The Ergobaby Omni 360 is a fabulous carrier, it’s one of the most popular carriers in both my library collection and my retail side. But if it has one flaw it is that the side safety buckles are a little frail. I’ve never seen one fail randomly in use, but they do sometimes snap when attempting to open or close the buckle. Particularly if the alignment of the safety prong isn’t right. They are also quite suspectable to breaking if they catch on anything (car door etc).
However, the good news is that it is normally very easy to get replacements. Simply message Ergobaby and they will usually post you out a free replacement right away. Over the last 3 years I have had to replace 5 of these buckles (across 4 carriers!), and each time Ergobaby have sent me a replacement within a week. But what they’ve never sent is instructions on how to do it!
So for anyone needing to replace a buckle on their Ergobaby carrier – here is how to do it, as shown while I replace the buckle on one my library collection carriers:
So how do you do it?
Email Ergobaby UK for a replacement buckle. It can help to take a photo so they know which one is broken, and it can also help to confirm which colour way so they provide the right colour buckle.
Remove the old broken buckle. If you have a newer Omni you may well be able to simply unthread it. It will take a fair bit of force. However, if you have an older one the buckle will be too narrow and you won’t get it off this way. Instead Ergobaby advise you smash it off with a hammer or rolling pin. So if your struggling to get if off, instead wrap the buckle in a towel to protect you from flying debris and then hit it hard with a hammer or rolling pin and throw away the resulting pieces.
Replace the new buckle. Check the other strap to ensure you are threading it correctly. I can’t stress this enough. The video above is edited in the middle because I threaded it on the wrong way first time! And then swore because I had to take it off and do it again!!
It will take alot of force to pull the strap through the buckle. The new buckles are wider and designed to be able to pull onto the strap without unpicking the end, but it is a tight squeeze – so you really do have to wrench it. I find it easier to pull the elastic through first and then use the elastic as leverage to pull the rest through. It worked really well on this carrier, however, I’ve had others where it has proved almost impossible. Particularly if the stitched end is a little fatter (which is the case on some colourways! I always struggle more on my Pearl Grey carriers than I do on the blue ones!)… it might just not work. In that case you have two options. One, unpick the stitched end or, two, cut the elastic tidy loop off. If you unpick the stitched end chances are you will need to pay someone with an industrial sewing machine (like a local cobbler) to resew it. If you cut the elastic then you won’t have it to tidy the straps.
If you have any questions about replacing your own buckle please do get in contact and ask!
Omni means “all” or everything and the Omni 360 is the model from Ergobaby that has everything. Adjustable seat, 4 carrying positions, hood, pocket, lumbar pad, safety buckles. You name it, it has it.
Watch my full, in depth video review to see it in action or read on below for a summary of its main pros and cons!
Key Omni 360 Facts:
Weight tested from 3.5 to 20 kg (7 – 44lbs), realistically fits from approximately 8 weeks to about 2 years of age. This is the big thing to realise – the box and all the marketing says “birth to toddler”, but in practise this is a carrier that rarely fits before 8 weeks. The reason is the panel is simply too long and the carrier is very bulky and it’s just hard to get a good fit on a very young baby. You can sometimes get it to work a little earlier using this method to adjust the panel, but in practise it just works best once baby is over 8 weeks or so. Once baby is over that age it adjusts and continues working beautifully until around 2 years of age – so this is a fantastically long lasting carrier that you should get roughly 2 years of use out of.
Adjustable width. The secret to this longevity is the adjustable seat. Velcro tabs inside the waistband make it very simple to adjust the width of the seat to accomodate different sizes as baby grows. No need for an insert for younger babies, the seat can simply shrink down for a younger baby. Coloured markers make it really easy to know where to place the tabs, and of course you can place them between the lines too to get a really incremental fit as baby grows.
Bucket shaped seat ensures baby sits in a comfortable seated position with bum lower than the knees and the padding at the edge is a nice soft touch. As with any carrier – how you use it matters more than the carrier itself – but the bucket shape seat certainly makes it easier to ensure great positioning (you can read more about this here).
