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

Melliapis Simple Ring Sling Review

20200114_100837What I love about the Melliapis Simple Sling is the material it is made from.  Its a 100% cotton, super soft, lightweight muslin material.  Which results in a wonderfully soft, very light weight compact sling that is perfect against newborn skin.

But what is really magic about this material is that it is deceptively strong.  Made by weaving 2 layers of material together to give a subtle waffley texture, this material is a lot stronger than you’d think from first glance.  So while it is soft and light enough for the tiniest newborn, it is also more than capable of carrying older babies and even toddlers as well.

 

20190621_094126This is definitely one of my top choices for summer, as the material is so thin it really won’t make you or baby hot.  And not just summer, but wearing around the home or and out and about too.  Even in the winter this is a great option for travelling or generally for anyone who wants an option that packs down small enough to fit into the change bag and can be put on quickly when needed.

For me this is the unique selling point of this sling – just how lightweight it is.  The real beauty of ring slings is how quick they are to put on and how well they work as a “just in case” sling.  So it’s always irked me that so many ring slings on the market are made of quite heavy, hot material!  I’ve spent the last 5 years trying various ones that market themselves as “lightweight” – from other thin cotton ones that made from 2 seperate layers and are difficult to use as the 2 layers get into a mess while you try to tighten the sling, to linen ones that are often diggy and rough feeling, to silk ones that again feel difficult to tighten and many more besides – and invariably I have been left disappointed.  However, the Melliapis Ring Sling is totally different to these.  The double weave means the layers move together and not separately.  And the material is super soft and really malleable.  All of which means this ring sling tightens with the greatest of ease.  It is soft, light, cool AND easy to use!  Finally the holy grail of my ring sling search!!

You can see just how easy it is to use in my video review here;

 

20200131_104000Another thing I love about this Sling is that it comes with Eco-friendly packaging.  Not a plastic sleeve or plasticated cardboard box in sight!  And the Eco packaging is matched by a truly budget friendly price!  At just £40-£42 this is easily one of the cheapest slings I sell, and in terms of how long you can use it – right from newborn (even preemie) all the way through to toddler hood it definitely offers really good value for money.  While really powerful for hip carries, this sling like all ring slings can be used for front and back carries too and can be awesome for breastfeeding on the go, quick pops out and sleepy transfers!

 

20190309_181246Shoulder wise, the Melliapis Simple ring Sling features a simple gathered shoulder.  This means that the rings are sewn in by simply “gathering” the fabric width into the rings.  This allows the fabric to fan out the maximum amount over the shoulder immediately after the rings.  Why is this important?  Well there are various methods for sewing rings into a piece of fabric – involving gathering, pleating or combinations of the two.  And each different method yields a different shoulder style, and in turn different shoulder styles suit different shaped shoulders and personal preferences.  The pro of a gathered shoulder is that it can really be spread out to cup the shoulder to the max, while the con is some people really don’t like the fabric spreading out that much.  Particularly with thicker wraps this can feel untidy or even bulky.  But again this is where this fabric comes into its own, it is so thin it doesn’t feel obtrusive spread out and if you prefer a neater shoulder the fabric is thin enough you can easily fold it upwards on your shoulder to get a neater feel.

The one thing to be aware of with this sling is that from end to end it is only 1.87m long.  This is a little on the short side for a ring sling (most are 2m or 2.2m in length).  The advantage of the shorter length is less fabric left dangling and less fabric to roll up so packs down smaller etc.  The downside is if you are plus sized this the fabric might be on the short side – leaving you with only a relatively short tail to tighten with.  This sling does fit well upto at least a size 20 or 22, but I haven’t tried it over this.  So if you are a larger size or would like a longer length sling for another reason I’d definitely try this sling before you buy and check it is long enough for you.

All in all the Melliapis Simple Ring Sling is a very versatile, very lightweight sling with a tiny price tag.  It’s a great option for newborns and anyone looking for a quick, easy, packs down small option for any age baby or even toddler.  Thin enough to keep you cool in summer, but snuggly enough you’ll happily wear it all year round.  Cost is £40-£42 and these can be purchased from Sheen Slings directly at sling library meets, consults, workshops, doorstep collection or post directly to you (just get in touch to arrange!).

-Madeleine