Walkers can’t help babies walk early, unsafe —Paediatricians 

Child health experts have cautioned parents against forcing their children to use infant walkers, noting that the use of walkers won’t help babies walk early.

The paediatricians noted that they are discouraging the use of baby walkers by parents not only because it has no added advantage to the child’s ability to walk, but also because it exposes the baby to varied safety risks and hazards.

The experts stated this in separate exclusive interviews with PUNCH HealthWise.

A Consultant Paediatrician with Massey Street Children Hospital, Lagos, Dr. Zainab Opoola, told our correspondent that the reason paediatricians discourage the use of baby walker was that it is prone to accident.

She, however, said that doctors do not discourage the use of rockers.

Opoola explained, “We don’t encourage the use of baby walkers. When a child is on the walker, you just assume that the baby is “safe” but many accidents can still happen especially for children that are already trying to walk. And the make of the baby walker if it is not strong enough, the thing can just slip and the baby falls and an accident happens.

“A mother can put her baby on a walker and quickly goes to get something thinking her child is relatively safe and by the time she comes back, an accident has happened.

“It is because of the accident that we (paediatricians) don’t recommend baby walkers especially as it does not have benefits as regards their motor milestones.”

Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly urges parents not to use baby walk­ers.

“Contrary to what the name suggests, these devices do not help children learn to walk. They actually eliminate the desire to walk. To make matters worse, they present a serious tipping hazard when the child bumps into an obstacle, like a small toy or a throw rug. Children in walkers are also more likely to fall down stairs and get into dangerous places otherwise beyond their reach,” the academy said.

According to AAP, many babies’ first steps are taken around their first birthday, although it’s normal for children to start walking earlier or later.

For parents worried about their children having delayed walking, the paediatrician noted that there are factors that could predispose babies to walk late though some babies are slow walkers.

“Many things can make a baby walk late. Before walking, there are other milestones. There is neck control, sitting, and crawling. So, if a child has had delays in the previous ones, and is having delays in walking, you won’t be surprised.

“That means there is something wrong with the child’s motor development generally. And most times, it is usually if there is an injury to the brain, like during birth if the baby did not cry immediately after birth and oxygen didn’t get to the brain and the child has what we call prenatal asphyxia.

“So, that can manifest as all these delays in motor milestones which will eventually cause delayed walking. But not all children with delayed walking have asphyxia. That is just a cause,” the paediatrician said.

She also identified poorly treated neonatal jaundice, spinal defect, vitamin D deficiency, rickets, and general malnutrition as other factors that could cause delayed waking in babies.

Opoola however noted, “But before a paediatrician will say that this walking is delayed, the baby will already be more than 16 to 18 months. So, by 16 months, you start getting worried but by 18 months, it is a big problem. But a year and two months are not bad is just that that child is a slow walker.”

She urged parents whose children are experiencing delays in achieving motor milestones to take them to trained medical personnel for evaluation to be sure there is no problem.

For Dr. Muhammad Salisu, a Consultant Paediatrician at the Lagos State University, Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, it is important for mothers to know the stages of child development and the fact that for each of these stages of child development, there is no absolute time a child must do a particular thing.

The child neurologist added, “I think if mothers first understand that for any of these abilities, sitting, standing, crawling, the range is what is important, then they will not be unduly worried,” he said.

He urged parents having concerns over the development of their children o see a trained healthcare worker.

In an article published by Harvard Health Publishing, the authors said some parents buy baby walkers because they think that walkers help babies learn to walk faster.

“However, the opposite is true: using a walker can delay independent walking. That’s because learning to walk isn’t so much about learning to use your legs. It’s more about learning to pull to stand and then balance and take steps without support.

“When babies are plopped into walkers, they don’t learn any of that. They learn it by being put on the floor with something they can pull up on, like a couch or a caregiver,” they noted.


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