4 Carrying positions: Front inwards, front outwards, hip and back carry. Which means this carrier grows with your child developmentally as well as physically, giving you both lots of carrying options. One of the real pros of the Omni 360 is how easily it adjusts between the inward and outwards modes – it can be adjusted with just one hand, and how well it does both. The bucket shaped seat ensures you can get a comfortable seated position for baby in both inward and outward modes. In fact this is genuinely one of the best carriers on the market when it comes to the outward position… it really does give a fabulously comfortable deep squat position. The hip carry doesn’t work quite as well as the other three, simply because it is quite bulky and the strap across the opposite shoulder often doesn’t sit very comfortably compared to other less bulky carriers.
Wide, firmly padded waistband with lumbar support pad. The waistband and lumbar pad is often the selling point of this carrier for many families. If it fits you well, this can be supremely comfortable and supportive and can work really well for those wanting to use their carrier on long walks or days out. It can take a bit of adjusting – and getting used to tightening from both ends to position the lumbar pad well – but once you get the hang of it becomes quick and easy.
Heavily padded shoulder straps. The straps are well padded and fairly bulky. These are the most marmite part of this carrier – many parents love the padding and find it really comfortable, while many other parents just find it too much bulk and ultimately choose something like the Beco 8 or the Beco Gemini, or even the Kahu Baby for something that feels less cumbersome.
The straps do up in 2 ways – offering both crossed and ruck sack options (X or H shape), which is great because so often couples sharing a carrier find that they have different preferences and so this carrier is more likely to work for both parents! Which is a big pro.
Tightening is one directional. This does mean you need to understand how to move the looseness around your back (as shown in the video) and can be hard for those with weak wrists. Which is a bit of a con compared to other carriers that offer two directional tightening, but it is something that most people can find a method that works for them, so not a huge con but worth being aware of.
Safety buckles. It is worth noting that the shoulder straps attach to the panel via a safety buckle. The buckle can be undone one handed, but requires a very purposeful movement so can’t be undone by accident or absentmindely. Which is a both a pro and a con – pro because of that added layer of security, but con because it makes it more fiddly to do up and undo. And also because the safety aspect of these buckles do make them a bit frail and they are prone to breaking if you don’t line them up properly and use a little too much force. I’ve had to replace 5 in the last 4 years! Ergobaby are fab at providing spares but there is that inconvenience factor of needing to replace.
Fits a wide range of parent shapes and sizes. In particular it works well on average to plus sized frames. The straps all have plenty of webbing and this carrier is designed to be inclusive and fit most parent shapes and sizes. But it is pretty bulky and so often doesn’t feel right on smaller or petite frames. Often more petite parents will tell me they feel like it is wearing them rather than the other way round. Even for bigger frames, it all comes down to fit – this works for a very wide range but not everyone. Carriers are a bit like jeans – different brands fit different people and small differences in shoulder shape and how it sits on your waist can make a huge difference to comfort so aways worth trying a few different brands on and comparing. However, this is a carrier that does fit a huge range and if it does fit you well it will be supremely comfortable.
Pocket. The Omni comes with a detachable pocket big enough for keys, phone and maybe a small wallet too. Fab for stowing those essentials, although its worth noting it is only attached by velcro and pretty easy to remove (and accidently misplace!).
One final con or “thing to be aware of” is that the lumbar pad is not removable. Which does mean when you come to back carrying it will sit over your stomach. This can be nice because it helps stabilise the waistband and give additional support, but some people don’t appreciate the additional pressure on their tummies or like the look. Also the inability to remove the lumbar pad does mean that the super petite do sometimes struggle to get this carrier tight enough (although this really is only an issue for absolute most slender of the population).
Comes in two main finishes, the standard “cotton” and the mesh as shown in the video above. There are two main differences. Firstly presence or absence of mesh on some of the panels and on the shoulder straps. Second is that the mesh has sliders to adjust between inwards and outward carrying modes, while the cotton has buttons. Both can be done one handed and/or without needing to put baby down, but the sliders are much faster and a bit less faffy. Their only con is if you are prone to fiddling, you might find yourself fiddling with them!
