While the use of equipment with infants is quite prevalent, evidence is inconclusive as to the safety, benefits, or detrimental effects this equipment has on infant motor development. The purpose of this study was to determine current parental patterns of walker, jumper, and exersaucer use and the developmental effects, if any, that occur secondary to this use.
Number of Subjects:
Twenty-five healthy, typically developing infants were followed from the age of 0–3 months through the onset of independent walking.
Caregivers recorded daily infant use of walkers, exersaucers, and jumpers, as well as the date of attainment of twelve pre-determined motor milestones. Use of the equipment was determined by the family, and was not influenced by researchers. Fifteen families chose to use this type of equipment while ten families opted not to. Mean start and stop ages (in weeks) were calculated for the group and then total equipment use for each subject was averaged over this time span (ages 20 to 44 weeks). Additionally, equipment use time was also calculated for each subject's highest consecutive 12 weeks of use. Equipment use was categorized as low equipment use (0–50 minutes), medium use (51–150 minutes), and high use (151 minutes and above). Regression analyses for motor milestone attainment for each group were conducted and 95% confidence intervals were calculated for the slopes. Kruskal-Wallis tests were completed on each milestone to test for differences between the groups.
Among parents who used equipment, 33% said it was because the baby enjoyed it and 47% said it was because it was safe for the baby and convenient for them. This was supported by the finding that 90% of the families with more than one child chose to use the equipment. Of the 10 families who did not use equipment, 70% had heard it was either unsafe or harmful developmentally. Regression analyses of motor milestone development showed no statistical difference in slopes between the three groups. Additionally, no significant differences were found between any groups for individual motor milestones.
This study revealed a higher rate and duration of equipment use for infants among families with more than one child. This confirms the participants' statements that equipment was used because it was a convenient way to keep their child entertained. Although equipment use varied markedly across the families, overall use was moderate in comparison to previous studies. This moderate use of infant exercise equipment does not appear to delay or accelerate infant motor development. However, there was an observable trend for a lower slope in the high use group for both overall and 12 consecutive week regression analyses. This trend suggests the possibility that higher use of infant exercise equipment may be related to slower motor development.
The results of this study support that parents today are choosing moderate use of infant exercise equipment and this moderate use appears to be an acceptable option for entertaining infants without causing motor delay.