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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has called for a ban on the U.S. manufacture and sale of infant walkers, because of the risk of injury to young children. According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, between 1990 and 2014, more than 230,000 children under the age of 15 months were treated in emergency hospital rooms because of infant walker-related injuries. More than 6,500 of those injuries were skull fractures.

Though these sorts of injuries decreased after the implementation of the federal mandatory safety standard in 2010, the researchers note that “infant walkers remain an important and preventable source of injury among young children.” They agreed with the AAP that the products should be banned.

Infant Walkers Increased Risk of Serious Injuries

Infant walkers are small wheel-based seats that let babies between the ages of about five to 15 months move around using only their feet. This increased mobility, however, exposes children to more hazards and increases the risk of injury. Most injuries occur when the child falls down the stairs, but since walkers also give children access to things they normally couldn’t reach or places they normally couldn’t go, they can also increase the risk of other injuries, like:

  • Grabbing sharp objects
  • Ingesting household poisons
  • Touching hot items, like a hot stove, and getting burned
  • Drowning, from falling into a pool or bathtub

Infant walker injuries can be very serious, and even deadly. This is why the AAP has called for a ban on the products. Despite increased warnings about the risks, warning labels, and educational campaigns, injuries continue to occur from these walkers.

The new standards for walkers that came out in 2010 required manufacturers to implement safety measures, such as making the walker frames wider than the typical 36-inch door frame, and providing a brake that could stop the walker if at least one wheel dropped over the edge of a step. After these standards were implemented, the average number of injuries per year decreased, but many infants are still hurt.

There is also some concern that infant walkers may actually delay normal child development.

Studies Show Mixed Results on Whether Walkers Delay Development

Research shows that walkers do not give children any advantages. Some parents may believe that they help children learn to walk faster, but there is no evidence to show that they do that. Worse, they may actually delay proper development.

In one study of over 100 infants, researchers found that those who had used infant walkers sat, crawled, and walked later than infants who hadn’t used walkers, and they scored lower on Bayley scales of mental and motor development. A 2016 study showed similar results, with those not using walkers learning to walk first, with delays in those who used walkers a lot or just a little.

Other studies have shown mixed results, but because of the potential for harm, parents are advised to think twice before buying the products for their children.

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