5 crucial things to remember before you buy a baby walker
If you are wondering how to choose a baby walker, here’s all that you need to know before you hit the market
Baby walkers have been part of a long drawn debate for quite sometime now. While some new parents consider them accident prone, for others, it is an entertaining choice to helps babies get on their feet faster.
Vadodara-based Jhumari Nigam, mother to 5-year-old Tara, for instance, says, “I kept a desi version of the baby walker for a brief period just to keep a video for posterity. It certainly provided me with some peace and time while she wanted to run around. But frankly, it's a not a must-have. Buy a walker if you can afford to and don't have support system at home to keep an eye on the child.”
We spoke to two other young mums who shared a similar view. Kanika Handa, Kuwait-based homemaker and mother to three-year-old Vaani says, “I bought a baby walker but she did not use it much so there was no safety hazard. Although, she did pick up walking really early, perhaps due to the baby walker.”
Another new mum, Sonal Mehra Taneja, a Delhi-based homemaker says, “I bought two variants of baby walkers. One, in which the child can sit and the other where he learns to walk. My one-year-old twins thoroughly enjoyed the former.”
Some experts believe that buying a baby walker can be a good experience for the parent as well as the child. Medically, a baby walker can strengthen a baby’s leg muscles and help them balance and enhance their sense of direction.
“Yes, baby walkers can give more strength to the baby's legs. But there are limitations to this fact. Parents should not put a very small baby into a walker in a hurry to get them standing. At the same time parents must not get a walker for a baby who is already taking independent steps comfortably. Also, they must never leave them unattended in a baby walker,” says Smriti Sawhney, clinical psychologist at ePsyClinic.com, Delhi.
Things to remember while buying a baby walker
To ensure that a baby learns to stand and walk using a walker, Dr Sawhney lists a few pointers for parents to keep in mind while selecting a baby walker.
- Select a walker that allows your baby to maneuver easily. If you select a baby walker that is extremely heavy or presents too much friction on the floor due to its poor finish, it may lead to more accidents or the baby may get discouraged to use it in the future. He may also cry the minute you put him in the walker rather than enjoying it.
- Select a walker that has a broad base since it acts as a preventive agent against falls and will also prevent the baby from entering doorways leading to places they shouldn’t venture into anyway.
- Look for additional safety features such as wheel locks or seat belts which would make using the walker a safe experience for your baby.
- Make sure that the material used for making the walker is non-hazardous, that is, it is made from non-toxic materials with non-toxic paints
- Look our for manufacturing defects or poor finishing signs like rough edges, uncomfortable stitching on the seat or easy to come off small parts etc which may hurt the baby
She says that making a checklist of these important must-haves can ensure the use of a baby walker to be a happy experience for the parent and their baby.
However, she says that before you hit the market, analyse the small print. "There is another side to the story as well," she says. One set of experts and parents also believe that baby walkers can be dangerous for babies.
Continue to read more on why some believe that a baby walker can hinder a baby's natural growth
Research suggests that there are two features that make a baby walker considerably dangerous. First, they increase the mobility of a child since they move uncontrollably at a rate of up to 1 metre per second. Second, the child is unreasonably elevated from the ground, making it difficult for him to even know he is walking. In fact, according to a recent study by Childsafetyeurope, baby walkers actually inhibit a child’s ability to learn to walk while putting babies at an increased risk of injury.
Dr Sagrika Popli, senior consultant physiotherapist, Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre, Delhi, says, “As a baby grows, he gets a strong urge to move. For this, he struggles to move his arms and legs by stretching, rolling and crawling. A baby walker may make your baby skip this developmental journey."
She adds that with a baby walker, a baby learns to glide more than walking, with their toes curled in an unnatural position. "According to a recent study, kids who learnt to walk through a baby walker had delayed walking pattern by two to three weeks. Ideally, the bones above the knees are used for walking. However, children who learn to walk through a walker, tend to use the bones below the knees," says Popli.
Most of the walkers are designed in such a way that the baby is unable to see their legs while gliding. Because of this, they do not come to know that they are using their legs in this activity. Some parents are also of a similar view.
For instance, mother to seven-year-old Indira, Rewati Rau, says she has never been in favour of baby walkers and therefore, never bought one for her daughter. “I am not sure how true it is, but I've heard baby walkers put unnecessary strain on the baby's legs. I would rather let nature take its course,” says the Delhi-based media professional.
As with every subject, the decision to buy a baby walker depends heavily on the way its pros and cons are measured. As a parent it is your responsibility to conduct a thorough market research before you actually head out to buy a baby walker. Mind the make and quality of the walker and also remember that even if the child does not use it as such, it is still a supervised activity that you can reminisce about in the future.
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