I always know the weather is getting colder around the country when my email inbox fills with questions on safe pajamas for young'uns. This week I got a Facebook message from someone I knew in high school ("I'm so curious to know what you think about flame resistant sleepwear. Hope you're well! Xo") and an email from a mom who has a son in my daughter's preschool class (just wondering... what is the harm in the clothing that is treated. i am assuming that the chemicals that are used are considered harmful to children???? grandma just got pajamas and they say "flame resistant" on them.) So I knew it was time to write a pj post. Luckily my co-author on The Complete Organic Pregnancy, Deirdre Dolan, tackled the chemical side of the topic last September. So my post will be mainly how to.
But first, the basics: winter means cold bedrooms, depending on your heating system and window draftiness. While most of us can put on extra blankets and get cozy underneath them, it's not quite as simple for babies. Blankets aren't recommended for infants; they can suffocate them. Which is why sleep sacks blanket-like sacks with zip or snap fronts and arm holes babies can wear have grown in popularity of late. Same goes for fleece all-in-ones with "footies." Unfortunately the problem isn't entirely solved with these options because pajamas no matter how warm are legally required to be flame resistant. And I don't think and many others agree that sleeping between 12 to 18 hours a day when your lungs are tiny and developing in close proximity to flame-resistant chemicals is a good idea. It is very difficult to find out what chemicals were used in the manufacture of any given pair of pjs , and in what concentration levels. (Some chemicals are worse than others read about PROBAN in that link to Deirdre's post above; it's active ingredient has been "linked to genetic abnormalities and damage to the liver, skin and nervous system. It also promotes the growth of cancerous tumors.") Sometimes the fabric is inherently flame resistant, sometimes the chemical used is well and correctly bonded into the fiber and it doesn't come out, even in the wash. But I'm not in favor of making a leap of faith hoping the flame-retardant pjs you buy or receive as a holiday gift are the better-ish ones.
Yes, it's crucial that your baby be warm. Thankfully, there are ways around flame-retardant chemicals snugly fitting 100 percent cotton works best to my mind. (If the material is tight, the legal rules change, and flame-retardant chemicals aren't required.) But this isn't often warm enough for the coldest nurseries come deep dark winter. So then it takes a little creativity. And I don't mean turning up the thermostat.
Here's what I suggest doing: layer.
1. Start with snug fitting cotton, preferably organic cotton. Don't forget a cotton cap. As we all know, much heat can be lost via the head.
2. Over cotton, use wool. Not only is it naturally flame retardant, it's warm. The cotton underneath should eliminate any itchy situation that might arise. It's expensive but you shouldn't have to wash it much, especially if you layer with cotton underneath. Here are a few stores and companies offering wool options
3. If you cannot find wool leggings or sleep sacks, try a regular tight fitting wool sweater. I like pure grow wool, which is missing the sort of sprays and processing residues that are missing from organic cotton. See if you can make (or commission someone on Etsy.com to make) your own wool sleep sacks.
4. If your babe has a sensitivity to wool, look for silk, which is also very warm.
5. If you're a fleece addict, and are willing to risk not putting the kid to bed in something flame-retardant-compliant, use fleece. Just don't use fleece pjs. The pjs are legally required to be treated, but the day wear isn't. Check the label if it says "not intended for use as sleepwear" that usually means it doesn't contain flame-retardants. Call manufacturers for confirmation. This website lists something called organic fleece.
6. Talk to your pediatrician about what age you can introduce blankets. It's not that far in the future, I promise.
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