DETROIT - Some parents swear by the brightly colored Bumbo baby seat, but it is a product that's been dogged by safety questions.
Local 4 reported the latest Bumbo recall a few weeks ago. Now, the company is offering repair kits to 4 million customers, to make safety improvements. Consumer Expert Ruth Spencer wanted to know exactly how that kit works. Luckily, she knows a busy mom who has been using a Bumbo.
Putting the kit to the test
Sarah Mayberry is the medical and health producer here at Local 4. She's also "Mommy" to 2-and-1/2-year-old Addy and 4-month-old Will.
"We got the Bumbo as a baby gift when my daughter was born," Mayberry told Ruth to the Rescue.
Working in the newsroom, Mayberry is well aware of the questions surrounding the Bumbo, but she's still confident in its safety if it is used correctly.
"I never worried about them falling out to begin with because I was always right there," she said.
Safety concerns were first raised in 2007. About one million Bumbos were recalled so new warning labels could be added to the product. Those labels warned parents against placing the seats on raised surfaces such as tables or kitchen counters.
"I never did it, but I know I have friends who have told me, 'Yes, I've used it on the island in my kitchen,'" Mayberry said.
Since the first recall, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the manufacturer, Bumbo International of South Africa, have reported at least 50 incidents where babies fell from the seat being used on raised surfaces. Another 34 babies wriggled out of the seats while on the floor, or at unknown elevations. There have been 21 reports of skull fractures, with 19 that involved seats placed on higher surfaces. This past August, Bumbo released a new repair kit.
"We worked extensively with the CPSC and an outside testing agency to ensure that the fix we offer for this product is the proper fix." said Tarish Anand, a spokeswoman for Bumbo.
Mother tries the repair kit
To order the repair kit, Mayberry needed the product code found on the bottom of the Bumbo plus her name and address. She entered the information online and then waited for delivery.
"I was pleasantly surprised. They said it would come in two to three weeks. It arrived in one week," she told Ruth to the Rescue.
Installation instructions were included in the packet.
Mayberry used the template to mark the seat, where pegs would be implanted to attach the different parts of the restraint belt. Washers are attached to the sharp end of those pegs, underneath the seat.
"It wasn't hard to install. The hardest part was pushing the pegs through the foam because the foam is pretty dense, but it went in fairly easily and seems secure," she said after putting the new restraint on her Bumbo.
Putting a squirming 4-month-old into the seat was a bit of a challenge.
"Actually, the biggest thing I noticed now is it's much harder to get the baby in and out because now you have to move the straps out of the way and get them in just right, and it does make it a little tighter," Mayberry said.
Bumbo says many parents like the fix.
"The feedback we've received has been overwhelmingly positive," said Anand.
Mayberry is concerned the new safety feature could have a key drawback.
"My fear is that this seat belt is going to give parents a false sense of security and make them more likely to put them on a high surface, instead of less," she said.
"There's a warning on the belt itself. Plus, new warnings on the seat to try to emphasize that even with the belt the seat should only be used as directed," the Bumbo spokeswoman said.
Warning for parents
And that's what parents really need to know. The Bumbo is designed to be used on the floor, on flat surfaces, with the restraint, and under parental supervision. Putting the Bumbo on any high surface is a potentially dangerous choice. Even if you baby can't wiggle out of the seat today, they grow and learn so quickly, that could change in an instant.
Bumbo also says seats sold after Aug. 15 will come with restraints included.
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