The recent recall of the popular Bumbo Baby Seat has left me confused about why the thing was recalled at all. In fact, the numbers indicate that the product is extraordinarily safe.
What the recall reveals is that Americans will tolerate so little risk that we've come to overreact to each random accident.
First, the numbers from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Four million Bumbo Seats have been recalled. Since 2007, 50 incident have been reported
of babies getting injured after falling while in the seat on a raised surface.
Stop. Read that again. Especially this: while on a raised surface
In other words, we can discount those accidents and injuries entirely. You can't recall gravity, though I suspect some risk-averse folks would do so if they could. Parents putting kids on high ledges or countertops ought not blame the product.
Now, what about incidents involving falls from the Bumbo Seat while the baby was sitting on the ground, as seen in the photo of my 5-month-old?
There have been 34 incidents, two of which involved head injuries.
Let's do some math. Four million Bumbo Seats recalled. 34 injuries. That means that if you bought one of those seats, there's roughly a 1-in-117,647 chance that your child got hurt. And there's a 1-in-2,000,000 chance that your child suffered a head injury.
But what do we know about those injuries? Almost nothing. We don't know if the parents placed their child in the seat and then walked away from half an hour. Or more. Babies are known to get restless. They might wriggle out of such a seat if they get bored or feel ignored. The Bumbo is not a babysitter.
Boil it all down, and we're left with one simple conclusion: This is one heck of a safe product. Very few kids get hurt. Most of the time, when they do, it's thanks to a parent who placed them on a high ledge to begin with. Other times, I'm guessing the child was left unattended for long periods of time.
Have we recalled our common sense?
Perhaps. The company already put warning labels on the seats, cautioning against placing the seat on high surfaces. In a sane world, that kind of admonition would be more than sufficient; after all, there is risk in just about anything. A child could choke on a tennis ball, right? Or bounce it off his eye. Should we recall all Wilson tennis balls until they're guaranteed not to bounce with any velocity?
Some have said that as a reporter, I shouldn't editorialize. I see it differently: I think this bit of news has been reported in much too ominous tones, and I found context missing entirely. I'm trying to supply the full picture for the many, many parents who bought this product.
People get hurt sometimes, unfortunately. Sometimes we trip and fall. It's supposed to be different with infants, I realize: They have less control. They're defenseless.
But let's not blame companies that make quality products. Bumbo will now include safety belts on these seats. Not for my son. He enjoys his Bumbo Seat; I already notice an improvement in his posture. We don't leave him in it for long. We stay close by. And we enjoy freedom, even if it carries minimal risk.
-Evan Dawson, August 2012