A day at BabyBjorn!
Over the summer I was both delighted and a little taken aback to be invited to Babybjorn, for a trip to 'share knowledge and learn from each other'. As I've previously mentioned I've always thought BabyBjorn were very heavily criticised when in fact their carriers are safe - which is the most crucial thing. Having said that I have always wondered why they don't always aim for what we as consultants learn to be 'optimum positioning' so I was not only keen to go, but keen to understand why their carriers are shaped the way they are, and why they had decided to invite a 'tough crowd' across.
The day began with inspirational and encouraging talks from Joanna McNeilly of BCIA on critical thinking, and Arie Brentnall on Carrying and Public Health Initiatives. They were fantastic talks from people with far more experience than myself, who have seen carrying benefit thousands of families.
Next we were given a talk from their product development team. A huge part of the conversation was about fabrics - Bjorn Jackobson's wife Lillemor, is still at the office daily working with the fabrics. I was surprised at how committed they were to protecting babies. All fabrics are not only tested for carrier functionality, but are also Oeko-Tex class one certified, independently tested for over 500 chemicals to ensure nothing harmful is ever present - but the bit that made me smile.... Lillemor and Lisen (Fabric designer) still test the fabric on the inside of their wrists, if it's not soft enough for sensitive baby skin it's rejected.
The day then became more animated, as through Q&A sessions, the invited consultants and the BabyBjorn team had numerous discussions surrounding ergonomics, optimum positioning, the rigidity of the carriers, narrow vs wide based, their advertising and similar.
(In case you'd like more information on this - there's a great article by GP Dr Rosie Knowles here http://www.sheffieldslingsurgery.co.uk/healthy-hips-busting-some-myths/)
BabyBjorn were open in the face of very direct questioning and even criticism and I had a huge amount of respect for how they were not only open to it but encouraged it. They engaged with us, and didn't dismiss any questions. What I discovered was that in fact they have done a lot of research, placing pressure mats in carriers ensuring no area puts undue pressure on babies, countless iterations of prototypes following conversation with parents, and ultimately, they prioritise the needs of the tiny newborns in their carriers, as these are their most delicate passengers.
Firstly, it seems that I and many others had wrongly assumed they were either unaware of the issues or they were not of importance to them - the truth is that they care deeply, but for them safety has to be a priority. One accident for them is one too many, and some of the issues we had highlighted, turned out to be parts of the carrier specifically engineered for safety.
For example, I find with the 'We' it's difficult to feed in, as there is material (which I found unnecessary) between yourself and the baby. They agreed that it's hard to feed it, and were happy to discuss lowering the inner panel height, but the reason for that panel, is that if you accidentally unclip the waistband, the baby does not fall out. That was the entire reason for it, and while it's not my personal preference, they've ran studies to show that Oxytocin levels and Skin to Skin contact is not inhibited by this - creating the panel precisely to a level that doesn't affect this. While to me it's an unnecessary addition - to them it is a very important design to protect from accidents.
Throughout the day there were many examples of this - of concerns we had, that they explained in terms of age of baby, purpose of the carrier etc. We did ask that they have photographs that display carries meeting the T.I.C.K.S. guidelines, and they were more than willing to do this.
In summary - I was struck by how much it's still a family company, how much Bjorn and his wife Lillemor care deeply about babies being carried close and what I took most was how lovely the actual people were and willing to engage with us to better support mothers and babies.
I was delighted to be invited and hope to keep working with the company in future. They also kindly donated a 'One' Carrier to our library for hire.
As a side note - I would love to see us being more encouraging to mothers who use carriers of any type.
'Online' has become a little hostile to new parents recently, and we all agree that babies being carried is what is most important. Let's encourage each other, and see many more parents and babies bonding together.