Baby Care Today: Old Advice You Can Safely Ignore

Walking

Fancy Footwear

Old Advice: Babies' first shoes should be hard-soled and cover the ankle. Infants need firm support to keep their feet properly aligned.

New Advice: Flexible shoes with nonskid soles are best for babies. However, doctors also recommend keeping infants barefoot as much as possible while they're learning to walk indoors. "I tell my patients that there are three reasons to put shoes on babies: to protect their feet when they're walking outdoors, to keep their feet warm, and to make them look pretty," says Lane France, M.D., of the Pediatric Health Care Alliance, in Tampa, who has been in practice for 28 years.

Walk and Roll

Old Advice: Baby walkers are wonderful -- they help babies learn to walk.

New Advice: Mobile walkers actually hinder walking because they allow a baby to move around too easily. More important, they pose a major risk of injury -- even death -- from rolling down stairs or tipping over. After 1997, safety standards required new walkers to be too wide to fit through most doorways and to stop at the edge of a step. But these improved models can't prevent all injuries. "Stationary walkers, which have no wheels but have seats that rotate and bounce, allow a baby to practice supporting his weight on his legs without the safety hazards of moving walkers," says Richard L. Saphir, M.D., a clinical professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City.

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