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Why This Occupational Therapist is Telling You That the Bumbo is a Dumbo

The Bumbo Seat

I cringe when I see them on my friends’ baby registries. I know why they’re recommended to new moms: so they can shower/cook dinner/feed themselves/get a break, just for a few minutes. And that’s important stuff when you’re sleep deprived, not getting much help, responsible for other children, and you just NEED to throw in one load of laundry.

But here’s the bad news: the pediatric community hates them.

Bumbo had a massive recall in 2007 and again in 2012, as babies suffered head injuries from falling out of the seat. Since they’re dangerous for babies who want to move and can easily knock them over, the seats now come with a safety belt and warnings to use only while supervised on the floor.

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I want to share why I won’t recommend the Bumbo for typically developing babies.

1. Seated Position 
This molded hunk of plastic puts a baby’s pelvis and trunk in a position that is unnatural. Bumbo recommends their seat for infants starting at a month old. We know they can’t sit until closer to six months. They aren’t gaining anything by being forced into a position for which they aren’t ready.

2. Skill Development 
Older babies are better able to interact with their world while sitting upright. At this early age they aren’t ready to bring their hands to midline and play with toys yet! Their eyes can’t focus in this position, either. Visual skills develop from being on the floor where they have better control of their neck and trunk to turn, look around, and start to move. Tummy time gyms are perfect for honing these fundamental skills. Complete with hanging toys for a baby to swat around, they provide way more bang for your buck to facilitate development.

3. Tummy Time 
“Back to sleep, tummy to play” is the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Development happens naturally when a baby is on the floor with flashy items to catch their eyes or a person to engage with. That extension of their spine and the pushing of their upper body builds postural muscles for sitting. This also develops of the ocular muscles of the eyes. Babies achieve stability in the form of sitting first and progress to mobility through crawling and walking. Confined in a Bumbo, a baby isn’t working towards either of these skills.

Please don’t shoot the messenger! I know you desperately need some hands-free moments in your day. My warning is to think of this little seat as a “babysitter,”  just like the bouncy seat, exersaucer or any other baby container. While a convenient tool for the parents, frequent Bumbo usage can be debilitating for a child’s development in their crucial learning years.

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