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

How to get a great fit with your Buckle carrier

Intuitive and easy to use, buckle carriers are definitely the most popular type of baby carrier. They are fast and convenient and they can be super comfortable.

They can also be really uncomfortable. The key with any baby carrier is fit and getting that fit right. Small changes and adjustments in how you are wearing a carrier can make an absolutely huge effects on how well baby’s weight is distributed and thus how it feels to wear them. Small tweaks can take a carrier from “gives me back pain within 10 minutes” to “baby felt weightless and I comfortably wore for over an hour”.

There definitely is a knack and it can take a few goes to get the hang of optimally adjusting your carrier everytime. This is where face to face help with a consultant (online or in person one to one or at a sling library session) can really make a huge difference and take all the trial and error out of learning to get it right for you – for your individual shape, needs and circumstance. But for those who can’t make it to a library, or who have been to mine and appreciate the reminder – here are the main things to consider… the main adjustments you can make to ensure a comfortable carry.

The Waistband

Getting the waistband well positioned and snug is the FOUNDATION for getting the whole rest of the carrier set up well – ensuring baby is safe and comfortable and that your are well supported and the weight evenly distributed. And yet most manuals don’t tell you how to work out where to put it, nor give any sense of how tight it needs to be. I talk through this in depth in this video:

Where you waistband goes depends on two things – the size of your baby and your body and it how bears weight most effectively.

Size of your baby is the more obvious of the two and is easiest to see by simply holding your baby in arms. Hold them in arms at the height you’d like to carry them, at the height that ensures their head is at a level you are happy you can see them, kiss them, chat to them, monitor them etc easily. Then observe where their bum is! The waistband needs to go there. So for a newborn or very young baby you will need to wear the waistband a lot higher than you will for a 6 month old or a 1 year old etc. Likewise, when you move to back carrying, again, you may find you need to wear the waistband higher to carry baby at a height they can see over your shoulder. As they grow you maybe able to move this down again.

In terms of your body and your ability to weight bear, most people have a distinct “biting point”. A part of their body where if you put the waistband there you will get maximum transfer onto their pelvis and thus optimal weight distribution. Where exactly this biting point is, however, is very individual. And in particular it differs quite a lot between men and women. Men have a lower centre of gravity compared to women, so it’s not a surprise that they will naturally carry weight lower too. The trick is to find exactly the right place for you, whatever your gender or body shape is. Best way to do this is to take your hands and press down at different points and feel where you feel the best weight transference onto your hips (watch from 3.42 minutes for this). This is where your waist band should go for maximum comfort for you.

Once you’ve found where to put your waistband it is also key to get it tightened correctly. It needs to be parallel to the ground and it needs to be SNUG! Too tight and it will dig and be uncomfortable. But too loose and it will dig and be uncomfortable too because baby’s weight in the sling exploit the looseness and cause the waistband at the front to sink. Twisting the waistband and causing the digging (watch from 6.06 minutes above for visual of this). It will also be uncomfortable because there will be less weight transference onto the pelvis which will mean the shoulders will carry more weight and the baby will feel heavier. As a general rule of thumb, the snugger the waistband the better weight transference you’ll get.

The Shoulder Straps

Once the waistband is set, next thing to check is the shoulder straps. How they are positioned and how they are tightened.

Many carriers will allow you to wear the straps either crossed across your back or in “rucksack” configuration. It is well worth trying both and finding which one suits you best, because most people will find one of the two will suit them much better than the other (you can read more about this here).

Once you’ve found which one suits you best, then it’s all about learning how to tighten your straps effectively.

This might seem obvious but actually it’s often not. Inutitively, most parents will simply tug on the strap to tighten it, but as the two videos below show, this doesn’t lead to effective tightening. Instead the key is to;

  • support baby’s weight – so you are not fighting gravity
  • move any looseness over your shoulder and across your back to the buckles before tightening it out
  • wiggle your shoulder to release friction

As shown in the two video’s below.

How to tighten cross straps;

How to tighten rucksack straps

Hopefully these general rules will help act as reminders to anyone who is getting the hang of adjusting their carrier correctly. For more individual personalised help do reach out to your local carrying consultant (or I offer online consultations country wide as well as local face to face consultations), as there is really is a wealth of different ways carriers can be optimised and tweaked to get a really great fit.

-Madeleine

PS – Carriers shown in the videos are the Ergo Omni 360 and the Beco Gemini, both available to purchase through the Sheen Slings shop and both available to hire to try before you invest.

When can I start carrying my baby outwards facing?

