How to support your baby’s head and neck in a Stretchy Wrap

Stretchy wraps are amazing. They are super soft, snuggly and one of the best options for a newborn. However, often parents are worried that they don’t give baby enough head support or are worried about how they are ment to support baby’s head and neck. Instead parents often find themselves needing to hold baby’s head, or worse get so worried they lose confidence and stop using the stretchy.

But actually stretchies do have more than enough support built in! A couple of simple tweaks in how you are using the wrap can make all the difference in how much support baby’s neck has. There are 3 things to check, you can see talk through each of the 3 in the video or scroll down for each of the 3 described in detail below:

  1. Check how baby is sat in the sling. Ideally we want baby sat comfortably on their bottom, with their knees higher than their bum and their spine gentle curving bring their head to a gentle rest on your chest. However, babies can often end up a bit straightened up (with their knees lower than their bum and straighted spine) – particularly if they grumble and wiggle when going in. This isn’t dangerous but it is less comfortable for them (as their weight is on their inner thighs rather than their bottom) and more importantly because of the way the pelvis, spine and skull connect means that their head is much more likely to roll backwards away from you. If this happens its an easy fix – simply slip your hands into the wrap and gently tuck their bum towards you gently lifting the legs and allowing baby to settle onto their bottom. Finally readjust the fabric so both layers support baby all the way to the backs of the knee. Viola! Now, due to the way the pelvis, spine and skull attach and how the verterbra stack… baby’s head should gently rest on your chest and not be able to roll backwards dramatically.
  2. Pull the outer 3rd layer of the wrap up – right up to the back of babies neck. In fact ideally you want actually roll that top bit of the wrap so you have a couple of rolls sitting behind the back of baby’s neck to support their head and neck. Often parents simply don’t pull this layer up high enough. Often they leave most of the fabric near baby’s bottom to support their weight and “stop them falling out”, but actually it is the two straps crossing under baby’s bottom that supports their weight and stops them falling out. The outer/3rd layer is there to hold the top part of the crossing straps in place and to support the upper torso and head. And to do this is needs to be pulled up – all the way to the top of baby’s neck or base of their ear!
  3. Use a muslin to create a neck pillow for more support. In theory, provided your wrap is tight enough 1 and 2 should be enough to support baby’s head and neck and you shouldn’t need any other support. However, sometimes parents don’t feel it is enough and if that is the case then you can build in more support in one of two ways. The first way is to use one of the cross passes to cover the back of baby’s head. This is the way shown in most manuals. However, most baby’s hate this and certainly won’t tolerate it while awake (many won’t tollerate it while asleep either). Instead the second way is my preferred method – roll up a muslin and tuck it into the top of the outer/3rd layer to create a neck pillow. Providing lovely soft but robust head and neck support … and having the added side benefit of ensuring you have a muslin ready should you need one!

Voila! Nice, soft but securely supported neck!

As ever if you are struggling with your stretchy wrap, please do get in contact. A quick online consultation (or in person mini consult lockdown/tiers allowing) where you can receive real-time input and we can work together to get the root of the issue can make a huge difference! Clients are always suprised and releived to discover what difference just 20 minutes talking it through step by step can make! So please do get in touch if you’d like help with this or anything else.

-Madeleine

PS the wrap shown in the video is the Hana Baby Wrap and you can purchase your own here or do get in touch if you’d like to hire one – either to try before you buy or to hire for the whole fourth trimester period.

Calin Bleu Stretchy Wrap Review

The Calin Bleu Stretchy wrap is hands down the best budget stretchy wrap on the market.  It is quite simply a truly lovely lightweight option availible at a tiny price.  If your looking for an excellent quality wrap that won’t break the bank, the Calin Bleu is simply a brilliant option.  

At this point I have tried well over 50 different brands of stretchy wrap.  I have many favourites (the Hana Baby and the Izmi Baby in particular) but until now all my favourites have been in the £40-50 price range.  And I am painfully aware that not all parents want to or can afford to spend this much on a stretchy.  Especially when there are so many brands listed on Amazon for £30 and under.  These “Amazon Cheapie” wraps vary loads brand to brand, but without fail every single one I have tried has felt like a false economy.  Almost all of them have uneven stretch, which makes them hard to tie.  They are often badly finished, and many don’t come with any kind of safety testing or even guarantees that baby safe dyes have been used.  I am contacted by several parents every month who bought an Amazon Cheapie wrap and are finding their sling difficult to use.  And while I am normally able to help them get to grips with their wrap in the end, most do express buyers remorse for not spending that bit extra on a easier to use wrap in the first place. 

