The Disadvantages and Dangers of Baby Walkers


When I was a baby, my mom employed the use of a baby walker. She said I had many brushes with danger in that thing. She also said she felt relieved that I started walking after 2 weeks in the walker. I was 9 months old. She explained it was safer for me on the floor anyway than "riding" on four wheels. She didn't use a walker for my kid brother saying the experience of all the dangerous things I got myself into was enough to swear off the use of a walker.

My neighborhood is predominantly a "young" neighborhood. New parents can be seen all over with their babies and toddlers. People you meet on the street are either moms or dads with strollers comparing kids or talking about tips on raising young children or couples asking for advice on how to conceive from these parents who swear on proven techniques for conception. So, imagine that each and every house in my subdivision has 1 or 2 babies and maybe an older sibling who's a toddler. Just proves my point that my neighborhood is predominantly young.

In the afternoons in my neighborhood, you will see many parents with their children strolling along the sidewalk towards the clubhouse in my subdivision. Most of them with small children who have just started to walk. Since walking is a major milestone for every baby, when a parent has a baby who starts to walk earlier than most, these parents tend to give unsolicited advice touching a nerve in other parents whose child hasn't. My son started walking after his first birthday so, I have heard all the advice all these parents have when it comes to "walking". Recently, I came across a mom who was asking for walking tips. Again, I heard the inevitable advice of using a walker. I smiled. Been there, done that. 
Illustration of a baby walker.
Image credit: Free Clip Art

When my son, who was still a baby then, and I went on our afternoon walks with him strapped in his stroller, I would always be confronted by other moms about my son's "inability" to walk at his age. These moms usually had 9-month-old baby girls in tow and were very proud that their daughters learned to walk at such an early age. I would always say that I was happy that they were so proud of their children but, my son will walk when he is ready. Every child is different and unique and in the end, they will all arrive at that point.

One mom advised me to get a baby walker. We had our doubts but, decided to buy one for our then 10-month-old son in the hope that it could help our son learn how to walk. And it suffices to say, that it was a waste of money. One, my son hated being in the walker and two, after 2 months,  a week right after his 1st birthday, my son just decided it was time for him to walk on his own. That's right, he just stood up and started walking around the house like he had been doing it all along. 

As of today, pediatricians strongly advise against the baby walker. They say it is unnecessary and that the risks and dangers outweigh the benefits these walkers provide babies. Babies will walk when it is time for them to walk. Girls learn to walk earlier than boys and some babies develop their motor skills earlier than others. Pediatricians recommend letting the child go through all the stages of development on their own (milestones) and urge parents to let babies explore "the world" via the floor. Eventually, when the time is right, they will end up walking on their own.
Sitting is a milestone in locomotive development. This will lead up to walking.
Image credit: Pixabay

So, how does a baby learn how to walk?

Generally, babies pass through the following milestones while learning how to walk:
  • Rolling (4-6 months)
Rolling as an important milestone in a baby's locomotive development because it gives your baby his/her FIRST sense of independent movement. The rotation and twisting of the baby's body during rolling are important for balance skills at a later stage. Moreover, rolling stimulates and strengthens tummy muscles for your baby to achieve future milestones of sitting and crawling.
  • Sitting (6-9 months)
Bear in mind, babies develop skills differently, some more quickly than others. However, head control is essential to sitting independently and sitting is the key to crawling, standing, and eventually walking. In the sitting position, babies practice balance while stimulating the neck and trunk muscles for postural control. When a baby sits upright without the support of his /her hands, he/she can now practice reach and grasp.

My son Yuri at 7 months sitting on his own. Image copyright: The Tired Mama-Ph

  • Crawling, creeping, or scooting (7-10 months)
When babies are put into a baby walker, crawling which is another milestone might be skipped. Crawling helps develop arches and stretch out ligaments in the hands and wrists. It also gives the baby the first opportunity to practice bilateral coordination since they use their arms and legs in reciprocal movements. Crawling plays a vital role in the development of a baby's strength, spinal alignment, balance, visual-spatial skills (teaches baby about space in general, their own body space, and teaches them to judge distances and heights), and socio-emotional development. According to specialists, skipping this milestone can affect a child's ability for latter fine-motor skills such as holding a pencil or using silverware and cause a decrease in upper body strength which can be seen when the child is older.
  • Pulling themselves upright to stand (9-12 months)
This is the milestone that is directly correlated to walking. Once you see babies pulling themselves to stand, you can assume that moment of taking their first steps is near. 
By standing, babies experience the feeling of their body weight on their feet. This strengthens the hips, knees, tummy muscles, and legs. When a baby shifts weight from one leg to the other, they practice balance, establishing the center of their bodies. They also gain more control of their trunk and hips which further helps postural control and spinal alignment. Of course, being at a standing position motivates your child to move, first with support (usually they move around holding on to furniture, so they should be away from bookshelves or chests that aren't pinned or nailed down), and eventually on their own.

Babies should spend a large amount of time on the floor or their playpen to pass these milestones. Spending less time means delaying development. If you have any concerns about your baby's development regarding these milestones, please do consult your pediatrician.


