Australian health authorities are urging parents to stop putting their infants in baby walkers and exercise jumpers, due to a higher risk of injury and developmental delays.
SA Health’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Nicola Spurrier, warned that babies were missing out on crucial floor time when spending too long in walkers and jumpers. This is leading to many young children bypassing important development stages such as rolling and crawling because they don’t know how to balance or to use their muscles properly.
“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,” Dr Spurrier said.
“There is also an increased risk of injury and babies have been known to tip 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.”
SA Health has joined forces with Kidsafe to launch a public awareness campaign to “discourage the use of walkers and exercise jumpers altogether”.
Kidsafe CEO Holly Fitzgerald said the instruments had been gaining popularity in Australia. She said an additional danger associated with walkers was that they allowed babies to move quickly around the house and access that should be out of reach.
“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,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
“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.”
Medical experts are instead encouraging parents to opt for safer alternatives such as standing activity tables, push trolleys, and baby swings or rockers for younger babies.
For further information, please visit the Kidsafe website.