Baby Walkers

Baby walkers are detrimental to normal development, because in walkers babies can get around too easily & may not undertake the important task of ...

Question

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

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. According to a 2018 study published in the journal, Pediatrics, more than 9,000 US children are injured using the devices every year.

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.

Last medical review on: July 14, 2010
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
Get Dr. Greene's Wellness RecommendationsSignup now to get Dr. Greene's healing philosophy, insight into medical trends, parenting tips, seasonal highlights, and health news delivered to your inbox every month.
46 Comments
Add your comment

Recent Comments

Let me inform people of something that seems to be truly evading their intelligence. All babies are different, no? Yes, they are and that means that all babies will learn differently.

Three of my four children were walking before 9 months of age and all used walkers. The youngest, which is 6 months, has been using a walker for a month and is also pulling up and standing by herself. This gives the thought that she’ll be walking before 9 months as well.

So, tell me people, how does something so terrible work so well for one family and not the other? It’s simple – your child may be delayed while another isn’t.

How is it so accurate, Hannah? Do the studies use a crystal ball to see what any one child’s development would have been without the use of a walker? How do they measure time spent in a walker; do they rely on parents reporting (very inaccurate) or somehow have access to cosmic recordings of the exact time spent? Those two questions alone are enough to cast doubt on the conclusions. People these days are overly impressed by anything that calls itself “science.” All science is not equal.

My great-granddaughter was the only child in the family to never use a walker, and the only child in the family to walk after 12 months (she didn’t walk until 13 months). A) Why would anyone expect a walker to teach a child to walk? They are strictly for fun. Rolling on the floor, pulling up on the couch, holding a hand – those are for learning to walk and are daily occurrences. The only people who would leave a child in a walker all day are the ones who would belt the child in a high-chair or other stationary seat in front of the tv. B) What moron would allow use of a walker where stairs are accessible?? C) For many years, walkers have been made with a wide base that makes them impossible for the child to tip over when encountering an obstruction, barring a wrinkle in the laws of physics. D) This may come as a shock to many, but I am more impressed by facts, logic, common sense, and experience than I am by a medical degree.

Hear, hear. Excellent points.

You know very little about what Physiotherapists do. I work in rehab center for children with disabilities and development delay. Well we have walkers to help those kids. I minored in Early childhood development. Sorry , but seems like you just want to be right.

A physiotherapist’s primary focus isn’t even child development. You guys are supposed to be the muscle people. Stick to your focus.

You know very little about what Physiotherapists do. I work in rehab center for children with disabilities and development delay. Well we have walkers to help those kids. I minored in Early childhood development. Sorry , but seems like you just want to be right.

Sylvia,
Because America is incredibly behind other countries in many, many ways. Sweden and a couple other countries have totally outlawed them.

Hi James,

Thanks for writing in.

There are actually two different types of walkers. It’s very unfortunate that they have the same name. The walkers that toddlers stand behind and push or no problem at all. It’s only the walkers that toddlers sit in and scoot around the floor by standing on their tippy toes and pushing that are a problem. There are studies that show negative effects on motor development.

In the end, an individual child may not be negatively impacted by using a baby walker, but would you want to find out with your child?

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

What is wrong with you?
Researches also show walkers have not caused major difference in children’s development.
Yes , I am a Physiotherapist.

A physiotherapist’s primary focus isn’t even child development. You guys are supposed to be the muscle people. Stick to your focus.

Hi James,

Thanks for writing in.

There are actually two different types of walkers. It’s very unfortunate that they have the same name. The walkers that toddlers stand behind and push or no problem at all. It’s only the walkers that toddlers sit in and scoot around the floor by standing on their tippy toes and pushing that are a problem. There are studies that show negative effects on motor development.

In the end, an individual child may not be negatively impacted by using a baby walker, but would you want to find out with your child?

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

sorry guys! Walkers DO NOT HELP CHILDREN LEARN TO WALK!!! It sucks, but it’s true.