Because infant walkers have caused numerous deaths since the 1970s and offer no developmental benefit to babies, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending they be banned.
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday supports a ban on manufacturing and selling these types of apparatuses, also known as “exersaucers.”
“I view infant walkers as inherently dangerous objects that have no benefit whatsoever and should not be sold in the U.S.,” Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, a pediatrician who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, told National Public Radio in regards to the new study.
According to the AAP, “exersaucers” are designed to give kids 5 to 15 months old more mobility before they learn how to walk. The main type of injuries caused by these toys come from falling down stairs or when a child gains access to an environment that hasn’t been baby-proofed, for example a kitchen with a hot oven door. These injuries can be severe, including brain injury and poisoning. Between 2004 and 2008, infant walkers were associated with eight deaths, the study found.
The study looked at data on children less than 15 months old who’d been treated in emergency rooms between 1990 and 2014 after using a walker to see if a mandatory federal safety standard issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2010 decreased the number or severity of injuries.
It found about 230,676 babies visited the ER for infant walker injuries during that time frame, most of them, about 90 percent, because they’d hurt their head or neck. Some 74 percent had fallen down stairs. While less than 5 percent of the total patients the study looked at were admitted to the hospital, almost 38 percent of those admitted had skull fractures.
The federal standard did positively impact walker-related injuries, however, helping decrease the rate by 22.7 percent over the four-year period after its implementation. Still, it’s not enough to quell pediatricians’ fears.
In a statement shared with PEOPLE, the AAP explained: “Because the safest baby walker is one without wheels, stationary activity centers should be promoted as a safer alternative to mobile walkers.” In fact, after stationary “walkers” were introduced in 1994, related injuries notably decreased.
The AAP also stressed that walkers do not facilitate walking or other motor skills, contrary to what parents might think. The group also explained that walkers allow babies to move so fast that even the most vigilant parents might not be able to react to a dangerous situation in time. Canada banned such walkers in 2004.