Which is why I am so relieved to have discovered the Calin Bleu Stretchy wrap.  At a recommended retail price of £25 for the Medium and £28 for the Long, it is very budget friendly and costs no more than an internet cheapy!  But crucially it is:

  • Super easy to use.  The Calin Bleu is a two way stretchy wrap – this means it stretches both in the vertical and horizontal directions.  This even stretch means this wrap is so much easier to pre-tie and pop baby in and out of than a wrap that stretches only in one direction.  You can read more about one-way verses two-way stretch and why it is important here.  
  • Safety tested to PD CEN/TR 16512:2015 standard ensuring material is safe for use as a baby carrier.

You can see it in action (and hear my full thoughts on this wrap) in my video review here, or read on below for more in depth discussion.

It is also exceptionally lightweight.  Made from 95% viscose and 5% elastane it is very much lighter and thinner than an equivalent cotton wrap, while remaining strong and supportive.  Meaning that the Calin Bleu is a fabulous choice for spring and summer babies, or anyone who is prone to over heating as its genuinely one of the coolest wraps on the market.  

It shorter than many other stretchy wraps on the market too.  Most wraps are between 5 and 6m in length.  The Calin Bleu comes in two lengths – a medium, which is just 4m and a long which is 5m.  So even the long is shorter than most other brands, and the medium is quite a lot shorter.  Less length means less fabric to make you hot.  It also gives you less fabric to deal with.  Parents often feel intimidated by how long stretchy wraps are, and I often find simply offering them a shorter wrap helps them feel more confidient.  Making the Calin Bleu a great choice for beginners! 

Both sizes fit a wide range of parent shapes and sizes.  In general I find anyone below a dress size 14 will suit a medium, while anyone dress size 16 and up will get on better with the long size.  I am somewhere between a size 14 and 16 and in the photos I am using a medium – as you can see it fits me but I don’t have tonnes of fabric left over for making a knot!  If you’re sharing the wrap with your partner and you’re both different sizes it is worth noting that if the wrap was too short for one of you, that parent could simply tie it behind their back rather than in front of them.  Likewise, if the wrap was too long, that wearer could simply tie a bow or wrap the fabric around their waist/hips again to use up more fabric.  In this way, either size can fit an absolutely huge range of parent shapes and sizes.    

It is perfect for newborns, a fab option to use right from day 1. And it is strong enough to carry older babies if you want to. Most babies will grow out of stretchy wraps developmentally around 3-4 months rather than physically, but may still enjoy taking a nap in the stretchy wrap. The Calin Bleu is suprisingly strong for how thin it is, and the 5% elastane gives it great “ping back” and hold! So this is definitely a wrap you can use for as long as you and baby still enjoy it. In fact you can see just how strong it is in the photo below with my then 2 year old!

So why is the Calin Bleu so cheap if its such a great wrap?  If your anything like me, you are probably wondering at this point why the Calin Bleu is so cheap compared to other two-way, good quality stretchy wraps.  What is the catch?!?!  Well there are two main reasons this wrap is cheaper:

  • It is unhemmed.  Most stretchy wraps are hemmed along the edges.  The pros to hemming is it gives the wrap more finished, neater look.  Hemming also often stops the edgest rolling as much.  The con is sewing along the edges takes time and so adds quite a lot of cost.  Jersey knit fabric doesn’t fray so hemming isn’t required, it is simply an aesthetic choice.  Calin Bleu have chosen keep costs low by leaving the edges unhemmed.  
  • The fabric used.  The Calin Bleu wrap is made from 95% viscose and 5% elastane.  The Izmi Baby wrap is made from bamboo viscose, while the Hana Baby wrap is made from a blend of organic cotton and bamboo viscose.  Viscose made from cellulose extracted from bamboo is more generally considered a more ecologically sustainable choise and is more costly to make, compared to run of the mill man made viscose.  Likewise, organic cotton is a more expensive fibre too.  In terms of how the fabric performs – its all viscose so it performs just the same.  It’s just as strong, washes just as well etc.  Calin Bleu have opted for the cheaper fibre to keep costs as low as possible.  And while not quite as soft and sumptutious as the bamboo viscose of the Izmi and Hana wrap, the Calin Bleu fabric is still beautifully soft and you probably wouldn’t notice the difference between them unless you were stroking all 3 wraps at the same time.  

