cannot roll out of the room you’re setting it up in.
Don’t rely on friction-fit safety gates to keep a baby in a walker out of dangerous areas. A baby bumping into the gate in a baby walker could knock it down.
Clear objects off tables, including tablecloths. Move items away from the edges of counters, and stovetops. Make sure electrical outlets are covered and electronics and wiring are secured.
Anything left lying around might become in reach once your baby is rolling around wherever they want in a baby walker.
Outdoor Baby Walker Safety
Baby walkers should always be used on flat surfaces. Don’t use baby walkers around swimming pools or other water sources, or on decks that aren’t fenced in and gated. Don’t use baby walkers anywhere that they could slip off the surface.
Pay attention to your baby walker’s height and weight restrictions.
Make sure your baby is the right height and weight for the baby walker. Stop using the baby walker once they are too heavy or tall for it. Check the product packaging information, and you can also research online.
It’s also very important to fit your baby properly to the height of the seat. Your baby’s feet should be able to touch the floor, so you may need to raise or lower the seat as they grow.
Watch your baby closely while they’re in a baby walker.
Babies can move around the area very quickly when they’re in a baby walker. They can move much faster in a baby walker than when they are crawling. Baby walkers let your baby move even quicker than when they eventually do start walking on their own. Because of this they can get into trouble very quickly so you should keep your eyes on them the whole time they are walking around in it.
Limit the time spent in a baby walker.
It’s also a good idea to limit their time spent in a baby walker. 20 minutes a day is a good limit. The baby walker should be fun time to keep them entertained, but there is no evidence that it helps them walk sooner. There are also claims that baby walkers delay walking.
As with anything else, moderation is important.
Do proper baby walker maintenance.
Check your baby walker frequently for any broken parts or protective covers that have come loose. You’ll want to eliminate the chance of other injuries like pinched fingers or toes.
Pay attention to product recalls.
When buying a new baby walker, register it online or by mailing in the registration card so the manufacturer can easily notify you in the event of a recall.
Before buying a used baby walker, check the manufacturer’s website for any safety recalls. If the information isn’t on their site, try contacting them directly to verify.
The Safest Baby Walkers
After many reports of infant accidents and deaths from rolling down stairs, a voluntary standard was created. This standards was to ensure that any baby walkers sold be wider than a 36 inch doorway, and also have a breaking mechanism that activates when the front wheels drop off the surface.
Source: AAP, “Injuries associated with infant walkers”
Baby Walkers Wider Than A 36-inch Doorway
If you have doorways or opening wider than 36 inches, then even modern baby walkers won’t restrict access so keep this in mind. This size restriction can’t be guaranteed in baby walkers created before the standard so using baby walkers that old is discouraged.
Baby Walker Braking Mechanism
The brake system is a rubber friction strip on the bottom designed to activate and stop the walker from moving if its front wheels drop over an edge.
It’s important to understand that even with brake systems that modern baby walkers have, it’s not a guarantee.
Even with walkers that meet the voluntary safety standard, a study has shown that braking friction strips are not fail-safe.
Source: AAP, “How effective are brakes on infant walkers?”
Baby Walker Stability
When looking for a baby walker, it’s a good idea to look for one with a wheelbase that’s longer and wider than the frame. This stability will make it less likely to tip over.