The answer to this question comes in two parts;

  1. When they are developmentally ready
  2. When they physically big enough to fit facing forward in the carrier you have for them

This can vary a lot from child to child so I will discuss both in depth below to enable you to judge for yourself when your baby is ready. Parents often ask me for an age, but because babies develop and grow at different rates there isn’t a magical age where all babies all suddenly overnight become ready to face outwards! For most babies this is somewhere between 4-5 months, but equally some babies won’t be ready until nearer 6 months. Better to know what we are looking for developmentally and in terms of physical fit and be led by your baby.

It is also worth considering the pros and cons of forward facing too, this position more than any other comes with distinct factors for consideration. You can read more about the facts surrounding carrying babies outward facing here.

Developmental Readiness

In terms of developmental readiness, what we are looking for here is primarily neck strength – they need to have excellent head control and upper body strength. The reason for this is simply because when forward facing the carrier is unable to provide any head support.  And because they are facing outwards their head and uppermost torso isn’t even supported by your body either. So they must be able to hold their heads up themselves for the full duration you will be wearing them outwards.

I often encourage parents to think about how they naturally hold babies in arms, and then see if a baby carrier can be used to emulate and replace their arms. But it worth realising that you can hold your baby in arms looking outward much earlier than you can use a sling. This is because you naturally will hold your arms in a way that supports their head if they need it. And your arms are responsive, so if baby starts to tire or starts to slump – your arms will automatically respond to this and adjust the support for baby or automatically turn them inwards. Next time you are holding baby like this, do think about how long you hold them facing outward. How long can they hold their own head for? How steady is their head? Do you use your arms or body to help stabilise?

It is important to realise that carrier can not be used to support their head while forward facing without risking impinging on their airway. So developmentally they need to have rock solid head control. I remember my daughter went through a distinct ‘nodding dog’ stage where she could mostly hold her own head but she looked a little bit like one of those nodding dogs.  I could quite happily hold her looking outwards in arms but she wasn’t strong enough to do this in a carrier. It was a few more weeks until she reached rock solid.

The other developmental sign to look for is time spent awake. As I mentioned this position relies on baby supporting their own head – which is something they need to be awake to do (even fully grown adults will lose tone and their head will loll if they fall asleep sitting up!). So if you are planning to go out for 30 minutes wearing your baby outward facing, you need to know that they will be happy to remain to stay awake that whole 30 minutes. Or be prepared to stop and change them to inward facing long before they start to get sleepy. Hence, ideally we are looking for babies who have reached an awake cycle of at least 2 hours to give you a decent 30 minutes or so within that awake cycle where they are the most awake and inquisitive to forward face.

Typically babies will reach these developmental considerations somewhere between 4 and 5 months. It is extremely rare a baby is genuinely ready before 4 months.

Ergo Baby 360

Physical Fit

As well as being developmentally ready, baby also needs to physically be large enough to fit forward facing in the carrier you have for them. Their head needs to be able to clear the top of the carrier (so they can breathe!) and they need to be able to do this without over extending their back. They need to be able to sit comfortably in the carrier, with their weight on their bottom, legs comfortably supported and not overly splayed out. When they are able to do this will depend on their size (primarily their torso height and inner leg length) and the carrier you have.

There is a HUGE variation between different carrier brands. Some like the Lillebaby Complete and Beco 8 are huge. Great if you have a child tracking on the upper centiles for weight and height because it will continue fitting them longer, but frustrating if you have a smaller framed baby as it could be at least 6 months (maybe more) before baby fits. Others, like the Izmi Baby carrier will fit much much sooner, even for babies who are right on the lowest centiles (I once got a great facing outward carrying on a 6 month old who was born early so while 6 months old and developmentally ready, was still the size of an average 2.5 month old!). The Beco Gemini is another good one for fitting babies slightly earlier if they are ready. Carriers like the Ergo Omni 360 and the Tula Explore are much more in the middle, most children will start fit well in these somewhere between 4-5 months.

Beco 8
Lillebaby Complete
Beco Gemini

But my baby really hates being held inward and wants to forward face already!!!

This the the really hard bit. The fact that most babies will hit what I call “nosy baby phase” long before they are ready to be carried outwards in a carrier. Generally, nosy baby phase starts right around the time the huge developmental leap that happens at the end of the fourth trimester. As baby transitions from a sleepy newborn into a much more awake, more alert and far more interested in the world baby. And as baby become more interested they will start to strain to see more and might start fighting a carrier if it is impairing their view. Typically this starts happening around 12 weeks or so.

And parents will start finding they hold baby looking outward in their arms and/or on their hip more and more. But for all the reasons above discussed above, baby is not yet ready to be carried forward facing in a baby carrier. I honestly understand why parents feel frustrated! So what are the options?

