Polyester is hidden in nearly all the standard nappy brands and high street clothing for babies, yet it is the number one cause of nappy rash and eczema.
Your babies’ skin is more sensitive and porous than your own, and toxins that enter through the skin can impact skin health and even interrupt their normal hormone and reproductive development. Also, a baby has not yet developed the ability to regulate their temperature as we do. A baby will not begin to regulate their temperature until they are over 12 months old. They do not shiver or sweat. These two factors combined, mean synthetic plastic fabrics can cause excessive heating of the skin and may be potentially harmful.
Using natural fabrics and fibres, such as bamboo and organic cotton, will help avoid potential overheating and toxin overload.
Why is Polyester bad for babies?
Polyester is a synthetic fibre derived from petroleum. It’s the same material used for plastic bottles and carrier bags.
Allergic skin reactions to polyester are common in babies. Some babies dressed in polyester for even a brief period of time end up with sudden redness, itching, rashes, or eczema. Polyester has very low breathability meaning the air cannot circulate against the babies’ skin. Delicate skin may also react to the dyes that are often used or chemical coatings of the fibres. In addition to the petroleum and chemicals used in producing the polyester fibres, additional flame-retardant chemicals must be added to make polyester stable.
It’s best to keep exposure to polyester fabrics to a minimum if they are to come in direct contact with your babies’ skin, such as in the nappy area or their first layer babygro or vest, and their bed sheets.
Why do brands use polyester in babies’ nappies and clothing if its potentially harmful.
The price of natural materials makes it undesirable for many manufacturers to use for baby items.
A nappy may only last a few hours and a babygro will probably be outgrown in 12 weeks, so many manufacturers prefer to keep the price as low as possible to attract parents.
For instance, genuine eco nappy brands offering 100% plant-based fabrics on nappies, such as Mama Bamboo, cost approximately £7-£8 per pack. Cheaper “eco”-brands offering 15-30% plant-based fabrics cost around £5 per pack. And the cheapest all plastic brands cost around £3-£4 per pack.
A pack of polyester babygros from most supermarkets will cost around £10 for 3 sets, whereas the 100% organic cotton versions will likely cost £10-12 per item.
It would be hard to avoid polyester entirely for your child’s wardrobe and fabrics. Going 100% organic and natural would be costly. We would advise however using only plant based fibres against a babies’ skin; the nappy area is particularly sensitive, and investing a little more in your babies babygro / vest and bedding would help protect their delicate skin.
Best fabric for Nappies and Wipes
Nappy Rash is caused by the groin area becoming overheated and the presence of bacteria. Choosing 100% organic cotton or bamboo fibres for nappies will help protect your little one. These natural fibres have ample breathability and will contain no trace toxins from pesticides or fertilisers.
Mama Bamboo offer nappies and wipes made from sustainably certified bamboo fibres. Rated 4.7 out of 5 by their reviewers, parents comment on their softness, high absorption and in particular the noticeable reduction in nappy rash.
As one parent said, “Although more expensive than plastic nappies, I have saved money on nappy rash creams! In 18 months, she’s never had any rashes and the nappies are softer than a unicorn’s kiss”
Best fabric for baby clothes and bedding
Organic Cotton: Cotton is soft and natural. It’s comfortable and breathable. Cotton is the ideal material for cot sheets or baby clothes that sit right next to the skin. Just be sure to look for Organic Cotton as non-organic may contain pesticide and fertilizer trace toxins.
Jersey cotton: Jersey cotton has all the great qualities of cotton, plus the ability to stretch and bounce back. Because of how jersey is knit, there is natural elasticity without the addition of fibres like elastane. Jersey cotton is a great choice for fabrics that require movement such as cot sheets.
How to treat Nappy Rash and Skin Rashes?
You may well have several polyester items in your babies’ wardrobe today. Don’t feel guilty. It is almost unavoidable. It is very prevalent in well-known brands of babies’ nappies, clothing and bedding.
If you do however note that your babies’ skin looks hot, red or irritated, there are several things you can do to help them:
Remove the garment and let the skin cool down and breathe.
Cleanse the skin with water and gentle baby wipes which do not contain alcohol or astringent, such as Mama Bamboo eco baby wipes.
Use a natural fibre-based nappy for a few days or use terry cloth.
Do not use reusable nappies with PUL (plastic) covers until the rash clears up. Most all-in-one versions do have a plastic outer cover.
Try a natural diaper cream such as Green People or Burt’s Bees.
Most rashes will clear up in a couple of days, but if it persists do talk to your health visitor or GP.
Not only will your babies’ skin thank you for using plant-based fibres, but the planet will also be grateful. Nappies and throw away babies’ items make up over 12% of the waste collected in this country. In fact over 8 million nappies are thrown away every day in the UK.
Bamboo and organic cotton are more sustainable, less harmful crops. They grow organically without the use of pesticides or fertilisers. Bamboo is also self-sufficient in terms of irrigation, so no wasted water resources.
After use both bamboo and cotton can completely biodegrade, reducing the presence of microplastics in our soils and oceans.
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Author: Laura Crawford
Website: Mama Bamboo