Pediatricians: Walkers Should Be Banned
Sept. 4 -- Many parents see them as a way to give babies independence.
But baby walkers actually account for such severe injuries, doctors say. Saying the devices do little good and may even harm development, the American Academy of Pediatrics has decided to reiterate and strengthen its opposition to them.
Its updated policy statement appears in Wednesday's Pediatrics. In its recommendations, the group asks for a complete ban "because there is no clear benefit from their use."
"Walkers are unsafe," said Gary Smith, a pediatrician and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and one of the authors of the restatement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Children are still being injured in them. There should be a ban on the sale and manufacture of walkers."
In just one second, a baby can move 4 feet in a walker with wheels that move, Smith says. And that's not enough time for a parent to catch a baby in a walker who is falling down the stairs or to prevent a baby's finger from being pinched in a door. Some babies have even drowned in walkers. Typically, the curious baby will walk into the side of a toilet, tip the walker over and go head first in the bowl, or tip into a swimming pool.
In 1995, however, a design standard was set that helped prevent many injuries. The voluntary standard, which allows companies to put a sticker on the product saying it was certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, must meet one of two requirements. The first is it must be too wide to fit through a standard doorway (about 36 inches). And it must have features, such as a gripping mechanism or brake, to stop the walker at the edge of a step.
Injuries from walkers have since declined drastically. Since 1995, injuries due to baby walkers dropped almost 60 percent, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
"We attribute that to the new voluntary standards and we have always recommended the stationary walker," said CPSC spokeswoman Nychelle Fleming.