Approximately 4 million Bumbo Baby Seats have been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in response to reports of injuries – including skull fractures – in babies who wiggle out of the popular (and controversial) infant seat. The recall provides Bumbo seat owners with a free repair kit including a restraint belt, a new warning sticker, and updated safe use instructions. All new Bumbo seats will be equipped with the restraint belt.
The Bumbo seat has been the topic of heated discussion among the pediatric physical therapy community for some time now. For every PT who likes the Bumbo and uses the seat in practice, there is a PT who despises the seat. I posted my own thoughts on the Bumbo a few months ago. I own a Bumbo and have used the seat with my own children, as well as some of the infants and toddlers in my physical therapy practice. I still believe that – for typically developing children – the Bumbo (and similar seats such as the Bebepod) isn’t any more helpful or harmful than most other infant equipment. For children with special needs, the seat can have some benefit when used with the right child at the right time. But I’m also thankful for the recall, not only because a restraint belt on the Bumbo is long overdue, but also because it serves as a good reminder of things parents and healthcare providers should consider when placing their baby in (or recommending) ANY piece of infant equipment.
- Infant equipment should be used properly. The majority of reported Bumbo injuries occurred when the seat was placed on a raised surface, even though the seat is clearly marked with a warning to NEVER use it on a raised surface. Parents need to remember to always use infant equipment properly, and never place a baby on a raised surface in any piece of equipment (Bumbo, “bouncy” seat, car seat carrier, etc). For that matter, a baby shouldn’t ever be placed on a raised surface even when they aren’t in a piece of equipment and aren’t mobile yet. You never know how they might wiggle or when they might decide to try a new trick. How many of you have heard a friend tell the story of the time their baby rolled for the very first time…right off the couch? Remember also that the Bumbo is simply a device to facilitate supported sitting, and you should never place a baby in supported sitting on a hard surface (without carpet, blankets, and/or pillows to break inevitable falls).
- Infant equipment should be used at the correct developmental stage. Although this is not indicated in the recall, I suspect that many babies who wiggled out of the Bumbo seat were already sitting alone or were mobile (scooting or crawling). Most infant equipment is only appropriate during a certain stage of development – the Bumbo, for example, should only be used from the time infants are able to hold their head up until they can sit unattended (the 3-7 month range for a typically-developing baby). Once a baby can sit up alone and is mobile, the Bumbo, bouncy seat, bassinet, and even some infant swings are no longer safe or appropriate. Placing an older, mobile baby in this type of equipment greatly increases their risk of injury as they try to use their new found mobility skills to “escape.”
- Babies should not be left unsupervised in infant equipment. As the mother of young children myself, I completely understand the need to put your baby in a safe place so you can walk away and start dinner, answer the phone, or simply go to the bathroom. For a newborn who is not yet mobile, a blanket on the floor is a safe, simple option. Once babies become mobile, the floor is still a great place (with good baby-proofing and baby gates, of course). A playard (what used to be called a “play pen”) works well, too, and allows baby to practice moving, sitting, pulling to stand, and playing with toys in a very contained and safe environment.
- Infant equipment should be used rarely. This is the most important point of all. The truth is – although clever marketing makes parents believe that it takes hundreds of dollars worth of equipment to properly raise a baby – none of it is really necessary. The absolute best thing for a baby’s development is floor play, plain and simple. There is mounting evidence that increased use of baby “containers” has led to increased instances of torticollis and plagiocephaly, as well as mild delays in the attainment of motor skills in typically-developing children. The best way to combat that is tummy time, tummy time, tummy time! And the only piece of equipment you need for that is a good old-fashioned blanket.
Overall, I hope the Bumbo recall will make the seats much safer for parents who choose to use them, and I also hope it will spark continued discussion about proper use of ALL infant equipment.