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Is SnoozeShade safe?

When buying products for your baby, one of the first questions you should always ask is 'Is it safe and, if so, why and how?'

So understandably, and rightly, I get asked this question a lot. And I am always happy to talk on a one-to-one basis but I have written this article to, I hope, reassure you that safety is at the very heart of SnoozeShade.

I DESIGN AS A MOTHER

I am a mum first and foremost. I couldn't sleep at night if I didn't think that I had taken every precaution and knew I had done as much as I could to ensure that my products are as safe as possible.

So before I even started working on the design of my first product I spoke to safety experts about how I could ensure that my products were as safe as possible from the onset.

One of the things I found out is that it is quite normal for baby products to be safe enough for a 3 year old and sometimes safe enough for an adult. This is because the assumption is that the baby isn't the one actually using the product - the parent or another adult is.

That wasn't safe enough for me. And when I've subsequently seen my friend's baby chewing away on one of my SnoozeShade straps I have been happy to see it as I use the only baby-safe certified poppers in the world - no choking hazards for me!

MAKING IT SAFE ENOUGH FOR A NEWBORN IS NOT THE NORM

I went back to basics and learned that there are safety tests for toys for babies.  These meant you can't use buttons, toggles, lightweight zips, long straps, and many other elements that I had never thought of before.

Some of these things would make the use of my product a bit easier - for example two long straps would be easier - but I prefer to use multiple short straps instead. They would also make them cheaper to manufacture but that's the last thing I worry about.

When I design my products I make sure that my straps are the correct length so they will never be an entrapment or strangulation risk. I use super strong zips that pass heavyweight tests so they can't be pulled off by little hands.  My fabric has been tested for flammability and it self-extinguishes (which is the ideal) when lit - and yes I have also tried to set fire to it myself and out it went! 

WHY DARK COLOURS WORK BEST

I thought that it made sense for a blackout blind to be dark - but I was worried about it attracting heat and making things hotter!

I learned that colour is an important part of blocking UV rays. A darker colour naturally blocks more UV than a pale colour. Paler fabrics either provide significantly less UV protection, have to be treated with chemicals or must be a solid thick fabric (which would impact air-permeability) in order to block a sufficient amount of UV.

Not having been very good at physics at school, I contacted the UK's leading thermo-physicist (who has an MBE for his work) and he told me:

"It might seem that a white shade would be cooler, but in fact the colour of the shade makes almost no difference!  When it’s sunny, the best way to keep baby cool is keep him or her out of direct sunlight. And for this an opaque shade is best.

In direct sunlight(*) a typical baby is exposed to almost 100 watts of heat input and their delicate skin is exposed to intense UV. The best thing to help baby control their temperature and to keep their skin protected is to keep them in the shade.

A dark shade is definitely better than a light shade which still lets some of the light through. And a shade which protects from all angles is best of all."

BREATHABLE IS A MISUSED WORD

One of the other things I was concerned about was using the right fabric. My very first mocked up SnoozeShade was made from black cotton which I later learned would have been completely wrong. Natural fabrics swell when it's humid and will retain heat, humidity and trap hot air which can mean heat builds up.

A synthetic fibre cannot retain moisture or heat so its fibres won't swell and so I chose to use a polyester woven mesh. To ensure that it had the qualities I wanted, I had it tested by a laboratory who proved that it was 'highly air-permeable'.

Breathability does not, as you might think, relate to air flow. Instead it is the ability of a fabric to allow moisture vapour to pass through it. This is a word used frequently in relation to sportswear and the ability of a fabric to let sweat escape.

Many fabric-based products claim to be breathable but if you were to actually hold it up to your face and try to breathe through it you would struggle to do so comfortably.

One concerning trend I have seen is the use of fluffy minky like fabrics. As a parent I would be worried as the air will not be able to move if a car seat or stroller is completely covered with this type of fabric. Science dictates that hot air will rise - unless it can't.  I also would not want my baby's face to be accidentally covered with this type of solid fabric.

