What you need to know about physiotherapy and podiatry.
Physio&SoleClinic Podiatry August 6 2019
Many parents believe that baby walkers help babies learn to walk whereas others disagree and think that baby walker could possibly delay a child’s locomotive(walking) development.
In this post, our Principal Podiatrist Lynn will share her expert opinions on why a baby walker is not an ideal option and how it can affect the child’s walking development.
Here are the 3 main reasons why we should say ‘NO’ to baby walkers.
1) Baby walkers can cause an abnormal walking pattern
As babies are suspended in the baby walkers, they tend to stretch their toes to reach the ground and often scoot around on tiptoes, causing excessive tightness in their calves. This causes them to walk on their tiptoes when they are out of the baby walkers. Over at Physio and Sole clinic, we have seen quite a number of toddlers who exhibit toe walking gait patterns with a history of using baby walkers when they were younger.
Another scientific study shows that babies who use baby walkers took shorter steps as compared to those who don’t. It develops into a routine for babies to walk with a narrow base of gait and increased cadence(walking), due to having wheels attached to the walker which allows babies to take more steps per minute. However, a child’s balance may not be developed adequately to cater to the pace, and this may lead to the child falling easily when trying to walk independently.
2) Baby walkers can cause babies to walk later
Babies develop muscle strength, balance and motor skills that are important for walking by first rolling on the floor, sitting, crawling, and pulling themselves up to stand. Using a baby walker prevents the child from doing so, hence causing a delay in developing core muscles required.
Baby walkers also prevent babies from visualising their feet and legs while using the walkers. This delays walking development as babies are unable to make the connection that it is their feet and legs that are moving the walkers.
3) Baby walkers can cause serious injuries
Babies are able to move at high speeds in a walker to an extent that parents may not react in time to prevent an accident. Common accidents happen when babies rush out of an open door, falling down the stairs or crashing into any furniture or walls.
Baby walkers also have a suspended high seat that may allow babies to reach for things that are dangerous such as a sharp object, a hot beverage or poisonous household products.
Majority of studies have shown that baby walkers bring no benefit to a child’s development and are a preventable source of injury for young children. In fact, many child safety experts globally and locally do not recommend the use of it due to safety issues. It acts as a hindrance to the development process of the baby’s motor skills.
There are other simpler ways to aid your baby in learning to walk by getting your baby in a standing position and support him under his arms. You can also encourage your baby to walk on his own by standing in front of him as he walks towards you.
Generally, babies start to walk on their own when they are ready. It seems easier to put babies in the baby walkers as they can engage themselves with the built-in toys on the walkers., It is, however, not the best option Stationary activity centres and playpens better alternatives in engaging a child.
So what can I use?
Stationary activity centres
These allow babies to stand in them without adult supervision. They’re fun for babies and may introduce new sensations and developmental skills. However, it is recommended to only start using it when the baby is able to sit independently which is at about 8 months old. It is also recommended to limit the use of it to 15 minutes per day.
Playmat with Play Yard
A cordoned off playmat provides a safe environment for a baby. In addition, playmats are perfect for tummy time. The play yard with its baby-friendly finishing can also encourage standing and cruising.
Toh Lynn Li
Physio & Sole Clinic