Clothing for UV Protection This Summer

UV Sun Protective Suit for Children

The best way to keep the sun’s UV rays away from your children’s skin is to cover their skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation calls clothing “Our first line of defense.” Dressing your children in clothing with a high UVF rating is a smart move when you go to the beach or the pool this summer.

A physical barrier to the sun gives better protection than a chemical barrier. We wrote about the importance of a physical barrier to UV rays in our review of natural sunscreens. Clothing can create a barrier without the mess of sunscreen. Clothing is a good option if you must be in the sun with a baby (since you shouldn’t use sunscreen on babies under 6 months old) or with a very fair-haired child (since lighter skin has less natural protection against sunburn).

There is a history of skin cancer in my family, so I am very cautious about sun exposure for my children and myself. Even in extreme heat, I wear long sleeves. It will be 90 degrees Fahrenheit today. I’m going to an outdoor event to hear my husband and son play in a bagpipe band. Based on experience, I’m guessing someone will ask, “Aren’t you hot in that long-sleeved shirt.” Don’t be deterred by those who second guess you when you cover yourself or your children. Fabric is the easiest, most effective way to avoid sunburn and the long-term damage caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation.

How UV Protective Fabric Works

In much the same way that minerals in natural suncreen block or absorb UVA and UVB rays from the sun before they reach our skin, fabric can absorb or deflect sunlight. Think of how much light different curtains let in to your house. Fabric that prevents light prevents harmful rays.

What to Look for in Fabric

A tightly woven or knit fabric gives better protection because there is less room between the threads for sun to peek through. Darker fabrics with a lot of pigment give more protection. Because of its structure, polyester is the most effective lightweight fabric for sun protection, but heavier weight natural fabrics, like dark blue jeans, can block most of the sun’s rays. There are also chemical treatments that are added to some fabrics for extra UV protection. We prefer to avoid the chemical treatments and go with fabrics that provide protection through structure.

UPF Rating

Sunscreen has an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating that tells you how effective a product is against UVB rays that cause sunburn. UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) ratings are given to clothing as an indication of how effective a product is against UV rays of both kinds (UVA as well as UVB). UPF 50+ means that clothing has been tested to block 99% of UV rays. UPF 50+ is a rating of Excellent.

Sun Protective Swimwear for Children

Full Sun Protective Suit
UPF 50+
Size: 0-6 months through 10 years

UV Protection Sun Suit for Children

We carry sun protection suits (half-sleeve and half-leg) in sizes 0-6 months and up for babies through 10 years for children. This is the fastest way to cover large areas. 100% polyester. Comfortable, stretchy, chlorine resistant. Made in Canada from specialized Australian fabrics.

UV-Tee
UPF 50+
Size: 3-6 months to 18-24 months

Bummis UV swim wear

Bummis has a new line of sun protection clothing that coordinates with the prints of their popular Swimmi swim diapers. These T-shirts cover the shoulders, often the first spot to get burned at the pool. A separate top and bottom is a much quicker way to get out of the swim suit fast, which is very important when your child is potty training. Soft and durable. Chlorine resistant. Made in Canada from fabric made in Canada.

Tankini
UPF 50+
Size: 0-12 months or 12-24 months

Bummis Tankini swim top for babiesIf you aren’t necessarily looking for protection over the shoulders, the adorable Tankini swim top gives the same UPF protection of 50+ to the full torso. Halter clip is adjustable for a wide range of sizes. Use sunscreen for arms, faces, and ears. Made in Canada from fabric Made in Canada.

Sun Cap
UPF 50+
Size: 3-6 months to 18-24 months

 Swim hat made in Canada

Don’t forget to cover your child’s head. Bummis Sun Caps are made from the same prints as their Swimmis reusable swim diapers. Crown and visor have UPF rating of 50+. Coordinates with UV-Tee and Tankini swim tops. Made in Canada.

Should you go outside with your children? Definitely. All of us need to play in nature. Just be aware of the risk of sun exposure and mitigate that risk with UV protection through clothing and sunscreen.

Keeping Newborns Warm in Winter

Mother with newborn baby

Newborn babies need a little help maintain their body temperatures in any season. Winter can mean cold winds and warm houses that leave it difficult for a baby to adjust. Be aware of your baby’s needs to help maintain a consistent body temperature.

Normal body temperature for a newborn baby is 97.5-99.ºF (36.5-37.ºC), about the same as your normal body temperature. Babies, though do not yet have the ability adults do to regulate their body temperature. They don’t have the insulation through layers of fat, and their large body surface area in relation to low body weight means more heat loss. You don’t need to pull out the thermometer every hour, though. Just feel the back of your baby’s neck for a quick temperature check.

