You may just be learning, or already know, clothing your baby is a cyclical event. You start out with newborn size, then you size up every 3 months to a year old, then by 6 months, and then by the year.
The process of clothing a baby seems pretty simple. Obtain clothes, hand-me-downs if your lucky, baby clothes on the cheap if your not, or brand new if your rich. Well, baby clothes aren’t that expensive, but the sheer amount you will need in the first year alone really adds up if you have to buy new.
Keep clothes clean, there are definitely some detergent considerations you may want to make. Finally, get rid of the clothes, gift as hand-me-downs, sell on the cheap at a consignment store, or stash away for the next one.
Three rinse-and-repeat steps you will surely do plenty of times. But, there is potentially one more infant baby clothing decision to you might want to make…
Is All Baby Clothing Equal?
No it is not. You maybe surprised, the difference you need to concern your self is with how it is made.
No parent would want any toxic material touching there little ones skin, especially fabric that covers the majority of the body, and is worn for the duration of the day… Every day.
The unfortunate reality is, the textile industry turns out to be a very toxic industry. The global textile industry is notorious for using potentially hazardous chemicals.
According to research, over 550 types of dyes, and more than 3,000 chemicals of auxiliaries containing carcinogenic chemicals, hormone disruptors, or heavy metals, are restricted for use in textile products under the laws of different countries.
The problem is, there isn’t a world standard so restrictions can vary from country to country. China is the world’s largest producer and exporter of textiles and clothing.
China is also known to play by their own rules and skirt regulations in many different industries. Keep in mind the acceptable amount of toxins in clothing is zero.
Phrases like “organic”, “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” may not be as accurate to their meaning as you may hope. Just because in your country these guarantees hold weight, doesn’t mean they are valued the same way in the country they are manufactured and ethically integrated into the manufacturers marketing strategies.
Growing Harvesting Manufacturing
They are two types of fabrics, natural and synthetic. Natural fibers are from plants, cotton, hemp, bamboo, or animals, wool or animal hair. Synthetic fibers like polyester or nylon are made from petrochemicals (used to make petroleum products like, fuel, asphalt, tires, etc).
Unless you know for a fact your are buying 100% certified organic clothing, you can be assured that through all the phases of production, to the cash register, those clothes have been in contact with a whole mess of toxic chemicals.
Let’s look at what on the outside may seem like a healthy choice of fabric, cotton. While cotton only makes up 3% of the total farmed land area, it accounts for 25% of the insecticides and 10% of the pesticides used worldwide, making it one of the worlds most chemically treated crops.
Once the cotton has grown and harvested, it needs to be spun, then it undergoes several chemical processes called, sizing, scouring, bleaching, dying (for whites and some other colours, they use optical brighteners), and finishing.
Then there’s the treatment of the fabric, here is a toxic list of ‘some‘ of the chemicals used to treat and dye the fabric so that it can be ready for Amazon or the shelves in a store near you:
- Formaldehyde (a known carcinogen)
- Brominated Flame Retardants (a known carcinogen)
- Heavy Metals for dying (more known carcinogens)
- Dioxins (a known carcinogen)
- Strong acids and strong bases (irritates the skin)
Of course in a perfect world, processes would be in place to remove the pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and all the rest of chemicals used along the way. But there is a reason most major brands manufacture overseas, China, India and Bangladesh offer cheap/child labour and are lax on regulations as mentioned above.
Case in Point
In 2018, in a Canadian Free Press article, scientists with NAFTA’s environmental arm tested baby bibs, mats and blankets finding they contained toxic chemicals linked to higher rates of cancer, infertility and suppressed immune systems — substances already banned from most other products in Canada.
The article goes on to say, ‘it’s time to do away with the federal exemptions that allow the use of such chemicals in clothes and other textiles’.
The study, which looked at products in Canada, Mexico and the United States, found these chemicals were present in 86 per cent of the tested baby bibs, blankets, outdoor jackets, children’s snowsuits, winter gloves, cycling clothing, waterproof pants and weightlifting gloves available north of the border.
Clearly, in developed countries which put government agencies in place to protect consumers are letting us down. Allowing trusted brands who are seeking lower bottom lines to deliver toxic products.
The Dirty Little Sleeper Secret
Sleep wear for infants size 9 or larger must be fire resistant and snug fitting. Nobody wants their baby to be flammable, but we are definitely back in the realm chemically treated clothing.
The tight fit clothing makes sense and is pretty self-explanatory, taking away any bodies of air from the inside of the clothing, the fire threat is reduced to the outer layer.
Consumer Reports indicates that flame-retardant chemicals used in children’s clothing are required by the CPSC to be nontoxic, but unfortunately the manufacturers are not required to label chemicals they use, if they use any at all.
Chemicals commonly found in children’s pyjamas are, chlorine and bromine, and inorganic flame retardants. These are the chemicals residues your child may be sleeping in.
Parents choosing to avoid this type of sleeper can look for a trusted 100% certified organic material sleeper, or look for labels bearing “Wear snug-fitting. Not flame resistant.”
What’s a Parent To Do?
Buy 100% certified organic clothing to be sure your not transferring toxins from clothing through your infants incredibly porous skin.
Researching topic I was constantly veering off into many different rabbit holes. This is a pretty major problem when the easy and most common option for clothing our babies is made in China generic clothing.
The major concern, is they are not making infant baby clothing the way we would want for the health of our children.
What can a parent do? What we can’t do is go into the backyard and grab our sheep, sheer it, spin the yarn and knit an article of clothing. Most of us anyway. There will definitely more articles coming that will expand on this and many other revelations I came across.
In the mean time I recommend sticking with the 100% certified organic! Please leave any questions or comments below or if you care to share your experiences.