Cape Town - More than four million Bumbo Baby Seats from around the world are being recalled by South African company Bumbo International Trust.
This after parents reported injuries including cracked skulls, bleeding noses and bloodied lips, the company and United States and Canadian authorities said on Wednesday.
The seat is manufactured in Gauteng and still being sold in South African stores.
The Bumbo Baby Seat is moulded from a dense foam described as a light-weight plastic. A dip in the middle and leg holes allow babies to sit.
Complaints on sites such as Saferproducts.gov, a consumer safety information database connected to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), have revealed the dangers of using the seat.
One of the consumers complained: “We had our daughter in the Bumbo Seat on an elevated surface and at eight months she flipped herself out of it and fractured her skull in two places.
“She had to be admitted into the hospital overnight for observations.”
Since 2007, when the product was initially recalled, at least 50 incidents in the US have been reported in which babies fell while the seat was on a raised surface. Nineteen of the incidents included skull fractures, the company and CPSC said.
Another 34 reports have been received of infants hurt while the seat was on a floor or unknown elevation. Two babies suffered fractured skulls.
On Wednesday, the Bumbo Baby Seat was still available at Babies R Us stores across Cape Town, with some employees even recommending the product.
An employee at the branch at Canal Walk did warn that the device was slightly unstable, while an employee at Tokai Junction said only “overweight babies” would cause the product to tip over.
But the company said the “recall” was not what consumers would expect and that the product would still be sold in the US, Canada and SA.
“The CPSC calls any change that is made to a product a recall,” said a Bumbo International spokesperson. “Due to the addition of the restraint belt – that is the term being used.”
The restraint belt will be made available, free of charge, to people who have already bought the seat and all new seats will be sold with the belt as standard.
According to the company, the belt will improve on the safety of the product.
The recall came with a new warning label on the company's website, which insists that the product is only used with the restraint belt and never placed on an elevated service.
But Dr Sebastian van As, head of the trauma unit at Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, who is involved with the national Child Safe project, said that the seat did look unsafe. He added that items that prop children up are generally problematic.
“Baby walkers have been outlawed across the world,” Van As said. “Children were falling down stairs and causing irreparable damage to themselves. Additionally, due to the child being suspended in the air, its legs wouldn't develop properly.”
He recommended that parents research products before purchasing them for their children.
Tamarin Hammond said she had been using the seat for her four-month-old son but stopped because it felt unsafe.
“It was really flimsy,” she said. “It seemed too easy for my child to tip it over and fall out.”
Stephen Ritchie, on the other hand, was impressed with the product and had been using it on elevated surfaces with his five-month-old son with no problems. But, he added that his son was never left alone in the seat and that he only used it to feed him.
* Bumbo International has advised Bumbo owners in South Africa to email email@example.com to order a kit that includes a restraint belt, instructions and new warning stickers. - Cape Argus