Baby walkers may impede child development

October 12, 1999

Although many parents use baby walkers as a way to give their infants exercise and experience moving about, new research shows that these infants are slower than other infants to sit upright, crawl, and walk. They also score lower on early tests of mental and physical development compared with other infants.

"Newer-style walkers, which have large trays that prevent infants from seeing their moving feet and from grasping objects around them, lead to greater delays in physical and mental development," said Roger V. Burton, PhD, co-author of the study.

The researchers from State University of New York at Buffalo and Case Western Reserve University studied the early mental and physical development of 109 predominately white infants from the Buffalo, New York area. About half had never used a walker, about a third used newer-style walkers with large trays that blocked the infants' view of their feet, and the remainder used older-style walkers that allowed them to see their moving feet and grab at objects around them. The research results appear in the October issue of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

The infants were first tested at 6, 9, or 12 months of age, and again three months later, using a standard measure of physical and mental development. Parents provided information on when the infants achieved developmental milestones, such as sitting, crawling, and walking.

All of the infants scored within established norms, the researchers say. Nevertheless, those who used newer-style walkers sat upright, crawled, and walked later than infants who had never used a walker. Infants who used older-style walkers learned to sit and walk at about the same age as the no-walker group, but they learned to crawl at about the same age as the children who used the newer-style walkers.

On the developmental tests, the infants who used newer-style walkers had the lowest scores on physical and mental development. On the tests of physical development, infants who used older-style walkers received lower scores than the no-walker group, but the differences were not statistically different. On mental performance, those who used older-style walkers scored somewhere between the no-walker and newer-style walker groups.

The researchers believe that use of newer-style walkers leads to physical developmental delays because the walkers' large trays restrict infants' view of their moving legs, depriving them of visual feedback that would help them learn how their bodies move through space. Baby walkers also prevent infants from exploring and grabbing at things around them, which is critical to their early mental development.

"Although in some infants the effect of walker use on mental development was measurable for as long as 10 months after initial use, it is likely that normal infants who use newer-style walkers will catch up to their no-walker peers when they walk and are no longer restricted by being put into a walker," said Burton.

According to the researchers, 70 to 90 percent of parents of one-year-olds use baby walkers. A 1994 report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) cited baby walkers as responsible for more injuries than any other product for children. A 1992 petition by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups called for an outright ban on baby walkers, which have been associated with at least 11 deaths since 1984.

"When the danger factor is considered in conjunction with the developmental data presented by our study, the risks seem to outweigh any possible benefits of early walker exposure," said Burton.
-end-
The Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics is published bimonthly by the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. For information about the journal, contact Mary Sharkey at (212) 595-7717.

Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health < http://www.cfah.org>. For information about the Center, call Petrina Chong, < pchong@cfah.org > (202) 387-2829.

Center for Advancing Health

Related Infants Articles from Brightsurf:

Most infants are well even when moms are infected by COVID-19
Infants born to women with COVID-19 showed few adverse outcomes, according to the first report in the country of infant outcomes through eight weeks of age.

Probiotic may help treat colic in infants
Probiotics -- or 'good bacteria' -- have been used to treat infant colic with varying success.

Deaf infants' gaze behavior more advanced than that of hearing infants
Deaf infants who have been exposed to American Sign Language are better at following an adult's gaze than their hearing peers, supporting the idea that social-cognitive development is sensitive to different kinds of life experiences.

Initiating breastfeeding in vulnerable infants
The benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child are well-recognized, including for late preterm infants (LPI).

Young infants with fever may be more likely to develop infections
Infants with a high fever may be at increased risk for infections, according to research from Penn State College of Medicine.

Early term infants less likely to breastfeed
A new, prospective study provides evidence that 'early term' infants (those born at 37-38 weeks) are less likely than full-term infants to be breastfeed within the first hour and at one month after birth.

Infants are more likely to learn when with a peer
Researchers at the University of Connecticut and University of Washington looked at the mechanisms involved in language learning among nine-month-olds, the youngest population known to be studied in relation to on-screen learning.

Allergic reactions to foods are milder in infants
Majority of infants with food-induced anaphylaxis present with hives and vomiting, suggesting there is less concern for life-threatening response to early food introduction.

Non-dairy drinks can be dangerous for infants
A brief report published in Acta Paediatrica points to the dangers of replacing breast milk or infant formula with a non-dairy drink before one year of age.

Infants can't talk, but they know how to reason
A new study reveals that preverbal infants are able to make rational deductions, showing surprise when an outcome does not occur as expected.

Read More: Infants News and Infants Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.