Infants partake in a developmental process between birth and 18 months which takes them from small movement while lying on their anterior side, through to walking, running, and jumping. In order to properly progress through this process, infants must learn to crawl before they learn to walk; though this process can be altered by the influence of infant locomotor devices.
The use of infant locomotor devices such as walkers, jumpers, and exersaucers are widely controversial amongst parents and pediatricians. Parents often cite benefits to the child with device exposure, whereas pediatricians often warn against the use of them. The concern of the pediatricians lay within the risk that comes along with increased mobility, as well as the upright position the device puts the child in. The child is often unable to place themselves in this position outside of the device due to not being ready in their developmental pathway. The device places the child upright with their legs hanging below with their feet not flat on the ground supporting weight. This position can place strain on the infants’ hips, lower back, and trunk.
Research shows that infants with prolonged device exposure tend to reach their locomotor milestones later than infants with average to ideal exposure. Infants with prolonged device exposure have also been found to score lower on developmental assessments. To reduce the risk of injury and developmental delay, the American Academy of Pediatrics ban the production and sale of infant walkers, and advised parents allow their children to play in more natural positions, rather than the position the locomotor devices place the child in.
In order to bridge the gap of education provided to parents and caregivers, and the knowledge of the pediatricians, further research should be done to collect up to date data of the impact of these devices and the long-term impact of these devices past the age of three. Working to expand the educational outreach to parents, particularly in the medical setting, would also be beneficial in working to reduce the exposure infants have to these devices and in turn, the number of injuries and developmental delays associated with use.
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