More than half of all babies between the ages of 5 and 15 months use walkers. Estimated sales have been as high as three million per year. Babies almost universally love them, and parents love to use them because they may keep an otherwise fussy baby entertained
There are several types of baby walkers, but most people are familiar with the typical plastic base, wheeled frame, and fabric seat that have leg holes to allow the child to scoot along the floor. Aside from the entertainment this toy gives a child, parents give other reasons for using the walker such as promoting walking and providing exercise. However, up to one-third of parents have said they use the walker because they feel it will keep their infant safe. Unfortunately, none of these are true. The few studies that have been done looking at the how walkers affect development have shown that they do not affect the time at which a child learns to walk. And in fact, most studies have shown that if there is any effect on walking, it is a delay of a few weeks. Babies who use a walker tend to have an abnormal gait at first, but this tends to resolve quickly with time.
Safety, however, is an entirely different issue, and is one in which there is a lot known. In 1997, baby walkers sent more than 14,000 babies to the hospital emergency room. Walkers were even involved in 34 deaths from 1973 to 1998.