Monday, April 26, 2010

Distinction between Hard & Soft Structured Baby Carriers

(First published on our FaceBook Notes April 21, 2010.)

Newborn without neck support in a Manduca Soft Structured Baby Carrier. Note how it wraps around the entire back, and provides some form of neck support for the baby. Available at

There are many types of buckle type baby carriers available on the market today and parents are definitely spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing one. Some have a hard body that usually involves some kind of padding which then buckles to the wearer. These hard structured carriers tend to boast of thicker padding.

Others like the Manduca, Pikkolo, Boba, Beco, Patapum, etc. are soft structured carriers which molds well around baby's still developing spine, wrapping around snugly so that there is no extra gaps between the carrier body and baby's body.

It is important for a new parent to recognize that there is a major difference between these two types of structures. The main difference being how one hugs the baby's spine more naturally (the soft structured types) allowing the baby's developing spine to grow optimally while the other hard structured types tend to create spaces between the baby's body and doesn't hug the contour of the spine.

Comparatively soft structured carriers provide a lot more support for the growing baby's spine as it is not allowed to wobble against anything, whereas hard structures tend to be rigid and a baby's still developing spine tends to wobble against the hard structure with every step the parent takes. The logical deduction will be that hard structures may then compromise the healthy growth of the baby's spine (since there is so much wobbling or knocking with each movement).

We hope that parents can make more informed choices when selecting a safe and comfortable baby carrier and will be more than happy to help if anyone needs help in choosing one.

Happy Babywearing.

Dangers of Sun Exposure & How to Prevent the Damaging Effects of UVR on Babies

(This article first appeared in our FaceBook Notes April 13, 2010.)

The sun is getting stronger as we approach the hottest months of the year in Singapore and probably rest of South East Asia. While the sun is important in giving us warmth and allowing us to enjoy the great outdoors (as compared to the rainy seasons), the stronger UV radiation (UVR) can also have devastating effects on skins, eyes and our immune system, and in the worst cases increasing the incidence of skin cancer.

Do you know that babies whose skins are thinner than adults tend to be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of UVR? Yet in comparison, babies and young children are largely the most ignored when it comes to sun-protection. By employing simple sun-protection strategies for babies and young children the risk of skin cancer later in life can not only be easily reduced, they can also contribute to an adult's habit to stay sun-protected throughout their lives.

Simple precautionary measures can be easily undertaken by avoiding the midday sun, typically between 10am to 4pm when the sun is at its strongest. While you should seek shade with your baby when the UVR is strong, do continue to wear sun protective gear as shade do not offer complete sun protection. Some simple protective gear you should always have on yourself as well as your baby in a hot tropical country like Singapore includes:

1) UPF 50 Hats with a wide brim that protects the eyes, ears, face and back of necks (our recommendation:
2) sunscreen with at least SPF+15
3) good sunshades with good UV protection (if your baby will wear them)
4) tightly-woven loose fitting clothes

We especially love the UPF 50 hats from Sunday Afternoons that are not only stylish with a few designs to choose from, they are also easily acceptable by kids because of their soft touch.

So go on, enjoy your activity and babywearing times with your baby or preschooler in tropical Singapore and stay sun-safe!

Staying sun safe with Sunday Afternoon UPF50+ Sun Hats at the pool

Our response to Sunday Times Article on baby slings "Hazardous or Handy" 4 April 2010

(This article was first shared on our FaceBook notes April 10, 2010.)

There were 2 articles that were published on baby sling safety in Sunday Times on 4 April 2010 which didn't quite seem to put things right because it was portrayed that convenience was the reason why parents will put their babies in a baby sling. We thought that while it was good the writer in the main article tried to point out the danger of slings, it didn't try to differentiate between the baby bag slings that were recalled vs other styles of slings like the sarong/ ring sling. Because it was very vague and seem to point to slings in general despite the response from the babywearing community in the US having voiced out like 3 weeks ago, we thought we wanted to at least try to send in our take on it.

We had hoped that they will publish more in detail so that parents don't get misled into thinking that "all slings are unsafe and should not be used for below 4 months of age". We had some lively discussion with a journalist who wrote the other article (he is a babywearer) and even though the entire letter we wrote wasn't published, a part of it was published today in Straits Times Life Section. Well, although it doesn't lay out the facts like we wanted it to, we were at least glad that parts of it was picked up so that readers are made aware and investigate more.

Below was the original letter we sent in, enjoy and feel free to share with fellow new parents.
Dear Editor,

We refer to your article last Sunday on baby slings titled “Hazardous or Handy?”

