Parents warned not to use baby walkers and jolly jumpers

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock 

Health experts are urging parents not to use baby walkers and exercise jumpers for their babies, due to the risk of injury and developmental delays. 

A new campaign, launched by Kidsafe and SA Health and endorsed by the Australian Physiotherapy Association, aims to alert parents of the dangers and discourage the use of the products altogether.

"Excessive time in walkers and jumpers teaches babies to stand up on their tip toes, causing their calf muscles to tighten and affecting their ability to walk, and in some cases requiring treatment with casting or surgery," said SA Health's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nicola Spurrier. 

"Babies miss out on valuable floor time when spending too much time in walkers and jumpers, bypassing important development stages such as rolling and crawling.

In addition, Dr Spurrier said there is an increased risk of injury with the risk of babies tipping over and even topple down stairs while in walkers. In jumpers, injuries can occur if fingers become trapped by the chain or springs, by bouncing into walls or objects, or if babies are pushed by another child.

Unfortunately the products are still popular in Australia and some parents mistakenly believe they can help babies achieve milestones more quickly, but Kidsafe and health experts recommend they shouldn't be used at all. 

According to Kidsafe Chief Executive Officer, Holly Fitzgerald: "Baby walkers can be dangerous because they allow babies to move quickly around the house and gain access to things that are normally out of reach," she said.

"There is a risk of babies burning themselves if they reach hot drinks, ovens or heaters, and a risk of poisoning if they access and swallow cleaning products or medications.

Ultimately, baby walkers and jumpers don't actually help babies learn to walk as they don't learn to balance or use their muscles properly - and may even delay them reaching milestones (sitting, crawling, walking).

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"The best thing parents can do to help their baby's development is to let them spend plenty of time on the floor in a safe space where they can learn to roll, sit up and crawl," said Ms Fitzgerald. 

Photo: Kidsafe / SA Health brochure

The bottom line? If you have one of these walkers, put it away in the shed.

Instead, Kidsafe recommends the following better and safer alternatives:

Floor time
It is important baby practices tummy time on a mat, sitting, crawling.

Baby swing or rocker chair
Set-up on the floor, never up high. Use during awake time, not for sleep. Make sure the harness is done up correctly.

Activity Table
Practice pulling to stand at an activity table or low, secured furniture.

Push-type trolley
Practice learning to walk, behind a stable push-type trolley.

For more information visit the Kidsafe website