Are Baby Walkers Safe?

Baby pulling electricity cord

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There are a lot of baby products on the market, and while some may be more useful than others, there are a few products that pediatricians do not recommend at all. One of those is baby walkers.

Growing up, you may have seen baby walkers everywhere: They were popular and frequently used for decades. As such, you may consider purchasing one as your baby becomes more mobile and is getting ready to walk. You might think that your baby would enjoy being able to use a baby walker, and that baby walkers are useful for babies who are learning to walk.

However, there is really no scenario where baby walkers are safe, nor are they helpful in terms of teaching your baby walking skills. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has called for a ban on baby walkers.

Let’s take a look at why baby walkers are harmful, what you should know about teaching your baby to walk, and what safe alternatives to baby walkers are out there.

What Is a Baby Walker?

There are several baby products that are meant to be used as your baby starts being able to stand upright and learn to walk, including baby activity centers and baby push walkers. But baby walkers are different and have specific characteristics, says Holly Choi, an infant and toddler safety educator and co-owner/instructor at Safe Beginnings First Aid.

“Baby walkers, for the purpose of this discussion, are fully contained baby seats on rolling wheels/casters that babies can move with their legs from a seated position before they are about to walk unassisted,” Choi describes. “Baby walkers allow for the child’s feet to make contact with the floor, allowing them to propel themselves along the floor.”

These types of devices—where your baby is held upright in a suspended seat in a device with a metal frame and wheels—are exactly what the AAP advises strongly against using.

Why Baby Walkers Are Not Safe

The main reason that the AAP has called for a ban on baby walkers is that they can cause serious injuries in children. Nowadays, fewer parents are using baby walkers, which is helpful. But in the years when baby walkers were still popular, injuries from baby walkers were a common reason for emergency room visits for babies 15 months and younger.

For example, a study published in Pediatrics found that between 1990 and 2014, an estimated 230, 676 children under 15 months visited emergency rooms because of injuries from baby walkers. Of these, over 90% involved head and neck injuries.

You might think it’s okay to use a baby walker if you keep an eye on your baby. But the AAP reports that injuries involving baby walkers can happen within a few seconds, and most injuries happen while a parent is watching their baby! Most parents just simply don’t have enough time to respond before tragic accidents happen involving baby walkers.

There are several ways that baby walkers can cause injuries to babies. Here are the most common ones.

Injuries from Falling Down Stairs

The vast majority of injuries from baby walkers are when a baby falls down a flight of stairs in their baby walker. In the study in Pediatrics, over 74% of the injuries reported were from falling down stairs.

“A child in a walker can move quickly,” explains Loretta Cody, MD, a pediatrician of 34 years. “They may fall down stairs or bump into things before a parent can stop them. This may lead to different types of significant injuries including head injuries and broken bones.”

Burns

When a baby becomes mobile while using a baby walker, they become able to reach places that they normally cannot. This can increase the chances that they will encounter something that is hot enough to burn them. This may include hot foods, radiators, stove handles, and space heaters, notes the AAP.

When babies use walkers, they are now at a higher level and can reach things that may be harmful to them, says Dr. Cody. “For example, they may pull at a tablecloth and something on the table may fall on them,” she says. “If this is hot coffee, they can get burned.”

Drowning

Drowning is also a concern when it comes to baby walkers, as babies can quickly move themselves to places where drowning can occur. Drowning while using a baby walker can happen in pools, bathtubs, and even toilets.

“Babies can fall into pools or tubs in the walker by reaching and falling in,” explains Preeti Parikh, MD, pediatrician and executive medical director at GoodRx.

Reach Unsafe Objects and Medications

Not only do baby walkers make it more likely that your baby can reach an object or surface that can burn them, but they can encounter other objects that may be harmful to them.

In a baby walker, your baby may collide into kitchen cabinets or walls, says Choi. Babies may also be able to grab medications that are now in reach, Dr. Cody says.

If they put medications or other unsafe objects in their mouth, this could lead to dangerous consequences, she adds. The AAP warns that baby walkers increase the risk of your baby being poisoned.

Can Make Walking More Difficult

Many parents use a baby walker because they think they will help their baby learn to walk. But not only do they not help, but they can actually make it harder for your baby to learn to walk, and encourage poor walking habits, says Dr. Parikh.

