Thursday, August 16, 2012

In defense of the Bumbo

This post is pretty much a rant, but it is also more from a therapist perspective...just warning you.  I am not a paid spokesperson (although, Bumbo people, if you want to pay me to endorse your product, I'd be ok with that).

It is about a wonderful baby product called a Bumbo seat.  For those of you not familiar, it is a contraption that looks like this:


It is used to help babies who are not yet independent sitters sit upright.  It is a great way to work on head and neck control, as well as visual development, since the babies are upright.  It gives them a chance to work with their eyes in a vertical plane, giving them the opportunity to work their eye muscles as they work their head and neck muscles.  They even have little trays so kids can work on their fine motor skills too.
Random picture found on internet when googling Bumbo

Bumbo seats have just been recalled for the second time in five years.  It bums me out.  They are being recalled for the same reason, too.  It's because babies can arch and twist, and fall out of the seats.  And when the seats are left on the counter or table, or even a hard floor, and the babies arch and twist, well, babies have cracked their skulls.
Another internet picture.  I take no responsibility for doing this to a baby.

Please note that this seat is on a GRANITE counter top.  I know that someone is taking a picture, but seriously, WHERE is the adult?!?

Seriously people.  They are babies.  They are fragile.  You have to be very careful with them.  There are few places you can leave them unsupervised.  This is one of them.  That being said, it does not mean that this product is not a good one.  It is one where the pros outweigh the cons.  I consider the cons to be the need for supervision, not the skull fractures.

I had the chance to use a Bumbo with a little guy the other day.  He is an archer, not unlike the kid in the picture above.  He also has some feeding difficulties, and is not gaining weight well.  His mom was using his bouncy seat to feed him in, and mealtimes are a battle.  She's pretty frustrated.  I thought I'd give it a shot and see if I could help.  Immediately when in the bouncy seat, he began extending and arching back.  His tongue was out and there was no way that he was eating without a battle.  He did not open his mouth when the spoon approached.  I grabbed the Bumbo and put it on the table.  I had the food and stuff all set up, because I knew that I could not leave him once placed in the seat.  There were still some arching issues, and he required some readjustments from time to time.  However,  he ate more than half the container of carrots (yuck!), whereas he normally ate about 10 spoonfuls.  The first 2 bites in the bouncy seat, he spit out more than was put it.  You try swallowing with your back arched and your head tipped back and rotated.  In fact, try that, and just try closing your mouth.  It's nearly impossible.  Once in the Bumbo, he lost a lot less food.  He was also engaged in the feeding process, and was grabbing the spoon and putting it in his mouth, assisting in the process.  He did tire out, but he is not used to sitting upright to eat.  The difference was remarkable.

For babies who arch, placing them in a flexed position helps them dissociate one part of their body from another.  It helps them get their hands to midline in front of their eyes, which helps with fine motor, vision and visual motor development.  In terms of feeding, the reduction of extension places the head and neck in a slightly flexed position.  This is the preferred position for swallowing.  When swallowing with an extended neck, the trachea is open, which drastically increases the chances of aspiration.

With the Back to Sleep movement, babies are not developing head and neck strength as they should.  There are lots of kids with flat heads out there.  When in the Bumbo, there is no pressure on the back of the skull.  Kids are able to develop strength without flattening the back of their heads.

People, use some sense here.  This is a great piece of equipment.  It can help with a lot of fabulous developmental things.  It is not designed to be a safety seat.  Don't treat it that way.  Maybe babies need to come with the warnings printed on them, instead of the products.

Sophia, in her knock-off Bumbo.  Bumbo was not available when she needed it due to the first recall.   One of my favorite baby products of all time.

5 comments:

  1. I agree although I would also add that many people use it too soon with their kids. If your child is so little they can't hold their trunk or head up when you are holding them at the hips, then it is probably too soon to use it with them on a day to day basis. If it is being used in therapy to work on specific skills that is a different story. (just my two cents as another pediatric PT)

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  2. I don't disagree. A google search of images showed a lot of inappropriate use. Again, it is about the parents using good judgement and discretion.

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  3. Kathryn,
    great info, are you a therapist as well as mom. I shared your blog page on
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Recycling-Occupational-Therapist/113805848640610?ref=hl

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  4. Barbara,
    Thanks for sharing the blog. I am a physical therapist and primarily work in pediatrics. I am also the mom of 2 (8 and 5). The blog isn't always about therapy issues, but they seem to creep up more and more!

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  5. Just thought I would share my thoughts on the Bumbo as another pediatric physical therapist. The seat generally puts the child's sacrum in a terrible position. The key to a child learning to sit independently is learning how to control their pelvis in a vertical position... not slouched and rounded. Having them sit in this seat and then try to learn head control, rotation and fine motor play is counter-productive since the base of the child is improperly positioned. I always recommend to families to save their money for something else than purchasing one of these.

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