All in all the Calin Bleu is a really fantastic super lightweight, easy peasy to use stretchy wrap that is perfect for newborns and perfect for anyone looking for a great value sling. It retails as just £25 for the medium and £28 for the long and can be bought from the Sheen Slings webshop here.

-Madeleine

Top 10 Hired Slings in 2020! And 2020 in numbers.

2020 has be one weird year. I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that I hired less slings, saw less families, ran less consults, workshops and sling clinics than in previous years. BUT, as I reflect back on the year I was still able to

All of which feel like massive wins. I am hugely grateful that despite all the restrictions I was still able to support those 116 families.

Each year I also total up which slings and carriers hired out. Here are 2020 and 2019 compared!

The order has changed a bit, but many of the same names have been popular again this year!! Perhaps most interestingly is the fact that the most popular ones hired out just as much as in the previous year. Despite the fact hires were down by just over 40%, the Ergo Omni 360 and the Beco Gemini hired out as many or more times than the did in the previous years. What really suffered were the lesser known brands. You can see the Connecta fell right off the list and the Kahu baby was much lower. In fact very many simply brilliant brands like the Sleepy Nico, Manduca XT, Didy Klick, Mamaruga Zen barely hired out at all.

The reason for this is simple. So often the lesser known brands are the ones people discover when they come along to a Sling Library session or come along to a consultation. They will try on the brands they’ve heard of and expect to like then, based on what was and wasn’t working about those I would suggest other carriers to try. So often this would then lead them to discovering something they’d have never found otherwise. Without Sling Clinic sessions … the only way to try a range and discover less well heard of slings has been a one-to-one session. The alternative has been postal or doorstep hires and quite understandably people taking this option have been more inclinded to stick with what they know best. Its not a bad thing – everyone has ended up with carriers that fit them and their families well. But I do look forward to a time when Sling Clinic sessions and workshops can come back as they really do facilitate more families experiencing more different types of slings and carriers.

Fingers crossed Sling Clinic sessions will be able to come back soon. Before Christmas and the Tier 4 annoucement I had the green light from 2 venues – Kingston Town Children’s Centre and a brand new venue in Putney! Kingston Town will still be able to go ahead even under tier 4 so is looking hopeful for late Jan onwards (although unsure if further announcements may change things over the next few weeks). The Putney venue won’t be able to go ahead under tier 4 but should be able to under tier 3 or definitely tier 2. So it’s simply a case of crossing my fingers, watching the news and hoping for the best, but hopefully Sling Clinics will be back soon.

And in the meantime online consultations, in person consultations in clients homes and contact free hires are still going ahead (full info on all my Tier 4 friendly services here).

-Madeleine

Isara Quick Full Buckle Back Carry Tutorial

The Isara Quick Full Buckle is a bit different to most other buckle carriers on the market. It’s mismatched straps are designed to snap together, rather than into the panel. That means how you do it up is a little different to the method you’d use for most other carriers.

Here is how I do a Back carry with this carrier;

If you have this carrier or are thinking about purchasing one – I hope this helps! Any questions please do comment below or get in touch! My full review of this carrier can be found here, and my method for the front carry can be found here.

-Madeleine

cheerful young woman screaming into megaphone

Sheen Sling Services under Tier 4

This week brought the news that London has now moved into Tier 4. How does this affect the services I can offer and how you access baby carrier help?

Online Consultations and Hires are continuing as normal and are completely unaffected.

Online consultations via Zoom or WhatsApp can be a great way of exploring your options or getting help with a sling or carrier you already own. You can read more about these here, and can set one up by simply dropping me a message through my contact page. I will be at home all through the Christmas period and into January so can accommodate pretty much any date and time needed!

