High Chair vs Bumbo Seat

child eating in a high chair

When preparing for a baby, every parent faces the same question. What equipment should they buy for their child? With all the different products on the market, it can be hard to know which ones are best for supporting your baby in their growth and development. And what can help make your life a little easier!

Source: Tony Butterfield | License

The high chair has been a staple piece of equipment, relied on by parents for decades. However, its status is at threat by a new kid on the block; the multi-use Bumbo seat. Popularised in adverts and touted around the internet, the Bumbo seat has become an attractive option for many parents.

Despite this popularity, Bumbo is controversial in the childcare community. While the seat supposedly provides optimal support for young babies and boasts a design tailored to help develop pelvic stability, critics argue that the seats are simply not comfortable. Some have even questioned their safety.

This article will weigh up the pros and cons of the Bumbo, assess the criticisms and finally put to rest the issue of whether the Bumbo seat is a reliable alternative to the conventional highchair.

So what’s difference between them a high chair and the Bumbo? While the highchair is almost exclusively for mealtimes, the ‘Bumbo Multiseat’ can also be used as a floor booster seat. Some parents have even adopted methods to use them as bath seats. Therefore the potential attraction of the Bumbo is it’s versatility.

However, the big question is whether the Bumbo actually offers any advantages for children or parents and whether it poses any risks. Let’s look at all this in more detail.

Are Bumbo seats good for children?

The original idea of the Bumbo seat was to allow babies to sit upright before they can do so themselves. According to the Bumbo brand’s website, the company prioritises “quality, comfort and safety without compromise”.

However, there are concerns that it can hinder a child’s development if it’s used before they are properly ready to sit up themselves. A child has a limited freedom of movement when placed in the seat, so they cannot develop the specific muscles they need to in order to achieve a seated position independently. It’s as though they are locked in and have no active involvement in their own positioning.

Placing a child who hasn’t yet developed suitable pelvic and core stability into a Bumbo seat can therefore cause significant developmental delays. Therefore, it would be ill-advised to use the Bumbo seat for babies under 4 months old.

Use from 6 months+

At around 6 months, some babies can support themselves in a seated position. Therefore at mealtimes, a Bumbo seat can be used as a booster seat to bring them to the same level as their siblings or parents. This can help babies receive stimulation from face-to-face verbal and physical contact. However, this doesn’t really offer any advantage over the traditional highchair as it essentially adopts exactly same role.

Additionally, it could be useful to keep them strapped in and kept in one place in order to keep an eye on them while carrying out housework. But stuck in this un-stimulating position for any length of time isn’t ideal. Allowing them to explore their immediate environment and exercise their muscles freely on a safe and soft surface is, in terms of their development, much more desirable.

High Chair vs Bumbo Seat

As mentioned above, if it’s used for babies under 4 months, the Bumbo can inhibit their development, but at 6+ months, it can be safely used at the table. However, at this point, its original use as a floor seat becomes redundant. The child is now capable of sitting upright all on their own and they would gain more developmentally from having freedom of movement.

The Bumbo seat offers a lifespan of 1 year, while most high chairs can be used up to 3 years old. It would seem that in terms of investment there isn’t much advantage in buying a Bumbo over a highchair .

In addition, many parents feel their children outgrow the Bumbo far too quickly to be a worthwhile purchase and many have complained that the leg holes don’t accommodate their child’s thighs. The highchair meanwhile, has ample space for growth. Some highchairs can also recline, which is useful for younger babies, and most models come with footrests.

Are Bumbo seats safe?

The safety aspect of Bumbo seats is the biggest controversy surrounding them and there are numerous reports of injuries from using the product, some even as severe as skull damage.

Bumbo first recalled nearly a million Bumbo seats in 2007 after reports of 17 injuries causing skull fractures. Again in 2012, the company recalled further products after reports of 4 times the previously recorded number of injuries.  Bumbo refers to this incident on the website, claiming the recalls were “voluntary” and that they have now installed a restraint belt as well as clearer warning signs on the seat itself.

This inclusion of a belt will no doubt prevent any serious infantile injuries in the future, and the clearly visible warnings will help parents use the seat appropriately. But, even with these new safety measures, parents are required to watch their seated child constantly. This brings into question the advantage of the seat over simple blankets, pillows or carpets. If there is no particular safety or developmental advantage to keeping your child in a Bumbo seat and it does not require any less demand on your attention, then is it really a worthwhile purchase?

Can you use a Bumbo as a bath seat?

Some parents have circulated hacks on the internet for using the Bumbo as a bath seat. For example, you can attach suction pads to the bottom to stop the seat floating. However, without constant supervision, the seat can be very dangerous for infants when used in the bath. Tragically in 2013 a baby died due to improper use.

Of course this would have been avoided had the child been constantly supervised. However the risks are too great given that a parent’s attention can easily slip for a moment or two from time to time.

high chair vs bumbo seat
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Are Bumbo seats worth it?

When it comes to mealtimes, the Bumbo seat, if correctly installed, with a belt and used for an infant of a suitable age (6+ months), it can be a fine alternative to a highchair. The booster seat can also be an intermediary step for toddlers as it falls somewhere between a highchair and a normal chair. 

However, given the website suggests a 9 month usage period and a lifespan of a year, it is not a financially smart choice compared to a standard, sturdy highchair. Furthermore, it doesn’t have much use as a floor seat given how it impairs movement and development. Also, it is certainly not recommended as a bath seat. It therefore does not serve any other real discernible purpose compared to the highchair. 

If you do decide to purchase a Bumbo seat, just use it for short periods when you can clearly supervise and monitor your baby.