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

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

Baby Bjorn Mini Review

Designed with newborns in mind, the Baby Bjorn Mini carrier is a super soft, supremely intuitive, lightweight carrier that does indeed fit newborns well. But on the flip side, it simply doesn’t last well. As baby grows they will very rapidly grow out of this carrier.

Read on below for more, or you can see this carrier in action and hear my full thoughts on this carrier in this video.

The Mini really has 2 main pros and 2 main cons. The pros are;

  • It is really soft and really moldable and gives a lovely fit to a newborn baby. The manufacturer states from 3.2kg and this is realistic, most babies will fit right from their first days. And the soft jersey material will gently hug and snuggle their tiny form
  • All the fastenings are at the front. Which is brilliant for parents with limited mobility who maybe struggle with straps that fasten at the sides. Also being able to see all the fastening makes this carrier supremely intuitive. They’ve even printed left and right on the tabs that attach to the panel, and colour coded where the panel slots into the straps so you can’t get it wrong. And as you fit the parent separately to the child, this can be a great advantage if you are feeling very nervous about using a carrier.

The cons are;

  • The panel doesn’t adjust in width. It does adjust in height so you can easily lengthen the panel as baby’s torso grows to ensure the head support is correctly positioned for them as they grow. But you can not adjust the width, which means as their legs grow the carrier can not continue supporting them in a comfortable “deep squat” seated position. Why does this matter? Well it is more comfortable for them to have the weight on their bottom and have their legs supported so they are not carrying the weight of their legs (verses having their weight resting on their inner thighs and the weight of their legs pulling down). The deep squat position gives a great alignment between the ball and socket joint of the hips, which means there is no pressure on their hips from their legs. And it is more comfortable for you, as when their legs are fully supported more of babies weight is aligned with your load bearing centre so baby feels lighter and easier to carry than when more of their legs are spilling out pulling away from you.
  • There is no waist support. Which means all the weight is resting on your shoulders and upper and mid back. Rather than around your waist and transferring onto your hips. This is fine for when baby is younger and thus smaller, but as they grow this will rapidly feel heavier for the parent compared to a carrier with a waistband.

In terms of weight testing, the Mini is tested up to 11 kg, but for the reasons above it actually won’t last anywhere near this long. In reality most babies will start to grow out of it around 3 to 4 months and by 6 months it will feel disportionately heavy to use.

The Mini offers 2 different carrying positions. Front inwards and Front outwards. However, it worth noting that most babies aren’t ready to be carried outwards in a carrier until about 4 months (you can read more about how to tell when they are ready here). Yet, but 4 months most babies are growing out of this carrier. Parents are often drawn to this carrier over others because it offers forward facing and don’t realise that in all likelihood their baby will have grown out of the carrier before they can do it. And even if they haven’t, without a waistband, the forward facing position is very heavy for the parent because the baby’s weight pulls forward and puts a lot more strain on the shoulders and upper back.

All in all the Baby Bjorn Mini is a lovely soft, very very easy to use carrier for a newborn baby. But what really puts me off is the lack of longevity. The lack of longer term support for both baby and the parent. This carrier costs £75 to buy, but when you compare it to its closest comparables on the market – the Ergo Embrace (£79.90) and the Izmi Baby Carrier (£80), both of which last a lot longer and offer more carrying positions and much much more flexibility and support to both baby and parent, it just doesn’t seem like a good deal. While most babies will grow out of the Mini around 3 to 4 months the Embrace generally lasts to around 9 months and the Izmi will often last at least 1 year. The Embrace offers 3 carrying positions and the Izmi 4. Both have waist bands and adjust in both width and height. So while the Bjorn Mini does have things going for it, it’s just hard to recommended it over these two carriers when they offer so much more for practically the same price.

-Madeleine

Private Consults are back! In my garden with new Safety measures…

I am so excited that I can finally announce that face to face help is back! I have taken a few weeks to digest all guidelines and advice and find the best path to offer these again in way that reduces risk while still allowing parents to access crucial face to face help and the ability to try carriers and slings on before they invest.

Starting this Sunday (28th June), I will be offering private consults in my back garden.