Hires are completely contact-free. I can either post the sling or carrier of your choice directly to you or you can collect from my home. The carrier will be left in my front porch (space between inner and outer front doors) for you to collect at any time on the prearranged day so you can collect without coming into contact with me or any member of my family, and so you can time your collection around coinciding with shopping or exercise etc. To set up a hire simply get in touch through the contact page. If your not sure what would suit you best please feel free to ask or book an online consultation to go through your options in more detail.

All carriers and Slings are washed (by me) after each hire, so the carrier you hire will be freshly cleaned and ready to use. Then when you are ready to return you don’t need to worry about washing it as I will wash it again ready for the next family to hire.

Face to Face consultations in my home are temporarily suspended, but consultations in clients homes can go ahead for those whom face-to-face support is irreplaceable.

For some parents, online 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 physically, compare them and ensure your confident using whatever you ultimately choose. This is particularly important for those with a history of back pain, post-cesarean section, parents of multiples, parents of babies suffering with reflux, parents of babies born early, parents or babies with additional needs and concerns and a whole host of other situations where face to face support is really needed.

For those that need it – guidelines are clear, direct face to face support can continue in clients homes. Interestingly, the guidelines state I can not continue to offer my home as a venue during Tier 4, but I can come to your home if you would like me to and you feel safe doing so. If you would like me to come but are unsure for whatever reason, do get in contact and we can risk assess this together. For my part I will;

  • arrive with freshly washed or quartineed slings and carriers for you to try and a seperate set for me to demo with so we will not be sharing. Likewise I will come with two freshly wiped demo dolls, one for me to demonstrate with and one for you to use in case you’d like to practise before trying with your own baby (or in case your own baby is not in the mood!)
  • I will wash my hands on arrival and santise as needed
  • I will wear my face mask throughout
  • I will maintain 2m distances throughout. My preferred teaching method is very hands off – where we explore each sling/carrier/technique together … mirroring each movement and each step. Which is very well suited to teaching while remaining socially distanced! On the rare occasions you might want me to adjust a strap or help, I will do so only with your expressed consent and any such close contact would last only a few seconds.
  • I maintain records for track and trace (as well as my professional insurance). You can read my privacy and data protection policy here.

So if you would like face to face help please do get in touch to set this up. You can find details on costs etc here.

The webshop will remain open!

Our webshop will remain open, and I will continue my daily morning post depo runs throughout tier 4 and beyond for all your carrier and accessory needs! We have some awesome winter accessories online at the moment including cozy woolly winter babywearing socks, fleece lined babywearing covers and snuggly baby legwarmers. I offer discounts for anyone who hires a sling or carrier first – so trying before you buy can definitely be a winner… and I offer a free 20 minute fit check consultation on ALL carrier, wrap or sling purchases so you can have complete peace of mind that there is help available if you need it to ensure you get the most from your carrier.

So if you would like babywearing help of any kind – there definitely are options! Whatever the tier, I will remain open and responsive to the current guidelines to ensure any one who needs help can access it.

-Madeleine

Kavka Baby Carrier Review

New to the UK market, the Kavka Multi-Age baby carrier hails from Poland. The first thing to say about it is just how adjustable it is. Made from super soft woven wrap fabric it micro adjusts in both height and weight to fit babies right from just a few weeks old to at least 2.5/3 years of age. It is weight tested from 3.5 kg all the way to 20 kg and in fact my 18 kg almost 4 year old fitted in it remarkably well.

It is, however, relatively bulky. The panel is wonderfully soft and light and the fabric moulds and beautifully to support babies of all different shapes and sizes without excess bulky. But it is fairly bulky for parents. It has a thick, wide firmly padded waistband teamed with soft but thickly padded shoulder straps. Padding is a bit like marmite – some parents find more padding equates to more comfort and while others find the reverse. This is a carrier that definitely works for the former rather than the latter.

The other main source of bulk, and my main bug bear with this carrier, is that when adjusted to fit a newborn all the excess fabric is pushed between the wearer and the waistband. This fabric lumps into big folds that pushes the waistband out and the result is that it is really hard to really get the waistband tight enough when the carrier is on the narrowest settings. As anyone who’ve read my fit tips blog will know, getting the waistband snug is the absolutely foundation to getting a comfortable carry. So this bulk really does interfere with parent fit and undoubtedly comfort. At least while on the newborn setting. As baby grows and you let the panel out this becomes less and less of an issue.

