Why “pull” or “tug” Testing Your Baby Carrier is a Bad Idea

Babywearing your baby in a baby carrier: it’s one of the very safest places for your baby to be. You’re acutely aware of your baby’s movements and breathing, and those little hands or sweet restless legs can’t get him into any sticky situations. Occasionally, threads pop up discussing and recommending “pull testing,” or “tug testing” a baby carrier as a good and legitimate means for testing a carrier’s strength or durability.  It’s not only ineffective to “test” your baby carrier in this fashion, but it might also render your baby carrier unsafe for use. We’d like to explain why “tug testing” or “pull testing” your baby carrier is a bad idea…

Julie Cahill Photography

  • All baby carriers must comply with the statutes set forth in the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act). The statutes set forth by the CPSIA were written with the input of the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance to ensure the public that all baby carriers available for purchase have met strict safety standards in both design and function. The statues exist to keep babies safe and every manufacturer – from tiny WAHM-run businesses to the largest juvenile product corporation – must comply with the safety rules set forth by the CPSIA. If you’re unsure whether the carrier you’re interested in purchasing is made in compliance with these safety standards, ask the manufacturer. All manufacturers are legally obligated to produce baby carriers that are compliant with the CPSIA guidelines, without exception. This is the first step in assuring you as a parent that the baby carrier you purchase is safe.
  • All baby carriers must pass rigorous safety testing prior to release for sale. ASTM has rigorous testing standards that, as of the beginning of 2013, all baby carrier manufacturers must test to, which means that the carrier you have has been tested for safety. The tests simulate normal use, which distributes the child’s weight evenly along the seat of the carrier and the shoulder straps. A weight-bearing test is conducted as followed: The sample carrier is fastened to a torso according to the manufacturer’s instructions, a ball weight equal to the maximum weight limit is placed in the carrier, then the torso is bounced several inches up and down (to simulate normal activity) a total of 50,000 times. That’s some hefty testing! In contrast, when “tug testing” a carrier, the force exerted is concentrated and can cause stress on a part of the carrier that isn’t designed to withhold that stress, such as within the main body of a carrier or in an opposite direction to regular wear on a strap. During the process of safety testing, the machines used for testing are set to exert a specific force of pressure, and the weights used are precise, and – it’s important to note – carriers are tested while strapped to a dummy torso. This helps to properly simulate the normal wear of a carrier, distribute the carried weight properly and set accurate weight limits for use.
  • Testing a carrier is destructive. When a manufacturer submits a carrier for testing, and conducts thorough testing on said carrier, that carrier is no longer fit for sale. Manufacturers send in samples for testing knowing that they will not be returned. The safety testing process stresses a carrier to the point of destruction. It can weaken the stress points, stitching and fabric. And it’s designed to do so, since it’s measuring not only the safety of the carrier’s design, but also the threshold, or limit, to which the carrier can be used safely. Testing a carrier simulates years of regular and consistent use, which is great. Of course the carrier’s worn when the testing is complete. When someone conducts a “pull test” on a carrier, it’s not any different. The process can place undo stress on the carrier rendering it unsafe for use.
  • Pull testing is not accurate, consistent or measurable. Manually pulling on a carrier does not simulate normal use, and it can vary widely from one person to the next, by as much as 60 pounds. A jerk or fast, strong pull can place even greater force on the material. It is not possible to measure the force exerted by a person pulling or tugging on a strap or carrier body.

So…how can you know you’re getting a safe baby carrier? Here are our guidelines:

  • Choose a baby carrier that’s been designed and tested to ASTM safety standards. That’s the simplest way to know that the carrier you’re interested in has been designed and constructed according to and passed rigorous safety standards. Most carriers on the market adhere to the safety standards put in place by the ASTM in conjunction with The Baby Carrier Industry Alliance. If you’re not sure whether the manufacturer your considering does comply, simply send them an email to inquire. Better to be sure when it comes to the safety of your baby.
  • Inspect your carrier visually and by feeling all seams and stress points prior to every use. Use your eyes and your hands to check for loose or popped stitches, or frayed or ripped fabric. Be sure to run your fingers along all edges and stress points too, since sometimes our fingers can feel something our eyes miss. Check all hardware, such buckles and snaps, to be sure that they’re in good condition with no cracks. Don’t use your carrier if you see any of these signs of wear. Contact the manufacturer of your baby carrier to see what you can do to proceed. If the carrier is old, or very well- and regularly-used, it might simply be time to invest in a new baby carrier. Just as wearing your favorite jeans every day for a year could leave you with holes in the knees in even the highest quality denim, so can regular use of your carrier. Fabric wears with use. The higher the quality, the longer it will take, but it will still eventually wear thin. This is especially true with natural fibers, such as cotton. Check each time, just to be safe.

Please be aware that pull testing can not only damage your carrier, but it might also void the manufacturer’s warranty. If you see damage, contact the manufacturer directly, don’t “test” it further. If your carrier was made prior to 2013, and you’re unsure whether it’s been tested to ASTM standards, contact the manufacturer to ask them directly.

We want to assure you here that Onya Baby carriers have been tested to – and well exceeded – ASTM third-party testing. All Onya Baby carriers are CPSIA compliant, including those produced prior to 2013. We’re serious about your baby’s safety here at Onya Baby. You can rest assured that when you choose an Onya Baby carrier that you’ve chosen a carrier that’s not only super comfortable and sturdy, but super safe, too.

We hope you find this information helpful.
Did we miss anything? Please comment below and let us know.
Happy babywearing!