I am incapable of not having an opinion when it comes to toys or child-related equipment. From gadgets meant to help feeding infants to balls, I have my favorites and NOT-so-favorites.
One of the main aspects of my former job was to justify every purchase we made for the children. When it came to purchasing equipment for the classrooms, we always needed to make sure that the item was in-line with our program’s philosophy.
I’m grateful for having developed this habit and way of thinking that automatically evaluates products as I see them, especially now as a parent. Products come in and out of our home as gifts, donations, and of course by choice/purchase.
Many popular child-oriented products are not used in our home because I consider some products to be unnecessary. The Bumbo seat is one of those products. I consider the seat to interfere, unnecessarily so, with children’s natural development.
Over the last holiday, I came to realize that of the all of the seven children (age three and younger) at my family’s home but two (my two) had been sat in a Bumbo seat. Can this product be that popular?
I do not consider the Bumbo seat to be useful product however given its marketing and placement, I can imagine how it could be perceived as such. The large baby gear stores and chain retailers are packed to the hilt with products promising to make caring for your child easier, thus making you and your child happier. The Bumbo seat is at the forefront of this type of product.
Promising to be the extra pair of hands you will almost always need, Bumbo seats are giving you what they think your child wants – to sit so that she can see. Sure, your child is happier when he can see you. Your baby wants to see you and the world around them. The important question here is – is this the best way for your baby to learn to see you? Being seated may support your child in seeing you and all else around them, but it does so without relaying on any competencies of the child. I expect being seated can also evolve into a dependence on the need and desire to be sat up to see rather than learning to use a baby’s own skills and strengths to see on her own.
I listened intently as one mother explained that her son learned to sit because she worked on it with him by sitting him in the Bumbo. I agreed – it probably did contribute to his being able to sit. What would his trajectory have been without the involvement of the seat? At 2 years old now, I think back about how little his being able to sit at 5 months and my daughter (who sat some time in her first year) affects their physical competencies now.
How old was Greysen when she started sitting, I ask Mike. He kids, “two months,” and laughs. The joke is, we don’t remember, but it’s not because we don’t care. I’m sure we took photos, as any parent does. Greysen and Moon are typically developing children, so we are not tracking their development for any purpose other than fond memories. We don’t see the need to take note of something that is as it should be – she’s a work in progress and a finished piece all at once.
Using the Bumbo seat to teach your child to sit is conveying the message that learning to sit on your own, in your own time, is not enough. These actions also reflect a lack of trust that a baby’s physical development will evolve on its own. Paradoxically, by keeping an infant snuggly seated, a child loses the invaluable ability to move freely – the very thing she needs to learn to sit – in her own way, in her own time.
What’s the real appeal? Is it that we, as parents, are searching for ways, any way, to have an extra set of hands, or is it that we want our children to develop as quick as we can get them to? Or, is it that in our consumerist culture, the market for infant-oriented products is so much in demand that the next best thing to make your child smarter or better is always being sought after?
Regardless of the reasons parents may use the Bumbo seat, which are likely more complex than the several I have suggested, I think the thing I’d caution parents of the most to beware is: question any blanket promises made by products that claim to make you a happier parent. That comes from within.