So paradoxically the fit and parent comfort are likely to get better as baby grows! It is however a crying shame, because this carrier is packed with amazing modifications to ensure it gets a great fit for newborns. From all the adjustability to having fastening clips on the waistband as well as on the panel … allowing you to get a perfect newborn C shape in the carrier.

You can see how all this works and what it looks like in use here in my video review;

So this is definitely a carrier I am conflicted on, the adjustability, the softness and the options for fastening are all simply wonderful. I want to like it more, but the bulk at the waistband and the firmness of the straps slightly spoils it all for me. But it is worth saying that that is in part my bias based on how well it fits my body and it will fit other bodies differently. So it is really worth trying it on and I am excited to see it on clients and get to know what body types it fits best.

Because it has so much adjustability in the shoulder straps too – offering 3 points of tightening (see the video above for how they all work) and the option to wear with straps crossed across the back or ruck-sack style. The straps are extremely long too, so has the capacity to fit a huge range of different parent sizes from XS to XXXL. The long straps can be easily tided away with little elastics at the ends.

The carrier also offers 3 carrying positions for baby; front, hip and back carry.

So all in all the Kavka baby is an extremely flexible carrier offering a lot of adjustability. It’s closest competitors on the UK market are the Isara the One carrier, the Manduca XT and the Mamaruga Zen and Zebulo carriers. If you are looking for something like one of these carriers but with more padding then the Kavka is definitely worth you trying. However, if like me you er on the side of less bulk then I’d skip this one and focus on the Manduca XT or the Zebulo instead.

The Kavka baby retails at £119 for the standard cotton model or £125 for a linen or bamboo model. They also make a Multi-Age Plus which is bigger and weight tested from 6 kg to 25 kg and retails for £125 for the standard cotton models. We have one of these in the library collection so do get in contact if you’d like to give it a go.

They can be purchased from MamaZen, and thank you to MamaZen for providing us with this one to try.

-Madeleine

Isara Quick Full Buckle Front Carry Tutorial

The Isara Quick Full Buckle is a bit different to most other buckle carriers on the market. It’s mismatched straps are designed to snap together, rather than into the panel.

That means how you do it up is a little different to the method you’d use for most other carriers. Here is how I do it;

The video shows first how I do cross straps and then how I do ruck sack straps too.

If you have this carrier or are thinking about purchasing one – I hope this helps! Any questions please do comment below or get in touch! My full review of this carrier can be found here.

-Madeleine

Isara Quick Full Buckle Review

The Quick Full Buckle is the newest carrier from Isara. Isara are a Romanian brand known for making super adjustable well designed carriers and slings from ultra soft, beautiful woven wrap material. While their other carriers are feature packed, the idea behind the Quick was to provide the user with the “ultimate simplicity“, “a few seconds is all it takes to be ready – buckled up in just 2 clicks. It’s quicker than QUICK!”

Except is isn’t.

I was so excited to try this carrier. Parents ask me all the time for something that is quick, something that is easy and I really really wanted Isara to have cracked the holy grail. And on paper it sounds great – 2 clicks, that’s it. Most carriers need 3, eliminating one buckle must make this faster? Right?

Except it doesn’t. Sadly, it just isn’t easier. Yes there are only two buckles but it means that instead of doing one side up and clicking it in and feeling secure before reaching round to fasten the other side, now you have to do both sides at once. The fastening all happens under a flap making it really hard to see what you are doing.

You can see for yourself in my video review below. I honestly only managed to make it look so smooth because I was watching myself do it on my phone screen while making the video. Without a mirror or a phone screen there probably would have been a bit more fumbling. It’s definitely something you would get used to feeling for and managing, and you would get faster at with time. It certainly isn’t “hard”, but its not simple and it’s definitely not faster compared to other carriers with 3 clicks.

