Are Infant Walkers Safe?

I'm pregnant with my first child. My mom wants to buy me a baby walker, like I had when I was little. But I'm worried about the safety of these devices. Are walkers a hazard or am I just being a paranoid first-time mom?
- Jessica

Looks like your mother's intuition has already kicked in. Walkers — devices with wheeled frames and suspended seats that allow babies to move around using their feet — are a big no-no nowadays. Health experts strongly discourage the use of walkers.

While infant walkers were very popular years ago, doctors have increasingly found them to be a leading cause of serious injuries in babies. While in walkers, babies can roll into hot stoves, heaters, and pools. They also can fall over objects or down a flight of stairs. In fact, falling down stairs is one of the most common injuries from walkers. Babies who fall can suffer broken bones and traumatic brain injuries. Even gates at the top of stairs or adult supervision often fail to prevent falls.

And walkers let babies reach higher than normal, so they're more likely to grab dangerous objects (like hot coffee cups and kitchen knives) or touch stovetops, which can lead to burns and other injuries.

Research shows that walkers do not provide any advantage to a child's development. They do not teach infants to walk or help them walk sooner than they would without one. Walkers also may deny babies the necessary opportunities for pulling up, creeping, and crawling.

To provide a safe play area for your baby, choose an activity center or bouncy seat, stationary rocker, swing, or play yard instead. And be sure that everyone who cares for your child knows about the dangers of walkers.

Reviewed by: Susan Kelly, MD, and Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: October 2013