One other factor is that many strollers now have very long and deep hoods. These hoods are made from very thick impermeable and often waterproof fabric. So, on a hot day, I recommend pushing the hood back at least halfway and let air move through the SnoozeShade fabric rather than get trapped in the hood.

AIR-PERMEABILITY IS WHAT YOU NEED

Air permeability is intrinsically linked to breathability. Air permeability is “the velocity of an air flow passing perpendicularly through a test specimen under specified conditions of test area, pressure drop, and time” (according to BS EN ISO 9237: 1995). All air permeable fabrics are breathable to some extent, though not all breathable fabrics are air permeable.

The best way to quickly test if a fabric is air-permeable is to pop it over your face and nose and see if you can breathe comfortably through it.  If you can't then it is not letting air pass through easily - try it with a towel or blanket and you'll see what I mean.

Many parents worry particularly when it's hot - but the one thing you can rely on is that hot air rises - and, as long as it has an ability to escape, it will. You cannot trap hot air unless you use an impermeable fabric and seal off all escape routes - that's why hot air balloons rise. 

In addition, a pram is never a sealed unit (like a car for example) and mesh fabric lets air pass through it easily. 

Heat itself does not rise or sink because it isn't actually a substance, it is energy being transferred. It is hot air which rises. The reason for this is that hotter air is more dilute than colder air. Colder air is denser than hotter air.

WHAT IS SUN PROTECTION?

A professionally manufactured sunshade that is made from a woven mesh fabric is the best thing to use to protect a baby or small child from the sun. It is designed for that purpose and will adhere to set UV safety standards to ease parents' minds.

In order to claim that a sun shade gives UV protection the fabric must be laboratory-tested to ensure it meets certain criteria.

If you want to double check what UV protection is provided then a decent manufacturer will be happy to provide you with the proof of this testing.  If the fabric does not provide over 97.5% protection (UPF40+) then it cannot be considered to be a UV shade.

Do check carefully as I have seen many products that baffle parents with science and numbers.  You cannot claim that anything under 97.5% is UV protection. Shade - yes  UV protection - NO.

IF YOU CAN SEE YOUR CHILD CLEARLY THEN SO CAN THE SUN

One other important thing is how visible your child is through the shade. The science of sun protection is simple - the darker the fabric the better unless it has been chemically treated - that is why so many are dark or black.  

Many baby sun shades claim to have UPF50+ (maximum) protection but when you check into the detail there is one strip of fabric somewhere on the product that is UPF50+ but if you can clearly see your child through a mesh then it will not be giving UV protection - it's just not possible.

SnoozeShade fabric in a single layer blocks 80% of UV.  I try to ensure that this is very clearly explained so customers know exactly what they are buying. 80% is the best I've seen for a single layer of mesh with no chemical treatment.

My mesh makes it harder to see your child from the outside which is why I added zips which can be used to easily check in on baby. The good news is that baby can see out much better than you can see in.  

WHAT ABOUT THE SCARY STORIES ABOUT BABIES BEING IN DANGER UNDER A BLANKET?

You may be reading this because you've heard and seen stories and videos on social media about the massive dangers of covering your baby.

These fears have been created by viral news stories - not from actual scientific or medical concerns because babies have been dying (unlike cot bumpers and other things that have been proven to be dangerous).

These stories have not been created by scientists or medical researchers who are concerned, but by opportunist media who know that a 'baby in danger' story will get shared on social media millions of times.  These stories are shared, hundreds, thousands and millions of times and put the fear of God into parents that they could seriously harm their babies by shading them.

This is not helped by the fact that people share these stories with the best of intentions but they are trusting that the source of the stories is well-intentioned - whereas my honest belief is that those who have written them have done it to get maximum sharing.

I know this because a couple of articles involved me by asking for my input and I have said I thought it was irresponsible scaremongering but a 'how to keep baby safe in the sun' article doesn't get the level of shares that a 'baby in danger' story does.

The other problem is that each article gets different results - because as I said earlier - you cannot get valid results if surrounding conditions aren't the same. And that is not the way scientific tests are carried out.

