Author: Lauren Elbon - The sarcastic half of Little Big. Physiotherapist, Mother and lover of tea.
Jumperoos, Baby Walkers and in the most worrying Google search yet, 'Baby Exercise Jumpers'. What are they? Why do we have them? And why hasn't anyone read the research yet?
'Baby Walkers' is the collective term we will use for any device that straps in a pre-walking infant in order for them to 'practise' upright activities. It can include walkers with a wheeled-base and arm tray that allows 'walking' 'without falling'. It also includes Jolly Jumpers & Jumperoos that are hung from a height and allow babe to bounce.
As a Physiotherapist, the term 'Baby Exercise Jumpers' terrifies me so much that I can't even start to unpack it in this blog (cue wine tea) and hope to never hear it again.
In case you haven't gathered yet - Baby Walkers aren't the revolution they were marketed to be during our Baby Booming 'rentals early parenting years. The unsettling bit though, isn't their inability to do good but their potential to do harm.
Taken from a present-day advert of an unnamed brand - "(this Jumperoo)... provides "essential aerobic exercise, improves abdominal and limb muscle tone, develops basic motor skills and improves co-ordination."
Umm, ***language warning***... I'm calling bullshit, mate.
To start with, this next quote is taken directly from the Australian Government Department of Health Guidelines:
"Infants (Birth to one year) physical activity particularly through supervised interactive floor-based play in safe environments should be encouraged from birth. For those not yet mobile, 30 minutes of tummy time... spread throughout the day during awake periods is encouraged."
According to this, which was last updated late 2017, most infants won't need a specific form of aerobic 'exercise' any more than I needed that second glass of red w- black tea! And for those that do need help though, that is, those babes who are not reaching age-appropriate levels of coordination or gross motor skills, probably best to see a trained health professional rather than strap them into a jumping device to apparently improve their muscle tone.
Back to the evidence-based science though, instead of my Tuesday night Mum-rant, here is an excerpt from the Australian Physiotherapy Association's Position Statement specifically about Baby Walkers:
"The use of baby walkers should be discouraged due to evidence that there is considerable risk of injury and because they may impede normal balanced muscle development (clink the link for references)."
Principal Paediatric Physio Nicole Pates from Perth Paediatric Therapy Services supported this notion when she spoke with Little Big Learning about Baby Walker/Baby Jumper use.
"As a paediatric Physiotherapist I don’t recommend walkers, not only due to the high rate of injuries associated with (their) use but also because baby is in a position that it isn’t strong enough to be in on its own. So although baby is moving its legs to walk, leg strength and control of the pelvis and trunk is not needed to hold itself up."
If you're unsure as to why it's not ideal to put baby in positions they aren't yet strong enough for, perhaps our Pikler Triangle article can elaborate further. But also, think about all the little muscles, tendons and bones in our Little Big people's legs. If those legs were strong enough to take the weight of babe's body and stand, they would do it already! So if they're not, jumping up and down and having more weight go through them no longer seems as logical as the fancy marketing spiel we're sold.
Unfortunately, like so many other parenting articles, I've spent a solid 500 words telling you what not to do, which isn't too helpful.
Luckily, Paediatric Physio Nicole had some guidance here also:
"In saying (the above), I am a Mum and I know how important it is to have even just 5 minutes of time out... Rather than using equipment that contains baby, set up a safe play zone, which is big enough for baby’s current developmental stage."
So a 'safe-play-zone' or a 'YES space' (we'll have a blog up about this soon) is a safe alternative to using Baby Walkers so you can still get those desperately important 5 minutes to yourself.
Until the time we have this next blog posted, Nicole has given an advice for anyone feeling overwhelmed.
"If you are going to use walkers, jolly jumpers, bumbos or any equipment that your baby can not easily get into or out of, use in moderation and always under supervision."
To quote a powerhouse of woman-kind, Maya Angelou: "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."