There comes a time in every baby's life where they just want to sit up and watch the world go by. For us this happened quickly with our second son. Even though he couldn't even crawl yet, he was determined to follow his big brother around in anyway possible. This meant seeing everything the toddler did, and that's when the popular Bumbo floor seat came into our house.
Made of high-quality, non-toxic foam that's similar to the foam used in car seats, the Bumbo first came onto the market in 2001. Dubbed the "baby sitter," this product was designed and trademarked in South Africa by inventor Johan Buitendach. The name comes from a combination of two words, bum and bottom, which make Bumbo. Since its inception the baby device has spread internationally in the kid gear market, and has had many copycats (some just as good) such as the Fisher-Price Sit-Me-Up, Infantino's Grow-with-Me Discovery Gym Floor Seat and the Prince Lionheart Bebepod.
The idea of the Bumbo is to give your kid a safe place to sit, even if they aren't quiet sitting on their own. Our son, who was about four months, was so happy to have a place to be upright and be part of things. We set the it on the floor while playing with our older child; placed it in the center of the dinner table so he could join us for meals; and pulled him and the seat in when reading stories. In essence, the Bumbo proved a real game changer for our day-to-day, and we weren't alone.
"Our son was developmentally delayed due to low muscle tone so we loved ours and got extra time out of it," says Denver mom and writer Leah Charney. "It is excellent for skinny babies but harder on squishier babes. Ours has a tray, so we used it as a mobile high chair, both going out to eat and strapped to dining chairs at friends houses."
The main products Bumbo makes include the classic floor seat, an easy-to-wash, sturdy chair that's designed for ages 3 to 12 months and features a three-point harness, elevated leg openings to help your baby lean back and a rounded back so their spine is supported by the soft-sided chair. Next in line is the three-point harnessed multi-seat for babies and toddlers ages 6 to 36 months who can already sit up. This baby gear has larger leg holes, less curvature or slopping to the back and can be adjusted as your child grows. There's also a booster seat for older kids, also with a three-point harness; and the elephant-shaped elipad for parents to comfortably kneel while bathing their kid or for toddlers to use as a moveable seat. Bumbo also makes a line of changing pads, potty seats, step stools and floor toys and trays for their seats.
"Once they could hold their heads up I would put them in the Bumbo so they could always see what I was doing," says mom Jerisha Parker Gordon. "It just allowed them to sit up and 'play' with their toys. We would bring it everywhere because it was lightweight and they always had a comfy seat that wasn’t a car seat or swing." She adds with touch of irony, "The Bumbo is nothing really special, just something I used all the time and bought for all of my friends."
Though many parents are fans of the company, Bumbo has had a few issues. Namely, the original infant floor seat didn't have a restraint belt in it. The first voluntary recall of Bumbo Baby Seats happened in 2007 to add a warning label, and another occurred more recently in August, 2012. For the second recall the straps were required. Buyers could and can send in a request for the repair kit (http://www.bumbousa.com/safety-recall/repair-kit-request/) to make the seat up-to-date and safe. The kit also comes with a new warning sticker stating the infant seat is only for babies that can hold their own head up and that the seat should only be used on the floor and never on a raised surface, in the bath or kiddie pool, or as a replacement for a high chair. Seat placement aside, there's also the controversy about whether or not the kid gear is safe for babies and their developing bones and spines.
"They aren’t harmful occasionally but are often over used," says mom and developmental specialist Meg St-Esprit McKivigan. "Sticking a kid in for 20 minutes so they are happy while you cook is one thing, but hours a day or as an 'aid' to teach sitting is so, so bad. It’s not even a natural sitting position."
Despite these warnings, many parents use the Bumbo in places not on the floor. Personally, we used the seat safely on the table and fed food to our son while he sat in it. But like anything we were always there and aware of what was going on. Once he started moving a lot and there was the possibility of him tipping over, we stopped using the seat that way.
When we did have the Bumbo in our baby gear circulation we loved it, and maybe you and your baby will too. If purchased new these products cost between $30 and $50, but you can easily find a second hand one from an online consignment shop such as Good Buy Gear for around $10 to $20 depending on if it has a play tray or not. It's a great way to give the Bumbo a try without investing too much, and since they clean up so easily, when you're done you can resell and make some of your money back.