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

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

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