November 9, 2023

Baby Walkers May Slow Infants' Development

Baby Walkers May Slow Infants' Development

For a new parent, whether it’s your baby’s first smile or their attempt to sit up, everything is exciting. If your little one is approaching 9–12 months, you may be eagerly anticipating the next big milestone—their first steps. Babies usually show clear signs when they are ready to take their first step, so keep an eye out for those adorable attempts that indicate their eagerness to explore.

It is natural for parents to want to help their child take their first step as soon as possible, which is why most parents put their baby in a baby walker. Although this is a popular practice, you must be thinking, "Is it OK to put a 6 month old in a walker?" With this blog, we hope to answer how baby walkers impact your baby’s physical and sensory development. Read on to learn how you can help your baby take their first step.

Signs that Your Baby will Walk Soon

Babies start preparing themselves to walk right after they are born. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), at around 9 months of age, babies start showing some clear signs that they are ready to start walking. While they are showing these adorable little signs, they are also developing skills like balance, stability and confidence. Let's take a closer look at these signs and how they help in the development of your baby.

  1. Before they begin to walk, babies usually begin to pull themselves up. You may see some squatting movements too. These are your baby’s ways to develop muscular strength and hone their motor skills.
  2. They may begin to grab furniture in an attempt to pull their bodies up into a standing position.
  3. Your baby may begin to 'cruise'. This means that they will move around the room while holding onto furniture and objects. At this stage, they are learning how to shift their weight and move their bodies forward.
  4. They stand on their own with stability and balance.
  5. They may begin to experiment with risky movements such as trying to take the stairs alone or attempting to jump from your couch. This is a sign that they are developing confidence in their ability to make unrestricted walking movements.

How Using a Walker may Delay a Baby's Development ?

Most parents buy baby walkers thinking that their babies will learn to walk faster with them. But no studies show that baby walkers can help babies walk or develop faster. However, there are some studies that suggest that baby walkers can affect a baby’s natural learning and developmental curve. According to a Harvard Medical School paper, and as discussed above, learning to walk isn’t much about using the legs. It is more about pulling the body to stand, balancing it, and taking steps without support. The use of a baby walker can disrupt this natural process in the following ways:

1. When babies use walkers, they are often placed in a position where their toes are supporting their weight rather than their entire foot. Once out of the walker, babies can have a tendency to keep using their toes, which is not a safe or correct way to learn how to walk.

2. Walkers take your baby's time away from the floor, so they miss out on practising important, repetitive movements needed for them to reach their walking milestones, such as sitting, crawling, and standing without support.

3. When babies sit and pull themselves up, they are learning how to balance. A baby does not learn this if placed too early in a walker, thus delaying the development of such skills.

4. Being in a walker or jumper also means less time on hands and knees in a crawling or pre-crawling position. This is important for developing weight bearing through both the pelvis and shoulders.

5. They prevent the visual experience of moving limbs because of their design, which is believed to have a critical role in the development of motor systems.

6. A baby who is using a walker can move much more quickly and unpredictably than they would be able to otherwise, making it difficult for caregivers to anticipate and prevent accidents. Baby walkers can also tip over easily, which can result in falls or injuries.

While studies like the ones in this Family Health Journal show that the use of a baby walker may interfere with a baby’s locomotor and cognitive skills, the evidence is still not enough to prohibit the use of baby walkers. So it is up to the parents to decide if they want to use one or not. If you are considering using a baby walker, it is important to carefully read all of the instructions provided with the product. Additionally, consider the factors discussed below when deciding when to introduce a walker to your baby.

The Right Time to Introduce a Walker to the Baby

Many parents wonder at what age should a baby start walking in a walker. Most people start supporting their baby’s movements with a baby walker by the time their baby is 6 months old. Walkers are usually designed for babies between the ages of 4 and 16 months. While there is no fixed age for a baby to use a walker, the baby’s strength, development, and size must be considered before making this decision.

Your baby should have full control of their head and be able to hold his or her head up without any additional support. This usually happens around 6 months of age. In addition to this, your baby should already have some level of mobility developed. For example, your little one should be a good crawler and be able to get around or have the ability to stand in their crib. You must also ensure that your baby’s feet are able to touch the floor and are not hanging while sitting in their baby walker. 

Consider the above factors before introducing your baby to a baby walker.

Conclusion

As a parent, you want the best for your child's physical and cognitive development, and learning to walk is a significant milestone that you naturally want your little one to reach as quickly as possible. The best way to put your baby on a journey of healthy cognitive and physical development is to let them learn and practise walking independently. Along with this, a bit of praise and encouragement will go a long way in helping your baby achieve this milestone and develop crucial skills and talents that will last a lifetime.

Raising Superstars offers prodigy programmes designed by experts to help your child meet their early childhood milestones faster and better. Our much-loved programmes comprise practical, screen-free, and age-appropriate activities to boost your child’s growth and development. Click here to know more.

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