I am lucky for a Londoner that my garden is easily big enough for 2m distances to be maintained! And I have large bifold doors so if the weather is looking a bit wet, we can stay inside but with the doors open so that it is a well ventilated space and again easy to maintain at least a 2 m distance. Here is what you need to know;

  • When you arrive it is a straight walk from my front door out to the back garden, you can easily do it without coming into contact with any surfaces etc. I do have rear access but it is very hard to find, however, you will be welcome to leave via back gate which comes out onto Rutland Close, which means you don’t need to walk back through the house.
  • When you arrive you will be welcome to wash your hands in my kitchen sink which is located close to the back door.
  • We will set up in the garden on the patio. Please do bring something to put your baby onto while you are putting carriers on/preparing them ready for baby. I won’t be able to offer hold your baby (sadly!) so please do bring a blanket, car seat, pram or pushchair as appropriate.
  • I will ask you a number of questions in advance of your session to help me determine which carriers will be most useful for you to try. These will be clean (either freshly laundered or quarantined for 72 since last tried on or demoed with) and handled by no one other than me (and I will handle only very minimally, only as absolutely necessary and only following washing or sanitizing my hands).
  • These carriers will be set out ready for you to try and I will have separate carriers to demo and teach with so that we are not sharing carriers. When you have tried something on there will be a second bag or area for you to place them and then these will be either quarantined for 72 hours or washed ready for the next client.
  • There will also be a doll for you to use if required (just in case baby doesn’t cooperate, or if baby hasn’t arrived yet!), and this will be freshly wiped down for your use prior to your arrival.
  • All teaching will be done at a distance of at least 2 m. It can help to have another member of your family with you as a spotter if your feeling nervous or if you are learning back carries for the first time. If you would prefer if I came closer to spot you myself, I will wear a mask and freshly sanitize my hands and I ask that you do the same. However, I am very confident at teaching at a 2 m distance and find most parents like the space to help them learn and assimilate the new information without feeling crowded or hurried!
  • At the end of the session you will be welcome to hire or buy if you’d like to, although there is no pressure to do either. I will simply ask you to dictate details for the hire form so you need not touch anything.
  • Payment for the session at the end can be done via contactless card reader, bank transfer or PayPal so there is no need for cash.

More info on costs, how to book etc can be found here. In general consults in my home can be offered any weekday or weekend at any mutually agreeable time – simply suggest a few dates and times that work for you and we will go from there.

Consult in your Home

From next week I will also be offering consults in clients homes.

  • As with a consult in my home, I will ask you questions in advance to determine which carriers will be most useful for you to try. These carriers will be clean (as described above) and I will be bring separate carriers for me to demonstrate with so that we are not sharing the same carriers.
  • Likewise I will bring a doll for myself and a second doll for you to use if required, both of which will be freshly wiped down prior to my arrival.
  • When I arrive at your home I will be directed by you as to where you would like me to go. If you have an outdoor space this would be ideal, but if not I am happy to be led by you and teach in whichever space you are most comfortable in. If indoors I will wear a mask unless you specifically ask me not to (i.e. if this would make communication difficult for you).
  • When I arrive I will wash my hands or sanitize if washing is not possible.
  • I will teach throughout at a distance of 2m, unless this is impossible, in which case I will wear a mask and re-sanitize my hands as needed.
  • After your consult you’ll be welcome to hire or buy if you’d like to, although there is no pressure to do either.
  • Payment for the session at the end can be done via contactless card reader, bank transfer or PayPal so there is no need for cash.

More info on costs, how to book etc can be found here. For the moment, as my son’s year has not gone back to school I can only offer consults in clients homes at weekends. However, can usually do either Saturdays and Sundays (and occasionally will be able to accomodate a mid morning appointment Monday-Wednesday). Simply get in contact and suggest a few dates and times that work for you and we will go from there.

I am really looking forward to finally supporting parents directly again. If you are worried about anything, have any questions or there is anything I can do differently to help you access my service at this extraordinary time, please do get in contact and let me know

-Madeleine

The Webshop is Here!

I am so excited to announce that the Sheen Slings webshop is here!

