A Bumbo is a soft foam seat designed so that babies can sit upright in it before they have the strength to sit independently. The right age for a Bumbo Seat depends on the type you choose. The manufacturer’s recommended age for the Bumbo Floor Seat is from 3 months to 12 months. There is also the Bumbo Multi Seat, which is for babies and toddlers who can already sit unaided, between the ages of 6 months and 36 months (3 years).
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What Age Can You Use a Bumbo Seat From?
The Bumbo Floor seat* is designed to put babies in a seated position from as early as 3 months, however the right age for a Bumbo seat is not until baby can hold their own head up which can be as early as three months, but can be later. The Bumbo Floor seat fits snuggly around your baby from below the neck so doesn’t offer any head support. If your baby has only recently started to hold their head up then they become uncomfortable in a Bumbo Seat after a fairly short amount of time.
The Bumbo Multi Seat* is designed for babies and toddlers to use once they can sit up unaided. It allows much more movement than the Bumbo Floor seat so babies need to be able to support themselves in a sitting position to use it, otherwise they will slide down.
What is the Age Range for Bumbo Seats?
The Bumbo Floor Seat has an age range from 3 months (as long as baby has head control) until they are 12 months. Exactly how long you can carry on using the floor seat will depend on the size of your baby. As they get older they are likely to become squashed, rather than snug, in the seat. My son was a big baby, weighing 9 pounds 7 at birth and was too big for the Bumbo Floor Seat by 9 months. My daughter however was 8 pounds at birth and used it comfortably until around 12 months.
The Bumbo Multi Seat has a much bigger age range. The minimum age for the Bumbo Multi Seat is 6 months but if your baby doesn’t sit up unaided at 6 months, you’ll need to wait until they can do that to use it. The maximum age is 3 years. This large range is possible because the seat adapts to be used in different ways, at different ages. For babies over 6 months it can be used as a floor seat and there is a foam pad that can be removed to allow more room for toddlers. The Bumbo Multi Seat comes with straps so that it can be attached to a dining chair and potentially used in place of a highchair. As your child gets bigger, you can remove the padded element completely and the Multi Seat can function as a booster seat.
Are Bumbo Seats Safe?
Back when Bumbo Seats were first released, in the early 2000s, there were some instances where babies came to harm because the seats where put at a height, for example on a dining room chair or a kitchen work surface, and they managed to wriggle out and fall. At that time, the seat didn’t have a harness and so the company recalled them and retro fitted harnesses. They have since added a 3 point safety harness to all new Bumbo Floor seats so that babies can’t wriggle out of them.
In edition to this, the seat is now referred to as the Bumbo Floor Seat to make sure parents are aware that the seat should only be used on the floor and not on higher surfaces. The manufacturers recognised that people wanted to use the the seats higher up and the Multi Seat can be safely strapped to a chair to allow this.
With these changes the Bumbo seats are now safe, although their effect on baby’s healthy development is still questioned, which we’ll discuss later on.
Will a Bumbo Help My Baby Learn to Sit Up?
No. Bumbos are designed to fully support your baby in the sitting position, babies aren’t required to use any of their muscles, so sitting in a Bumbo doesn’t help to strengthen the core and develop trunk control, which is what babies need in order to sit up unaided.
If you’re keen to teach your baby to sit up unaided, it’s much better to give them time on the floor where they have freedom of movement to develop their muscles. Lots of tummy time helps.
Are a Bumbo Seats Bad for Babies?
As explained above, sitting in a Bumbo doesn’t require baby to use any of their own muscle. The fact that they need to fit so snuggly to do this means that they can’t move around. In order to develop, babies need to move, so spending large amounts of time in a bumbo could be detrimental to a baby’s development.
Should I Use a Bumbo Seat for my Baby?
