It may be fair to say that the general population understands more about environmental matters than at any time previously. The news is often concerned with climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and fossil fuel usage now. And this has led to an increase in electric car sales, organic products, and more people cutting down on meat or becoming vegetarian.
Farming and manufacturing processes can involve chemicals, and these can leach into the soil and waterways, and sometimes affect the health of humans and wildlife.
Therefore, there is a keen interest now in natural and organic products, including clothing. Ethical clothes ranges and retailers are in vogue, with baby clothing also. But, does natural always mean better, and what are the dangers of synthetic fibers for the planet, and your child?
Should you avoid synthetics and choose natural fibers for baby clothing?
Well, the easy answer is, it depends on what fibers you are talking about. In a general sense, natural and organic should be the best choice for your baby’s clothing. At the higher end of the market, you have ultra-soft Pima cotton baby clothes which provide comfort for babies while avoiding pesticides found in some synthetics.
However, there are some unsavory facts linked to natural material production too in some cases.
Many synthetic textiles are linked to allergies including textile dermatitis. Sometimes it is the chemicals in synthetics that cause allergic reactions, and some dyes are problematic too. Synthetic clothing isn’t exactly breathable either. Yet, some natural fiber production has problems too. Underneath are a few of the better materials for baby clothing, and a couple of the worst.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of different fibers for baby clothes?
Here is a brief rundown of several materials that are used in baby clothing. This includes a quick look at some of the positive sides to each material, and also the negatives.
There are over 135 different types of cotton today, and some are more ethical than others. Some are organic, and some are not..
Advantages of cotton
If you choose organic cotton it will be hypoallergenic, softer than other materials, and free of pigments and pesticides.
Disadvantages of cotton
Regular cotton growing uses pesticides, causes soil degradation, and uses huge amounts of water. Cotton garments can shrink, and organic cotton is expensive.
This material makes very good baby clothing for a number of reasons, and one is that it is very durable and long-lasting. This makes it good for hand-me-downs.
Advantages of linen
It is strong, durable, light, and breathable. Linen is good at moisture-wicking and will keep your baby cool. One of the many hacks for new mothers is to grab short power naps, and linen is excellent for baby sleepwear. So you might get a bit more rest if you use linen pajamas.
Disadvantages of linen
Once dyed, linen stops being biodegradable. This material is also very expensive and crumples very easily which some parents may not like.
Baby clothing made from hemp is highly effective at wicking away sweat. Hemp is also sustainable, uses less water than cotton, and grows fast.
Advantages of hemp
Hemp is very strong and extremely breathable. It is natural and free of chemicals.
Disadvantages of hemp
Hemp fibers need to be washed many times before they soften up enough for babies to wear. Despite a rise in popularity, hemp is expensive, and baby clothes are still hard to find.
The first synthetic material on this list was introduced in 1939 and is completely man-made. That is to say, nylon has no natural fibers at all.
Advantages of nylon
Nylon is durable, easy to clean, waterproof, and inexpensive.
Disadvantages of nylon
One of the nylon’s advantages is also a weakness when it comes to baby clothing. Nylon doesn’t absorb moisture making it a very poor choice for any baby clothing or bedding. It can also exacerbate eczema symptoms.
Around 10% to 20% of newly born American babies have eczema, and it can cause great discomfort. Fortunately, there are home remedies for eczema that use ingredients from nature.
Merino wool comes from New Zealand normally, which has admirable animal welfare standards. This makes this particular type of wool a better choice ethically speaking.
Advantages of wool
It is warm, odor-resistant, comfortable, and very soft but durable.
Disadvantages of wool
There are several ethical concerns about sheep rearing for wool, and it can cause allergic reactions. The lanolin in wool can cause some babies to develop an itchy rash and watery eyes.
This is the quickest-growing plant on Earth, and one species can grow nearly a meter a day.
Advantages of bamboo
It is only recently that bamboo has started to be used in clothing, but it has many benefits. It is highly sustainable, very soft, and excellent at moisture-wicking.
Disadvantages of bamboo
Unfortunately, the production of bamboo clothing can involve chemicals and processes that are harmful to humans. Natural bamboo can be eco-friendly but is expensive. Bamboo clothing also tends to shrink so it needs special care.
The second synthetic on the list has been around since the 1930s but came into commercial use in 1941. The same scientist who discovered nylon also created polyester.
Advantages of polyester
Baby clothing made from synthetics is more likely to be seen in poorer countries because they are generally less expensive than natural fibers. And polyester is durable and stain-resistant meaning clothing can last a long time.
Disadvantages of polyester
It is not recommended to use polyester for baby clothing due to the number of chemicals used in production. Not only can polyester irritate your baby’s skin but it is known as one of the world’s biggest polluters.
As you can see, even the most natural fibers and textiles have their problems. Some are not as eco-friendly as they first appear, some have questionable farming and production practices, and some use nasty chemicals.
However, when lined up against synthetics, natural fibers are far kinder to a baby’s sensitive skin and are less likely to cause allergies or irritation.