For a long time it has been possible to purchase through us, but only to those coming along to a session, for a consultation or following a hire. Now it is easier than ever! You can browse our full collection online, check out the colour-ways, read the descriptions and reviews and then when your ready purchase without needing to do so in person.

This is a step I put off for a long time, because I passionately believe that it is so important to try a sling or carrier on before purchasing. Just as you would a pair of shoes or a pair of jeans – fit is everything. Having a carrier that fits you well, that you are completely confident using and adjusting can make a huge difference! Saving your back, giving your hands back and allowing you snug baby on the move.

So, if you can please please do ensure you try any carrier or sling on before investing in it. Check out our services page to read more about how to go about trying and hiring.

Then when you are ready to purchase the webshop is there to make it as easy as possible for you. This is what I have learnt from you guys – offering the option to buy online doesn’t subtract from our service, it doesn’t prevent people from accessing and gaining help and advice. Instead is adds to the service by making it easier. Easier to go home and have a think first and not having to worry about coming back to collect. Easier to check out options while still mulling it over. Easier to buy something for a second baby that you tried out with the first baby but didn’t need at the time.

And those buying online can enjoy all the same benefits that those buying in person do;

  • Advice from an independent, highly trained babywearing consultant with over 6 years experience matching families up with the right options for them individually
  • Range of different carriers far wider than offered on the high street, and extensive product knowledge, making it far more likely we will have exactly the right thing for you
  • The teaching skills and knowledge base to ensure you can learn exactly how to get the most out of your carrier and get the best fit for you and your baby
  • Ongoing support, so if you ever lose confidence in the future or are worried about anything you know you can come back and we will sort it.

So here it is – the webshop! Happy Shopping!

-Madeleine

Cross Straps or Rucksack Straps? What is the difference?

Many carriers offer the option to wear the straps either crossed or rucksack style across the wearers back. However, parents often don’t realise what this means and aren’t sure which one to use.

What is the difference

The difference is best explained by looking at the graphic above. For crossed straps the straps cross over the parents back. This means the strap at the left shoulder plugs into the right side of the panel and visa versa. While for Rucksack style, the strap that the right shoulder plugs into the right hand side of the carrier and a chest strap connects the two straps. The same chest strap need not be used when crossing.

Both ways are very secure and safe, but they do give very different fits. As such

Which one is better?

I am always being asked which one is better. Both methods are safe and secure, but they do give very different fits. As such different shaped backs, shoulders and torsos will find one fits more comfortably than the other. There is no, this one is always better, but for an individual there will be one of the two that fits you personally better. I always encourage parents to try both ways before purchasing a carrier.

Why is it important to try both before you buy a carrier?

While most carriers that I sell offer both strap configurations, there are a great number of carriers that offer only rucksack or only crossed. It is always frustrating for parents to realise they have bought a carrier that only offers one but their body shape is better suited to the other. And even among carriers that do offer both, some are better at one than the other. For this reason, when working with clients I will always make them try both crossed and rucksack styled first and help them work out which one suits their individual body shape first and then suggest carriers that cater for this preference. And for couples where one prefers one and the other the other, I can ensure they try only carriers that offer both configurations equally well!

Which one is easier?

Again this this person dependent. Some people find crossing straps behind their back really hard, some find it an absolute piece of cake. Some people find doing up a strap behind their back easy, some its completely impossible! The key is to try and see! And once you find which one is most comfortable, take advice from a trained babywearing educator to find the easiest way for you personally. I recently had an online consultation with a couple who had decided not to purchase a particular carrier because the sales rep in John Lewis had told them the strap was difficult to do up without help. That couple were really surprised to learn that that particular carrier could also be crossed and that even if rucksack style was more comfortable that there were a total of 5 different methods for doing that strap up and they could easily do it up themselves without help using one of my alternative methods. All things that the sales rep did not know, but a trained babywearing educator can help you learn in just a few moments. So if your carrier is feeling too difficult, this is definitely a sign to look up your local babywearing consultant and see if they can help you find a method that is easier for you. Because I am willing to bet there is one!

-Madeleine

Carrier shown here is the Beco Gemini and is available here.