The Lowdown on Anti-Microbial Carriers

Two days before the second national Lockdown in the UK, Ergobaby announced the release of their first ever anti-microbial carrier. But what does this even mean? Should you get one? Is this something you need?

This is one of those rare moments where my past job collides with my current job. As many of you know before I had my son I was a scientist. Specifically, I have a MRes in Infection and Immunity and a PhD in Immunology. So it really is one of those moments where I am assessing this carrier not only with my Carrying Consultant hat on but also with my Immunologist hat on.

The first thing to consider is what does anti-microbial actually mean? Something that is anti-microbial is something that can kill or limit the growth of bacteria and fungi. Note kill or limit the growth of – not all anti-microbials kill bacteria and fungi, some simply stop or slow growth down. This means you can still get transmission or infection from something with this agent in it. You’re just less likely to because bacteria or yeast will grow much more slowly so there will be less present on that surface.

Anti-microbial IS NOT the same as anti-viral. Generally agents that are anti-microbial are not effective against viruses because viruses propagate in a totally different way to bacteria and fungi. Bacteria and fungi grow on surfaces, whereas viruses can not grow with out a host. For them it’s just about surviving in a transmittable form on a surface and not about growth. This is one of the reasons that, generally, surface transmission is less of an issue with viruses, few viruses truly transmit via surfaces. And the quality of the surface has a huge impact with viruses – shiny surfaces that can hold droplets are far far more effective for viral transmission than something that droplets soak into like fabrics. Fabric generally has extremely low viral transmission. Even if a virus can survive on the fabric, because of the way water soaks in and dries out on fabric, it is extremely difficult to catch a virus from touching fabric. Any fabric, not just specially designed fabrics, ANY FABRIC. Which is great news for baby carriers in general.

The second thing to consider is what the anti-microbial agent is and the mechanism by which is works. So for the Ergobaby carrier released last week, the agent is Silver ions. Silver has long been known to have anti-microbial properties. Bacteria can’t grow on its surface and its non toxic for humans (two reasons it’s popular for jewellery). Specifically it is the silver ions that are toxic for, and kill bacteria by binding to some of their essential cellular components preventing the bacteria from performing basic reactions required to live. Hence silver is used a lot in hospitals, from silver coated tubes and catheters to antibiotic creams used to treat burns. Silver ions are even added to plasters and bandages.

So potentially adding them to a baby carrier, may have certain advantages. If your carrier is prone to getting very smelly. If you use it frequently while working out with Carifit or someone, frequently spill stuff on it and don’t wash it – then silver ions may help keep bacteria from having a field day on your carrier. Although, I should say, the effectiveness will depend a lot on the concentration of the silver ions added to the carrier and on how long they remain in the carrier with washing etc. It’s worth noting that silver infused bandages are not washed and reused (but generally incinerated) so I have my reservations about the longevity of this protection. Likewise the Ergobaby anti-microbial carrier is the same price as the regular carrier, so this makes me a little suspicious about the concentration and how much silver ions have been added. There is no information about this, so it is difficult to tell how this compares with the amount added to bandages and plasters etc.

However, while this may potentially be a pro if you do find your carrier gets smelly very fast, my experience over the last 7 years working with parents tells me most parents don’t find this. In fact, I find most parents will wash a carrier long before it starts to smell. Certainly if it gets dirty or they spilt something on it. And for the parts of the carrier that get chewed on and possetted on there are simple solutions like suck pads to protect the chewed on parts of the carrier. Allowing you to regularly wash these while keeping the carrier clean and dry.

So ultimately when it comes to keeping bacteria at bay, most parents actually don’t find this a problem.

And when it comes to keeping viruses at bay – something that is on all of our minds at the moment in the middle of this global pandemic – silver ions have absolutely no effect on CoV-Sars-2 (the virus that causes Covid19) or any other virus because, as I mentioned above viruses replicate by an entirely different method to bacteria. And surface transmission plays a much smaller role compared to transmissions via droplets in the air.

So do I think you need an anti-microbial carrier? No, no I do not. For all the reasons above. Fabric is a lousy transmission surface for viruses and the chances of you or baby catching a virus off any fabric baby carrier is extremely small. You don’t need a special fabric to keep you safe.

