PHYSICAL AND MENTAL DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS CAUSED BY BABY WALKERS AND JUMPERS

Baby walkers and jumpers are very popular among parents, as they give parents a much needed break to quickly do a chore or tend to a personal need, while keeping baby occupied and happy.

Most parents believe that these items pose no risk to their babies, as they are only in them for short periods of time and they are never unsupervised. Sadly, this is not true.

The delays caused by walkers are 3 days for every 24 hours of walker use.

We all know the obvious risks of using these items; leaving baby unattended or baby getting into an accident by rolling down the stairs, bumping into objects, bumping their head, tripping and falling over, being able to reach poisonous or hot items, falling out of the jumper, bumping into the side of the door frame or getting their fingers stuck in the springs.

What you may not have known are the other risks to your baby, the physical, motor development and mental developmental delays caused by using these items.

Around 6 months of age, babies develop a strong urge to move and thus begin to attempt to crawl. It looks like a huge effort and mission for them, but rightly so, as this need and attempt drive them and encourage them to develop. The accomplishment they feel when eventually reaching their goal is what drives them. Later this drive will encourage them to want to stand up and even walk. If you take away the need to reach or move something or somewhere, you take away their drive.

Babies need to go through certain steps in a certain order for them to develop their bodies and brain correctly. They sit, crawl, stand, walk etc. With each physical movement, the needed brain development accompanies the milestone reached. If you thus suddenly throw "being able to move upright" in there between sitting and crawling and the brain laying the pathways for those movements, you interfere with their natural development by giving them mobility beyond their natural capability. You are placing them in a position and giving them abilities their brains are not yet capable of understanding and their bodies not capable of handling e.g. depth perception, being able to react and control their bodies at such a fast pace, moving forward on two legs, stopping etc.

Thus when a baby uses a walker, they often skip some of their important milestones or the natural process of wanting to move and develop that goes with it. Walkers often eliminate the urge of wanting to learn to walk. Typically babies who use walkers learn to crawl, stand and walk later than they otherwise would have and also continue to have delayed motor development for months after they learned to walk.

Because babies can't see their feet while they are in walkers, it also delays their development of proprioception, your brain's ability to know where your limbs are without looking and thus affects their balance, as well as being detrimental to their hand-eye-coordination development.

Using a walker may also lead to toe-walking, issues with muscle development with groups of muscles being too short and others too long, as well as irregular gait problems (a person's manner of walking).

The biggest delays however are the mental delays, with babies scoring lower on mental development testing still presenting 10 months after initial walker use.

The delays caused by walkers are 3 days for every 24 hours of walker use.

Baby jumpers promote movement that is detrimental to their motor skills. They are also not mature enough to control their body movements while moving in that unnatural and fast pace. Babies who use jumpers will thus have developmental problems relating to proper posture, leg and trunk control. Propelling themselves off the floor with their toes will also get them used to pointing their toes and as a result will delay walking when coupled with the posture issues.

Furthermore, jumpers cause muscle imbalances in their spines and nervous systems, worsened by the ability to push off with their feet (the planter reflex), causing foot deformities and the jumping motion also puts additional strain on the hip flexors.

The seats of walkers and jumpers are also not ergonomically designed and put strain on baby's hips and joints which can lead to hip dysplasia.

Baby walkers have been banned in Canada since 2004 and being in possession of a walker can lead to a $100,000 fine or 6 months in jail, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has also called for a ban on this type of gear and urge parents to throw away any of these items they already have.

Parents are encouraged to rather give their children opportunities for tummy time and to find other ways of keeping their children occupied. Baby wearing is also an excellent option if you want to get chores done.

Additional Information:

https://scialert.net/fulltextmobile/?doi=tmr.2016.76.81
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10533994
https://beyondbasicplay.com/2012/09/14/baby-walkers-why-youll-never-see-a-physical-therapist-recommend-one/
https://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/the-dangers-of-baby-walkers/

Photo credit: Kylie Otto