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Baby walkers increase risk of brain injury, doctors warn

Eilish O'Regan

Published 06/04/2011

Baby walkers can do more harm than good, putting a child at risk of brain injury, according to doctors.

"Despite their name, baby walkers do not help a child learn to walk and, in fact, use of a walker can inhibit walking ability," wrote the doctors of Dublin's Temple Street Children's Hospital in the 'Irish Medical Journal'.

"In countries where baby walkers are used, there has long been controversy about their risks and benefits.

"Parents give various reasons for using walkers -- to keep the infant quiet and happy, to encourage mobility and provide exercise."

They pointed out that baby walkers are often used by parents and care-givers for children aged between five months and 15 months.

Most parents, the doctors said, think that a walker is a safe place to keep children entertained while they tend to other tasks, or they believe the walker will help a baby learn to walk.

"Babies who used walkers scored lower on locomotive development tests than babies who did not use walkers. Furthermore, use of a baby walker puts a baby at increased risk of injuries, which almost always occur to the head," they wrote.

"Given the high rate of injuries combined with their lack of tangible benefit for child-rearing, and the wide availability of safer alternatives, we question why they are allowed to be sold at all.

"In many European countries, baby walkers are linked to more injuries than any other type of nursery equipment, causing an unacceptably high number of severe falls, burns and scalds, and poisonings."

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