Baby Walkers

I have a 9 month old boy, who weighs 24 lb. 6 oz. and is 31 in. long. Do you think that it is safe for him to be in a walker?
Traci Rectenwald – Administrative Assistant – Research Beaufort, South Carolina

Baby Walkers

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

Children between 6 and 12 months old have a powerful urge to move across the floor. When they are placed in baby walkers, most of them squeal with delight, and are happily entertained for hours on end. I can still remember the expression of sheer ecstasy on my first son’s face as he moved across the floor in his walker.

We want our children to be happy. Often their delight is a good measure of what they need — but sometimes it can lead us astray. Sometimes short-term delight can lead to unfortunate long-term consequences. Children can’t think of the future. As parents, part of our role is to do that for them. With each new choice, consider what this teaches your son, how this will affect your son, what are the implications for your son — over the long haul.

Since the days when my first son was an infant, we have learned that walkers are detrimental to normal development. Because the babies can get around too easily, their urge to move across the floor is satisfied, and many of them will not undertake the important task of crawling, creeping, scooting, or hitching. This stage is important for developing strength and coordination.

Many parents think that walkers will help children learn to walk. As it turns out, walkers interfere with learning to walk. In addition to decreasing the desire to walk by providing an easier alternative, walkers strengthen the wrong muscles. The lower legs are strengthened, but the upper legs and hips become relatively weak. The upper legs and hips are most important for walking.

Moreover, children in walkers have more accidents than their counterparts. Walkers often tip over when a child bumps into a small toy or the edge of a rug. They are also more likely to take a dangerous fall down a flight of stairs.

Along with The American Academy of Pediatrics, I strongly urge parents not to use baby walkers.

For children who want to be upright, an exersaucer can be a nice alternative. These look like walkers, but without the wheels. They allow children to bounce, rock, spin, and sit upright — without satisfying the urge to move across the floor. They are safer and developmentally appropriate.

Your son might like a sturdy push-car or wagon. These might look like lawnmowers, vacuum cleaners, cars, fire engines, trucks or wagons. Be sure it has a bar he can push, and is sturdy so it won’t tip over. These will help a child strengthen the right muscles and learn to walk — but you still have to supervise directly and to be very careful about stairs.

When your son gets a little older, and has been walking long enough to be able to squat and stand back up without falling, he will be delighted by push and pull toys — especially the ones that make lots of noise. These add sparkle to his developmentally appropriate tasks.

With practice, you can learn to choose toys that delight your son while helping him learn what he needs — instead of short circuiting the process by providing easy, numbing entertainment. We’ll all make mistakes along the way, but the process itself will enrich us and our children.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

  1. maryam

    my son is 8 month old but he can not sit up or walking without help. I really worried about him so, I get a walker but he does not like it. please help me!

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  2. Monica

    FYI: This article was originally published almost 20 years ago and even with a ‘review’ 5 years ago, this seems outdated – many things in walker designs have changed

    I have read almost every research study and as a scientific researcher, these ‘studies’ have a significant number of technical issues. Primarily, did not capture any socioeconomic or environmental factors or specific details such as: amount of time in walker, exact nature of ‘adult supervision’, other safety measures taken (i.e. baby gates to stairs – which are a danger to even a crawling child, moving hot items or dangling items from tables, etc)
    And to say that the walker ‘often’ tip over is an exaggeration unless this happens more than 50% of the time

    From what I’ve seen from the accident reports is that most parents were irresponsible: leaving their children unsupervised in a walker, leaving a child too long in a walker (which is just as detrimental as leaving them on their back all day), leaving too many things that are potentially dangerous in grabbing distance.
    While a baby in a walker moves more quickly than a crawling child, my scooting twin moves just as fast and can pull himself up to the same height putting him at similar risks.

    As with all toys, common sense is required
    I use a walker at 10-15 min increments in an apartment and a house under supervision and other safety measures: door closing access to the stairwells, nothing dangling from tables or towel bars, a cleared floor, and nothing hot or sharp on low tables.
    The twin who uses the walker is at the same developmental stage as non-walker twin in terms of muscle development and desire to try to move by scooting and stepping.