The first is to see if you can tweak the fit on your current baby carrier to give them a better view. For a stretchy wrap this might be twisting the straps near the shoulder to safely move the fabric further from baby’s face, giving them clearer sight lines. For a buckle carrier or meh dai this might be fitting it slightly differently so the panel doesn’t come up as high, or so a strap isn’t sitting across baby’s field of view.

The second, and arguably more successful thing to try is a Hip Carry. Hip carries can be a fantastic solution as they give exactly the same view outwards as carrying forward facing, but without any of the cons. Baby can safely fall asleep or get tired in this position because their head can be supported in this position – both by the carrier and because baby’s head will naturally rest against their parents body in this position. It also overcomes worries of overstimulation, as baby can turn their head away as they are starting to become tired. Even once baby is ready to forward face – this is a hugely useful position to know for those times when baby is tired but fighting sleep! And many of the carriers that offer forward facing, offer a hip carry too so you can use either depending on which one works for you and baby on any given day!

You can see how to do a Hip carry with a buckle carrier here.

Once Baby is ready – how do I carry them forward facing?

Once baby is ready, here is how to position them in an outward facing carry

-Madeleine

Summer Baby Carriers – My Top Picks for Warm Weather Babywearing

While carrying in warm weather is more about common sense than anything else, there definitely are some carriers that are cooler to wear and fare better as temperatures rise. If you are prone to overheating, live in a warm climate or want a summer friendly baby carrier (or want to hire one from Sheen Slings for an upcoming holiday or just for the summer) – here are my top picks:

1. Kahu Baby Sunshine Carrier

There are two reasons this carrier tops the list. The first is its genius lightweight design. The Kahu Baby is ultralight, packs down small and does not compromise on comfort or fit. Part of the genius of this carrier is how simple it is.  Designed to be really intuitive to use, without any added bells or whistles or fiddly extra bits.  Just really clever minimal design that ensures it fits a huge range of sizes and shapes of parents, men and women and is supportive enough for long walks while remaining light and soft enough to happily wear all day around the house too. Likewise it fits a huge range of babies ages and stages, from just a few weeks old through to 4 years. Offering 4 carrying positions and loads of versatility without adding loads of bulk and thus without adding any extra warmth.

The second reason is the Sunshine fabric. Kahu Baby carriers come in a few different fabric options, and while the are all lightweight and perform well in warmer weather, the Sunshine fabric absolutely excels as temperatures rise. Made from a woven polyester that is rated UPF50+, this fabric blocks 99% of the sun’s harmful UVA & UVB rays.  The fabric feels soft, breathable, silky and actually cool to the touch!  It’s also a wicking fabric, meaning you won’t feel sweaty in this carrier and that it dries extremely quickly (either after getting wet or washing).  Making the Sunshine the ultimate warm weather sling. 

The Kahu is available to purchase here, and you can see my full indepth review here.

2. Izmi Baby Carrier

Izmi Grey Mesh
Izmi Grey

The Izmi Baby is another absolutely genius incrediably lightweight carrier. It offers 4 carrying position and is one of those very rare buckle carriers that really really works brilliantly for newborns. In fact, it is a carrier I have had success over and over again with babies who are born prematurely because with its optional booster and ability to adjust the width – it is possible to make this carrier really very small to ensure a great fit even on tiny babies. The adjustable width and flexible neck support panel means this carrier can also grow with baby, continuing to fit all the way from teeny tiny to at least 12 months and often further. The flexibility doesn’t end here – this carrier also offers 4 carrying positions (front inwards, Front outwards, hip and back) and fits a absolutely huge range of different parent shapes and sizes. Particularly fitting petite parents well. Many carriers will fit a huge range but won’t go small enough for the very petite – but the Izmi will go so small my 3 year old can use it to carry the demo doll!!

As well as its all round brilliance, the Izmi Baby is one of my top summer picks because it’s lightweight design paired with thin breathable cotton means that it is genuinely one of the coolest baby carriers on the market. And if you are particularly prone to overheating or live in a very warm climate, they sell a mesh version too, where the centre portion of the main panel is replaced entirely with an airy breathable mesh.

The Izmi Baby is available to purchase here, and you can read my full indepth review here.

3. Beco Gemini Cool

Gemini Cool
Gemini Cool Black
Gemini Cool Navy
Gemini Cool Navy

If your looking for a bit more padding than offered by the Kahu or the Izmi, then the Beco Gemini Cool is definitely worth considering.

You will note that there are no heavily padded carriers on this list at all – and the reason for this is padding can be a bit of a double edge sword when it comes to summer babywearing as that extra bulk can really suddenly feel very warm as the temperature rises. So while you might find heavily padded carriers comfortable the rest of the year round, you may well find your sweltering come summer. Even with a supposedly cooler mesh version.

