Does A Baby Walker Really Work To Get Baby Walking Sooner?

A baby walker especially the type where Baby sits in, date back as far as 1870. But at that stage it looked like a contraption within which babies sat and merely steered it around by moving only their toes and feet - which barely touched the floor.

Parents have been using this aid to amuse and keep babies occupied for many years. Nowadays many parents believe they can use this plaything to encourage their baby to walk.

Of course, when parents talk about babies and encouraging them to walk, one question is bound to be raised sooner or later...

"Does it really encourage my baby to walk? And will it help my child to walk at an earlier age?"

The answer is unfortunately not as easy as a mere "yes" or "no".

But before we continue, for the purposes of this specific article I am looking at walkers where Baby sits in. This is the type where the walker allows your child to move about on the floor by merely tip-toeing to and fro. This is possible since most of your child's weight is supported by the walker... not by himself.

I am not talking about the push-type baby walkers in this article... that is a totally different story. For more information about the push-type walkers, click here.

Normal baby development follows very definite development patterns.

These patterns are commonly known as baby milestones. And each milestone develops very specific skills babies need for normal functioning. So, learning sitting balance only follows once proper head control was mastered. And sitting balance prepares your baby for crawling which gets her ready for standing on her own and, finally, walking.

Most babies automatically learn to walk if left on their own. But only if their bodies are really ready to do so. Before your baby will walk, she needs to master certain balancing skills. And her muscles must be strong enough to keep her upright and to balance her over her legs and feet. And, of course, she must be strong enough to protect her when she falls when learning to walk.

Many toys and aids are nowadays designed to encourage and stimulate infants to develop these skills. Thereby stimulating development.

On the other hand, walkers were initially used as an aid to give infants the ability to move about in an upright position before they've developed the skills to do so on their own.

Walkers were never designed to stimulate and encourage normal walking.

What it means is this:

Before any baby can walk, she must master proper balance and bearing weight on her legs and feet.

But when small babies spend most of their early weeks in a walking ring, they almost always learn to walk on their toes.

This walking style is abnormal and often shortens the Achilles tendon which eventually messes up your child's balance when she really starts to walk independently.

What's more, the actual standing position in a walker doesn't improve an infant's balance. And teaching the knees to take weight is often disturbed and often does not develop naturally.

Practical observations show that many babies who spend most of their days in a walker struggle to or never crawl.

This is especially true if a baby is put in a walker at a very early age. Or spends too much time in a walking ring.

Crawling on the other hand teaches important motor and perceptual skills such as distance, depth... concepts such as in, out, on and under.

Chances are therefore good that a baby who spends too little time crawling won't properly master or take longer to master these skills.

Also, sit-type baby walkers encourage random leg movement when Baby merely pushes it in any direction when moving around. On the other hand, crawling teaches rhythmic leg movements which are yet another requirement for learning to walk.

One more thing:

Injuries to your baby's head caused by the walker falling over is probably the single biggest reason to use a baby walker sensibly and under constant supervision.

Bottom line is...

Spending too much time in a sit-type walker rarely encourages your baby to walk sooner

In short, your baby will walk when she's ready. And that's usually when she has mastered all the necessary skills. All babies do not walk at exactly the same age. Some walk as early as 9 months while others do not walk until about 14 months or even later.

The thing is, given enough encouragement and time to develop muscle strength and balance, all babies will walk when really ready. We know babies enjoy the excitement of cruising around in a baby walker - but it takes time away from the activities that produce the real readiness for walking.

So, is using a walker forbidden?

No, definitely not.

As long as you use it sensibly and for short periods to keep your child entertained while you're occupied elsewhere, it is still a good friend.

A 'push' type walker

 

  • Encourage tummy time as much as possible

  • Give her the freedom to move around to develop strength and coordination. This means that even her clothes must not be too tight fitting or she must not be too tightly tucked-in

  • Make sure there are soft toys to play with, handle, throw and kick… even in the bath

  • Give toys that make a noise she can bang together - it's a wonderful activity to stimulate using both hands and arms

  • Use various techniques to encourage crawling

  • Consider getting a stable push type baby walker when she can stand on her own, and…

  • If you do decide to buy a baby walker, get as much multi-use from it as possible

  • For more on baby walkers, click here