6 May 2012, by Tan Yi Lin

A Walk On The Dangerous Side?

Okay, someone please tell me that I’m not a bad mum for doing this:

I PUT MY BABY IN A WALKER.

Yes, you know – one of those little chairs on wheels. To many of us who were born in and grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, this would probably have been how we learnt to walk, according to our parents. Walkers were the norm then – we played in them, were fed our meals in them and well, walked in them.

These days, it’s a different story altogether. There is clear resistance on the part of medical experts and professional websites, such as the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), against putting an infant in a walker. After reading it all, I felt that I MIGHT AS WELL HAVE PUT A HEX ON MY BABY AND WISHED HER ILL.

According to one of the links on the AAP website, walkers are a recipe for danger and accidents, such as:

– Rolling down the stairs

– Getting burned. A child in a walker may be able to grab things that were previously out of his reach, such as hot drinks on a table, pots on a stove, etc.

– Drown, by falling into a pool or bathtub

– Be poisoned, by reaching chemicals and medicines placed on higher ground

The website highlights that walker injuries happen despite the baby being under close adult supervision because parents or caregivers cannot respond quickly enough. Apparently, walkers are such dangerous objects that the AAP has called for a ban on the manufacture and sale of baby walkers with wheels.

I know – it all sounds so doomsday and so grim, doesn’t it? I can’t deny that it’s not a fair call. Given all the injuries that infants in walkers are susceptible to, it’s better to be safe than sorry. In fact, it’s near impossible to find a store – mainly those selling western brands of baby products (e.g. Mothercare) – that still carries walkers. I’ve only seen walkers on display at local chains such as Kiddy Palace and the friendly neighbourhood HDB shop.

So why do we still put Coco in a walker?

This is why:

Coco is FIXATED on walking.

As I mentioned before she doesn’t want to crawl. Walking is her greatest ambition of the moment.

From a seated position, she will forcibly push back against us in an effort to get up onto her feet and then, supported by us, determinedly march off in her desired direction. When being carried, she pushes away from us, twists 180 degrees so that she faces away, then straightens her legs, arches her back and pushes downwards to signal that she wants to stand.

As much as it’s a pain to have to deal with her insistence on walking 3,493 times in a day, I have to give credit to this little girl for grasping the concept – and act – of walking to a ‘T’. She’s hits the ground heel first and then transfers her weight to her toes; she lifts her legs to cross raised barriers; and climbs stairs upright like an adult (Please excuse the proud mama here while I gush a little. Thanks.)

Deny her her freedom to move and suffer the wrath of her furious cries.

Yes, her demanding behaviour may come across as being rather spoilt. But I cannot find it in my heart to deny her her desire to explore the world beyond her play pen. What should I do? Refuse to pick her up? Refuse to set her down? Insist that she crawl? Distract her with activities other than walking? Yell at her to stop crying? Leave her to cry?

Sure, I could try to do all that – if I were her sole caregiver. But I’m not. My aunt comes over to look after Coco every weekday afternoon while I’m at work. She is nearing 70 years old. Although she is incredibly active and fit for her age and is still working on part time, it’s hard to ignore the fact that she is ageing. She highlighted that it was getting too tiring to support Coco on her walking expeditions around the house, or to fight against this baby’s fixation on walking. She repeatedly mentioned buying a walker, which would give Coco the freedom to move around on her own, while providing relief to my aunts aching arms and back.

Again, what do I do? Insist on not using a walker? Quit my job and look after Miss Feisty myself?

While I was dithering over the pros and cons of walkers, my aunt just went out and GOT ONE HERSELF. Man. Is feistiness genetic?!?!

So now my baby’s in a walker. I wasn’t concerned about the safety aspect – or rather the lack of it. I knew Coco was in good hands and under very close supervision at all times. I had the utmost confidence that her caregivers would not let any harm befall her. Plus, walkers nowadays come with brakes and have wider bases to prevent them from fitting through most doors.

But the warnings of medical experts nevertheless filled my head: Her leg muscles weren’t going to be well developed. She was going to have weak legs. She would be bow-legged. She would not be able to walk without the aid of a walker. Her development was going to be delayed. I imagined this bunch of medical elders frowning down upon me, shaking their fingers in my face and tut-tutting me for being an ignorant, negligent and unfit mother.

The AAP’s advice wasn’t particularly helpful either: “Throw out your baby walkers!” it exclaimed.

