There’s Not a Rule Book for This Job

by | Jun 11, 2014 | Kendra's Thoughts, Parenting, Parenting Advice | 42 comments

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. A secret known only to everyone who knows me in real life and all the people who like Catholic All Year on Facebook but no one else.

Sometimes I put the Bumbo on the table.

Okay, maybe it would be more shocking coming from someone else. I already kinda let this cat out of the bag with the “stuff I do while pregnant” post. Anyway . . .

Lulu is currently smack dab in the middle of the short window in which I find a Bumbo seat to be a sanity-saver. She’s big enough that I don’t want to wear her all the time, but not yet able to sit up. She doesn’t like to be left alone, and is not at all fooled by the dangly stuffed birds over the swing. She likes people.
Enter the Bumbo. She loves being able to sit in it and watch me cook. Sometimes I put her on the lazy-susan in the middle of the kitchen table and the kids fight over which way to point her. She’s happy to sit in it and watch us do schoolwork.

yes, Gus is wearing a balloon hat
no, I don’t know why
It works great for pictures, since she’s all propped up.
Sometimes I put those pictures on Facebook.
Sometimes people worry about those photos.As if the recommendations on the side of the Bumbo somehow trump the laws of physics and my baby might just spring out of it heavenward despite our frantic attempts to stop her. All because she was on the table. In the Bumbo.

just about too chubby for the Bumbo

Why? Because we have been conditioned to worry about it. We have been told that such-and-such a practice is A DANGER and must NEVER be done. So we’ve lost the ability to assess one particular situation to see if a danger actually exists in that one particular situation.

Here is the problem with that type of thinking: if I mindlessly parent only according to the “public service announcement” type approved-parenting-practices, I’m just checking boxes. I’d say to myself, “Bumbos must not be on the counter. Counters are dangerous. The floor is SAFE.”
But what if that’s not true in my particular circumstances? What if, at that particular moment, on the counter she has my eyes on her and is in arm’s reach, but on the floor she’d be difficult to see and might be stepped on or kicked over or poked by a toddler or snatched by a wild dingo?
Dingos can’t eat your baby if she’s on the counter.

I’m not saying that putting a Bumbo on the counter is always a good idea. Bad things can absolutely happen in a Bumbo. We’ve all got to be mindful.
But the problem isn’t just a Bumbo on the counter. The problem is not properly accounting for that day’s particular circumstances.

I put the baby in the Bumbo on the counter, IF I can do it safely. Which I very often can.I suppose it would be nice if there really were one-size-fits all parenting rules. If it really was ALWAYS safe to put the Bumbo on the floor or ALWAYS deadly to leave children in a car even for a moment or NEVER appropriate to swim less than thirty minutes after eating.

But the fact is, parenting isn’t one-size-fits all. It’s not that easy. It requires constant assessment and a thousand little decisions a day. What’s right for one situation on one day might not be right for a similar situation on another day.

I can’t pass my responsibility for making appropriate, situation-based decisions on some set of imaginary rules just because “everyone” says. I have done enough parenting to know that much for sure.

So if you see a photo of Lulu in the Bumbo, and it’s up on the counter, please assume that we were having an infestation of vicious ground-dwelling creatures. Or lava. And I was totally within arm’s reach.

Speaking of danger . . .


  1. Andrea

    Hahaha… My husband and I have a jogger. When our Pio was born, we decided we couldn't use the jogger with him for walking as we didn't have the right car seat attachment to put on top. And then a week later we thought: "What? Who cares? We can jury rig him in! He's a newborn! He can't move and we were just walking not jogging…" Yep. Worked just fine even though warnings were plastered all over.

  2. Chrissy S

    When I first had my daughter I was so paranoid about EVERYTHING. I strapped her into the bouncy seat as a New Born even when she was sleeping right at my feet…not moving. I have become more common sense as the months have gone on. How else could we get ANYTHING ELSE DONE? Anyways love this post. 🙂

  3. Wendy Klik

    You are right, those scary warnings are on everything to protect the manufacturers from being sued when/if parents are negligent and (God forbid) their child gets hurt.

  4. Bonnie

    Our Bumbo was destroyed by older siblings but before that I put the baby in the Bumbo on the counter – which people thought was BAD but I never put James in the Bumbo, even on the floor, because his physical therapist told us not to. Of course babies in Bumbos on the floor is GOOD so people thought I was all mixed up.

    And the car! Every day at kindergarten pick-up I leave my kids in the car because they all fell asleep on the drive over. I'm pretty sure some parents just never considered that in a small, safe town when the van is in sight I could do something like leave it running with the heat or a/c on so my kids could sleep and I wouldn't have to deal with melt downs.

    • Kendra

      Yep. The post could have totally been on leaving kids in the car for a few minutes, but I didn't want to make the internet explode.