For bacteria – if you don’t like washing your carrier ever and are prone to getting it wet, damp and filthy then maybe you would see a benefit, but if you are like most people and wash your stuff if it’s dirty then I doubt you’ll notice any difference buying an anti-microbial carrier versus buying a normal one. I would simply recommend buying a pair of suck pads instead!

My personal opinion with my both my immunology and babywearing hats on, is that this is all an example of clever marketing. Getting you to think that you need something that actually, for most people, won’t make a noticable difference. I do sell the regular material Ergo Omni 360, but I won’t be buying into this gimmick and retailing any of the silver ion ones.

If you don’t have a carrier yet and think silver ions are cool and would like to own a carrier containing silver ions, then please do be my guest and buy one. Do so with my total, unreserved blessing. However, this article is for the people who maybe already own a carrier then started reading the marketing and thought “OH NO! Did I make a mistake? Should I have bought this instead? Will my baby be safe?” Or for the people who were about to buy something else that they wanted more but the marketing made them pause and now they aren’t sure.

For all these people – you don’t need an anti-microbial carrier to keep your beautiful baby safe. Just carrying them close to your body in your carrier, or whatever carrier you choose that fits you both well, is keeping them so safe and so nurtured and so loved. And that is all that matters.

-Madeleine, MRes Infection and Immunity and PhD in Immunology

BundleBean Babywearing Cover Review

The BundleBean babywearing cover is one of those rare products that truly are UNIVERSAL. Many things claim to work with everything else and then in reality are all a bit hit and miss. But not so for the BundleBean cover. It truly is 100% waterproof, and it truly fits every carrier and every sling I’ve ever tried with it. Which is well over 100 different brands and models at this point!

It will fit over stretchy wraps, ring sling, woven wraps, Meh Dai, buckle carriers and even over the big structured hiking style carriers. It will work on most buggies and pushchairs too.

The reason for this flexibility comes from the 4 elasticated velcro ties, which can attach to each other, themselves, to other tabs on the cover… offering you a huge number of different configurations to suit all different sling types and all different parent shapes and sizes. From the super petite to the plus sized, men and women alike. Likewise the elasticated panel and well placed poppers means that the panel will fit all the way from newborn to 4 years!! So lasting you as long as you could possibly need.

See the cover in action and hear me rave about it some more here:

It comes in 2 weights – a fleece lined all seasons version that will definitely keep baby cosy in the winter, and a lightweight rain cover that will keep baby dry without adding warmth (so great for warmer months or if you and baby are prone to overheating).

All in all the Bundlebean is a great accessory for any babywearing parent, perfect for getting out and about in the British wind/rain/drizzle!! At £29.95 for the lightweight rain cover and £39.95 for the fleece lined version these make perfect gifts for new parents too! Available from the Sheen Slings webshop here.

-Madeleine

wood bridge cute sitting

Three things I want you to feel when you access one of my services

When book a consultation with me – whether online or in person, whether in my home or yours or both via the magic of Zoom, there are 3 things that I want you to feel. I want you to feel them during your consultation, before it and afterwards. In fact these 3 things are the same things I want anyone accessing any of my services to feel – whether coming to a Sling Clinic, organising a contact free hire or just reaching out for help not sure what form of help they might need. Whatever help you need, when you are accessing any of my services I want you to feel:

1. Safe

I want you to feel safe. Learning to use a baby carrier is a skill and like learning any new skill making mistakes is a very important part of the learning process. But making mistakes in front of someone you’ve only just met is quite hard and can leave you feeling vulnerable, nervous or worried. Which is why I will do everything in my power to make you feel safe – to ensure the learning environment (whether at my home or yours, or at the children’s centre or online via Zoom) is as safe and as conducive to learning as possible. So you feel able to make all the mistakes you need to to acquire the skills you need to be confident and comfortable wearing your baby.

2. Empowered

Knowledge is power. I want to help you find the right option for you, help you make the right choices for you by giving you the knowledge and information and skills to do so.

So often parents ask me to “tell them which one is best”, but everyone is different and you know your body and your baby far far better than I do. I know baby carriers, I have an absolutely huge level of product knowledge and so I can work with you to help you find the right thing for you. I can quickly narrow down the field by listening to your needs, watching you as you try carriers on, watching and noticing what movements are easy for you and which ones are challenging, noticing what fits well and what doesn’t and knowing why it does or doesn’t fit well and thus what else might fit better. And in this way I can quickly hone in exactly what are the best options for you, but I can’t simply tell you. I need to do one better, I need to give you the knowledge so you can be empowered to decide what works for you best and feel confident and comfortable with that decision.