No, really, I couldn’t. How could I? My aunt and uncle (who is past 70) insisted that it was a gift from them, for Coco. Anyone who can bear to throw out a heartfelt gift must have heart of stone.

So we compromised.

Coco can use the walker, especially when she’s feeling particularly independent, energetic and adventurous, and needs to let off some steam by toddling around the house. This would give my aunt – and all Coco’s other caregivers (even us!) – a much needed break. The recommended maximum usage for stationary bouncers, “exer-saucers” and “jumperoos” and the like, is 30 minutes at a go. So we’re applying this guideline to Coco’s time in the walker – not that she willingly stays in it for 30 minutes anyway. A few minutes in it – and she wants out already.

Also, everybody would have to make sure that Coco was still spending a sufficient amount of time on her play mat – be it seated or lying on her tummy – to encourage her to move around (and hopefully crawl) without the use of walker.

We would also continue to support her on her walking tours of the house, outside of the walker, to help her develop and strengthen her leg muscles and let her practise her balancing skills.

So. Yes. I put my baby in a walker.

But I am confident that the measures that we are taking to manage the potential health and safety hazards are enough to prevent Coco from falling into danger (pun not intended!) Plus, if feistiness is a genetic trait, then hopefully straight and strong legs are too, for neither Dan nor I, nor our siblings, are bow legged, weak legged or still moving around with the aid of a walker, despite our parents’ affinity for babies on wheelies in the past.

Our greater challenge that lies ahead is not whether or not people are going to judge us for using a walker. It is training our little walking tourist to get down on all fours and CRAWL.

Why our fixation in encouraging, enticing and bribing (i.e. everything short of forcing) her to crawl?

For the answer, tune in to the next entry, coming up soon.

Tags : , ,

Posted on : May 6, 2012

Filed under : New Mums & Dads

5 Comments

Tan Yi Lin

Yi Lin

May 13th, 2012 at 9:58 am    


Hey ladies,

Thank you ALL for sharing your experiences, the reassurances and the tips.

Alex, yes, that’s a good point: I should find out more about the guidelines on using walkers now that we’re using one.

Hui: Your son was one young adventurer! Thanks for the tips. And yes, I’ll probably find myself thinking soon how much easier life was when babies just sat around and couldn’t move.

tings: Yeah, common sense tells you that walkers are not going to destroy babies right. But walkers have garnered so many negative reactions and one can’t help feeling worried after reading them all. Maybe I should just stop Googling so much!

Tres: Haha, I can imagine your parents and my aunt just rolling their eyes at how we modern mums are ruled by the Internet and “modern findings” when THEIR children are living proof that walkers (in themselves) are not harmful. I hope Coco turns out to be a confident walker like your daughter soon 🙂

Tres

May 10th, 2012 at 3:58 am    


HI hi,

YOu are not a bad mom! I was like you in the beginning, refuses to let my bb Girl sit in a walk hence my parents ( her primary caregivers) bought her 1 too. Letting her sit in it while she prepares meals or doing the housework.

oh well, all I can say is that my fears were unfounded! My bb girl starts walking on her own at 12 months and how at 13.5 months, she is walking confidently, pottering around her house all the time!

So no fear abt using the walker!

tings

May 9th, 2012 at 11:47 am    


how many bow-legged people do we see around, right? not that many.. at least i don’t. but i’m pretty sure a lot of people my generation grew up with walkers. so i don’t think its that legit a concern. XD

Hui

May 7th, 2012 at 1:42 am    


Hi,

Not to worry, my son also skip the crawling part when he was young! I had the exact same thinking like you. Haven’t crawl already wana learn walking?? And by his 1st birthday party, he was already walking around by himself around the venue. LOL!

And now he’s 7, he’s not bow legged nor having weak legs! So not to worry so much about the walker part!

As long as when she is in the walker, always place her feet in the correct position (stepping position if you get what I mean?) on the ground when she walks around. Just keep correcting it as they have the tendancy to just use whichever part of their feet to support their walking as long as their feet touches the ground!

The tough part is not here yet! Just wait till she masters WALKING! Enjoy!

Alex

May 7th, 2012 at 1:01 am    


No you’re not a bad mom at all. 🙂 We had a walker for our 2 kiddos and they’re ok, no bow legs or anything. Of course we kept the time in the walker to a certain period, made sure there was always someone watching them to keep from accidents and I think there is a guideline on how high the walker should be.

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