Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

A few days ago we became aware of a new booster seat called the Bumble Baby by a company called SilverFlye. I’ll admit I was intrigued. It looks a lot like one of our Recommended Carseats, the BubbleBum, only wider. In fact, SilverFlye touts the Bumble Baby as an “ULTRA WIDE PORTABLE BOOSTER SEAT,” measuring “17 inches wide,” making it “the widest AND ONLY portable car booster seat on the market that your child won’t slip or slide off during sudden stops or sharp turns!”

I’ll also admit I was skeptical. We’d never heard of this company before, and some of the claims made us wonder if this was a cheap, illegal solution like some other seats that periodically pop up on Amazon.

Clearly our only choice was to order one and do a quick Bumble Baby booster review.

There are a few positive aspects to this seat:

  • It came in a nice, compact package.
  • It has a belt guide.
  • It really is quite wide.
  • The box claims that it “[m]eets all US Federal Motor Vehicle safety standards.”

Unfortunately there were a lot of negatives, too.

For one, this seat does not appear to be compliant with FMVSS 213, the regulations companies need to follow when certifying car seats. It’s possible the seat has passed safety testing—I have no idea—but FMVSS 213 covers more than just testing.

FMVSS 213 requires things like labeling. That might sound like a bureaucratic technicality, but it’s not. Among other things, labels on the seat need to include contact information for the manufacturer so parents can call if they have questions or problems. Belt-positioning boosters like this one are required to include instructions that they must be used with a lap and shoulder belt. Belt-positioning boosters are also required to have a label stating that they’re certified for use in motor vehicles but not on airplanes.

The Bumble Baby is missing all these and more.

Seats are also required to have registration cards attached to them so parents can send in their information (or register online) to be notified of potential recalls. The Bumble Baby did not include a recall card or any other information on how to register the seat. (The box did include a website, but when I went to it there was just a message that the store “will be opening soon.”)

These requirements are all clearly spelled out in the text of FMVSS 213. Anyone at the company who read over the regulation to make sure the seat “met all safety standards” certainly would have seen the dozens of pages of text about everything they needed to do. I can’t help but wonder what other details they might have missed.

There are other areas of concern.

Bumble Baby manualFor one, the instruction “manual” consists of an oversized postcard with 10 sentences of instruction, mostly about how to inflate the seat. There is no information about when the seat expires or if it needs to be replaced after a crash or…anything else, really.  Once you’ve thrown away the box, there is no information on the postcard or on the product with any contact information for the company, nor is any company information listed on their Amazon store page.

Of even greater concern is how flimsy the seat feels. When the BubbleBum first came out, people were understandably disturbed by the idea of an inflatable seat. Inflatable things deflate and pop, qualities that don’t inspire confidence in a car seat. But once people got their hands on a BubbleBum, they soon realized that it wasn’t a glorified beach ball: It’s a heavy-duty item that practically inflates itself and is very hard to deflate. I can’t say the same for the Bumble Baby.

Inflated, the Bumble Baby felt very squishy, not firm like the BubbleBum.

bumblebaby3

Bumble Baby squishBubbleBum squish

Bumble Baby squish 2 BubbleBum squish 2

(In those BubbleBum photos, you can see one of the large compliance labels the Bumble Baby lacks.)

Here’s a video showing how easily the Bumble Baby deflates:

I also looked at belt fit. The Bumble Baby caused the lap belt to sit higher on my 42-lb, 6-year-old child than I’d like.   Without the belt guide, the belt also cut across her neck. (The belt guide—whose use is not addressed in the “manual”—did help with the shoulder belt fit, but not the lap belt.) The BubbleBum also provided a better lap belt fit, presumably because it is narrower, that helps the seatbelt guides keep the belt positioned correctly. Here is the Bumble Baby on the left, BubbleBum on the right:

Bumble Baby belt IMG_0507

 

And here is a 40-pound 5-year old, Bumble Baby on left, BubbleBum on right:

bumble1 bubble1

And a 70 pound, 7.5 year-old, Bumble Baby on left, BubbleBum on right:

bumblebaby6 bubblebum6

Both seats start out at about the same thickness, but the Bumble Baby is so squishy that I suspect it compresses too much when a child sits on it, as opposed to the Bubble Bum, which provides a much firmer surface and therefore keeps the child more elevated.

Grainne Kelly, mom, inventor and CEO of BubbleBum, had this to say about the Bumble Baby:

“I’m happy to be public that this product infringes [upon] our Design Patent and is not associated with our brand in any way. We cannot confirm that this product meets any regulation and wish to make it clear that while the appearance is very similar, it does not have the same technical features as the BubbleBum.”

The manufacturer states that the BubbleBum has been successfully tested both inflated and deflated and the seat has been shown to provide the same function as a standard, rigid backless booster.  Such testing and certification to USA and European standards is both comprehensive and expensive, yet the BubbleBum retails on Amazon for only $1 more.  The BubbleBum has also been evaluated by the IIHS and is one of their “Best Bets”. If SilverFlye can provide similar information about the Bumble Baby, we’d love to see it.

(Incidentally, I doubt it’s a coincidence that “Bumble Baby” and “BubbleBum” sound so similar. This is also a good place to remind companies of our opposition to using the word “baby” to describe booster seats. Babies belong in rear-facing harnessed seats. Boosters are for big kids. But I digress.)

Bottom line:

  1. The Bumble Baby does not appear to be compliant with federal safety standards.
  2. It might also be infringing on another company’s patent and intellectual property.
  3. The booster provided a poor belt fit on my child, and the flimsy feel and ease of deflation mean that I would not feel comfortable using this seat even if I could set aside the other two points.

Until and unless the company can prove compliance with federal standards, CarseatBlog cannot consider recommending this product.