Like many couples, the Reeves put a lot of research into preparing for the arrival of their firstborn. While compiling their baby shower registry, their son’s safety was at the forefront of their minds. Perusing Maine stores, they found themselves unsatisfied with the safety of certain baby products and decided, quite literally, to take the matter into their own hands.
This year, Seabren and Whitney Reeves of Brunswick incorporated Bitzy Baby, a juvenile safety product company. Their first product: an innovative crib bumper, the Bitzy Bumper.
“Out of the recognition that traditional crib bumpers had been associated with SIDS [Sudden Infant Death Syndrome], and needing to protect our own son in his sleeping environment, my wife and I invented and patented the Bitzy Bumper,” said Seabren Reeves.
In 2008, the couple debated on whether to buy a crib bumper to prevent their son’s legs from being tangled in the crib slats or to leave the crib bare — a common debate among new parents.
Just a year prior, a study in the Journal of Pediatrics concluded that crib and bassinet bumpers are unsafe because they can suffocate or strangle an infant. And the American Academy of Pediatrics advises removal of crib bumpers from a baby’s sleeping area as a part of their “Back to Sleep” campaign.
The controversy has continued for years, though stores continue to sell crib bumpers –- except for stores in Maryland. This fall (Sept. 28), Maryland health officials proposed a ban on the sale of crib bumpers, making it the first state to prohibit the item.
The Reeves disagree with Maryland. They see the benefit of buffering infants from the hard slats of a crib, yet in every store throughout Maine, they were finding unsatisfactory bumpers with designs they perceived as potentially dangerous for their firstborn, Seabren IV.
“We created a solution,” said Seabren Reeves.
Reeves, an information technologies systems analyst, and his wife, a second grade teacher, worked nights and weekends to perfect their first product.
“We looked at all the lagging features of bumpers available, including entanglement, impact, leverage for climbing, suffocation and carbon dioxide rebreathing,” Reeves wrote on their company website.
The Bitzy Baby crib bumper has been independently scientifically tested by globally recognized Intertek — tests that concluded that the Bitzy Bumper has 30 times less suffocation risk and 10 times less carbon dioxide rebreathing risk than the industry standard for a safe sleeping environment (a bare crib with mattress and sheet) established by the American Association of Pediatrics.
It has a breathable natural cotton exterior shell cushioned with removable patented plastic inserts, unlike the traditional poly filled crib bumpers. And the inserts are stacked upon each other so the bumper will collapse like an accordion if an infant manages to pull it down, though it should be securely tied to the crib from the outside and, as stated on the warning label, the crib bumper should be removed from cribs of babies who can independently sit up because any crib bumper, even if collapsible, can be leverage for crawling out of a crib.
Incorporated in February, the company won the 2011 USM Student Business Plan Competition. Bitzy Baby was launched at the ABC Kids Expo in Louisville, Kentucky in September, an event attended by 15,000 people.
“At the expo, we got just an unbelievable response from manufacturers who wanted to produce the product to doctors who have their own product lines and want to help us get it on the market,” said Seabren Reeves. “Everyone in the industry knows the risk associated with crib bumpers.”
“It’s really kind of uncanny how everything has kind of come together,” he said.
Crib bumpers are yet to be outlawed in Maine. In 2005, the 122nd Maine Legislature passed An Act to Establish a Maternal and Infant Death Review Panel to gather data about specific risk factors for infant mortality, including sleep conditions as causes of infant death.
In the 2009 Annual Report to the Legislature, they identified bumper pads as one element that defines an unsafe crib. The report also states that American Academy of Pediatrics “Back to Sleep” campaign should be adopted on a statewide level, including “not having extraneous items in the sleep area.”
With Bitzy Bumper, the Reeves hope to redefine what a crib bumper can be — a product that is not considered an “extraneous item.”
The Bitzy Bumper is in it’s manufacturing stage and is not yet available for sale. The Reeves are hesitant to predict when the product will be available. Their intent is for Bitzy Baby — which will include more safety-inspired products — is to reach a global market, so they may partner with a larger company.
Though they’ve yet to share their solution with the world, their Bitzy Bumper is protecting their second son, 8-month-old Sondre, from the wooden slats of his crib.
“We joke that Seabren (IV) inspired the invention, and our son Sondre is reaping the benefits,” Reeves said.