The article seems to imply the usage of baby carriers as a convenience versus risk issue. It is certainly far from truth that any parents who choose to use a baby carrier to carry their child are putting their babies at risks for the sake of their convenience. As avid and professional babywearers, we would like to point out that although convenience is one of the advantages of babywearing, it is certainly not the only advantage. Just to name a few other more common benefits of babywearing, carried babies:-

- Cry less (43% less overall and 54% less during the evening hours - Increased Carrying Reduces Infant Crying - Urs A. Hunziker MD, Ronald G. Barr MDCM, FRCP(C): A Randomized Controlled Trial). Babies who cry less learn more.

- Are healthier (gain weight faster, have better motor skills, coordination, increased muscle tone, and sense of balance - Anderson GC. Current knowledge about skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care for preterm infants)

- Get a better view of the world. Babies pushed in strollers or lugged around in car seats only get to see the adult world at knee-level.

- Become independent faster, making them more confident and less clingy because their psychological needs are quickly met.

- Sleep better. They tend to fall asleep quicker and sleep for longer periods of time.

A good baby carrier that is used properly can be a very effective tool to help parents bond with their baby and allow them to enjoy a much better parenting experience.

The warning issued by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission last month speaks of the risk of baby slings in general and has led to recalls of some of what is known as bag-style slings in question. Bag-style slings are not representative of all baby slings. It would be good for your readers to be aware that the warning and call for action against the bag-style slings had in fact been sounded by babywearing advocate groups as long as 2 year ago (See The CPSC warning not only came late in light of the risks, it unfortunately also failed to address the type of baby carriers in question (bag-style slings) leading to numerous outcries from babywearing and physician organizations worldwide (eg. Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine “CPSC warning on slings misses the mark” March 19,2010). The crux of the matter should therefore not be debating about how baby slings are good or not, it will be more constructive if it had been about identifying inferior baby carrying products that are defective by design.

In your article, Dr Adeline Wong correctly pointed out that pre-mature babies and babies with low birth weight might be too small to fit safely into a carrier or sling. This is true for many types of carriers but there are some carriers that are built specially to cater to preemies and have already been adopted in some hospitals in the US to facilitate “Kangaroo Care”, a specialized preemie care method whereby babies are held close to a mother skin-to-skin. Research has shown that such Kangaroo Care reduces newborn deaths by more than 50% and it has been proven to be more effective than incubators for stable preterm babies (SaveTheChildren.Org, March 26, 2010)

To expand on Dr Adeline Wong’s precautionary notes, below are some crucial points to take note of:

1) Apart from making sure that baby face is not pressed against the carrier’s fabric, it is equally important that baby’s face is not placed against the wearer’s body when they are in the carrier. More importantly, baby’s head should never be tucked into a “chin to chest” position especially if they are in a cradle position. This is one key reason why the design of “bag slings” increases the risk of suffocation and therefore should never be used.

2) Before a baby has neck control, typically from birth to about 4 or 5 months, the recommended position is a tummy to tummy foetal position with the baby’s face lying sideways, cheek on the babywearer’s chest. This position makes it easier for the babywearer to check on the baby.

3) A good carrier or sling must be able to hold the baby snugly with the baby’s neck well-supported by a soft snug hold, especially for babies without neck support in an upright position. For babies with neck support, their necks should also be supported when they fall asleep in the carrier to avoid any likelihood of whiplash. Likewise for older babies, chin to chest positions can still be harmful as it obstructs the airway.

Proper use of baby carriers is beneficial to both babies and their parents. A little effort in research and educating oneself can go a long way in ensuring safety when bonding.

 6 weeks old newborn safely positioned in a Jumpsac baby sling

Ever wonder why our Baby Carriers have no Back or Lumbar Support?

(This article first appeared in our FaceBook notes on March 25, 2010)

We have often been asked why the baby carriers carried in Baby Slings & Carriers do not have a "back support" or a "lumbar support".

What is a lumbar support and what does it do? A lumbar support that comes with some baby carriers simply helps to provide support for your back with a heavy baby. Some baby carriers we see around today all tout the lumbar support as an ergonomic alternative to the normal baby carriers of yester-years (which have two straps, one for each shoulder). These lumbar support baby carriers may come in good quality materials like memory foams so that the wearer's back is straightened and thus some people do feel a little more comfortable with baby loads of up to about 8kg or 9kg (depending on your own physique).

