More important, walkers pose a significant risk of injury. "Kids this age are simply not at a developmental stage where they know how to handle that kind of mobility," says Smith, who is also the past chairman of the AAP's Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention.
Walkers manufactured before safety standards were updated in 1997 are most likely to cause falls. But even new walkers, including those certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturer's Association, can be risky. A walker can turn over when its wheels get snagged, or it can roll up against hot stoves and heaters. Outdoors, they can cause children to fall from decks and patios, over curbs, and into swimming pools. These accidents can occur despite having safety gates either because the gate is closed incorrectly or because it can't hold up against the impact of a walker propelled by an enthusiastic baby.
A new safety standard was issued for walkers in 1997 to protect children against stairway falls. A walker should have a rubber friction strip on the bottom that should stop it from moving if its front wheels drop over the edge of a step, or it should be too wide to fit through a doorway that's 36 inches wide. The number of walker-related incidents declined significantly after that standard was introduced. Still, baby walkers that don't conform to this national safety standard continue to be used (given away or even re-sold) and recalled in the U.S. And in many homes, babies in walkers can easily get access to dangerous areas through large, open spaces or archways between rooms.
We don't consider any walker to be safe, and advise parents not to put their children in one. Our tests have found that friction strips don't always work, and they might wear out or come loose. We have not rated walkers for this report.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that in 2010, 4,000 children under the age of 5 suffered injuries related to baby walkers, jumpers, and stationary exercisers. (The CPSC does not separate walkers from jumpers and stationary exercisers in their data.) Between 2006 and 2008, there were four deaths associated with those products.
The AAP urges parents not to use baby walkers, and has long recommended that the U.S. government ban them. New and used baby walkers are already prohibited from being advertised, sold, or imported (even secondhand) in Canada. We agree that walkers pose a safety hazard, even those that meet the safety standard. The simple fact is that babies can move with surprising speed in walkers, and as long as the devices have wheels, no standard can make them safe.
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) certifies certain walker brands, meaning that they meet voluntary safety standards. But that doesn't override the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics and Consumer Reports say that walkers are unsafe.