We give babies a little extra help through clothing and coverings, adjusting room temperature, and keeping them close to us.


Around the House

All newborn babies need some help maintaining the right body temperature, but, if your baby had low birth weight, was born early, or is sick, take special care to monitor body temperature and keep your baby warm.

You are your baby’s best warmer. You can warm your baby through skin-to-skin contact, also called kangaroo care. Put your naked or diapered baby against your bare chest, then cover you both with a blanket. This is perfect for breastfeed. Even without kangaroo care, breastfeeding gives your baby warm milk and warm skin. Babywearing, whether just around the house or when you go out, also keeps you and your baby close.

Clothing. Choose clothing that allows the baby’s skin to breathe, using one more layer than you need. If you are in a T-shirt, add a light jacket or a footed suit in addition to a T-shirt. If you are wearing a sweater, you baby will need at least a sweater, too. Do not, however, layer your baby in too much clothing, causing overheating. If you are wearing your baby, count the wrap or sling as a layer. Don’t forget cold legs when pants ride up in the baby carrier. Baby legs or handknit socks will help.

Hat. Especially during the winter, your newborn will probably need to wear a hat, since babies lose heat through the head. Have lightweight cotton hats for indoors and a warmer, woolen hat for trips out.


Bath Time

Make sure the air and water temperature are comfortably warm without being hot. After the bath, dry the baby immediately. If the room temperature in your house is cool in the winter, you might want to opt for warm sponge baths for your baby. The most important step in keeping a newborn warm during bath time is drying off quickly to avoid heat lose through evaporation.


Nighttime

Your baby doesn’t need a blanket, not in the traditional sense of a large rectangular covering. Babies obviously can’t adjust their covers, so a blanket not only doesn’t stay put but could become a hazard. Your baby is better off wearing the blanket in the form of a worn sleeping bag for newborns or a footed sleeper suit as babies get older. Wool is perfect, since it breathes naturally and helps sleepers regulate their body temperature.

If your baby takes well to swaddling, this will also help maintain body temperature. Not all babies like being wrapped up so snuggly, but do try swaddling.


Going Out

Keeping your baby just the right temperature when it’s biting cold outside is tricky. Have a great insulted suit with legs, if you are going in the car. Although you baby will stay warmer with legs together and those newborn legs naturally want to curl up, you need legs separated for a car seat. If you are on foot and wearing your baby, a vest that covers you, your baby, and the baby carrier, like our Peekaru fleece vest, lets you keep your baby warm with your own body heat.

Be careful not to overheat your baby outside, though. Avoid direct sunlight, especially in the car, and don’t leave an insulated suit on for long drives in the car. Choose light layers of clothing that are easy to remove one by one as you move through your day and the temperature changes.


You
are the perfect temperature to keep your baby warm but not too warm. Keep your newborn baby close this winter.


Resources

Image © Kati Molin | Dreamstime.com

What Makes a Difference in Choosing Children’s Clothing?

Thrift store clothing

Those of us trying to green our families and homes often, understandably, start in the kitchen. As our awareness of issues spreads, we start to see more changes we can make to create and model sustainability for our families. Questions that we’ve heard from a few customers are:

  • What makes a difference in choosing children’s clothing?
  • What makes one choice more environmentally or socially sustainable than another?

I have gathered a few of the issues that I consider when I clothe my children.

Some choices are good for us personally, while other choices are good for us collectively. Sometimes, you need to choose between them.


Organic Children’s Clothing: Good for the Planet (mostly)

If all other things were equal, and I had a choice between organic and non-organic for my children, of course I would choose organic. Organic isn’t necessarily healthier for the child, since pesticide residue isn’t an issue like it is with food. Most natural fibers have been so processed by the time they are made into clothing that there is no trace of field-use residue left. To the extent that toxic chemicals used in processing may still be present, though, organic clothing would be better for your child.

Organic is (mostly) better for the field, but conventional fibers aren’t necessarily going to have a direct effect on your child’s health. Indirectly and in the big picture for us all, real organic is better.

Why do I say mostly? Because I’ve seen the erosion of organic standards with corporate organic. I think we are back to a situation before national organic standards when we need to look at each source separately, when the certification isn’t the only story to tell. Not everything allowed under organic certification fits the hardcore view of what organic should mean. I prefer to avoid synthetic materials, sludge, and GMOs. Sometimes there are small producers who don’t have certification even though they use no synthetic additives in growing or processing their fibers. Personally, I would (and do) go with the small producers over the corporate organic producers. I’m torn. I care about organic, but I think my skepticism helps me make better overall choices rather than relying too heavily on someone else’s twisted view of sustainability.