The mesh is marginally cooler. It is more breathable for baby, however, for the parent – so much of the warmth comes from the padding and the overal bulk and as this is the same on both … there isn’t a huge amount of difference. The bulkiness means that neither would be one of my top choices for the height of summer (you can see my top summer picks here).
All in all the Ergobaby Omni 360 is a fabulous all singing all dancing option. It is a great choice for anyone looking for a carrier that will last them a long time and offer lots of options as their family grows. Its a great for days out and long walks. Cost is £154.95 and these can be bought through the Sheen Slings webshop here. As an authorised Ergobaby stockist your new carrier will come under the Ergobaby 10 year promise, meaning your carrier is guarenteed for an incrediable 10 years! I also hire these out (and offer exclusive discounts to anyone who hires first) so you can try before you buy risk free too.
While most buckle carriers are aimed at supporting babies from a couple of months old all the way through to toddlerhood, there are relatively few that genuinely fit a newborn well. For this reason many parents start with a stretchy wrap or a Close Caboo for the early days and then move on. But if you’re looking for a buckle carrier that you can use right from day 1 then the three to consider are the:
All three of these are designed with carrying a newborn in mind, so are made from soft, light materials and sized to fit a smaller form snuggly, and prioritise the head and neck support that they need.
So how do these 3 compare? Which one should you go for?
Lets start by taking a look at their basic stats…
Baby Bjorn Mini
Recommended Weight Range
3.2 – 11 kg (7 – 25 lb)
3.2 – 15 kg (7 – 33 lb)
3.2 – 11 kg (7 – 25 lb)
Realistically works for
From birth as soon as can open legs at least a little, generally fits from 2.75kg/6lb. Lasts to about 9 months ish.
Right from birth, no need to spread legs at all. I’ve even had success with babies weighing as little as 1.75kg (just below 4lb), grows with baby to at least 1 year.
From birth as soon as can open legs at least a little, generally fits from 2.75kg/6lb. Lasts only to about 4 months ish.
Number of Carrying positions
Jersey (79% Polyester, 17% Rayon, 4% Spandex)
Cotton or Cotton with a mesh panel (Cotton is 100% Cotton)
Cotton, Jersey, or Jersey Mesh (Cotton is 100% cotton, Jersey is 80% Polyester, 16% Cotton, 4% Spandex, while the Jersery Mesh is 100% Polyester)
As you can see of the 3 the Izmi baby fits the earliest and lasts the longest. While none of them are weight tested below 3.2 kg (or rather insured to print any lower than this on the label), the Izmi actually can work for even the tinest babies. It comes with a booster cushion and it’s adjustable width and height means that it can fit smaller babies earlier than the other too. It’s the one I have seen work over and over again on babies born prematurely because it’s so flexible in terms of how it can be used and so working with parents I can usually help them find a way that baby can sit comfortably in this carrier even if baby isn’t yet ready to spread their legs, or has low tone or is currently on oxygen and we need to accomodate for this. By contrast the other two will work once baby is able to spread their legs at least a little and will work right from birth for most babies born at term.
Then at the other end of the spectrum, the Bjorn Mini is the smallest of the 3 or rather has the least capacity to get wider and so this is the one that babies grow out of the fastest. Usually by 4 months or so baby is starting to outgrow this carrier on width and the lack of waist support means this carrier quickly becomes less comfortable for the wearer too. The Embrace lasts a bit longer and will often work to around 9 months give or take. The panel does become a little wider and longer but by 9 months baby will be starting to out grow it and also the stretchy fabric will start feeling less supportive and there will be more pull on parents back. Again the Izmi can out perform the other two – the panel goes much wider than the other two so it can continue fitting babies to around a year and often beyond. However, how long the wearer can continue wearing it comfortably depends alot on fit! If it fits you well and the unpadded lightweight straps sit nicely and flush on your body you’ll be happy wearing this to a year or beyond… if the straps don’t sit well on you and they ride or rouche then very likely this carrier will start getting heavy from 6 to 9 months ish too.