The Gemini Cool is a great option if you do prefer a bit of padding because it has a really sturdy supportive waist band, but the wide shoulder straps are very thin and very softly padded. It is often the bulk at the shoulders and across the back that causes a lot of this hot and sweaty feeling and so by having very softly padded shoulders the Gemini feels a lot cooler. The Cool mesh version also feels a lot cooler than the standard cotton counterpart because of the materials it is made from. The panel features a center portion made entirely out of breathable soft, supple yet really strong and supportive mesh. The rest of the carrier is made from this same mesh combined with a really soft, thin, cool to the touch fabric. The result is a supportive carrier that performs really well in the warmer months and year round! It fits an absolutely huge range of parents shapes and sizes, and fits babies from just 2-3 weeks old through to at least 18 months, offering 4 carrying positions (front inward, front outward, hip and back).

The Beco Cool is available to purchase here, and you can read my full indepth review here or see the standard cotton and the cool variants compared here.

4. Melliapis Ring Sling

Petrol Melliapis Ring Sling
Petrol Melliapis Ring Sling

Ring Slings are fantastic options for summer. Made from just a loop of fabric these are as a general rule cooler to wear than any buckle style carrier (even the super light ones outlined above). And of all the ring slings I have ever tried, the Melliapis basic ring sling is my absolute top pick for warm weather. Made from two layers of muslin woven together to create a material that is surprisingly strong, the Melliapis Ring Sling is one of the most lightweight slings on the market. Super soft on newborn skin but easily strong enough to carry an up down toddler too. It folds up absolutely tiny to easily fit inside a bag, or even to be worn as a light scarf while your not using it! It feels light and airy to wear – making it an excellent option for summer.

The Melliapis Ring Sling is available to purchase here and you can read my full indepth review here.

5. Mini Monkey Mini Sling

At just 187g the Mini Sling is the lightest and smallest carrier on our list. Made from a silky soft smooth mesh and covering only 1 shoulder, it is definitely the sling that will keep you and baby the coolest too. Similar in style to a ring sling, the Mini sling is a loop of fabric with strap to tighten at the back and a fine adjustment strap for supporting the neck and upper back at the front. It is one of the absolutely simplest carriers to use, but not nesicarly the most comfortable to use. Rather this carrier has been designed for speed and lightness in mind, so excels best as a “just in case” sling that slips into your bag (or even a large pocket) or a “just while I quickly do x” sling. Great for holidays too as the thin mesh drys quickly and so is a great beach or poolside choice.

You can read my full review of this sling here.

6. JPMBB Physio Carrier

The JPMBB Physio carrier zips open to reveal the best mesh panel I have ever seen. The top layer rolls up to expose a huge section of light and airy yet strong mesh. Making this carrier one of the absolutely coolest of the padded buckle style carriers. Even the padding is cooler than on most carriers due to clever combination of mesh and breathable cool fabrics. The Physio fits babies best from about 7 or 8 months through to 3 or even 4 years of age. You can use it with a younger baby too – you’ll just need the infant booster pack that includes a booster pillow and a neck pillow. And as such this carrier is always popular for summer holiday hires.

What’s not on this list….

There are a great many other carriers that feature mesh panels and advertise being great for summer. Carriers like the Ergo Omni 360, the Tula, the Lillebaby Complete, the Baby Bjorn Air Mesh, the Beco 8 and many many more besides. When it comes to these carriers, ultimately how warm you and baby will feel is more about the padding and the bulk and much less about the presence and absence of mesh. Yes it can be nice to get the mesh version of one of these carriers for a bit more breathability but these are all a good step warmer compared to anything on this list. Great all year round carriers but just don’t make the grade if you live in a warm climate, looking to borrow something for holiday or particularly prone to overheating in the summer months.

Another type of carrier missing from this list are the stretchy wraps and Caboo type carriers. Again there are options amoung these that are cooler, but with three layers over baby – none of them would be my first choice on a truly boiling day! Plus there are really quite a few options when it comes to stretchy wraps so I will save summer stretchy recommendations for a future blog post.

-Madeleine

Newborn carry with an Ergobaby Embrace

The Ergobaby Embrace is their super soft, jersey, newborn specialised carrier. This is one of those rare buckle carriers on the market that really does work right from day 1 and will grow with baby for the 6-9 months.

These carriers are available buy through our webshop and we have 2 in the library selection available to try at one of our sessions or hire, enabling you to try before you buy.

But how do you do it? Here is my video of how to set this carrier up for a newborn, how to put your baby in and how to check they are safe and comfortable

-Madeleine