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Recalled! Update: On October 25, 2007, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the recall of ALL Bumbo Baby Sitter Seats because of serious head injuries that include 3 skull fractures. The seats have not been deemed safe since they have no straps to hold the seats to any secure surface, because babies can wriggle out of them, and because they give parents a false sense of security. We've known these seats were a bad idea from the first day we reviewed them, and a quick tour of YouTube confirmed our worst fears: babies in grave danger, not just for falls, but developmental hazards. Why? Read on..,
The Bumbo is Dumb-o

BumboMade in South Africa, the Bumbo is hailed by the company as a "revolutionary infant chair uniquely designed according to the baby's posture." The main selling point to parents is that it allows infant as young as 8 weeks old to sit upright before they are able to on their own. From pictures and descriptions alone, we couldn't for the life of us figure out how the simple molded foam seat held wobbly babies upright without straps or fasteners.

Wartburg Enterprises, the makers of Bumbo, have a testimonial from an orthopedic therapist explain how it works on their website: "The Bumbo seat stabilizes the child into slight hip flexion, placing the pelvis in a slight anterior pelvic tilt which facilitates lumbar extension."

Huh? In simple English: the Bumbo works because it features a deep well for baby's bottom and raised leg holes - essentially it folds your baby in half.

While that didn't seem like a great position to us (and one we couldn't hold in yoga class for more than three minutes!), the Bumbo site proclaims the seat is "endorsed by Pediatric and Orthopedic Faculties."

We smart Moms know you can pay anyone anywhere to endorse your product, so we checked with our pediatrician. She, a triple board certified pediatrician with 30 years of experience, was of the opinion that babies can't sit up on their own at 2 months for a reason, and that forcing them into an unnatural position was not beneficial for their development. She further warned that prolonged positioning in any device that restricted natural movement could be harmful to their health.

About the size of a restaurant booster seat, but circular, the Bumbo seat not only doesn't have fasteners for baby, but it doesn't have fasteners to secure the seat. Baby's weight keeps it upright, and the base is nice and wide, but for that reason, the Bumbo can only be used on the ground. Not being able to put it on a chair, it's no help with feeding or restaurant visits. It's not foldable, so dragging it to the park is out, especially when we walk with our strollers. It has no carrying handle or bag, so we can't easily transport it. Aside from just sitting on the living room floor, we weren't sure where and when you would even use a Bumbo.

Bumbo Testing
The makers of Bumbo seem just as confused, as their website shows a picture of a mom feeding her child in a Bumbo perched on a counter yet also displays the warning: "Never use on a raised or uneven surface." They claim the seat is "perfect for feeding," yet, for many reasons, we don't want to sit on the floor to feed. And children don't get fed baby food until six months anyway, when most would be too large for the Bumbo. Bumbo's target age range is 2 - 4 months, but giving a baby that age a bottle in the Bumbo would be extremely uncomfortable for both mom and baby, and we suspect a bad strain on baby's neck.

Under "Applications," the Bumbo site lists "durable" and "soft & comfortable," so that's no help. They suggest Bumbos for daycares or multi-child care, but since the position is awkward and the Bumbo doesn't come with any toys or toy attachments, we're not sure that's a good use either.

Still, we have friends that swear by it. Mostly moms of multiples. We get it, you never have enough hands when you have triplets, but for the rest of us, there are a mulitude of better products to captivate your four-month-old.

Just to be sure, we field-tested the Bumbo on several infants, ages 8 weeks to 16 weeks. Most could not sit up on their own, although we used it on a few older babies that could. All of our test babies were naturally very good-natured.

And they all hated the confinement of the Bumbo after about 2 minutes.

Our babies tried everything to wriggle out of the tightly molded seat, even employing their favorite superpower - the baby back arch - to escape. To no avail, we were pleased to note. But they did resort to inhuman squawking and unhappy screaming quite quickly, we were not pleased to note.

Aside from the awkward position it folds babies into, the biggest drawback we found with the Bumbo is that it gives babies absolutely nothing to do. With no toy bars or attachments of any kind, baby has nothing to entertain himself. And 3 - 4 month olds are a hard group to ignore.

Desperate for exploration but without the physical skills to accommodate their desires, they are old enough to express their discontent and frustration (many quite loudly). Unlike a newborn content to just look at the ceiling, a 3 month old wants to do something. (For this reason, we love-love-love Activity Centers).

The worst feature of the Bumbo is that its design lifts babies off the floor and surrounds them with enough foam that they can't reach anything, even their own toys. There are no trays or bags for toys, so you can hand baby a toy, but as soon as they drop it (almost immediately for this age group), it's out of reach. Not a fun game for anyone.

Finally, because a Bumbo is just a Bumbo and doesn't convert into anything else, its usefulness (if you can find it) is very short-lived. The small piece of time when a baby can hold up its head but not move on its own is typically 6 - 8 weeks. Paying a whopping $40 for a pastel piece of foam furniture that only last 6 weeks is not a good buy in our book.

To summarize, here's a recap of the downfalls we found in the Bumbo:

  • Awkward baby posture
  • Limited floor-only use
  • Large size
  • Non-folding, no straps or bags for portability
  • No straps for chair use
  • Snug fit for even small babies; not good for larger sizes
  • No entertainment
  • No access to floor toys
  • Small window of time for use
  • High price

We're going to back up our test babies and say we're not big fans of the Bumbo.

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