In terms of what you can do with it – again the Izmi offers the most options! Offering 4 carrying positions – front inwards, front outwards, hip and back carry. While the Ergo Embrace offers 3 of these. Officially 2 – only the front inwards and front outwards are shown in the manual, but it works just as well in a hip carry as well. The Bjorn offers just the front inwards and front outwards and can not be used on the hip or back. For the parent, the Izmi offers both crossed straps and ruck sack straps (you can read more about these here), while the Bjorn Mini and Ergo Embrace offers just the crossed configuration. It is worth stating that the Izmi works much better in the crossed than the ruck sack but it does offer both.
Ease of Use
When it comes to ease of use – the Ergo Embrace and the Izmi baby are similar in terms of how you use them. You pop the waistband on, pop baby in and then bring the panel up over them and fasten the straps around both of you. Its very simple. The Bjorn Mini is a little different… instead you fasten the carrier to you first and then pop baby in and all the clips to secure baby are on the front where you can easily see them. It is fab for anyone who is really nervous, or has difficulty doing up buckles at their sides. I hestitate to say the Bjorn Mini is easier though, I hestitate because experience has taught me that some parents definitely find it easier, while others find it more faffy and much harder. The clips are quite different and they are a bit marmite… some people find them really inutitive and others can’t fathom them!! So it can be easier but also it can be harder… it really depends on how your hands work, what feels easier to you personally. I very much recommend trying and seeing! I have to say I have had a good number of parents who have been worried about how to fasten the straps on the Embrace or the Izmi and assumed the Bjorn will be easier and thought they should just go for that and then when they’ve tried found that actually the Embrace and Izmi are way easier than they were anticipating and preferred the more flexible and comfortable fit they offered. So it is defintely worth trying each on if you are unsure.
Here the Bjorn Mini offers the most choice. It comes in 3 different fabrics – a super soft polyester jersey, a mesh jersery fabric (also polyester) and a cotton. The cotton does feel a bit robust compared to the other two, but the other two are strokably soft and the mesh really breathable too. The Ergo Embrace comes in a polyester jersery that feels quite similar to the Bjorn Mini jersery fabric. It is very soft and molds around baby beautifully. The Izmi comes in a light weight cotton – it is a much softer, less robust cotton than the Bjorn Mini cotton finish, it definitely moulds nicely around baby. It isn’t quite a soft as the jersey fabric of the other two, but it also doesn’t have the give of the other two either so can feel a little more secure. The Izmi is also availible in a mesh where the central portion of the panel has been replaced with mesh. Again not quite as soft as the Bjorn mesh but this is both a plus and a minus as it has less give too.
When it comes to price they are all much of a muchness at £80. However, when you factor in how long they will last and options offered, it is hard to see the Bjorn Mini as good value compared to the other two. Consequently I choose to sell both the Izmi Baby carrier and the Ergobaby Embrace, as I know parents will get good value for money with either of these (and anyone purchasing a carrier through the Sheen Slings webshop is offered a free 20 minute online video fitting appointment, so I know you’ll feel confident using whichever you chose).
It is worth noting that whichever you opt for, many parents do ultimately end up moving onto a bigger more robust buckle carrier around 4 -6 months or so anyway. So, really none of them offer quite as good value compared to something like the Close Parent Caboo or a Stretchy wrap that costs between £40-55 and last for the same period. Or the Calin bleu stretchy wrap that costs just £25! Another option can be simply to rent for the period you need it. I offer 3 month long term hires, so you could hire an Izmi Baby Carrier, an Ergo Embrace or a Baby Bjorn Mini for the whole 4th trimester period for just £40 and save yourself needing to purchase your own and save the rest of the money for the next step purchase that should hopefully last baby from a few months all the way into toddlerhood.
The Ergobaby Embrace is a beautifully designed newborn specialist carrier. Made from super soft jersey, it combines the softness and cozy cuddles of a stretchy wrap with the ease and intuitiveness of a clip on, no tying involved buckle carrier. Suitable right from day 1, it is an ideal choice for a new baby and is available to purchase through the Sheen Slings webshop here.
But how do you use it?