    • Mary Wilkerson

      There are SO many car rules I sometimes break that have to do with winter coats, boosters till 12, etc… Yikes!

  5. Smith

    Ha! I have the same picture of my fifth on the dining room table during dinner. We don't have a lazy Susan though. I love that idea! Unfortunately, it is a short time when my boys could safely sit in it on a counter. They all used their feet to push off and tried to reach for things. BUT I saw this coming and was able to make the decision to stop putting them up there. It's the ridiculous litigation in this country. Go to Germany and you find no warnings on anything. In fact, they'll let you decide when your child is old or big enough to ride certain rides and they send your 3 year old home from kindergarten with a person made out of unlit matches. 🙂

    • Ronja

      That's not entirely true. There are maybe slightly less warnings on our products, because companys don't get sued so much here. But our amusement parks have very specific height restrictions, the law for car seats is very strict, and so on. Not much of a difference to the US, really.

      I also think parents should just use common sense. Do you only put Lulu on the Counter under your watch,,though, or are the bigger kids allowed so, too?

  6. Amelia Bentrup

    I'm a big believer in using your common sense. I think those warnings are there, because there are some kids that are active/strong/persistent enough that they could wiggle themselves right off the table or make it flip over or something…especially older babies iwth longer legs. However, that doesn't mean it's unsafe for all babies, it really just depends on the age/strength of the baby, how far from the edge you can put the seat and if there is someone in arm's reach.

  7. Colleen

    Loved this! We currently put the baby in a vibrating seat (what are they called) on top of the table, and that's one of the safest places he can be in our house! Also, I had a friend email me saying that the sticker family we had on the back of our car was dangerous, and linked to an article that she had read. I'm sorry if we are telling all the creeps of the world that we have a lot of kids, but shouldn't they already know that based on the SIZE OF THE VAN WE HAVE??? It's ridiculous. I can't worry about it all. I'll save my gray hairs to worry about things that are important to me, not everyone else.

    • Micaela Darr

      All the scary things all the time! It's so hard for me to deal with that type of thninking. I sympathize, because I've been that type of mom before, but it really really was not good for me, mentally or emotionally. It's better for me to rely on my common sense, of which I have in abundance.

  8. Eburke

    I thought, "Please tell me she has her atop a Lazy Susan!" when I first glanced at that picture. Indeed she has; indeed. Love it.

  9. Kate

    I had the exact same response as Eburke!

    Also, I never put Jake on top of the table in the bumbo because he hated it and would arch his back and tip out of it in seconds. Lucy June however is (was…fatty) in the bumbo on the table all the time (safely.) And I'll admit I've totally noticed your Lulu in the bumbo on the table pics and done fist pumps because "Kendra does it so it HAS to be OK!!" …enabler.

  10. Christine

    I definitely agree. We have two different high chairs – one we only use when the baby is very young, because the seat is wide enough to accommodate the Bumbo. I know it's totally against both product's warranties, but it works, and we make sure it's safe. This post might fit in on Free-Range Parenting 🙂

  11. Amy

    I am right there with you. I use to but Kate on my counter all the time. I plan on putting any following children there to. It is about being able to function and still attend/ interact with your child. If people are going to condemn you, then I will save you a place in line, because I will be right there with you.

  12. Becky

    Common sense: 1, Worst-First thinking: 0.
    Love this post! 🙂

  13. Cristina

    When I had my first, my mother asked what I wanted for him for Christmas and I told her a Bumbo. She absolutely refused to buy one because she said that she was sure that I would put it on the counter and he would inevitably have a horrific Bumbo related trip to the ER because clearly I was an incompetent mother–well she didn't say that last part but it was implied. She was right though, I would have put it on the counter–and I did–with the Bumbo I ended up borrowing from my sister-in-law 😉

    We never had to go the ER though, well, not for Bumbo related injuries anyway 🙂

  14. Miss Jill and Mister John


    I have come to realize that we all have our "hot buttons" with parenting. For me, I have three big fears– flying w/o using a car seat, car seat safety, and driveway danger. Make that four– pool safety.

    Other people think I am insane when I say that I worry that we'll hit turbulence and my baby will be sent flying through the air; hence the car seat. But that's my hot spot.

    On the other hand, I've had people scold me for letting my baby eat a Cheerios off of the floor in church because of the dirt on shoes.

    To each their own, I say. My brain can't handle any more worries.

    • Kendra

      This is an excellent point! I happen to be okay with floor chow as well.

  15. Neely

    Haha! We put both our girls on the counter/table top in the Bumbo. It wasn't until our second was using it that I turned to my husband and said, "You know, we're really *not* supposed to do this…" His response was a shrug and returning to playing with our baby in a Bumbo on the counter. Common sense trumps a little warning tag any day.

