|Posted on November 3, 2012 at 4:50 PM|
There has been discussion on what constitutes a safe baby carrier. Maybe it is my German upbringing but I am a stickler for quality in baby carriers. Without aiming for the best quality, we wouldn't have BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, VW, and Opel for example. We can and need to make and purchase baby carriers to the highest standard possible to ensure our precious little ones are safe at all times.
To secure baby has the best support, a baby carrier needs to be supporting baby in the spread squatting position. This puts the femur head into the perfect position of the acetabulum (hip socket) for the hip cartilage to harden properly. The process of hardening takes about two years. Carrying baby in an anatomically correct baby carrier is of uttermost importance.
Baby's spine also needs to receive the correct support for each developmental stage. The carrier needs to support baby vertically to prevent baby from falling into himself along with adequate head and neck support.
We see safe and appropriate carriers discussed frequently, however, there is a lack of education on the making of the carrier to be safe. What should the sewing looklike? What the snaps or buttons? Hook and Loop tape or buckles?
The e-book“Babywearing Safely and Securely” goes into more detail about each carrier. Having advised numerous businesses and manufactured safe carriers myself, I want to highlight some things to look for when purchasing a carrier or taking your old carrier out of storage.
Check the seams.
Seams shouldbe durable. In single layers of fabric there should be a double hemline. If the carrier has double layers of fabric, the fabric should have two seams, one inside and at least one outside. In stress areas, like the shoulder straps and belt, there should be double, triple or a cross in the seams. A bar tack is invaluable in securing the fabric.
In the first picture, although hard to see, you can kind of make out a double hemline with a single layer fabric. The second picture is a double layer fabric sewn inside when placing right side on right side and then after the carrier is turned right side out.
Crucial stress points
Think about a pair of old jeans. What tears first? When your jeans tear, are your pockets still intact? Mine usually are, even when everything else falls apart. When you look closely, most jeans' pockets, if not all, have bar tacks.
What exactlyis a bar tack?
"Bartacking is a specialized stitching designed to provide great tensile strength to the garment or equipment it is used on. It is commonly used on backpacks,tents, tactical gear, and other heavy wear sewn items where normally sewn stitches might give way at a crucial moment. In general, the tacking is a sign of good quality, although the rest of the product should always be looked overcarefully as well. When a sewing pattern calls for bar tacking, it indicates that the designer feels that section of the pattern is a critical area thatneeds extra reinforcement.
To create bartacking, a manufacturer sews a very tight zigzag stitch across the width of the material. In some cases, the sewer may go over the seam again, causing the stitch to have an x-like form. Usually, very strong threads are used so that they will stand up to high pressure. When done correctly, bar tacking can help support loads of up to 400 pounds (almost 200 kilograms). Many backpacking companies in particular pride themselves on the number of bar tacks integrated into their products, claiming that they will wear harder and longer than the competition.” (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-bar-tacking.htm)
You can see why the bar tack is important as it supports a load up to 400 lb. A child's weight won't come close but we have to also consider the impact weight of the child when moving rapidly or baby is bouncing. Also some hiking might require small jumps with baby on your back.(I am speaking from experience but do not encourage jumping while having a child strapped to your back).
The crucialstress points are the shoulder straps and the waist belt.
The shoulderstraps need to be sunk into the fabric by about 3-5 inches. There needs to be a x-box sewn into the shoulder straps and fabric to secure both together in a high stress area.
An x-box is a box sewn with a cross in the box to withstand significant stress.
A bar tack in addition to the box make it a durable product.
Different angles of the shoulder straps do not pose a safety hazard, they work for different tastes in comfort for the babywearer. However, all shoulder straps, regardless of the angle, need to be secured properly as discussed above. This is an area that will pull the straps in a v-pull, which is a high stress area.
