Staying on the safety watch
After more than a decade in the news business, I’ve certainly come to expect a word of criticism now and then. One of the perks of working at Playdate has been that I tend to receive many more compliments than complaints. Nevertheless, I do hear a complaint now and then, particularly when a reader feels a child’s safety is at risk.
These days, news rooms know to expect calls when they publish a photo of a bicyclist without a helmet or somebody holding a cigarette. I have to admit, though, I was a little surprised when I got a note last year about this photo of a little boy pretending to drive his grandfather’s RV.
“I was disappointed to see the picture of the child in the front seat of the car. It’s a very unsafe practice, and hopefully you’ll put a statement about that in your next issue,” the e-mail said.
What is there to say? I wondered. The mother was standing close by, taking the photo. The engine wasn’t running. The boy is obviously playing, not actually riding in the front seat of the car. You all know that children should be seated in an appropriate car seat or booster seat in the back seat until they’re either age 8 or at least 4’9″ tall, right? Also, “children under 13 years old be transported in the back seat where it is practical to do so,” according to Washington law.
Anyway, I knew when I first saw this next photo that somebody would be happy to remind me — and you — that infant seats should never be set on an elevated surface.
In fact, the baby’s mother and I talked about that very topic when I called to let her know the photo was selected as the winner of our Gotcha! contest. She was the one who brought it up, pointing out that the chair is actually a very low beach chair and also that she was “right there,” just an arm’s reach from the baby.
After giving it some thought, I didn’t include any sort of warning in the text that we published alongside the photograph. I decided that I didn’t need to make excuses for the photo, which our judges chose because the baby’s kick-back pose and expression made them chuckle. But I knew it was just a matter of time before I got a letter.
“I am writing out of concern in regards to a picture shown in the most recent Playdate magazine,” said the note in my inbox. “The picture is one of the last pages in the back of the magazine and shows a cute baby in a Bumbo seat. While the baby is adorable, the picture actually shows the baby in a Bumbo and the Bumbo is on what looks to be a lawn chair.
“My concern is that the picture shows the use inappropriate and unsafe use of the Bumbo seat. There are a lot of articles and a statement from Bumbo about the correct use of the seat. It adds: ‘This site is devoted to educating users of the Bumbo Baby Seat how to use the product safely in order to prevent falls. Never use the Bumbo Baby Seat on any elevated surface and never leave a baby unattended in a Bumbo Baby seat because babies can get out of a Bumbo — it is not a restraint. ‘ http://www.bumbosafety.com/
“Additionally, here is another resource: http://www.bumbobabyseat.com/“
Wow! A whole Web site dedicated to the proper use of the product… got me thinking that our Yakima mama wasn’t the first person to put the Bumbo on an elevated surface. I forwarded the letter from our concerned reader onto the baby’s mother to get her thoughts.
“[R]egarding the safety concerns I’d like to note (and you may remember from our chat) this lawn chair was significantly low to the ground and he was within an arm’s reach. At that time (4 mos.), he was no where near capable of climbing out of the Bumbo. However, he is crawling now and pulling to a stand. The last time we … put him in the Bumbo on an elevated surface, I barely caught him in time as he climbed out and was taking a header towards the ground. The Bumbo has a bold warning in red right on the product as well as on the packaging and in the instruction manual so unless a parent can’t read or doesn’t pay attention to such warnings, a parent may or may not knowingly and willingly take the same risk I did. I was always aware of the risks and carefully supervised him, but the incident did happen very, very fast. I would certainly support any warning or disclaimer you might want to include in the next issue of Playdate.
“Thanks for forwarding that message on to me. As you noted, a response was likely and the author does have a point. I can’t say I wouldn’t have written something similar out of concern for baby safety.”
As the mother said, when accidents happen, they do have a tendancy to happen very, very fast. You don’t ever hear people say, “Johnny had been playing in the middle of the street for about an hour when this car rolled down the street at 20 mph and hit him.” Nope, Johnny darted out, the car swung around the corner too fast, the sun was in the driver’s eyes… When accidents happen, we’re usually not expecting it. And, unfortunately, all the seatbelts, helmets and properly used Bumbo seats in the world aren’t going to keep our babies safe all of the time. But we’ve still got to do what we can, right?
Filed under Mama Says