    To say things should be banned because they might cause injury is ignoring an adult’s responsibility
    Keep your baby in little bubble if you really want to keep them safe from life.

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    • Monica

      Here is a summary of some more controlled studies, including studies with twins where one twin used a walker and one did not:

      http://www.otcats.com/topics/CAT%20-%20Paula%20Chagas%202007.pdf

      There conclusion was: There is no evidence to support or refute the effect of baby walkers on motor
      development in typically developing children

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      • Hi Monica,

        There appears to be several factors that lead to the paper’s conclusion of “no evidence”:

        1. The studies showed varying outcomes — some were negative, some neutral, and I didn’t see that any of them showed an advantage
        2. The methodology was inconsistent:
          • Some studies only allowed babies to be in walkers for brief periods of time each day (which is not typically how parent’s use them)
          • Different studies used different starting and stopping ages

        Also, the summary was compiled by Paula Chagas, but there is no bio or disclosure statement. Do you know the author? Do you know how this summary was funded?

        Personal opinion (NOTE: I am not a doctor, just a mom) walkers probably don’t impact kids much IF there are no stairs in the home and IF the baby only uses the walker for very brief periods of time and is limited in total time per day. On the other hand, what’s the advantage of walkers? Is there a good reason for parent to use them at all?

        Would love to hear your response.
        Cheryl Greene

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    • Great points, but what’s the advantage of using one?

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  3. mrs pinki sharma .delhi

    My 9yr daughter walks, runs but her legs are slightly bent towards her big toe. What treatment and remedy has to be followed? I consult 2-3 doctors but don’t know the real root cause of this problem. Kindly suggest the best for my sweet, cute girl. Thanks.

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  4. renuka

    nice message… thanks

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  5. Crystal

    The first year of my son’s life, he was with a baby sitter for approximately 10-12 hours a day while I worked.

    The sitter thought it would be beneficial to him if she got a walker. So in that walker he sat all day. He is now 7 years old, is a toe walker, and his hips are still rather weak. From the lack of tummy time, he never learned to crawl. Missing that milestone has been nothing but trouble for my guy. He had no core strength, and has been working his little rear end off to build strength in the core area.

    He finally built enough strength in his back, neck, and stomach to sit up for the first time at age 5 and at age 6 was finally able to go up and down stairs, but with difficulties. He still has a little trouble in some areas, but is getting stronger every day.

    He starts physical therapy again next week and hopefully he will finally be able to do things all the other boys are doing like running fast, jumping, and climbing. If I were to do it all over again, I would most definitely forbid the use of a walker for my child.

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    • Monica

      Very sorry to hear about your little boy but I really hope you fired your sitter and she should not work for any other families in a child care capacity.

      ***No child*** should be left in one position or one place all day
      That was irresponsible and dangerous of her to leave your child in the walker all day, would you have wanted her to leave your baby in the crib all day? or a highchair all day?

      You should warn other parents of the sitter’s irresponsibility.

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  6. Sarah Kakeeway

    My son used a walker from 6 months until he was about 9 or 10 months and then he started walking. He was walking from an early age…so I don’t understand how his development was inhibited by the walker whatsoever. As far as I can tell around other children his age, he has better motor skills than most of them, He walks, runs and dances when a lot of the other children are just learning to walk and are still quite unstable on their feet. I’m not saying this was because of the walker at all, but saying that walkers interfere with walking is extremely biased, and not true in 100% of cases…where are the studies that show the correlation between using walkers and age at which a child begins walking and how it negatively affects the child’s development? We’re just supposed to believe you because you’re a doctor? Also, my son’s walker never once tipped over and was extremely stable in design, we never once let him out of our sight when we used it, and he was never harmed in the slightest.

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    • Christy

      That’s why they said it can and in most cases. Your child was just fortunate he didn’t experience any negative effects. There are plenty of studies that show walkers are bad, bad, bad. Canada has banned them. It’s not biased to say they cause problems… Its fact. Do your research.

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  7. angela

    Thank you for the advice my son is 6 months old and is very active I was gonna get him a walker now I am not

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  8. jayasudha

    Thank You. Article is very useful. I am using walker for my 7 months old baby. I just want to stop now. At least I reduce walker times.

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