August 17 2012
The Bumbo Hubbub
Carrie L. Lukas
As I type, my five-month-old daughter stares up at me from a Bumbo chair parked next to me on the floor. No, she isn’t strapped in. In fact, I’m in possession of one of the versions of the Bumbo chair that’s being dubbed too dangerous for use without modification: It contains only a warning on the back about a potential fall, and isn’t equipped with safety belts.
MSNBC has reported that four million Bumbo chairs are being voluntarily recalled, because about 50 babies have fallen out of Bumbos, some from elevated surfaces. A handful of injuries were serious. Owners of Bumbos like mine can get a safety belt attached to the chair, and from now on all new Bumbos will have such safety belts.
Personally, I’m going to be hanging on to my Bumbo as is. Yes, it’s easy to see how accidents can happen. My Maggie is getting strong and isn’t far from being able to wiggle out of the chair. That’s why I watch her and try to stay aware of what she’s doing when she’s in the Bumbo. That’s also why I try to stay aware of what she’s up to — and what her siblings are up to — when she’s laying on a mat on the floor where she could get stepped on by her older siblings, in the playpen where her three-year-old brother occasionally dives in for a visit, or just about anywhere else.
Those declaring Bumbos dangerous might also note that babies often roll off beds and couches (should those all be retrofitted with child safety belts?). In fact, the CDC estimates that about 2.8 million children (0-14 yrs) go to the emergency rooms each year for falls.
We can use all the safety devices — the baby gates and the safety straps — and bad things will still happen. I sometimes wonder if all those safety devices end up being a mixed bag in terms of making kids more safe: Baby gates at the top of the stairs may create a false sense of security. They could encourage me to let my one-year-old play near stairs, trusting that the other kids have responsibly shut the gate behind them.
The hubbub over Bumbos seems part of a larger trend of trying to eliminate all potential risk from life, and to rid parents of the responsibility of keeping their children safe. The truth is there is only so much the makers of products can do to prevent people from misusing them — all the warning labels and the safety devices in the world can’t change that Parents, imperfect as we are, are still the best safety devices available.