Baby walkers can be used occasionally for short periods of time but they do not teach the child to walk. The walker, if used a lot, is purely negative for the child's development - both motor development and cognitive development. There is also a risk of accidents, which can lead to serious damage to the head and neck. In the baby walker, the child does not need to pay attention to motor function , he can tilt the head and lean the body without falling. He does not have to problem solve and carry his body weight and balance. The lack of problem solving leads to the child being inattentive. Some children that have spent a lot of time in a baby walkers find it difficult to weightbear on their legs during normal walking and some walk with their heads tilted in one direction. They have programmed "wrong" with regards to what a straight posture is. The first year is important - the child learns that the eyes are in the horizontal plane, not that one eye is higher than the other such as when the head is tilted. One new problem is that children that spend many hours in walking chairs are not spending time in the prone position. It has in some cases led to poor hand function because the hand needs to weightbear positioned against the floor in order for the wrist to bend backwards at the same time as having extended fingers. The weight bearing is important for the sense of movement, that we can "feel" the movements of the hand. The mobility is important in order for us to be able to have a strong grip with a bent back wrist. Children who have spent a lot of time in baby walkers chairs and do not want to be on their stomachs, often have fisted hands when placed in the prone position. It is important that you play and train and motivate the child to become stronger in hands and arms. When the child begins to walk, it is not as natural to develop the foundation for good sensation and strong grip in the hands. Research shows that walking chairs delay both motor and intellectual development and that they can cause accidents. In Canada, baby walkers have long been banned, you pay a heavy fine if you sell or import a baby walker. Read an excerpt from one of LTM's Facebook posts here to learn more about why
Crawling is an incredible task, which affects so many other things such as muscle strength in the shoulders, arms and hands. I was so happy at work the other day when my 3-year-old friend (with special challenges) had learned to crawl. He could explore, disappear in a different direction from mother, choose who he wanted to go to and play with, peek behind furniture. Crawling is more tiring than walking - just try to crawl for a few hours (most likely useful for anyone who text on the phone most of the day - stretches the hand muscles)! This made me think about what I recently learned, that in Canada, baby walkers are forbidden. If you sell a baby walker you can get fined up to $ 100,000 or get 6 months in prison! Why? 3 causes: 1. Accidents, 2. Delayed and impaired motor development 3. Even more deteriorated than motor development becomes the mental development. There is research on this. How can this happen? Well, compare this: If a baby is lying on her stomach and begins to stretch her arm to grab a toy, then she can have new sensory experiences when she tastes the toy, feels her hands on the structure, or hears the sound and feels the weight when she knocks the toy in the floor. These experiences lead to curiosity and to pushing her boundaries and trying to reach a little longer, perhaps the child will start moving to one side in a circle to find something new to explore, and get new sensory experiences and new learning - one might find one piece of paper that has so many other qualities than the toy. This leads to even more curiosity and the child tries strategies and pushes herself to be able to move forward, crawl, get under the chair - learn the meaning of the word "under". The baby is constantly engaged in problem solving, finding strategies, relating the body to the environment, how to reach what she wants and learning new things. The motor ability leads to perception of senses that leads to learning (cognition). In the baby walker the child "flies" forward, does not have to carry her own body weight, she sits and pushes a little with her feet. She doesn't even have to keep her head straight with the eyes in the horizontal plane, because she doesn't fall even if she leans. If there is a toy on the table in front of her and it falls down, then the child does not see the toy and cannot pick it up, but continues to move forward. There will be no problem solving and no lesson on how to relate the body to the environment. The child does not need to pay attention in the same way as the crawler, and the child does not fall when trying to do things on the edge of what she is capable of, and by making mistakes and finding new ways to do it better next time. All this is something I take for granted, but the fact that there are researchers and laws in Canada that understand this is incredible! Sweden is far behind. Here children sit in so-called "ergonomic" strollers - they should be banned! More about this later!
Asymmetric head shapes are called “Plagiocephaly”
In a child's development, the first thing the child learns is head control with a straight neck and the eyes in the horizontal plane. The programming of head control is synchronized by receptors in the neck, vision and the vestibular system. In the abdominal position, the child lifts the head from side to side, the eyes moving before the neck. The lift activates the vestibular system in the inner ear. The child bears weight on the cheeks and hands, doing weight transfers left and right and initiating eye-hand coordination. Pretty soon, the baby can keep his head straight and look up. When children lie on their backs, none of this happens and they become weak and cannot keep their heads vertical. One side is strong the other side is weak. Many wait with abdominal position until the child is 3 months. When the child suddenly is put on the stomach and unable to lift the head, the child protests and starts crying. Many parents feel sorry for the child and pick him up. Often the child is placed in a walker or some other chair or carriage since the parents may think that something is wrong when the child is crying. A child who is strong and capable often becomes a satisfied and happy child. A child who is weak becomes frustrated and sad. Physical well-being has a connection to mental health already during infancy.
In normal motor development you can expect:
That the child can lift the head from side to side in abdominal position already during the newborn period
At 3 months, children are expected to be able to lie on their stomach, have good head control and switch between forearm and hand support.
Between 3 and 6 months, children move around their own axis in prone, moving in a circle
During the third quarter, children learn to crawl or to transport the body in some way.
Today, there are many 7-month-old children who barely can lift their heads in the prone position and who lie with fisted hands. Lack of knowledge about children's motor development and lack of child physical therapists in primary care has led to a lack of information for parents. Child health care in Sweden needs to pay attention to the consequences of inactivity and asymmetric head shapes. The children need be referred to child physical therapists early when identifying asymmetric neck function. In the United States, research has shown that asymmetric head shapes can affect brain development, including fewer connections between the brain halves and poorer developed posterior part of the brain.
In Canada, baby walkers are banned - they cannot be sold or imported. Research shows that they cause accidents, delayed and impaired motor development and even worse development of the child's cognition. The children become "inattentive", they do not need to problem solve, they cannot fall and do not develop the movement strategies which, among other things, teaches them how to bear body weight and increase range of motion, how to activate muscles, how to regain balance and how to perform movements.
In the clinical day-to-day life, we see a clinical picture that previously did not exist. It shows impaired hand function, weakness, impact on balance and neck back problems. Children can walk with tilted heads, they do not know what "straight" is. Often, the children have walked in baby walkers or sat with rounded backs on rear-tilted seats which made it impossible to keep their back and neck straight. Incorrectly baby carriages with a rear-tilted seat are called "ergonomic", which is false marketing when the children sit passively, cannot balance and become weak.
Knowledge and efforts are needed to counteract this passivation and deterioration of infant development. In addition to having children lying in the prone position from the first day of life, environmental factors that affect children's development need to support activation of postural muscles and good motor development. The Swedish Standardization Institute and other regulatory authorities for product quality assurance need to prohibit baby walkers, non-ergonomic strollers and poor seating for children. All this is needed to ensure that newborn healthy children are given tasks that are needed for development and an environment that leads to a good development, with active and happy children with good physical self-esteem that creates a prerequisite for play and movement.