If you are a parent to a young child, you have probably heard about the Bumbo floor seat and may have even used one for your child. If you are unfamiliar with the Bumbo, it is a piece of equipment designed for infants to sit in, usually while parents are trying to complete an activity or to keep the baby still while eating. While the Bumbo is convenient for the parents, it’s actually hindering your child’s natural development.
I tell parents all the time that they should not put their baby into a position that the baby has not yet done themselves. If your infant has not developed the appropriate control to get themselves there naturally, you are teaching them compensation patterns if you put them there and make them stay there, such as the Bumbo. The design of the seat puts the baby’s pelvis into a posterior tilt, causing flexion of the lumbar spine. Naturally this causes the baby to lean back but their head control makes them lean forward leading to forward head carriage and rounded shoulders. (Spoiler alert: we treat this all the time in adults who have neck pain, upper back pain and tension headaches from being in this position too long!)
The idea of the Bumbo was to put babies into an upright position to allow them to play with their hands, take in their surroundings and interact with those around them. The best way to facilitate these things early on is tummy time (find an earlier post in our blog section on tummy time and ways to make it fun). As their motor function develops, they will naturally roll over, then sit up, pull themselves to stand and bounce and of course, walk. All babies are different and although there is a “normal” range for these milestones to occur, some children do all or some of these earlier or later than others and that is ok! These movement patterns are supposed to be developed slowly and naturally, so let your baby take the lead.
As far as safety is concerned, Bumbo actually issued a recall in 2007 because babies were falling out of the seat and having serious injuries. They now have safety warnings to keep the seat on the floor and not on elevated surfaces. There are plenty of other brands of seats on the market that also put the baby into a similar position. Unfortunately, they are not any better even if the design is slightly different. I always go back to the saying that if the baby has not done it for themselves, do not put them into a sustained position.
If you are a parent reading this thinking, how in the world do I get anything done if I can’t put my baby in a seat and walk away? Well, just like anything else, it is going to be an adjustment if it is something you have used regularly. A baby on the floor (either back or belly) with age appropriate toys and room to roll, wiggle and squirm is best. Start with small increments of time and soon your baby will play happily on their own. Getting help from a partner, older sibling, family or friends is also a great option too. Let us know if you need suggestions for your baby to enjoy playing on the floor.
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