All parents need to know what fabrics are safe for their babies, whether you are sewing baby items or buying them. Babies are precious, and their health and safety is a top priority. With so many types of fabrics out there that you can use for your sewing projects for infants, it’s helpful to know the impact they can have. Is polyester safe for babies?
Although polyester is found in many baby clothes, toys, blankets, mattresses, and carpets, it is not safe for babies. It is a synthetic fabric made up of petroleum, coal, water, and air, and it is not breathable. It can cause overheating in babies and exacerbate eczema and skin allergies.
Some polyester products are more dangerous than others and shouldn’t be used when sewing projects for babies. There are also companies that use polyester in their products but label it as organic by mixing it with cotton and other natural materials. Here’s what you should know.
Is Polyester Safe for Babies?
Polyester has some desirable qualities which may tempt you to sew with it. It has anti-wrinkling properties, is very strong, and it won’t stretch or shrink. This means the baby products you make will stay looking good and will keep their shape. However, the chemical side is what we must question.
Polyester is not safe for babies. It is toxic, made by a chemical process that includes petroleum, coal, air, and water. It is actually a type of plastic, and when it heats up in the dryer, it off-gasses, emitting chemicals in the air that are harmful to breathe in.
In some cases, polyester may be treated with weather-resistant or flame-retardant chemicals. Polyester is naturally flame-retardant because of how tightly woven it is, but at times, it is still chemically treated to prevent it from melting in a flame, like plastic. This is not something you want any little cuties to put in their mouth, which they most likely will.
Polyester must also be dyed with a special dye. This dye is toxic to humans. Many dye workers have gotten sick with lung diseases and cancer after working with it for many years. Not only is this unsafe for babies, but it is unsafe for you as the person who sews with it.
In spite of this, so many baby products are being made with polyester.
Baby products that can be made with polyester include:
- Polyester fleece
- Polyester yarn
What are the effects it has on babies? Polyester is not a breathable fabric. It can make babies sweat and overheat, which may contribute to SIDS. When the body heats up, the chemicals can then be absorbed into the skin. This is scary and not something we want for the little ones!
Babies with sensitive skin, allergies, or eczema can be affected too. Polyester can cause eczema flare-ups due to the non-breathability of the fabric and the inevitable sweating that follows. This can cause rashes and leave a baby’s skin irritated and itchy. Even if the fabric feels soft, it is still synthetic and chemical-filled, which can cause issues if a baby has sensitive skin or eczema.
Of course, some products are worse offenders than others.
Polyester Baby Products to Avoid Sewing
- Clothing and bedding that surrounds the baby
- Anything that will come in direct contact with the baby’s skin
- Anything that will need to go into the dryer
- Anything babies will put in their mouths
Clothing and bedding are the worst because they surround the baby. You definitely don’t want a baby to be wrapped in plastic even if they don’t have any skin issues. It’s weird to think of a fabric as plastic, but that’s exactly what polyester is. Considering we know the properties of plastic, it’s never something we want near babies. It is dangerous and poses the risk of suffocation – something we can never take lightly. It is not a good choice to sew garments and bedding with.
Blankets could be extremely dangerous, especially if they cover the baby’s face by accident while they sleep. If you want to knit or crochet a blanket for a baby, avoid using polyester yarn. Yarn companies are marketing it as a great choice for baby projects, but it clearly is not.
If you want to sew a blanket, fleece wouldn’t be the best choice because it is a type of polyester, but it feels so soft and snuggly that you may think it’s perfect for babies. It is more breathable than regular polyester and has anti-perspiration traits, but it is loaded with chemicals to make it water-resistant and windproof.
Any polyester baby product that comes into direct contact with a baby’s skin should be avoided because of the skin, allergy, and respiratory issues it can cause.
If the project you make will need to be washed and go in the dryer, you should avoid it due to the risk of breathing in the harmful chemicals that will disperse into the air and the environment.
Anything that might go in a baby’s mouth should be avoided. They teethe and chew on everything. Before sewing a project, it’s important to be mindful of everything that goes into what you make, before it ends up in the tiny mouth of a curious child.
Sorry, polyester. You’ve been voted out.
Polyester can be mixed with other natural fabrics such as organic cotton and be labeled “organic” as a result. Polyester is very cheap, and companies are always looking to save a buck, so some will cut corners where they can.
To be considered organic, a product only has to be made up of 95% of the organic ingredient. This means that they can add 5% polyester to it and pass it off as organic, which polyester isn’t. The fabric would be more breathable with just a small percentage of polyester in it, but it is still not 100% safe.
Cotton polyester blends have a greater content of polyester. They are often stain-resistant, which can make it seem like an attractive option to sew baby clothes and items with. When it comes to babies, there are always stain causing spills and messes. Who doesn’t want less of that? But polyester is still present. It is best to err on the side of caution and choose a different fabric for your baby projects.
If you make toys, you will need something to stuff them with. You will most likely come across something called polyfill, which is polyester fiberfill. It is quite common and very cheap, but it is still polyester. When sewing baby toys, be sure to find something non-toxic to fill them with. Sticking with organic fibers is a safer way to go than using polyfill.
Check labels to ensure there is no polyester listed in the fabrics you buy, even if “organic” claims are made. It’s the only way to know for sure if your finished baby items will contain polyester.
Fabrics to Replace Polyester for Babies
For complete peace of mind, swap out polyester fabrics for something safer. Cotton, bamboo, and hemp fabrics, as long as they aren’t chemically treated, are great options for sewing baby items. You can make clothes, toys, and blankets from these fabrics.
Even though these are natural fiber fabrics, they are sometimes treated with pesticides as they grow. Cotton is also sometimes treated with chemicals to stiffen it up and give it shape. Even cotton thread can be mercerized, which is a chemical process that stiffens it to give your projects more stitch definition. If you want your fabrics to be chemically free, be sure they are labeled as organic and that you read the breakdown of what material it is made of.
Organic cotton is one of the best options available to replace polyester. You won’t have to worry about the chemicals they put in the polyester or the toxic polyester dye. Organic cotton can be dyed with natural dyes. It may cost a little more money, but it is so worth it to ensure that the baby products you sew are safe.
I hope this article was helpful and you found the information you needed to choose the safest fabrics when sewing for babies. Decisions about what we expose babies to must be made with the utmost care. It is important to know the harmful effects of polyester on babies and how unsafe it is.
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