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We live in a multicultural country and one of the things that is guaranteed, for as long as there has been Canada Post, there have been relatives sending gifts internationally. Gifts that represent their love and their support for family members that they cannot see often due to the cost and the distance.
I myself was the recipient of these sorts of gifts when I was a kid, sweaters that would get here off season and wouldn’t fit by the time winter came, things you wouldn’t be caught dead in but that you had to put on and have a picture taken as “proof” that you loved it, and that the family appreciated the thought and effort behind it (and thank goodness there was no facebook, and that after that one pic, you could toss it into the donate pile without a second thought!). And later, cheap dollar store crap you could get at the shop down the street from where I lived, but was sent to you with love (and that was usually half-broken by the time it arrived).
That is why it is important to learn about baby carriers that are not sold in North America and to suspend your judgment when helping people out. My most recent introduction to a foreign carrier was when interviewing Sunmi Cha this past fall. Sumni is from Korea and her family had thoughtfully sent her a gift for her to use to show their love and for her to connect with her baby, an Ergo hip seat.
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My first few thoughts on seeing it?
And that last one is what stuck with me, because it is exactly what I did.
What’s the first thing you do when you see a carrier like this? Pull from your experience. I’ve been around a long time, so the base was exactly like a Hippychick I still have cached in my basement.1 Then it’s like Ergo put on some romantic music, sent it on a blind date with a Playtex Hip Hammock and these two carriers made a baby! Or maybe they just took a style that was already popular in Asian and spun their own version of it out there (not as much fun, but likely the truth as Lillebaby has one too, Three in One and Pognae for example).2
What if you haven’t been around for as long as babywearing dinosaurs have roamed the earth? Read the label. Yeah, I know, your Korean is likely as good as mine, but thankfully this one was fully bilingual English / Korean. What if the label is unreadable and not in script you can handily copy into your computer browser? Reach out to your international babywearing peeps and start asking questions (I got some good resources with that one – thanks Heather and Theresa!)3
The important thing to focus on here from the label is the BABY FALLING OUT warning: Infants can fall out through a wide opening or out of the hip seat. Essentially, is the baby TOO small for the carrier and the carrier base?
This fall warning is very important, especially since if you know your babywearing history, you’ll know that Baby Bjorn had to issue a recall of their front pack carriers for this exact reason.4 It lead to them making a small, but critical change to their carriers. They added a small loop and button to narrow the leg opening to prevent smaller babies from falling out of them. Yep, some babies will fall out through the leg openings if they are too wide.
Unfortunately, Ergo has not made any changes or adjustments to this carrier to provide a similar feature. And let’s not point fingers exclusively at one company, none of the others seem to have something in place either. So, Ergo, baby – let’s talk!! I’d really like to see all the companies who sell this thing make a modification to prevent what is a known fall hazard, moreover, one that from my perspective is a modification to the design that is relatively easy to do. So uh, hop hop, let’s get moving, am I right?
The other important warning is the SUFFOCATION hazard. If the baby is too low in the carrier and their face is pressed against the parent’s body or clothing, they might die.
The other parts of this warning label are just ridiculous. Essentially, if you follow them to the letter, you are basically asking that only trees, street lamps on poles and other inflexible objects wear the baby. And given they ask all the zippers be closed, essentially they are inadvertently saying that the base never be used separately from the rest of the carrier. It’s all rather incoherent and this is where you need to step in to intepret and explain this to your client. Once again, the important thing is to use your judgment as a babywearing consultant and have the parent put the child in the carrier. Assess:
Is this a carrier I would choose for myself? No, probably not. But that’s not the point of being a babywearing consultant – it’s not about what I would chose. Your first goal should always be about supporting parents to babywear as safely as possible with what they have. The only real dangers are:
After an assessment, if the carrier is truly dangerous – at this point, you need to be compassionate, listen to their story, and tell them the truth.
“It’s really nice to have gotten a great gift from your parents so that you know your baby is cared both by them and by you. But you can’t use this (right now /ever) because your baby is (choose one of the above).”
DÃ©bora Rodrigues has been teaching babywearing since August 2008. The Hippychick is part of her rental collection which is available to those living her hometown of Ottawa, Ontario.
Sunmi and I originally met October 15, 2016, and we spoke for about four hours. The first article is called Growing up Korean which was followed by Babywearing Redux. The next article about Sunmi’s journey is called Becoming Canadian, where she shares how she moved to Canada and then stayed.
1. Hippychicks are still available for sale in the U.K. and can be seen on their website. I scored mine at a community garage sale here in town. â©
2. Here is a Korean blog discussing the major hipseat brands available there. I always find it interesting to see how these things are sold in other countries, using marketing that just wouldn’t work for a Canadian or Western market. If you scroll down, you too can also have a giggle at their claims of how a hard seat with narrow leg openings supports the M-position. The MATH is just wrong people. â©
3. Check out the KOREAN Lillebaby website, Pognae’s website and the Ergo Baby website. You will need to use a translation tool to understand it.â©
4. Baby Bjorn carriers were recalled in 1999. Recall is archived here on Health Canada’s website.â©