Doctors seek ban on infant walkers as study reports thousands of injuries

Leslie Hanson
September 18, 2018

The walkers are created to mobilize babies not yet able to walk on their own, but moving on four wheels sometimes sends them on unsafe paths or tumbling down stairs. Other countries, such as Canada, have a complete ban on the sale and manufacture of baby walkers.

Most of the children - 90.6 percent - suffered head or neck injuries, according to the study.

Researchers pointed to Canada, which banned the manufacture, sale and import of infant walkers in 2004, and agreed with the pediatricians' academy call to ban them in the United States and offer parents incentives to return them.

Babies in the US are being injured in infant walkers at a rate of more than five per day, a new study finds.

Infant or baby walkers are designed for babies aged approximately five months to 15 months who have not yet developed the skills to walk independently, the authors noted in the study.

Manufacturers have voluntarily tightened safety standards, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission mandating brakes on baby walkers in 2010 to prevent falls down staircases.

"What we set out to do was give a nice summary of what's happened over the last 25 years to this source of injury to young kids, and specifically to look at the effect of the 2010 change that converted the safety standards of walkers from a voluntary standard to a mandatory standard", said Smith, the director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "There's absolutely no reason these products should still be on the market", Smith told NPR. Improper use of infant walkers, baby carriers, strollers, changing tables and bath seats bring children 3 years or younger into US hospitals to be treated for injuries every eight minutes, a recent study showed, and these injuries are on the rise.

Pediatricians say walkers have no benefits for children or their parents. Smith has treated babies who landed head-first on concrete after falling down a flight of stairs while strapped into an infant walker. "Therefore, we support the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics that baby walkers should not be sold or used". The researchers found that between 1990 and 2003 baby walker injuries went down by 84.5 percent.

Despite decades of warnings about the hazards of baby walkers, thousands of toddlers still end up in hospital emergency rooms with walker-related injuries, new research shows.

The walkers can allow babies to toddle into areas they ordinarily could not reach - stairways, pools, bathtubs and kitchens.

But Smith isn't blaming parents for their baby's injuries. The number of injuries from falling down stairs dropped by 91 percent.

Smith says parents often seem shocked by how quickly a child in a walker can get into a risky situation. "Many families still use baby walkers, despite being aware of their potential dangers", he said.

"I don't advocate using movable walkers, but if parents can find a safe place for one - a sunken living room or a finished basement - then I don't have a problem with them", he explained. In fact, they may delay mental and motor development, he said.

"There are safer alternatives that young children enjoy", Smith said, "such as stationary activity centers that spin, rock, and bounce, but do not have wheels that give young children unsafe mobility".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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