The waistbelt will also experience significant stress. The back of the carrier needs to be sunk into the waist belt by at least 2-3 inches. The seams need to be secure with bar tacks and/or double or triple stitches. A sewn x-box can also be used in combination with the other or instead some of the others. This is a high stress area, some of the carriers on the market have been known to tear in this area. I have seen several myself brought by participants of our babywearing certification classes, that were tearing in that area. If your carrier does not have several sewing measures for safety in this area, I would not use it as an every day workhorse carrier. It might do well for a few outings but I would not trust it with my children for long periods of time of regular wear and tear.Unfortunately most of the discount carriers you can buy on-line are not sewn to the highest standards and do pose a hazard to your child. I have several of them in my stash for demonstration purposes but not to use with my precious children.
The leg opening is another area where the seam is pulled in a v-pull. This has been the discussion in several forums and the like. Unfortunately in some discussions the lack of sewing experience and stress points in a carrier was obvious and I hope parents and manufacturer alike will find proper education on high quality sewing. Keeping baby safe should be the goal, not the number of carriers sold. We will talk about the v-pull in a jiffy
The fabric weight of any carrier should be between 5-8 oz. per square yard. Doubling up quilting weight fabric is not supportive enough. A broken twill, twill or canvas and the like are good fabric with sufficient support. If your carrier has quilting weight fabric, make sure it is only used as decoration, not to hold baby's weight.
Checking your carrier for safety
When your new carrier arrives, before placing baby in it, check the seams and sewing, especially of the high stress areas. Pull the shoulder straps apart from thebody of the carrier and the waist belt from the body in a V-pull. Do use a steady pull, not a jerking motion but with all your strengths. A well known manufacturer of Mei Tais said: “Even with two people pulling, the straps should not come apart.” This is not to encourage you for a tug of war but shows that a manufacturer can be confident in their product because their sewing meets the highest standard. Anybody discouraging you from checking your carrier should be seriously questioned. Keeping babies safe at all times is the goal and making sure your carrier is safe is a parent's responsibility. Any carrier should hold up to v-pulling in order to be safe for a child to be placed in it.
I personally do not give away or sell a carrier I have sewn without doing this test myself before giving it away. Consequently I have never had a carrier that failed or with flaws. I assumed my carriers to be for babies who can sit unassisted toabout 4 years of age. I received feedback from a family who carried their 11year old with special needs in their carrier for an all day hiking trip. It was their most comfortable carrier for dad and child. The carrier held up perfectly to the impact weight and allowed a family to hike the backwoods comfortably. The x-boxes, bar tacks, and double and triple stitching were all in place and the v-pull test done before placing the carrier with the family.
Before each use, look at the seams but especially high stress areas like shoulder straps and waist belt. If the fabric is tearing or the stitches seem to be coming apart, do not use your carrier. Have a seamstress fix it or discard it. If it is new, contact the manufacturer.
Check any hook and loop tape before each use. Some baby carrier have a lot of hook and loop tape that can loose the stickiness with use and time. Make sure it works properly, especially in a high use and stress area like the waist belt.
Check buckles, buttons, and snaps to ensure they are securely attached to the carrier and do not pose a choking hazard for your child. Look at the buckles closely to see if there are any cracks. Buckle the carrier without baby in it to see if there might be a hair fine crack that can only be seen in the split second when the buckle is buckled up.
Unfortunately there is not a set law to how baby carriers have to be made. We only have laws that the belts, buckles, and buttons have to be tested for harmful chemicals.Of course we have a new ASTM standard that will test for the functionality of the carrier, leg openings, instructions etc. however, even if the carrier passes the test, it might not hold up to the daily wear and tear. As parents we need to make sure our babies are safe and as manufacturer we need to produce products to the highest standard possible to ensure babywearing is safe.
Some images of good and safe sewing
Excellent safe sewing in a waist belt.
Double stitching on the shoulder strap and a x-box on the high stress area
double stitches in high stress area along with securing the belt in place with vertical and horizontal stitches
A bit hard to tell, double stitches, a x-box, and bar tacks. This will last.
double stitches and bar tacks to secure high stress area.