For example, a 2017 report by Which says

"Without a shade or cover, your child is left vulnerable to harmful UV rays and sunburn. The NHS advises keeping babies under six months completely out of direct sun, and young children’s delicate skin must be protected from the sun when UV levels are high."

Is it safe to cover your pushchair? 

When used properly, and with constant supervision, yes. In fact, it could be unsafe not to shade your pushchair if you’re out and about in the hot sun.

"Don’t let this put you off using a sun cover responsibly, though, because although the pushchair with its own hood fully up was the coolest in temperature, this set-up doesn’t offer any UV protection for your child."

This report concluded that it was least hot when the pushchair was completely open.

Another article was done by MadeForMums in 2018.

"It all started a few years ago when dozens of newspapers and websites, including – hands up – MadeForMums, picked up on a Swedish report about how hot a baby’s pram can get when it’s covered with a blanket or towel on a hot day.

Given what the report said – especially the warning it contained from a paediatrician about the potentially fatal consequences of a baby overheating – it seemed important to warn parents of the potential dangers of covering your pram with a blanket on sunny days.

That’s because overheating is a very real concern. Babies can’t control their body temperature as well as adults can, and overheating can lead to heat rash, restlessness and in extreme (though rare) cases, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

But when we realised the confusion and worry this story was causing among parents (ourselves included), we decided to try to look into it all more deeply."

You can read the rest here.

HOW TO KEEP BABY SAFE IN HOT CONDITIONS

This does not mean that you shouldn't be concerned about a baby in hot weather but it does mean that being educated about what you can and can't do and what you should be aware of will enable you to handle it with knowledge versus fear.

According to American paediatrician Dr Paul there are 3 main factors that create heat stress in children.

"The effect of heat on the body is a result of three factors: the humidity level, which causes 70 percent of heat stress; sun radiation (UV), which causes 20 percent of heat stress; and the temperature itself, which causes 10 percent of heat stress. It is, therefore, important to understand that the humidity level plays the most important role in heat-induced stress and illness."

So there's not a lot you can do about humidity - other than get inside to air conditioning or a cooler environment.  UV radiation can be blocked and keeping baby shaded from UV is so important.  The ambient temperature is another factor you can't do much about other than try and get into the shade if you can.

So if you're out and it's hot and humid - the advice would be firstly try and get somewhere out of the humidity.

Many parents find a pram fan useful to get the air moving around - it won't make it cooler but the moving air feels better. Whether it's humid or not you should protect your child from the sun (ideally using a product designed for purpose) and seek shade and then do what you can to get cooler.

Key points for parents to remember are:

* Doctors and health professionals worldwide recommend that babies aged under 6 months are kept OUT of direct sunlight at ALL times. This is due to the thin nature of their skin and how fast they could burn. Keeping your child shaded from the sun when it is very hot is always going to be better than a sunburned baby which can have both short and long term consequences.

* If it's very hot outside stay indoors during the hottest part of the day (usually between 11am - 3pm). If this is not possible keep in the shade wherever possible and turn the pram away from direct sun.

* Do not bundle baby up in lots of thick layers when it's hot outside. Loose, thin and cool is the best way to go.

* Use lightweight breathable fabrics (or sunshades that have been designed for purpose) to shade the pram. Synthetic fabrics are better as they do not absorb any moisture from humidity (fibres in a woollen blanket would swell if they get damp). Air permeable fabrics are those that you can literally breathe comfortably through if you held it over your own face - so that thick minky blanket or solid sarong may not be a good choice but if it is loosely draped over to allow air to move then it is better than nothing.

* The most important thing that any parent can do is to regularly check on their child (at all times not just on hot days) and always ensure that they are well-hydrated. It is better to have a grumpy tired child than one with heat exhaustion - and dehydration is always dangerous for little ones.

I hope that all of this information has been helpful and has answered any questions you may have about the safety of SnoozeShade. If you need any further advice always feel free to contact me directly.

Cara xx