Read These Safety Tips Right Now If You Use an Infant Walker
When a baby begins to wake up from the fog of newborn life it can often seem like their minds are ready to be on the move before their bodies are. In an effort to keep their babies happy and engaged (and to keep their hands available for housework and caring for other children) many parents place their baby in an infant walker. Infant walkers use a cushioned seat in a plastic, wheeled structure to hold a baby who would not otherwise be able to hold themselves up into an upright position that allows them to scoot around the room in which they are placed. While babies often look adorable as they move about semi-independently, they’re also at great risk for injury.
Earlier this year the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that parents cease using Infant walkers due to the number of serious injuries caused by the devices each year. Furthermore, they recommended that the devices actually be banned as they are in Canada and many other countries.
While following the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics is almost always a good idea (they’re pretty smart) there are things you can do to reduce the risk of injury if you plan to continue to use an infant walker in your home. Check out the safety tips below to help keep your baby as safe as possible in a possibly-soon-to-be-banned device.
Never use an infant walker on the second level of a home
When the American Academy of Pediatrics reviewed the injury reports associated with infant walkers they realized that an astonishing number of skull fractures occurred when a baby wheeled themselves onto, and then tumbled down, a staircase. If you plan to use an infant walker, don’t use it on the second level of a home or on a floor that has a downward staircases (such as to a basement or garage). As you check for the safety of the space you plan to allow baby to use the walker, remember that even tumbling down a stair or two can leave your baby with a serious skull fracture.
Always monitor baby while they are in the walker
Often, parents like to place their baby in a walker as they go about cleaning, working, or taking care of older children. While babies are often content and entertained while in a walker and may not cry out for attention, parents should remain vigilant and be sure to monitor their baby the entire time they are using the walker.
Don’t leave your baby in the walker for extended periods of time
Even if a baby loves being in their walker, parents should limit its use to a few minutes at a time. A baby who is not yet able to support their weight really does not have the strength or muscle tone to stay in an upright position for as long as extended use of an infant walker would allow. Overuse of a walker can lead to muscle soreness and, if your baby is not getting the practice they need organically learning to support their weight, muscle weakness.
Don’t use an infant walker in a room that’s not baby proofed
While lots of parents do some cursory baby proofing before they bring their newborn home, most get serious about anchoring furniture, plugging sockets, and making sure chokable items are out of reach about the time that baby becomes mobile. Most babies who use walkers are not yet independently mobile, which means that they may be maneuvering themselves around rooms that are unsafe. A baby in a walker may pull down furniture, grab a hold of small pieces or items they find suddenly within reach, or get curious about things that are above them. If you plan to use an infant walker, be sure it’s only used in rooms that are fully baby proofed.
In short: The safest thing to do for your baby is to avoid using an infant walker altogether. But, if you chose to do so, your baby should only use an infant walker for a short period of time, under parent supervision in a fully baby-proofed room without any access to stairs at all.