3. Accepted

I want you to feel accepted. For who you are, and wherever you are on your parenthood journey. Whether you are in your PJs because dressing today just didn’t happen, whether you are tear soaked, vom-soaked, whether your hair is unbrushed. Whether you are breast, chest or bottle feeding your baby. Whatever your gender, sexuality, race, whatever the shape or size of your family. Whether you or your child have additional needs that need me to adapt my service to meet those needs. Whether this is your 1st child or your 7th or any number. Whatever any of your parenting choices. Even if your baby screams all the way through the whole consultation. If you’d like to learn more about carrying your child or a child in your care, I want to help. There is zero judgement here, you are welcome, exactly as you are. I will meet you, welcome you exactly as you are. Even if that really is covered in sick and in PJs.

The big question, however, is how do you want to feel when you access my services? And if you have been, how did you feel? Please do leave comments below!

-Madeleine

How to do a Hip Carry with an Ergobaby Embrace

The Embrace is a lovely soft newborn suitable carrier. The manual demonstrates both a parent facing carry from newborn onward and a outward facing carry once baby is strong enough to be faced outward. But did you know you can use it in a hip carry too? The method isn’t shown in the manual but actually this carrier works really well in this position.

Here is how to do it;

The hip carry is a great option for when baby starts to enter what I call nosy phase – where they want to look round and see everything. Often babies start to want to see everything (and start to fuss when faced in toward their parents) before they are physically able to be carried forward facing in a carrier. Carrying them on the hip can be a great solution as it gives them the same view as forward facing while still offering neck support and stabilising their torso against the caregiver.

Even once baby is strong enough to be outward facing while awake, the hip carry can be really useful for times when they are getting tired and need to sleep. It can be particularly helpful at times when baby is sleep resisting!! As it will allow them to look around but as you walk they will be gently rocked to sleep. Once asleep it is easy to shift them to your front (if this is more comfortable for you) or you can keep them on your hip safe in the knowledge that they are adequately supported in this position.

As ever if you are unsure about how to do this position, if your baby is ready to forward face or anything else to do with this carrier or any other do feel free to message me and I can offer suggestions or set up an online consult to help you troubleshoot!

-Madeleine

woman in white orange and green floral sleeveless dress holding black smartphone

Lockdown Services and how to access carrier help and advice over the next month

The thing that broke my heart during the first national lockdown was all the new parents who suddenly found themselves completely bereft of all the normal help and support services that would normally be available to help them. As restrictions eased in July I met so many parents who had really struggled.

As we enter this second lockdown the one thing that gives me hope is that this time the messaging from the Government is clear that services to new parents should continue following Covid secure guidelines.

As such one-to-one consultations in my home and clients homes will continued to be offered through out this second lockdown for those for whom need it.

What does that mean? For some parents – particularly those who already have a sling or carrier they’d like help with or expectant parents who would like to see and chat through their options – I can provide the same quality of support via a Video consultation. So in the interest of reducing social contacts if I can help you just effectively online I will do so.

However, for many this won’t be enough. Carriers are like jeans in that they need to fit your body, and your baby’s body and so it is really important to try carriers on and ensure your confident using them. Particularly for those with a history of back pain, post-cesarean section, parts of multiples, parents of babies suffering with reflux, parents of babies born early and a whole host of other situations where face to face support is really needed. And in these cases face to face support will continue to be offered.

Whether in my home or yours we will maintain 2m distances throughout. I will wear a mask and I ask that you do to if you are able. All slings and carriers you’ll try will be freshly washed or quarantined for 72 hours prior to you using them and handled only minimally by me and only with freshly washed hands. Dolls will be freshly wiped down, as will my card reader and anything you might need to handle. Hand hygiene will be observed. At my home we will either be in my garden or right next to my big open doors to the garden so we will have lots of ventilation. If in your home please do think about where would be best in terms of ensuring ventilation and 2m spacings (as well as where you will be most comfortable!).

