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For 75,000 Nevada Children, Baby Walkers Pose an Overlooked Risk

October 19, 2018
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It’s a common scenario: a busy parent has spent the day caring for their young baby, and now they are both physically and mentally exhausted. If the child would only sit still for five minutes, laundry could be started, dinner could be made, or a hard-working mother or father could relax briefly. There are several devices parents turn to in these circumstances that strap a baby in with some sort of activity or entertainment. Bouncers, baby gyms, and Bumbo chairs are common favorites. Another commonly deployed device is the baby walker. Baby walkers are commonly found on baby registries, and they may seem innocuous at first glance. However, what parents may not know is that by putting their child in a mobile device, they may be courting risk to their infant of serious injury or even death.

Baby walkers are a favorite among new parents, because not only do they keep a young baby strapped in and entertained, but they allow for movement and exercise. Babies who balk at a stationary activity seat may be more likely to accept a few minutes in a mobile device such as a walker. Parents may think that the walker will encourage their child to walk sooner, as it allows them to practice the movement in an upright position. Babies themselves may be excited to try toddling around in a walker before they have the strength to do so independently. However, it is the mobile nature of the baby walker that makes it such a serious risk to babies.

Although a baby strapped into a baby walker cannot climb onto the table or open the door and walk into the street, the young child becomes mobile.  Babies can move quickly in walkers, sometimes faster than parents realize. Conditions become especially dangerous when there are stairs or steps present.  Between 1990 and 2014, more than 230,000 children under the age of 15 months were treated in emergency room settings for walker-related injuries. [1] Of these injuries, 74% were the result of a fall down stairs while strapped into a walker. Most of the injuries involved the head and/or neck, and 38% resulted in a skull fracture. A separate investigation found that eight babies died between 2004 and 2008 as a result of injuries sustained while strapped into a baby walker. [2] These are serious, life-threatening injuries that could have been avoided with better safety regulations and parent outreach.

Because of the seriousness of the risks related to baby walkers, there was a call to ban the devices entirely in 2010. [3] Although the ban was rejected, safety requirements were put in place to help decrease the risks associated with walkers. Manufacturers are now required to equip the devices with brakes. This regulation was followed by a 23% drop in walker-related injuries. However, an estimated 2,000 children per year continue to seek emergency medical treatment for injuries related to baby walkers.

While walker-related injuries have declined, they are still numerous. Until baby walkers are banned entirely they will still send countless children to the emergency room every year. This is an issue that affects approximately 75,000 Nevada children between the ages of 0 and 2. [5] If federal regulators won’t take action to address this risk, will Nevada’s state legislature?

[1] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2018/09/13/peds.2017-4332

[2] https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/pdfs/blk_pdf_walkers.pdf

[3] https://www.cpsc.gov/~/link/136cf994237446f5998d36f7b0c1f349.pdf

[4] https://knpr.org/npr/2018-09/injuries-continue-doctors-renew-call-ban-infant-walkers

[5] https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/nevadacityiowa,nv/PST045217