“When an infant is placed in a walker, it promotes using their legs to try to walk, but when we want our infants to learn to walk, it is not only about the legs,” Dr.  Parikh explains. “The infant’s ability to pull themselves up to stand and be able to balance their weight is actually more important in promoting walking.”

It’s actually better for your baby to pull themselves up, such as near a sofa, and then practice cruising, she adds. Additionally, says Dr. Parikh, baby walkers promote “toe walking,” which can be detrimental to your child as they are learning to walk.

Safe Alternatives to Baby Walkers

It’s understandable that you’d want to use something like a baby walker as your baby gets closer to walking. Babies enjoy having a way to stand upright and practice their skills, and parents are always looking for ways to keep their babies entertained. But there are much safer devices out there that do both of these things.

First, you may want to consider an upright activity center for your baby, says Dr. Parikh. “They have no wheels and infants can not only rotate in them but also can pull themselves up to stand,” she says. Activity centers often also have fun visuals, light-up elements, buttons to press, songs that play, and more.

If you are looking to keep your child contained, play yards are safe, says Dr. Parikh. You can also use baby play dividers to block off certain areas in your home so your baby can safely cruise around. If your baby is old enough to cruise, make sure to remove anything unsafe out of their reach—you’d be surprised how quickly babies start to be able to get around!

If you’d like your baby to hold onto something as they walk, you may want to consider a “push walker,” which doesn't involve putting your baby in a baby seat with wheels.

“If the caregiver’s goal is to encourage walking, ‘push walkers,’ are standing activity stations that do not contain a baby seat,” says Choi. “Therefore the risk of a child picking up enough speed to cause a traumatic injury is removed.”

The AAP says “push walkers,” like push cars or push wagons, can be a good alternative to baby walkers, especially if they are sturdy.

How to Help Your Baby Learn to Walk

The truth is, there’s nothing special you need to do to help your baby learn to walk. Just giving your child a baby-safe area where they can explore and freely move their body is all you need to do.

Dr. Parikh suggests giving your baby floor time near a soft or a place where they pull up and stand. “Sit on one side of the sofa and encourage them to cruise over to you,” she recommends. “You can also let them hold the sofa with one hand and hold on to you with the other hand for walking.”

The one thing Dr. Parikh warns against is keeping your baby in a bouncy chair or stroller for long amounts of time. Limit the amount of time your baby is immobile as they are learning to walk, she suggests. “It is important your baby has a lot of floor time to help with mobility and build those muscles,” she says.

It’s also important that you keep in mind that all babies are different when it comes to mastering the skill of walking. There is a wide range of normal. The average age for a baby to start walking is 12 months, according to the AAP, but it’s normal if your baby starts walking before or after that.

“There is no rush to getting your child to walk,” Dr. Cody assures. “They will develop at their own pace.” She explains that at your baby's 1-year-old checkup, the pediatrician will discuss your baby’s progress with walking. If your little one is able to pull up and cruise at that point, it’s unlikely their pediatrician will be too concerned about walking, even if your baby isn’t walking yet.

She suggests that you continue to stay in touch with your baby's pediatrician about their progress and let them know if you have any concerns.

A Word From Verywell

Sometimes it’s hard to understand why something that babies seem to enjoy and that parents find helpful could be harmful to a baby. But baby walkers are one of those devices that just aren’t safe and shouldn’t be used under any circumstances.

If you have any questions about baby walkers, alternatives to baby walkers, or about how you can safely encourage your baby to walk, please get in touch with your child's pediatrician. You should also contact the pediatrician if you are concerned in any way about your baby’s developmental milestones, including their walking skills.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics News. Study: Infant walker injuries support AAP’s call for a ban.

  2. Schecter R, Das P, Milanaik R. Are baby walker warnings coming too late?: Recommendations and rationale for anticipatory guidance at earlier well-child visits. Glob Pediatr Health. 2019;6:2333794X19876849. doi:10.1177/2333794X19876849

  3. Sims A, Chounthirath T, Yang J, Hodges N, Smith G. Infant walker–related injuries in the United States. Pediatrics. 2018;142(4):e20174332. doi:10.1542/peds.2017-4332

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Baby walkers: A dangerous choice.

  5. American Academy of Pediatrics. Movement: Babies 8 to 12 months.

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.

Originally written by
Vincent Iannelli, MD

Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.

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