Most importantly if you are at all worried or unsure if in person or online would be most useful, or worried about how we will keep risks to a minimum please do get in contact and we will discuss and agree the best plan together based on your needs and circumstances. Just as we will work together to find the right sling or carrier option for you!

And for those who don’t need face to face support – all our contact free services are running as normal. Online consultations via Zoom can be booked for any mutually agreeable time. Contact free hires can be arranged at short notice – and the carrier of your choice either posted out to you or popped into my front porch for you to collect at your leisure. And the webshop will remain open through out for all your carrier and babywearing accessory needs! I pass the post office daily on the way to nursery and school so whatever the next few weeks brings us the online shop and postal hires will continue.

So whatever help you need over the next month or so don’t hesitate to ask, Sheen Slings remains very much open.

-Madeleine

Beco Gemini and Beco 8 compared – what are the differences?

The Gemini and the 8 are both fabulous carriers from Beco, but what are the differences and which one should you go for?

Hopefully this will help;

The main difference is one of size and complexity! The Beco Gemini is both smaller and simpler. It doesn’t have lots of features and extra bits and bobs. Consequently it is, cheaper and folds down a lot smaller. Particularly the “cool” version which is made from thinner material and folds up into a very compact bundle. Because it is so lightweight it doesn’t feel bulky to use with a small baby, and so generally even though the 8 works well with a newborn, the Gemini is still often the one the feels more natural with smaller babies. The smaller panel means they don’t look as overwhelmed, you don’t need to use an insert and it just seems to mould to smaller form better. The smaller panel does mean, however, that most children grow out of it somewhere between 18 and 24 months. At least 6 months before they’d grow out of the 8. But many parents aren’t still carrying regularly at that point anyway and those that are are often more than happy to move onto the Beco Toddler. Consequently the Beco Gemini tends to the sling of choice for the minimalists – those who want a comfortable carrier that is very simple, and folds down tiny.

The Beco 8 by contrast is bigger, the panel is bigger so it will last longer and it has more features. It has a removable infant insert that is included and does give a great fit for babies right from newborn. It has a zip down part that reveals mesh making it “all seasons” suitable. It has a hood. It has a wonderfully shaped supportive lumbar panel. And a zipped pocket for keys and a phone. The Beco 8 is a great choice for parents who want a carrier that will last and last – maybe their child is already 6 months old and they’re worried they won’t get enough use out of the Gemini or just know they want to get a carrier that will last as long as possible. It is also a fab choice for parents who want those extra features and will use them and don’t mind the extra bulk.

Either way, they are both fab carriers and work well for a range of parent shapes and sizes! You can read my full review of the Beco Gemini here and purchase it here, and you can read my full review of the Beco 8 here. Although like any carrier at all it has to fit your body, and so it’s really worth trying on before you invest. You can try either of these on at any of our sessions, or arrange a hire (I post to anywhere in the UK, or if your local you can collect from my home).

-Madeleine

What Entering Tier 2 means for Sheen Slings Services

As of Saturday London entered Tier 2 or “High” Covid Alert level. While this means all kinds of things for myself and my family in terms of who we can and can’t see socially, where and when. It actually doesn’t change much with respect to Sheen Slings and the services I can currently offer.

As I am already meeting all the covid secure guidelines laid out for businesses that operate from the home and mobile services that come into clients homes, one to one consults can continue. Whether you are coming to my home or you would like me to come to you, you can rest assured I am doing all in my power to ensure risks are as low as possible and every precaution is taken. You can read all about these measures and what to expect in my previous blog post here.

The main difference, is that the weather is rapidly turning a lot colder. So while I enjoyed many pleasantly warm consults in my back garden in July, August and September, these are definitely becoming more brisk. So please do wrap up warmly, if you do book in for a consult at my home! Because, if the weather is dry we will be outside and if it is wet we will be indoors but right next to the big doors into my garden with those doors wide open… so while we will remain dry it may well still be quite chilly! And please do bring a mask because if we are indoors we will be wearing masks. Either way, I am blessed that both my indoor and outdoor space are big enough that it is very easy for us to remain socially distant – at least 2m apart. I prefer to teach in a very hands off style anyway! I prefer to teach this way because it ensures you are confident using any sling or carrier you choose independently without my help by the time your session is over.

