Date of this Version
Objectives—To examine recent trends in baby walker and exersaucer use, and to assess maternal motivations for choosing to use or not use these devices with children.
Setting—Small, Midwestern city in the United States.
Methods—Retrospective telephone survey with a sample of 329 mothers who provided information about their use of walkers and exersaucers with 463 children born in Columbia, Missouri between January 1994 and April 1999.
Results—Baby walker use in the sample declined fairly steadily from 1994 to 1999, whereas exersaucer use increased during the same period. Altogether 88% of mothers were aware of the injury risks associated with walkers, and this knowledge was the most commonly reported reason for abstaining from walker use. Remarkably, 38% of participants with knowledge of walker risks nevertheless used these devices. Participants reported many reasons for using walkers and exersaucers, including child entertainment, perceived developmental benefit, easy availability, and improved safety of exersaucers.
Conclusions—Public knowledge of the hazards of walkers seems to be high, and this awareness is a likely factor in many caregivers’ decisions not to use them. Future interventions should focus particular attention on those caregivers who continue to use walkers despite knowledge of the associated risks. In addition to persuasive interventions, alternatives to walkers should be encouraged. Exersaucers represent one viable alternative, and should be promoted as such by the media, pediatricians, and other child care professionals.