The key thing is to use your common sense. While Bumbo seats shouldn’t be used for long periods of time, the occasional use of them can offer benefits. They are a safe place where you can put your baby and they allow them a different view of the world. They are great for things like cutting baby hair, letting baby play with rattles and other toys or letting them watch something like an older sibling or a pet playing. Just make sure that baby gets plenty of time out of the Bumbo, on their tummy or back, where they can move freely.
Alternatives to Bumbo Seats
If you’d like to sit your baby up but don’t want to use a Bumbo, there are plenty of alternatives you can consider, including some that are suitable if your baby isn’t the right age for a Bumbo.
The Upseat Baby Chair Booster Seat
The Upseat Baby Chair* is very similar to a Bumbo Floor Seat but suggests that it is designed to keep baby in a better position to engage the muscles babies need to develop as well as keeping hips in a better position. It can be used from 3 months to 2 years so has a longer period of use than the Bumbo Floor Seat but not as long as the Bumbo Multi Seat. Like the multi seat, it can be strapped to a chair.
Infantino Music & Lights 3 in 1 Discovery Seat
The Infantino Music & Lights 3 in 1 Discovery Seat* is quite similar to the Bumbo Multi Seat but can be used from 4 months to 4 years, so starts from 2 months younger and lasts an extra year. The focus on this seat is really entertainment, with toys that make lights and sounds built into the tray. The toys can also be moved aside to allow the tray to be used for other things. The tray can be removed completely and the seat strapped to a chair so that it functions as a booster seat.
Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up Floor Seat
The Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up Floor Seat* is suitable from 4 months old up to 2 years. Rather than being made of foam, it’s a fabric seat. This means it allows more movement, but is more difficult to keep clean. You can link toys to it in two places and it folds flat making it easier to store than a Bumbo.
Summer Learn to Sit Stages 3 Position Floor Seat
The Summer Learn to Sit Stages 3 Position Floor Seat* is similar to the Fisher Price Floor seat in that it’s made of fabric, has removable toys and folds flat. It also has a snack tray which the Fisher Price one doesn’t. This seat has three different stages which are essentially different heights you can use depending on how close your baby is to sitting independently. It has a minimum age of 4 months and a maximum age of 12 months.
Fisher Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker
The Fisher Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker* starts off as more of a baby bouncer than a seat. It lays almost flat and can be set to either rock or be still. As your child grows into a toddler the seat can be changed into a toddler sized rocking chair. It’s suitable from 3 months in the lay back position up to 4 years old in the rocking chair position.
Galt Toys Playnest
The Galt Toys Playnest* isn’t an actual seat but does give your baby some support to sit before they can do so unaided. It’s essentially an inflatable ring with a brightly coloured fabric cover. Baby can lay in it or be propped up in a sitting position and it can also be used for tummy time. Unlike the Bumbo, baby can move around so has the opportunity to develop their muscles. It takes up a lot of room when it’s in use but once you deflate it, it’s very easy to store. It’s suitable from birth (if they are laying in it) up to two years, although my 3 year old still enjoyed it when we got it out again for the baby!
Infantino Prop-a-Pillar Tummy Time and Seated Support
Like the Playnest above, the Infantino Prop-a-Pillar Tummy Time and Seated Support* isn’t a seat as such but a way to support baby in a sitting position. It has two position options, one to support baby sitting and one for use in tummy time. In my experience things like this are great when baby is just starting to sit unaided but needs something to protect them in case they slip over (which they’ll do every time you’re convinced they are stable!) It’s suitable from birth and has no maximum age as it’s essentially a soft toy/cushion.
Baby seats can be a handy, safe place to put your baby down, which we all need to be able to do. Once your baby is the right age for a Bumbo, or indeed any of the Bumbo alternatives, it’s important we don’t get into the habit of leaving them there too often or for too long. Babies need plenty of unrestricted floor time to develop but as long as you make sure they get that, baby seats can be a useful addition to your house.
To use Bumbo Seats safely, make sure that baby is strapped in and don’t ever use the seat at height unless it is stopped to a chair in the way recommended by the manufacturer.
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