Good question! Here are my video tutorials taking you through the different ways you can use this carrier as baby grows and develops
Front Carry with a Newborn
One of the things I love about the Ergobaby Embrace is that you can use it right from the beginning. Ergo suggest from 7lb (3.2 kg) and I have seen it give a great fit to several babies who were just shy of 6lb (2.7 kg). Provided baby is happy to open their legs enough to sit straddingly the material, this carrier will give a lovely cosy, snuggly fit to even a brand new baby.
To fit a brand new baby you do need to shorten the carrier. As shown in the video, you do this by rolling the waistband toward you. Please note that the “toward you” bit is important. If you roll the wrong way it doesn’t fit as well and it does trip parents up sometimes!
Front carry with a baby 2 months plus
As baby grows, the Embrace can grow with them – once they start to become too tall for the newborn position you can stop rolling the waist band and instead simply put it on directly. Note that the jump from rolled to unrolled is quite a big one, so you might need to pay attention to how you are popping baby in and where the waistband is on you to ensure you get a good fit. As explained in depth in the video above. Once in this position – generally from around 2 months (although maybe a little earlier or later depending on your baby!) they will stay with the unrolled waist band going forward and this typically lasts well until around 9 months or so when many babies start to grow out of the Embrace (again this might be a little earlier or later depending on the baby!).
High Shoulder Carry
You won’t find this position in a manual as this is a carry I invented for a client to solve a specific issue (you can read more about how it came about here). However, it works suprisingly well and can be great for those times when baby is just really unsettled – particularly if this is a way you find yourself holding baby in arms frequently.
This is another carry that isn’t in the manual, although I have no idea why not. It works really well with the soft spreadable shoulders of the Embrace and is great for those “nosy” baby’s who want to see everything but aren’t yet ready to face outwards. Or for those times where baby is too tired to face outwards and needs to sleep but is protesting about your attempts to get them to sleep! In the hip carry they can see everything just as they would facing out, but their head and neck are supported and they can turn away and filter out when they are ready to finally succumb to that nap.
The final position this carrier offers is the forward facing position. I beleive Ergo included it because market research showed at least 50% of parents won’t consider a carrier that doesn’t offer a forward facing position. But it is worth noting that of all the positions shown here with the Embrace this one is the least comfortable for the wearer. Facing your baby away puts baby’s center of gravity away from you, so puts more strain on your back in any carrier. But this is exacerbated in the Embrace because the stretchy material means baby pulls further way and thus puts proprotionally more strain on your back. Plus as baby’s are often starting to grow out of this carrier by the time they are ready to forward face – I can’t help thinking offering it is a bit of a gimmick. That said however, it can be fun for a short period and parents do find it helpful to try forward facing and see how baby gets on with it. Thus once they are ready to move onto another bigger/longer lasting option they know whether it is worth investing in a more robust carrier that offers forward facing or whether they can cast a wider net and purchase something that doesn’t offer this position safe in the knowledge they wouldn’t really use it anway.
You’ll note I don’t show a back carry here. Again there is no back carry in the manual and Ergobaby don’t recommend this position for the Embrace. I don’t either. Because the Embrace doesn’t have a chest strap and because it is made from stretchy material, it simply won’t feel as secure (nor be as secure) in a back carry compared to a carrier made from a non stretchy material and that has the chest strap for added security. Plus in general, most parents find their little one has outgrown the Embrace before they are ready to start exploring back carries anyway.
Quite understandably, how to support baby’s head is one of the most frequent worries parents express when they get in touch with me. Particularly parents who have a carrier already, and have tried using it but are just not sure if it is providing enough head support, how to adjust it to ensure baby is supported, comfortable and most importantly safe.
Here I talk through what you need to know in terms of how to position baby and where to offer them support and where not to…
Check where they are sat in the carrier – adjust where in the panel they sit to bring the height of the carrier up or down so the padded top section rests nicely in the back of the neck.
As baby does grow you may well find you do need to use the flap to extend the panel. This is it’s true purpose – rather than being a head support for a young baby, it is designed to extend the panel as baby grows to support and older baby or toddler as needed.
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 theKahu 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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!