Those First Steps
One of the most chatted about babyhood topics is whether your baby has started walking yet. Whilst most babies take their first tentative steps somewhere between nine and twelve months, some prefer to wait until they are 16 or 17 months old, much to the worry of their parents. But there is no need to worry as this is also considered to be normal. (Apparently I only walked at 24 months and only on a ship which was out at sea!). So should we use “tools” to help our baby walk or just leave it to each baby to decide when they are ready? What about baby walkers – are they safe and do they really help a child learn to walk?
Fact or Fiction?
There are a lot of fancy ideas out there associated with baby walking, one of them being that a baby walker will help your baby to learn how to walk. Is this true? Apparently, this is fiction, not fact. There are studies showing that walking is delayed by about a month in babies who use baby walkers according to Amrita George of Pure Child Health.
Studies have also shown that baby walkers actually slow the way a baby’s muscles develop which contribute to making it harder for your baby to learn to walk on his own. Baby walkers also tend to make the baby start walking on their toes, which can lead to Achilles tendon problems. As if that isn’t enough to put one off, baby walkers also restrict the development of muscles that help babies sit, crawl and transfer from one position to another.
Are baby walkers safe?
The safety aspect of baby walkers rather depends on where you choose to use them. You may think that because you will only put your baby in the walker in the closed environment of your home that they are perfectly safe and you will have your hands free to carry out those never ending jobs around the home. But the baby walker actually gives your baby a greater mobility before his body is ready for this and this often will result in accidents happening on your watch! For example, your baby could bump into furniture, possibly toppling over a heavy item that is on it which could thump him on his head! Or the walker could tip over or your baby could scoot at top speed towards the stairs and if no guard is in place he could end up falling down them. All of those examples have been reported. There are even reports of babies who have scooted up to the toilet bowl and when the baby walker bashed against the toilet it tipped over and the unfortunate baby ended up head first in the toilet bowl, a big risk for drowning if no-one had noticed. So basically, even if your baby is in a walker, you will always have to be watching him scoot around which does not leave you free to do those jobs in any case! Apart from being able to speed around without much control, a baby walker can also give your baby extra height and thus able to reach items which may harm him. So the bottom line is: a baby in a baby walker can move much faster than without one and that adult supervision is not always enough to prevent walker-related injuries.
So what to use instead of baby walkers?
A stationary activity centre is much safer than walker – they look like walkers but they don’t have wheels and they allow a child to play with all sorts of activities on the centre. Play-pens, and stationary infant bouncers are another option to keep your child safe and happy. It is recommended that if you do choose to use a baby walker that you only let your baby “walk” in it for 15 minutes at a time and that you choose a walker built to consumer safety standards and that you keep your beady eye on him at all times.
What’s the rush to get your baby to walk? My personal opinion is that it is much more natural to let a baby take his first steps when he is good and ready for it. It’s the same with sitting and crawling. When your baby is ready, when he has strengthened the muscles necessary for a particular movement, that is when he will do it! If your little one is going on for 18 months and still not ready to walk – provided everything is medically ok, it really does not matter. Your child is normal. Your child will walk when he knows his body is ready for that complex activity!!!
I know there are many parents making use of baby walkers and none of the horror stories has happened to their baby. It may have delayed their baby walking on his own, but that’s about all the damage done. So it all comes down to personal choice. As long as you are aware of what may happen, it really boils down to YOU whether you make use of a baby walker or not.
If you have any stories about your baby’s first steps or your use of a baby walker and your thoughts on it, I’d love to read about them. Use the comment box below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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