There is actually A LOT to like about this carrier;

  • It is beautifully soft right from brand new. Made from lovely soft woven wrap material, it is strokably soft and will gently hug your baby
  • The padding is light yet supportive. It molds to your body beautifully, enabling it to distribute weight without the need for extra bulk or weight
  • It folds up into a relatively compact, lightweight bundle
  • Very very long webbing ensures this carrier will fit parents from XXS to XXXL and beyond.
  • Convenient zippered pouch located on the waistband is easily big enough hold essentials like phone, keys and spare change.
  • It looks very sleek and neat. Particularly if you take the time to roll up the excess webbing and use the little elastics at the end of the straps to secure, this carrier looks very tidy. The pocket completely covers the buckles meaning that it not only looks neat but also there is no chance of baby catching their foot on the buckles etc. However, it does have the flip side mentioned above that it is harder to see how to get the buckles done up!
  • Comes with a removable hood that simply poppers on and can be useful for a bit of extra head support or rain/sun protection.
  • It offers 3 carrying positions – front, hip and back carry. On the front it is possible to wear the straps cross over parents back or in rucksack style. If wearing ruck sack style it is possible to have the shoulder straps already done up at the front and then simply slip your arms in and do the “bra” strap up behind you (if you have the flexibility to do this! Sounds simple but do watch baby’s legs when slipping your arms in and gently guide them so the strap runs under the legs … because it is easy to accidentally catch a leg in a strap doing it this way!
  • The system for adjusting this carrier is very simple. Both the height and width are adjusted together at the same time by simply following the colour guidelines to stick the velcro into the right place for your baby’s height. There is a colour coded chart on the waistband its self, making it super simple to see what you need to do. I did find lining up the velcro a little fiddly, but your not doing this often so this isn’t an issue. And of course you can completely ignore the colour box guidelines to micro-adjust height and width … so if your child is longer in the body or wants the back shorter to get their arms out you can vary the height and width independently. Did take me a while to get my head round exactly how to do this you are holding the carrier upside down and inside out while doing it and spatial arts isn’t my strong suit but it is certainly possible!!

I absolutely love the fit this carrier gives for newborns in particular. This carrier is weight tested from 3kg and on the smallest setting it does synch down small enough to fit a baby who – if not new newborn – is a little as a few weeks old. In particular I love how the straps fasten into the waistband and how this allows a newborn to adopt a really beautiful natural C shape with absolutely no pressure or pull across their midback. It is really lovely.

However, the downside of fastening into the waistband comes when baby grows and starts to pack on the pounds. Most baby carriers fasten the straps into the mid-panel because as baby grows they need this mid-back support to help support their weight and prevent them sitting too deeply and feeling like they are slumping or drooping. Likewise, this extra downward pull from baby sitting too deeply will feel much heavier for the parent as baby’s weight is not being distributed as well. Fastening the straps into the mid-panel gives a much better weight distribution for the caregiver.

So while this carrier gives a wonderful position for newborns, it will get heavier quicker as baby grows. It is weight tested to 20 kg, and the panel grows easily large enough to accomodate a 18 month to 2 year old. But this strap positioning and resulting weight distribution will mean many parents will find this carrier far too heavy before that point. Not all – some parents, particularly those who find many carriers cut them under their arms or rest on breast tissue, may find they prefer the altered weight distribution. So if that is you, I do urge you to try this carrier as it may well work brilliantly for you. But many parents will find this carrier is time-limited and that by 9 months to a year they are finding it a lot heavier than it should be and choose to move onto another carrier.

When you compare the Quick to Isara’s other full buckle carrier “the One”, the Quick feels like a bit a false economy. Retailing at £117, yes it is cheaper than the One that retails at £159, but the One is far more adjustable. It offers the option to fasten to the waist band or the mid-panel and it genuinely works brilliantly from newborn all the way to preschoolers. Meaning that you will likely get 2 more years of wear out of the One compared to the Quick. Not to mention with its 3 clicks is actually arguably just as fast if not faster as the Quick once you’ve got the hang of it and got it set up for you. And when you compare the Quick to other light weight compact carriers that give a lovely snuggly fit for newborns like the Izmi Baby carrier, the Ergo Embrace, the Kahu Baby carrier and Mamaruga Zen Sling – all of which come in under the £100 mark. This carrier really doesn’t feel like the best investment.