  16. Emily Q-F

    So, I've done this. And my #2 baby pushed herself off the kitchen counter with her foot, whist in a Bumbo, while I was literally rightthere, but she still fell and cried and it was awful. I now only use the Bumbo on the table, which is way safer right?

  17. Mia Jude

    We gave our bumbo away because my son hated it and his legs were too chubby for it (at 4 months old!) And because we are those parents who don't want to risk our kids falling out of it and we would rather just let our kid move freely on the floor or sit with us at the table in the high chair. It is just our preference. I don't think someone is a bad parent because they put their kid in a bumbo seat on the counter, but they need to be smart about it. I personally don't think a baby who is able to crawl should be sitting in one on a counter. My 10 month old niece was put in a bumbo on the counter while my sis-in-law was cooking and when she turned to get something out of the fridge the baby squirmed her way out and fell off the counter and ended up with a skull fracture. Accidents can obviously happen even if a parent is very vigilant, but some accidents (as in my niece's case) could easily be prevented. I don't see anything wrong in any of the pictures you posted because there are plenty of people around watching the baby in the bumbo. I agree that today as parents we are expected to worry way too much.Let's just all practice common sense and enjoy life, please! 🙂

  18. Unknown

    My oldest just turned 30. The youngest is 8 and there are 6 others between them. I let them play with matches (must be lit over the sink), pocket knives (lost all the buttons on the remote once because of that), sit in bouncy seats on the table and eat hot dogs (as many as they wanted). They have survived mostly unscathed. I've never had a walker with wheels tho. (You do learn a thing or two having 4 boys in a row) That just seemed like asking for it. Nothing beats parental supervision and commom sense. s.

  19. Christine

    There was no such thing as a Bumbo when my kids were babies, so I can't tell you for sure if I'd put mine on the counter or not. I didn't use baby gates on stairs or locks on cupboards, though. So I'm thinking I'd put it on the counter.
    Thank you for the dingo ate my baby quote. My husband and I say it on a regular basis, and it makes me laugh every time.

  20. Steph J

    I agree…You might have seen the recent article of one mother describing her legal battle after leaving her child unattended in a vehicle for a few minutes (he was fine). Her lawyer said that her best defense was a "momentary lapse in judgment" which just seemed so strange to me. She was absolutely using her judgment, as she described herself running through the things she might be concerned about–temperature too hot? No. Amount of time I'll be away? 5 minutes, max. Odds that someone wants my car/child bad enough to break into the car in the middle of day? Well, statistically it's much more likely that my child would be injured in our drive over here than that they would be kidnapped by a stranger…

    Of course, sometimes my decision is made when I know that a bad outcome is extremely unlikely, but how stupid would I feel if I had to explain to the emergency room doctor that yes, I knew my son was on the roof…or whatever 🙂

    It is a tough balance, though, as I really do understand that when someone is concerned about the safety of my child, well..they're concerned about the safety of my child, God bless them, and may not realize they're expressing a pretty low opinion of my judgment!

  21. Nanacamille

    Is Frankie going to eat the chicks or are they going to get him?
    Gus is in the balloon hat because he looks totally awesome in it!
    I can remember a couple of babies falling off of the counter in their Bumbo but the padding kept them from getting hurt.
    What baby wants to be down on the ground fighting off wild dingos when all of the best action is up higher. There's no reason for it if you have on the floor. You always have to keep an eye on your baby even when they are 21 years old. I like Bumbo.

  22. Karyn

    I don't think the big issue is worrying about the Bumpo on the lazy susan – it's that it looks like the family's going to have Lulu for dessert, lol.

    I quite agree with you. But I think parents and children are always being told what to do, so much so that we no longer think for ourselves.

    And the whole leaving the kids in the car thing…drives me nuts.

  23. LeAnna


    We had a Health Visitor worrying that the baby was laying on our mattress (on the floor) rather than in her cradle where she would be safe from the toddler. Until I pointed out that the toddler's current favourite game was to drop stuff into the cradle, including a frying pan and a steel-toed boot. Suddenly being on a soft surface far away from heavy boots & pans didn't seem like such a hazard!

  24. Anna

    My current baby was rolling over as soon as he was Bumbo ready. I would put him in it and he would just try to roll out. So the Bumbo on the counter really looks like a terrible plan to me. But I didn't even use it much on the floor with him. Did you know they come with buckles now? When I first saw the new model I thought those buckles were so silly but now that I have this baby I think they make more sense.
    So maybe they need an extended warning that goes something like: Maybe you've seen people put the Bumbo on the counter and maybe you've even done it before yourself with your other babies and maybe they were fine but there are babies who are strong enough to roll out of them or even just rock them from side to side a bit until they tip over or off the counter so if that sounds like your baby then you shouldn't put your baby in the Bumbo on the counter and if you have a two year old who is likely to climb up and grab at the baby you should watch out for that too.