Why then none of our baby carriers have such a lumbar support? The reason is simple. You may notice that almost all our ergonomic baby carriers (mainly soft structured carriers) come with a hip belt (or at least allows you to add one easily). The provision of a hip belt on a backpack helps bring the center of gravity of the load (baby) in the backpack (baby carrier) closer to you and below your waist, thereby shifting the weight below your waist by more than 50%. As such, since there is no more strain on your lower back, there is no more need for you to put a support there. This is true ergonomics.

In other words, baby carriers that are not well-designed still continue to put the stress (weight) on your shoulders. Once your baby gets heavier, you will find that the weight pulls you downward and forward (even more if you allow your baby to outward-face). To maintain your balance, which is a natural reaction, you will tilt yourself backwards, resulting in a strain in your lower back. You then add a lumbar support after the lower back becomes strained. The outcome? Still lower back pains, but perhaps a little more delayed because you had been "forced" by the lumbar support to straighten the back.

So when choosing the right carrier, be sure to understand the physics of weight distribution. How well a baby carrier is able to distribute weight also depends on how well the baby carrier wraps around your baby's natural curves and your hips. Even between ergonomic carriers, there can be some differences. No two carriers are entirely alike. Choose an ergonomic one that fits your needs and physique most, and you can be sure to enjoy this wonderful babywearing journey for a much more comfortable period of time.
 Wearing an older child with good weight distribution in a Manduca Baby Carrier

Do you really need to see a Lactation Consultant?

(This was first published on our FaceBook notes January 26, 2010.)

 Baby breastfeeding discreetly in a Sleepy Wrap

When I just had my first baby almost 6 years ago, breastfeeding wasn't the norm and lactation consultants were very much unheard of in Singapore. So it is no wonder why I never thought of visiting a lactation consultant at all to ask any breastfeeding related questions. Five years and two breastfed children later (with breastfeeding experience of over 4 years as well as in tandem nursing), I notice more and more of my friends and customers who are new parents seeing lactation consultants and thought it such a wonderful idea to be able to ask an "expert" about nagging breastfeeding questions we were too shy to ask our mothers or friends who never breastfed.

So is the greater availability of lactation consultants really a blessing? I think the equation actually swings both ways.

Due to the fact that more people are willing to breastfeed and understand that it is a skill to be learnt, more hospitals are prescribing the services of their lactation consultants when new mothers give birth to babies. That is wonderful, especially for new mothers who have no idea what a football hold is or a correct latch-on is like, or even what is colostrum and how it looks like.

A lactation consultant can be helpful in explaining these and checking whether a mother's milk supply has kicked in. However, the squeezing of the new mother's nipples when her breasts are sore aren't really the best way to introduce a mommy to breastfeeding. Some lactation consultants experienced or otherwise can be quite rough and squeeze quite hard (which happened with my nurse and a lot of my friends' lactation consultants), leading a new mother to associate breastfeeding with pain. Not a very good start to a successful breastfeeding journey if you ask me. For those of us who have successfully breastfed our children, we know breastfeeding with the correct latch is rarely ever painful.

Throughout these few years, I have heard various misconceptions about breastfeeding which my friends have gleaned from their lactation consultants. One common one is to have the baby breastfeed from both breasts and empty both breasts with each feed. While some babies have the stomach for it, my practical experience is it rarely ever happens. Remember how small your newborn is - how big can their stomachs be? My friend whom I used to call when I first had breastfeeding problems reminded me that the size of a a baby's tummy is really the size of a walnut. It's that small! So it is really not necessary to empty both breasts in one single feed. Remember too that sometimes babies do suckle because they get thirsty, for which they only suckle a little for the foremilk which acts like water to them.

Another common one will be switching breasts after a certain time limit. Yet another misconception. We are all different individuals with different babies and different demands for milk (and different speeds of drawing milk). Our bodies are such a miracle because they adapt and provide for our children. A better way will be to allow baby to suckle one one side until it is emptied and offer another side if they can have more. If your baby has fallen asleep, let him or her be.... because your baby is already satisfied and you will only stress yourself out by trying to stick to what your LC tells you. Only baby himself knows best if they are hungry. If they are thriving and wetting enough diapers, there is really no cause for concern.

There are so many more misconceptions out there (the above is just the tip of the iceberg) that were formed by new mothers after listening to their LCs that sometimes I cannot help but wonder if most LCs are sticking too much to a "standard" and whether they have any practical/ hands-on experience in breastfeeding. Am I then saying that seeing an LC is not useful? Absolutely not. For any breastfeeding journeys to be successful, it is important for new mothers to perhaps first understand a little more about breastfeeding and what to expect, then surround herself with people who have successfully breastfed their children. The Internet is a treasure trove for these and if you have more specific questions like checking on a baby's latch or breastfeeding problems like Mastitis, then it will be best to seek out a qualified LC to help resolve your problem.