As such this means these sessions can continue in tier 2 and very likely even in tier 3 (under the current guidance, but of course I am continuing to review this continually as guidance is updated).

However, in the event these sessions need to be paused, or if you don’t feel comfortable face to face for any reason. I do have a number of contact-free services including online consultations, hire (either via post or collection from my front porch) and the online shop, which is filled with carriers and accessories that can be posted next day and I offer online support free of charge if you need help using anything you purchase. If you are not sure of what help you might need, or not sure of what you might want, you are welcome to simply email me and reach out.

So whatever happens, Sheen Slings will remain open and will be there (whether in person or online) to help you on your baby carrying journey.

-Madeleine

How to switch between a Front carry and a Hip carry without taking your carrier off or your baby out

Hip carries can be so helpful one baby hits what I call “nosy baby phase” where they want to see everything and anything. Learning how to switch between front and hip carries can be a powerful tool in your parenting toolkit. Particularly when

  • Baby was sound asleep in the carrier on your front and has now woken up and is starting to cry because they want to see more or feel like they have more freedom. But you are out and about its its not convenient to take them out right now – instead switching to a hip carry will help you get to your destination while giving them more to see and the feeling of more freedom to stretch and kick as they wake up
  • Baby is fighting sleep and refuses to go into a front carry as they want to see everything and definitely not sleep. So you put them in a hip carry and 5 minutes later they are sound asleep on your hip. Being able to switch to the front will keep your back more comfortable for the duration of the nap

Fortunately, it’s actually really easy to switch between Front and Hip carries in a buckle carrier without taking the carrier of or the baby out. Here is how to do it

This method works for any buckle carrier that allows you to cross the straps at the back. The video shows the Beco Gemini but this method works just as well for the Ergobaby Omni, Adapt, Izmi Baby, Ergobaby Embrace, Beco 8, Lillebaby, Mamaruga, Kahu, Connecta, Manduca and a great many others besides. Provided you can cross the straps across your back you can do this.

-Madeleine

How to Wrap a Stretchy Wrap without Putting Baby Down First

While all stretchy wrap manuals and video tutorials always show tying the wrap first and then picking up baby, it is actually possible to tie a stretchy wrap without putting baby down first if they are already in your arms.

It is of course faster to just pop them down for a few seconds while you tie (and I am sure this is why all the manuals show this method!), but it can be really really inconvenient if say

  • Your baby has reflux and popping them down even for just a few seconds will cause a whole world of pain and discomfort for them
  • Your baby just fell asleep in your arms and you know the second you pop them down that will be game over for that nap
  • They are just really really sad and need the comfort of your arms right now

And I am sure a great many other reasons! Feeling like you might need to put baby down can be an real obstacle to using a carrier – leaving you sitting on the sofa while your baby snoozes for 90 minutes wishing you’d got the wrap on before they fell asleep so you could go to the toilet, get a cup of tea and do all those other things you quite wanted to do during this nap.

So know how to put a wrap on around a baby already in your arms is definitely a life skill! Here is how to do it;

The key is to take your time! It won’t be as fast as tying it without baby in your arms, so just relax and take the time you need to sway/bounce/rock baby as you gentle move the fabric and tighten it up around them. Then celebrate regaining your arms by making yourself a well deserved celebratory cup of tea!

-Madeleine

PS the Stretchy wrap shown in the video is the beautifully soft Izmi Baby Bamboo wrap which you can purchase through our webshop here.

Manduca XT review

The Manduca XT is the new highly adjustable carrier from Manduca. It’s not a secret that I absolutely loved my Manduca First carrier with both my children, and honestly this carrier is even more amazing. Absolutely brilliantly designed, this ingenious carrier will work for babies all the way from 4 weeks to 4 years! Giving it unparalleled longevity compared to it’s competitors. Add in the fact that it has the magic ability to fit almost all parent shapes and sizes – from the super petite to the extra extra large and everything in between. This is a carrier that should be on everyone’s “to try list”.