Pediatricians list 5 disadvantages of the use of baby walkers. These are:


1. Baby walkers actually delay or impede walking.

The more time a baby spends in the baby walker increases delay in his development. Babies need to spend more time on the floor. On the floor, they will crawl, explore, sit, and try to pull themselves upright when they get the chance. There are a variety of important movements that babies practice while on the floor when learning and attempting to walk. Our baby walker came with a free colorful play mat that had illustrations of airplanes, trains, cars, and helicopters which my son found fascinating. It was this free play mat that saw a lot of action and not the baby walker. My son also preferred playing in his playpen with all his stuffed friends. 

Time away from the floor also means that your baby misses out on practicing important repetitive movements necessary for them to reach each of the milestones which lead to walking. Crawling is important for developing weight bearing through both the pelvis and shoulders in babies. By sitting and pulling themselves up, they are learning how to balance. When in a baby walker, babies don't necessarily learn how to balance thus, delaying this important skill needed to walk.

2. Babies learn to walk incorrectly.

I guess you have noticed when babies use a baby walker, they move using their toes. This tightens their leg muscles and interferes with normal walking development. When they are not using the walker, the babies continue walking on tiptoe which is not how babies normally learn how to walk. 

3. It restricts their movement.

Being in a walker, although gets babies from point A to point B in record time, restricts a variety of movement much needed for babies developing their walking skills. When a baby is in a walker, he is unable to practice these movements unlike if he were left to do his bidding on the floor.

4. It allows babies to escape their parents.

Let's face it, when we put our babies in baby walkers, we give our babies freedom to "walk" around and sometimes they end up where they aren't supposed to. According to this post, Pediatricians: Walkers Should be Banned, a baby on wheels can move up to 4 feet in a second, making it difficult if not, almost impossible for a parent to catch a baby falling down the stairs, getting his fingers stuck in a door, or toppling over.  If, for example, you have other children who forget to close the front door on their way outside to play, a tendency is your baby in a baby walker may venture outside without you knowing. I did that when I was a baby according to my mom. My cousins left the door open and I chased after them in my walker. Good thing my grandfather caught me before I fell down the steps of the front porch.

5. Dependency.

If you let your baby spend a good amount of time in a baby walker, chances are he'll become dependent and may not want to play, explore, or move about without his walker. If this is the case, learning how to walk will be even more delayed.

Eventually, it will all end up to the moment when your baby makes the momentous first step.
Image credit: Pixabay

Why are Baby Walkers considered dangerous?


Babies in baby walkers can move around quickly. As a matter of fact, sometimes too quickly for a parent or caretaker to stop them. Also, babies in baby walkers since they are upright can reach things they usually don't have access to or are prohibited from touching. Annual statistics show many babies in baby walkers have suffered serious injuries such as cuts, bruises, burns, head injuries, and broken bones. Moreover, some babies, unfortunately, have died due to poisoning from toxic substances and drowning.

Potential dangers and hazards of baby walkers include:

  • Moving quickly towards dangerous areas such as fireplaces, ovens, heaters, pools, bathtub,  and toilets.
  • Falling down steps or stairs
  • Being toppled by an older sibling 
  • Having access to electrical cords or cupboards with toxic substances such as cleaning supplies
  • Crashing into something sharp or hard or getting a finger pinched by the door
  • Tipping over head first or tipping over while moving. There was a report of a baby tipping over the toilet head first and drowned.
  • Having access to hot drinks such as coffee and tea, or worse sharp objects like knives or scissors or being able to reach the tablecloth and drag plates and eating utensils with it. 

How can parents ensure the safety of their babies if, they do decide to use a baby walker?


Although, pediatricians urge parents to forego the baby walker due to the potential dangers from its use if you do decide to use a baby walker, here are some safety tips to ensure the safety of your baby. It is recommended that:
  • the walker complies with consumer product safety standards. 
  • the baby walker has a lock to prevent it from moving when you want it to and a breaking mechanism for steps or stairs.
  • the baby walker is wide enough that it can not fit through a standard doorway (36 inches) and does not tip over easily.
  • it is only used in a baby-proofed area that has a flat surface away from steps and stairs.
  • you do not use a baby walker before your baby can sit or after your baby can walk.
  • a baby should not be in a walker longer than 15 minutes.
  • parents should stay near their babies at all times and be aware that babies can move to a dangerous place in a matter of seconds.
My son walking in front of his grandparent's home at 12 months.

How can parents help their babies learn to walk?


Parents need to understand that there is no need to rush. When it is time, your baby will know and start walking on their own.

Allow your baby ample time on the floor. Purchase a colorful play mat instead of a walker. It's much cheaper and provides a safer place for your baby to learn the basics.

You can also place your baby near soft furniture to facilitate pulling themselves up.

Block off a safe area for them to play and move and make sure it's baby- proof. You may also use a playpen or a stationary activity center for your baby to play in or with.

Babies need to go through the stages of rolling, sitting, crawling, and pulling themselves up to learn to walk. As I said, there is no need to rush. In the end, everything will all lead up to that very moment when your baby takes his/her first steps into the world. ☺️

Sources and related links:

Your Baby's Developmental Milestones available at https://www.babycenter.com/baby-milestones
Port, Dina Roth "Do Babies Need to Crawl?" available at https://www.parenting.com/article/do-babies-need-to-crawl
Palazzolo, Rose "Pediatricians: Walkers Should be Banned" available at https://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=117253&page=1
"Baby Walkers" available at https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/baby-walkers






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