One resource which I have found very useful will be the Kelly Mom website at for more reading and specific problem solving. And if you need a listening ear in Singapore, we have the Breastfeeding Mothers' Support Group at

And if you really need to see an LC, you have a say in choosing someone who can support you in your breastfeeding efforts, who is open and with a keen listening ear. It will definitely be a big plus too if she also had practical experience in breastfeeding her own babies.

(contributed by Pearline Foo, 26 Jan 2010)

How to Wear Your Baby In Winter

(This was first published on our FaceBook notes October 22, 2009.)

It's the end of the year and you are heading for a winter vacation with your baby. Congratulations for that well-deserved treat!

Now, we have a little problem..... baby is still young and since we stay in hot humid Singapore, then what should we do with baby to ensure he/ she doesn't catch a cold during the winter holiday? How should we dress our baby? What are the essentials?

If you are wearing your baby, we say - don't fret!

Some tips we at Baby Slings & Carriers want to share with you about winter babywearing:

1) Dress baby and yourself in layers. Remember that you may be going in and out of the cold, so dressing in layers help as you can take off whatever you do not need when you are out of the cold.

2) Baby should preferably be wearing something that wicks moisture away. Long Johns are good in wool blends. Wear an additional layer of clothing that is not too thick. Remember that you will be wearing your baby and body heat can be trapped.

3) Dress the same way yourself.

4) Wear your baby with your favourite carrier (we find that Buckle-Tais & Mei Tais work well as they are quite flexible). Those that are more complicated can be a little cumbersome as it is cold and you want to have your baby on quickly. If baby is young and cannot walk, then we recommend the Sleepy Wrap which keeps baby warm & snug and is quick to put baby in. In essence, you have to bear in mind that you will need to adjust/re-adjust the carrier straps according to how thick your clothing is as well so minimizing the adjustment can be a great help.

5) Wear legwarmers ( as this will help keep baby's legs warm while making diaper changes.

6) Put on a winter carrier cover (these are available at our boutique right now and fits most structured baby carriers or Mei Tais) so that it keeps baby warm and lowers risk of baby catching a cold.

7) Wear your winter outerwear over yourself. Preferably you should opt for an oversized one so that if it gets too cold outside you can always wrap and button around your baby. In essence you will not need a thick winter coat for baby if you wear him or her! :) .................Well, unless you will need to take him or her out of the carrier away from your body heat while it is still cold.

Someone asked: So does it mean then that it is better not to wear the baby in winter? Well, we'll say no.

Putting baby in a stroller will mean that you cannot know how your baby is faring and whether he or she is cold or warm so you may end up over or under-dressing him or her. Having your baby close to you will allow you to judge his or her body temperature and to be alert to his or her cues, without any fuss at all. Having experienced winter ourselves with babies in tow, we know that it can be quite difficult and even impossible to lug the stroller around. Places that have snow on the ground can be difficult and too slippery to manipulate a stroller.

Babies in arms without a proper carrier may also mean that baby will have less skin to skin contact, which is one of the biggest benefits of being able to feel whether the temperature is right for your baby when babywearing.

With these seven tips, we hope you'll enjoy your winter holidays and happy babywearing!

Fleece and waterproof baby carrier winter covers from CatbirdBaby
Available at

Breastfeeding & Babywearing - why they remain the best ways to bond with your baby

(The following was first published on our FaceBook notes on August 24, 2009.)

We had the good fortune of being invited by the Breastfeeding Mothers' Support Group (S) to be a GOLD Sponsor for their World Breastfeeding Week event held last Saturday at the Health Promotion Board in Singapore.

Mdm Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek Holdings (also PM Lee Hsien Loong's wife) and guest-of-honour shared with the audience in her speech about her futile breastfeeding experience. Apparently the lack of experience and knowledge led to her being unable to breastfeed her child when she contracted chickenpox shortly after birth based on the advice given by her doctor. The reason was that they wanted to prevent her baby from catching the chickenpox virus as well. Unfortunately her baby did and when she tried to restart breastfeeding to pass on her antibodies to her baby through the milk, she found she couldn't despite her best efforts. The only consolation (as quoted from The Sunday Times dates 23 August 2009), she spent the next week with baby on her chest to provide a comfortable skin-to-skin contact while he recovered from his chickenpox.