Huge thanks to Joanna of Happy Hugs who loaned me her Isara Quick Full Buckle to test. Happy Hugs are the UK’s main Isara retailer, stocking their entire catalogue and are the best place to purchase Isara carriers. Joanna offers free try out sessions in Kingston and if you are at all interested in an Isara Quick, the Isara the One or any other Isara carrier I hugely recommend her fab service.

-Madeleine

High Shoulder Carry with a Lightweight Buckle carrier

One of things that I love about being a carrying consultant is that I get to go off manual. I get to apply my knowledge of how carriers work, of infant positioning and development and I can use that to go off piste when needed.

A couple weeks ago I had a client come to me for help troubleshooting as her little one was really unsettled in their Ergobaby Embrace. She was following the manual to perfection, positioning was fab but baby was unhappy. So we put the carrier down and I asked her to show me how she held her little one when he was unsettled, how he liked being held in arms. She immediately popped him high on her shoulder.

This is such a common position for parents to hold their little ones when they are unsettled. I have so many photos of my husband and I carrying my son in this position when he was sad. We used to call it “the bouncy shoulder”. It pretty much never failed at calming him down and settling him!!

And so it got me thinking – there must be a way of facilitating this with her carrier. So while she calmed down her little one, I got a bit creative and worked out how to support a high shoulder, burp type position with an Ergobaby Embrace. And you know, it worked pretty well! Mum tried it and baby was instantly happier, instantly more settled.

Here is how to do it;

While I have shown it with the Ergo Embrace as this was the carrier my client had, this carry should work with any lightweight buckle. Particularly any that offers the option to wear the the carrier “apron style”. By this I mean that the panel hangs down from the waistband and then goes round baby’s bottom and back up (rather than one where the panel comes straight out the top of the waistband). Just because the apron style means you can sit babies bottom lower that the waistband, which is useful if like me you have boobs and thus are constrained in where you place the waistband to either above or below your boobs (for comfort reasons!). If you don’t have boobs and wouldn’t feel uncomfortable wearing the waistband slightly lower on your chest then essentially any carrier will work as you can simply place the waistband at the height you need to get baby where you want them on your shoulder. Other apron style lightweight carriers that do work well for this carry include the Kahu Baby carrier, the Izmi baby carrier, the Marsupi, and Meh Dai carriers (like the Hop-Tye and Didy-Tye) work really well for this too.

Being brutally honest, while this carry was more comfortable than I expected it to be, it isn’t the worlds most supportive position for a long period of time. The carry is very high so the weight it all on your upper back, so this will start to feel heavy quicker than compared to wearing the waistband at your waist and transferring more of the weight onto your pelvis.

But, what it is good for is those moments when you need it. When baby is really unsettled and unhappy in another other position, but your arms are knackered from the holding or you need your arms to get something done. Then when baby is more settled or has fallen asleep it is actually a simple job to loosen the straps and slide the baby and whole carrier back down to a more normal and more supportive carrying position. Or likewise once you’ve finished the thing you needed to do you can go sit down and rest! Either with baby still in the carrier or slipping it off and cuddling them as needed.

For my client, I viewed this carrying position as a “circuit breaker”. I see this regularly with so many parents; what happens is baby cries in the carrier (maybe they are tired, hungry, unsettled etc) and parent is worried they’ve done the carrier wrong or that baby doesn’t like the carrier so parent quite naturally and quite understandably becomes tense. Babies are amazing at reading their parents emotions and picks up on their parents tension and worry, and they don’t like seeing their parent tense so they cry. And then parent is more worried because baby is crying more now, and baby senses parent is more worried….. and on and on. It very quickly becomes a viscous circle. Then next time parent picks up the carrier they start feeling tense and worried baby won’t like it before they even put it on…. and so the viscous circle continues. Until we find something to break the cycle. In this case this high shoulder position – one baby is used to and loves and parent feels confident baby will like – was able to break the cycle, and I very much hope will later open up all the other positions to them too.

So many of my consultations are about working with parents to find the circuit breaker, the thing that breaks the cycle. For many it is simply going through their carrier in detail, step by step, allowing them to gain confidence using the sling and knowing that their baby is comfortable and supported and safe. For others its something else – each consultation is different, because we are all different!

If you’re feeling stuck please do reach out as I honestly, finding the solution that works is my absolute favourite part of this job!

-Madeleine

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