The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), joined by other children’s advocacy groups, has petitioned the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to prohibit the manufacture and sale of baby walkers. This petition is the result of a large number of injuries to children caused by baby walkers.

While “new” safety standards have been in place since 1997, such as being wider so they don’t fit through most doors and having brakes to stop them at the edge of stairs, they do not prevent all injuries from walkers. They still have wheels so children can still move fast and reach higher.

While considering the recommendation of the AAP to ban walkers, the CPSC suggests the following safety precautions for parents who choose to purchase a walker:

• First is to recognize that walkers do not promote early developmental skills such as walking. They may even delay learning to walk.

• Check for hazardous areas where the baby in the walker might go.

• Block stairways and exit doorways. Rolling down stairs can cause broken bones and severe head injuries.

• Avoid areas with uneven floors such as a carpet edge or thresholds.

• Clear away the objects on tables, counters and shelves. Your child can now reach higher and can pull a tablecloth off a table spilling hot liquids, etc.

• Children have drowned falling into a pool or bathtub while in a walker.

• Avoid burn injuries by not allowing walkers close to ranges, space heaters or fireplaces.

• Read the warning label on the walker.

• After placing the baby in a walker, watch the child very carefully every second because they can move very fast.

The risk of baby walkers far outweighs the benefit.

Some things that are safer and enjoyable might be a stationary activity center, which has no wheels, but have seats that rotate, tip or bounce. Play yards or playpens, are safety zones for children as they learn to sit, crawl or walk.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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