That’s just one example of how one’s own values need to shape choices about what constitutes true sustainability. Yours will vary from mine, of course.


Natural Fiber Clothing: Good for Your Child’s Health

Natural fibers breathe and absorb. Technical fibers created to replicate those functions have serious negative effects through the production process. Technical fibers are certainly better for the bottom line of the companies that develop them, but are they better for your child? Looking at the big picture of the industrial infrastructure needed to create them versus that needed to produce the simple functionality of natural (especially real organic) fibers, no. They aren’t better. Yes, there is debate, but I will win this one!

Cotton absorbs and breathes in diapers, in underwear, in T-shirts, in pajamas, and in other clothing. Sweaty children cool off better in cotton than in petrochemical fibers that trap moisture against the skin. Wool absorbs, breathes, and insulates. Natural fibers work! There is no need to waste our global resources attempting to duplicate natural fibers with petrochemicals.


Pajamas: An Important Choice for Your Child’s Health and Safety

Speaking of pajamas, this is one item of children’s clothing that I was particularly careful about when my kids were babies. There is a line in one of my favorite books, Snow Crash, that says children’s pajamas can be fireproof or non-carcinogenic, but not both. I found wool sleep suits for my children, but I couldn’t get cotton sleep suits in the U.S. that weren’t chemically treated. In the end, I bought all of my children’s 100% untreated cotton pajamas in the UK, where they didn’t have such an obsession about flammable pajamas.

Babies spend at least half of their time in pajamas. They pee on them. They sweat on them. They suck on them. Pajamas do heavy duty. If you choose pajamas that wick moisture away from a sleeping body, you are helping to improve sleep. If you choose pajamas that hold moisture in like a sealed plastic bag, you will deal with more broken sleep. Whether you choose treated fabrics or not seems like one of those personal choices, but do consider what kind of fibers you want to put next to your child for such a long period of time.


Toxic Dyes: Important for Your Child’s Health

Not all dyes react with the fibers to change molecular structure. Some dyes sit on the surface of the fibers. Chemical dyes and fixatives can remain trapped in fibers. If toxic chemicals are released in moist situations, when our pores are most open, we can absorb those toxins, and they can bioaccumulate.

I love bright, bold colors. I also think hard about what kind of dyes are used before I choose clothing. As always, it’s about balancing your priorities.


Fair Labor: An Essential Ingredient in Real Sustainability

Clothing costs so much that it is easy to default to the cheapest store and the cheapest item on the rack. Have you ever wondered who makes that super cheap clothing? How old they are? Even for domestically produced clothing, there are often shortcuts taken that make lives miserable for workers in apparel manufacturing. Fair wages for workers is an issue of global sustainability as much as organic agriculture. Don’t overlook who made the clothing you buy for your children and how well that work allows them to take care of their own children—if they aren’t children themselves.


Cost of Children’s Clothing

Most of us don’t have a lot of cash to throw around these days. Cost makes a big difference for our families. It is important to be willing to pay for quality, for organic, and for fair labor. When the costs of sustainability are internalized in the clothing, it seems very expensive. We still pay those costs when we buy cheap clothing, but we don’t see those payments nearly so directly.

But, willingness to pay the real costs of sustainability is only an issue if there is money at all. Sometimes brand new, quality children’s clothing is out of reach. Fortunately, there are other options.


Lifespan of Children’s Clothing Matters

Our first steps toward sustainability should be to reduce and reuse. Every child does not need a wardrobe full of new, expensive clothing, and clothing doesn’t have to last just the 6 months or a year that a child fits it. When we choose clothing that lasts, we share the costs of quality.

If you have a close group of friends, you can expand your child’s wardrobe far beyond what they ever even have time to wear. So many of my children’s clothes are in circulation among a group of my friends, that I often see at random times on different babies the clothes I made or bought long ago. I love that community clothing. Friends just keep boxing up the out-grown clothes and passing them along. That works if you have a close group of friends whose children are staggered in age.

Even if you don’t have a tribe to share community clothing, a consignment store or thrift store can help you put together an inexpensive wardrobe. If you keep feeding outgrown clothes back into a consignment store, that helps fund the next size.


Whether your greatest concern is cost, health, environmental sustainability, social sustainability, or other issues
, taking a clear view of your own priorities will help you decide what difference you can make when choosing clothing for your children.

Image © Peter Kim | Dreamstime.com