    Whew. Or we can all just use common sense. (but some people don't use common sense and those people are likely to sue others for their own lack of common sense sooo….what can you do?)

  25. Heidi

    I would have thought the warnings were overblown – and I still think they're rather over-the-top, but they came out right after I used a Bumbo seat for the first time with my son (his older sister had loved it), and he – a non-sitting, non-crawling, not particularly mobile or athletic(!), just-big-enough-for-a-bumbo guy – managed to flip himself out of it onto the (carpeted) floor – where he happily munched on carpet lint. That first time. Good grief. I gave the bumbo away shortly thereafter – not because I was afraid, but because there was no point in using it for this baby if he was not going to be contained at all by it, and I didn't want to spend the storage space on saving it for another sibling who might or might not delight in the same stunt. Clearly flipping-self-out is not going to be an issue for the babies whose thighs wedge them in, but that episode did make me see the counter/table warnings in something of a different light when they came out shortly thereafter.

  26. Elena aka happy homemaker

    Love it! We do the same thing along with the baby swing since it is the only save place in the house sometimes. I am pretty sure some overly protective parents would faint if they walked though our house and noticed our disregard for warnings on items.

  27. Sarah Sahm Williams

    Awesome! I know so many parents who are "hover" moms (which is sometimes hard to not be while outside of the house these days) but it seems like they are missing out on enjoying their kids, and their kids are learning to be fearful of everything as well.
    There's got to be a good balance somewhere…
    Thanks for posting!
    (and Lulu is a name I'm trying to convince my husband of if we have another girl – LOVE it)

  28. Anonymous

    That picture with the lazy susan absolutely wins the Internet today. Honestly, my first thought upon seeing it was that I hope someday we have enough kids to fight over who gets to spin the baby in the middle of the table to look at them! Thank you for a great laugh (and of course for the truth you preached here on the side, too)

  29. Amanda

    I love the idea of putting the Bumbo on the lazy susan in the middle of the kitchen table. Oh my gosh, my kids would totally fight over which way to spin the baby 🙂 And I love even more that you admit this is done not-infrequently!

  30. Pam

    I put my Bumbo on the counter too, solidarity sister!

  31. Melanie Bettinelli

    I love the baby on the lazy Susan! Common sense parenting for the win! And she is a seriously cute baby.

    I've never had a Bumbo, and if I did I wouldn't have room on the counter for it because our kitchen is too small. But I have left all my kids in the car while I ran into the library to pick up some on-hold books. On many occasions. And I let my toddler roam about in the backyard unsupervised.

  32. Ashley

    I wish I could print this post out and hand it to all my extended family. They are incredibly overprotective of my daughter, and think I am insane for some of the parenting decisions I make (like letting her walk by herself on concrete…because oh my gosh she might fall and crack her head open and the world will fall apart!!!) I put my bumbo on the table all the time and plan to do the same with my next baby. I used to be paranoid about the opinions of others but it got too exhausting, so now I just smile and say "she'll be fine."

    Ashley @ The Wannabe Catholic

  33. Mary Wilkerson

    Yes, Yes And Yes.
    That said, I put my second son in a bumbo seat on the table and turned around to grab baby food. He go-go-gageted his arm out, yanked himself down and ended up getting baby stitches on a finger tip that was split in two. And that STILL doesn't compare to when I accidentally didn't strap my newborn in the stroller on a walk and he tumbled out when I elevated it. On to the sidewalk, resulting in a skull fracture.
    Having babies is a dangerous business. But, alas, we are all surviving- barely 😉

  34. Sara

    My 5ish month old baby was sitting in a bumbo on the floor in the doorway of my long narrow kitchen that opens to the eating area, where my seven year old son was sitting behind the baby at the table. Older son turned around in his chair, leaned over the back of it to pat his brother on the head and ended up falling on THE BABY'S HEAD, chair and all. Everyone was fine, no cracked skulls or anything. But the baby was in the safest possible place with the least inconvenience to me- on the floor anywhere in the kitchen would have been blocking something, a cabinet, the fridge, the dishwasher. And our counters are too narrow to have him up there. And never in a million years would I have predicted the leaning over the back of the chair scenario. So, my point being, that, as you also state, not even the floor is completely safe.

Submit a Comment

Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

If you’d like to learn more about what Catholics believe and why, and to be inspired by saints from every era all over the world, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of how to teach your kids about the faith in a way that’s true, engaging, and lasts a lifetime, we can help!

➡️ Get my liturgical living checklist for free when you join my weekly newsletter. Sign up here.

This blog contains affiliate links and sponsored posts, for which I receive a commission. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.