You can see how it works and hear my full thoughts here in my video review (or read on below):

Key Manduca XT facts;

  • Weight tested from 3.5 to 20 kg (7 – 44lbs), this is one only a very small number of carriers that really will realistically fit for the whole of its weight range, fitting babies generally from about 4 weeks ish all the way through to approximately 4 years of age.
  • Adjustable width. The secret behind the Manduca XT’s longevity is how the width adjusts. Using sections designed to simply slide along the waistband it very simply and smoothly adjusts from just 20 cm all the way to 50 cm. Allowing you to adjust it tiny bit by tiny bit as your baby grows, giving a perfect fit all the way from newborn to older toddler. While there are other carriers offering similar adjustment systems, what I like about this one is how unbulky it is. The fabric thin enough that it neatly folds in on the smallest settings, barely adding any bulk at all. Most other carriers simply rouch and the rest always looks quite bulky on a newborn, on the Manduca the smooth strokable lines remain giving a perfect fit even for very small babies.
  • Bucket shaped panel and soft padding at the legs ensures baby sits in a comfortable, hip healthy position with the bum lower than the knees and the legs out padding moves with the width adjustment to ensure babies legs are comfortable and no “red pressures lines”, whatever their size.
  • Adjustable panel height also helps this carrier grow with your little one. The panel has 3 height settings which adjust via the zippers on the front. Completely zipped together the panel is just 30cm, then as baby grows you can choose between 35cm using the shaped zipped section and 42cm when completely unzipped. This adjustability in height is not only useful as baby grows but also as they change developmentally. Both my children went through phases of loving having their arms out when awake, so being able to make the panel smaller to allow them to do this made carriers so much more enjoyable for them. And then as they became tired and started to fall asleep… it is very easy to lengthen the panel and give them more upper back and neck support as they sleep.
  • Features a hood for supporting baby’s head as they sleep or as a cover in the rain, and cleverly when rolled away into the pouch at the top this hood doubles up as pillow to support baby’s head and neck.
  • Offers 3 carrying positions – a front carry, a hip carry and a back carry.
  • Panel is made from 100% Organic Cotton. One of the hallmarks of Manduca carriers is that all their carriers are made from Organic cotton. Only the webbing and plastic buckles are the exception, the rest of the carrier is soft durable cotton drill made from 100% Organic cotton.
  • Shaped waistband – The waistband is wider at the front where baby’s weight is, thus providing more support and counterbalance where you need it most without having unnecessary bulk at your sides.
  • safety buckle on the waistband requires two hands to open to ensure you don’t open this before you’ve taken baby out. Sounds like a silly or inconvenient thing, but often parents absentmindedly unclip the waistband first so this can be a helpful safety feature.
  • Shoulder straps are thickly padded but very soft and moldable which means they can mold to fit a wide range of back shapes. Straps can be worn both crossed and rucksack style according to personal preference (you can read more about these two different styles here).
  • Shoulder straps can be tightened in 3 places! There are two adjusters where the strap meets the mid panel – each pulling in the opposite direction which means whether you are carrying baby on your front or back there will always be a strap that you can pull easily (and one that would be difficult). Additionally there is an adjuster at the top where the strap leaves the top of the panel and this one in particular changes the position of the padded part of the strap bringing it closer or further from the panel and thus easily adjusting between parents of differing torso lengths. This strap can also be useful for getting a higher tighter back carry or adjusting how much room baby has depending on whether they are awake and wanting to push out and see more things or fast asleep and needing to be held closer. The advantage of being able to adjust in 3 places is these straps can easily adjust to the fit the super petite to the super tall and broad, making this a great pick for couples of very different sizes. The adjustments give you a huge amount of flexibility in how the carrier fits and allow people of all different shapes and sizes to get an amazing fit. The disadvantage of 3 adjusters is that it does take a bit of time investment to really find the right set up for you and understand how each adjuster affects your carry. It is very easy in the beginning to get a bit confused and end up a bit lopsided and less comfortable as a consequence.

All in all the Manduca XT is extremely versatile carrier that fits almost all parent body shapes and sizes and fits babies all the way from just a few weeks old to 4 years. While not the simplist carrier on the market it is well worth the time investment to learn it and get it set up right because it once set up it is such a comfortable supportive carrier and it just lasts and lasts and lasts making it a truly fantastic investment. The Manduca XT costs £149 and can be purchased from Wear My Baby (if you’ve found this review helpful and you’d like a discount code for Wear My Baby do email me or use my contact form to let me know and ask for the code!)

-Madeleine

Rachel aged 3 in Manduca XT