Baby walkers still sending thousands of kids to ER despite warnings

Pediatricians have long warned about the dangers of baby walkers — once a staple in homes with small kids. But thousands of children continue to be hurt by the products in the U.S. each year, a new study has found.

Almost 231,000 babies younger than 15 months were treated for walker-related injuries in emergency rooms from 1990 to 2014, averaging more than 9,000 kids per year during that period, according to the paper published Monday in Pediatrics. About 90 percent suffered from head or neck injuries, and almost three-quarters were hurt after falling down stairs.

The number of babies harmed has been dropping, but infant walkers continue to be an "important and preventable" source of injury for young children, noted lead author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and his team.

"We know these walkers continue to be used in homes," Smith told TODAY. "They give children mobility before they're able to handle it … They can move up to 4 feet per second in a walker and even the best parents in the world who are watching their children closely can't react that quickly."

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Popular babies names for 2018
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Popular babies names for 2018

AIDY

Thanks to SNL’s breakout star, this nickname for Aiden or Adele has class, sass and serious staying power.

COCO

Whether you’re channeling the classic (Chanel), the modern (Pixar’s latest blockbuster) or the Cox-Arquette, this one (a derivation of "cocoa") has good taste on lock.

GIGI

Just like its sister names Lulu, Mimi and Lula—this super-stylish mini moniker is simply irresistible.

KAI

Meaning “sea” in Hawaiian and “forgiveness” in Japanese, this unisex name was among the top 100 U.S. baby names last year and is up 11 points since 2016, according BabyCenter.

JASPER

Safer than Jagger, fresher than Jaden, the fifth most popular name of 2017, meaning “bringer of treasure,” continues to “rocket up the U.S. ranks,” according to Nameberry.

SAVANNAH

The Today host could use a hug, and possibly your child named in her honor. And since this is the 40th most popular girl’s name in the U.S., it’s both unique and uniquely recognizable.

GREY

Leave it to Molly Sims to make an eternally cool yet utterly refreshing choice.

LEVI

Conjuring classic denim and the children of both Matthew McConaughey and Sheryl Crow, the 29th most popular name of 2017 is steadily climbing the charts.

RONAN

In Celtic it means a pledge, or a promise. In 2018 it means deserving of an Oscar—and a Pulitzer.

QUINN

Of Irish origin meaning “wise,” it works for both boys and girls, as either a first or a middle name. Pretty smart indeed.

BODHI

While Patrick Swayze’s Point Break surfer will always be the original Bodhi to us, Nikki Reed and Ian Somerhalder made waves when they gave this increasingly popular name to their baby daughter.

KENNEDY

Attention-grabbing and presidential, experts predict it will become one of the top five most popular baby names next year—for girls.

FINN

Predicted by some to be the number one name for boys in 2018, it didn’t even crack the top 100 last year.


 

AURORA

Ever since Rachel Bilson named her daughter Briar Rose, and Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz gave their son the middle name Mowgli, Disney names have been fair game. The experts at BabyGaga predict Sleeping Beauty’s given name—already the eighth most popular of 2017—will be a sleeper hit again next year.

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Baby walkers are an unnecessary and dangerous product, said Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University and chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention.

"People think it's cute, but there really is nothing good about them," Hoffman said. "If there's an infant walker in the home, there's a clear and present danger to that child."

After the AAP began calling for a ban on the sale of baby walkers in the U.S. in the 1990s, voluntary safety standards were adopted to reduce falls down the stairs: The walkers had to be wider than standard doors or stop if the wheels dropped over the edge of a step. The number of injuries plummeted 84 percent from 1990 to 2003.

The trend continued after a mandatory federal safety standard was put in place in 2010, with the average annual number of infant walker-related injuries dropping to 2,165 over the next four years, a 22 percent drop compared to the previous four-year period.

Still, Smith and Hoffman support a ban like the one in Canada, which became the first and only country in the world to prohibit baby walkers in 2004.

It's against the law for anyone to sell, advertise or import the products in Canada, whether new or as a second-hand item.

Hoffman believes families are lulled into a false sense of security when they can still purchase baby walkers in the U.S.

"There's this assumption among parents, understandably, that if something is being sold, it should be OK," he said. "As the study shows, there are still a lot of kids getting injured."

Parents may think the products help kids learn to walk more quickly, but studies show they can actually delay mental and motor development.

Advice to parents:

If you are thinking about buying a baby walker, please don't, the experts urged. "Things happen in an instant, kids are quick and impulsive and parents get distracted even in the most perfect situation," Hoffman said. "There's clearly risk for serious injury — parents should not use them," Smith added.

If you have a baby walker at home already, don't use it. Dismantle it and get rid of it. Don't sell it: "You don't want anyone else using it, it's a dangerous product," Hoffman advised.

Consider a stationary activity center instead. It allows babies to bounce, swivel, rock and occupy themselves in a protected, self-contained space. The lack of wheels prevents them from scooting across the floor and getting into harm's way, Smith noted.

"If there's not a walker in the home, there's a zero percent chance that a child is going to be injured in a walker," Hoffman said.

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