Monday, December 10, 2007

Baby walkers delay infants from walking and standing up

Baby walkers delay the development of locomotion in infants, new Irish research has shown.

Researchers from the University College Dublin looked at particular locomotor developmental milestones - raising the head, rolling over, sitting with support, sitting alone and walking alone.

By comparing the ages that infants reached these milestones with and without walkers they concluded that baby walkers do slow development in children.

The current research has found that each aggregated 24 hours of baby walker use was associated with a delay of 3.3 days in walking alone and a delay of 3.7 days in standing alone.

The research took the form of brief anonymous and confidential questionnaires completed by parents of children at nine day-care centres in Northern Ireland. The researchers received 190 valid responses – for 83 boys and 107 girls.

Of those infants, 102 used baby walkers, with most starting use at 26 weeks of age and finishing use at 54 weeks. "Achieving crawling, standing alone and walking alone occurred later in this group," the authors state.

Walkers prevent children from seeing their feet while they are walking. "They are not getting any visual feedback. They don't understand what is happening," explained the spokesperson.

Another major complication with the use of baby walkers is that they train children to walk on their toes, she said. "Children are propped up in the walkers and their knees and hips are bent so they are walking on their toes," she said. "This causes tight calf muscles and they can turn into habitual toe walkers."

The problems can be ongoing. "I have eight and nine year olds that I still have to plaster up each year," she said.

Controversy has raged over baby walkers for some time. They are considered dangerous by many because children in them are able to reach items that normally would be out of reach. The other problem is that of children falling down stairs while in the walkers.

An analysis undertaken by the National Injury Surveillance Unit, based at Flinders University, showed that between 1986 and 1993 baby walkers were the highest single product category for injury in children between six and 12 months.

The Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit website supports this finding, stating in June 2000 that "given the dangerous nature of baby walkers and that they have been shown to be of no benefit to the baby. . . their sale and use should be actively discouraged."

The NSW Department of Fair Trading recommends that parents do not buy or use baby walkers at all.

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