LITCHFIELD, Mich. -- Some say the best part about being a mother is watching your baby learn and grow, whether they're rolling over or walking on their own. But for anyone still relying on baby walkers to help their child get around, local experts say they may want to think twice.
"Seriously, every morning I wake up she’s doing something different," said Chelsea Graham, a new mother from Litchfield.
Graham said she first learned that baby walkers weren’t good for kids during her stay at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo. Although they may be easy to use, she says they’re definitely not safe.
While Graham's baby, Blaire, isn't walking or crawling quite yet, Graham is confident her little one is learning to do so the right way without the help of a walker. "She's close to crawling, but if I don't put her on her tummy and practice with her and just throw her in a walker, she's not going to want to be on her tummy," Graham said. "She's going to want to be on that walker, looking around, moving around with me and I don't know that I want her to do that."
According to injury prevention specialist Jennifer Hoekstra from Spectrum Health, Graham is making the right choice.
"Baby walkers are very dangerous," Hoekstra said. "The number one thing parents don’t realize is when you put a kiddo in one of those walkers, they all of the sudden have this mobility that’s above and beyond their control."
Babies are able to move more than three feet per second in walkers which can cause injuries like broken bones from falls down stairs or even burns from being up too high, Hoekstra says. "This puts kids higher so they can reach things more dangerous. They can reach hot things and poisonous things that we may have been prepared for if they were at ground level."
New safety standards have been put in place for baby walkers. The walkers are now required to be wider and have brakes.
But experts say safety isn't the only concern. "A lot of what I've read does say it's not a developmental help," said Hoekstra. "Mothers are just putting their babies in there, and they’re missing out on crawling - fine motor skills of crawling - and they’re not strengthening their upper muscles, and they need those muscles to walk."
Stationary play sets are offer an alternative to help babies like Blaire stand on their own two feet, "so they’re able to sit down stand up sit down stand up, so they can strengthen those muscles," Graham said.
Experts advise parents to check out the serial number and double check baby products on the Consumer Products Safety Commission website.
Also, concerned parents should check with daycares and with other parents to find out what they have in their homes.