We totally admire her efforts despite her heavy schedule to provide skin-to-skin contact for her baby to aid her baby in his recovery. Even though it was a pity that breastfeeding efforts was hampered, she has brought up a very important point to help babies thrive. That is, skin-to-skin contact.

Today, most talks when it comes to early childhood parenting will speak about bonding. And what really is bonding? If one were to check the dictionary, you will find that the explanation of the word "bond" really means something that binds, fastens, confines, or holds together. And that in the parenting sense, can broadly be translated into skin-to-skin contact. By creating a good bond between parent and child in the early years, this can spell a lot of benefits in the long route of parenting by means of trust, confidence-building, high EQ, better IQ and so on. (You can read more about benefits of bonding in most parenting books.)

Babywearing, like Breastfeeding often provides the necessary ingredients for creating that special bond - because your baby needs to be held close to you for both actions to happen. While breastfeeding can only be done by a mother who directly breastfeeds her baby, babywearing can be done by daddies, mommies, grandparents or even other caregivers to help them bond with a new baby. Best of all, even if a mother for some reason could not breastfeed, there is no reason not to be able to create that special bond. With babywearing, all this is still possible.

Happy Babywearing!

Is a Forward-Facing Carrier Any Good?

(The following was first published on August 6, 2009 via our FaceBook notes.)

There is a recent debate about the forward-facing Baby Bjorn Baby Carrier in a parenting forum I am part of. While there are fans who swear by the Baby Bjorn Baby Carriers, under the perception that the baby is happier and can see more of the world facing forward, we at Baby Slings & Carriers beg to differ.

When put in a forward-facing position, a baby can often be over-stimulated. Images can fly quickly past them and this can result in a young baby getting over-excited. This is not unlike being in a roller-coaster. While it is fun being in a roller-coaster ride that lasts 10-15 minutes, will anyone be comfortable being in a ride that lasts any longer? Therefore, such an argument can be flawed.

Sense of insecurity:
Since the parent/ caregiver is not within the baby's sight in a forward-facing carrier, they may often find themselves facing the world all on their own. Young babies often reach a stage where they can suffer from separation anxiety. Having a face familiar to them and in constant sight can help a baby develop a sense of trust and security and enables them to explore in a safe environment, knowing that an adult is always there for them if they need a shoulder to lean on.

Ergonomics & Curved Spines:
When a baby is placed in a forward facing carrier, the baby is leaning forward and placed in an unnatural position as compared to facing the parent. Imagine hugging from the back and hugging face-to-face. Which feels better? Because a baby is leaning forward in a forward-facing carrier, the carrier straps have to "pull the baby in" in order for the baby not to fall forward. By doing this, it is logical to conclude that this is put unnecessary stress on the baby's spine, and we have reasons to believe that long term pulling of the shoulder backwards can result in the baby tending towards having a curved spine. For the parent, a baby leaning forward can create unnecessary stress on his/her back as well, since that is not a natural gravitational position.

Hanging by the Crotch:
Imagine being hung by your underwear for a few hours on end - how will you feel? Apart from comfort, there is also evidence to show that such positions can create spinal stress in an infant (see Apart from this, there has been much speculation about whether hanging by the crotch can lead to a condition called hip dysplasia in babies. When a baby is hung by the crotch, all the baby's weight is borne by the baby's spine (as compared to a natural sitting position which wraps around the baby's entire buttocks and a little of the upper thigh). Although at this point there is no conclusive evidence that all babies hung by the crotch will suffer from this condition, we have strong reasons to believe that every single step you take while putting babies in a forward-facing carrier can impact the spine and may result in the hip & thigh joint being often jolted. This may contribute to the risk of getting post-birth hip dysplasia.

The optimal position for an upward carrier is to have the baby facing the parent. The benefits are endless. Moreover, the baby does not remain motionless when in a baby carrier facing the parent. He or she can choose to turn left or right and this can actually help develop the neck muscles in the longer run. If a baby so chooses to not want to face the parent, then a better position may be to put the baby in a side-carry position which the Pikkolo Baby Carrier effectively does. (Although the Pikkolo can be used for forward-facing in a semi-sitting position, we recommend it not be used for long periods of time.)

Otherwise, a baby can also be put on a back-carry position that can be effectively done with the Pikkolo, Patapum, Beco, baby wraps, Mei Tais or any good soft structured carriers for a safer ride, both for the parent, as well as the child.

Discussions by our fans can be found!/notes.php?id=147007285062

Using the Pikkolo Baby Carrier for a Hip-carry