If parents have a superpower, it’s the ability to envision disaster for their children at every turn. But even anxious moms and dads may not suspect the strollers, car seats and cribs they buy could pose a danger.
That is what makes recalls of baby products like the Bumbo Seat so unnerving.
About 4 million Bumbo Baby Seats – a $30 molded chair that helps babies sit upright before they are able to on their own – were recalled recently for risk of serious injuries to infants who fall or maneuver out of them, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The agency and manufacturer Bumbo International said it was aware of 84 injuries, including 21 skull fractures. Affected consumers should stop using the product until they install a restraint they can order free to repair the seats, says Kim Dulic, commission spokeswoman.
It’s not the first time reports have surfaced about infants falling out of Bumbo seats. In 2007, the company voluntarily recalled 1 million seats to add warnings on them against use on elevated surfaces. Bumbo says seats currently available for sale already include the restraint, as well as stronger warning stickers advising against using the seat on raised surfaces or without adult supervision.
But Bumbo seats are barely a footnote when it comes to injuries linked to baby products. During 2010, 81,700 children under age 5 received emergency-room treatment as a result of a nursery-product injury, according to the latest CPSC data.
Evolving government standards, however, are helping decrease injuries, consumer advocates say.
“There have been huge strides made,” says Rachel Weintraub, the director of product safety for the Consumer Federation of America.
But parents should still exercise caution. Innovative products like the Bumbo that don’t fit neatly into one product category (say, strollers or infant carriers) don’t have federal or industry safety standards to test against, says Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, a safety-focused nonprofit. Also, hand-me-downs or yard-sale fare could well include recalled products.
Experts suggest parents use the CPSC’s app to check for recalls before buying a secondhand infant product and check SaferProducts.gov for consumer-reported risks. Register new products with the manufacturer. That helps guarantee you’ll be notified in the event of a recall.
Experts say parents should exercise caution when purchasing these three types of baby products:
Cribs: From 2007 through June 2011, the CPSC recalled 11 million dangerous cribs. The sliding side of the crib – designed to make it easier for parents to reach inside – created a gap between the crib and mattress into which an infant could fall and be injured or even suffocate. The government tied such cribs to the deaths of 32 infants as far back as 2000. In 2010, the cribs sent 14,500 children under 5 to the ER.
Effective June 2011, drop sides were banned on all U.S.-sold cribs, and new safety standards were enacted. But older cribs could pop up at flea markets or yard sales, even though it’s illegal to sell recalled products.
Right now, the best option is to buy new.
Baby carriers: Carriers and car-seat carriers were the top injury-causing products in 2010, sending 16,900 children under 5 to the emergency room, the CPSC says. A common problem has been handles that break.
Carriers are another item that experts typically suggest buying new, both to avoid seats that may have been compromised by a previous auto accident and to ensure a more secure installation.
Strollers: Nearly 13,000 kids under 5 received emergency-room treatment for a stroller or carriage injury in 2010. In 2009, Maclaren recalled more than 1 million strollers following reports of adult and child injuries from hinges where the stroller folds. A dozen children who placed their fingers in the hinges had their fingertips sliced off.