Wondering if there are any benefits of breathable materials in baby gear? Should you consider breathability when picking products for your baby? This guide has all the details on fabrics’ breathability and why they are very essential when trying to choose the safe gear to get your newborn.
Studies show that non-breathable fabric increases the risk of SIDs
Before starting this guide on safe breathable fabric materials, I’d like to draw your attention to the link between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and the breathability of the fabric used in infants’ bassinet or cribs. In fact, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is often caused by babies suffocating in their sleep.
In a 2016 Study commissioned by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Taskforce on SIDs Causes from 1990 to 2015 found infant suffocation as a result of non-breathable fabric to be on the rise. See the chart below from the Taskforce’s study of SIDs causes.
The prolonged periods of “breath holding”, a failure of autoresuscitation, and defective arousal mechanisms (specifically, a failure to arouse to altered oxygen or carbon dioxide levels) have all been postulated as mechanisms for SIDS.
There is also evidence that some infants who died of SIDS had high levels of carbon dioxide and low levels of oxygen in their blood. This suggests that these infants may have had problems with respiratory control.
While the mechanism by which increased CO₂ might contribute to SIDS is not well understood, it is plausible that CO₂ retention might result in a decrease in heart rate and/or ventilation, and/or an alteration in arousal mechanisms.
A number of studies have looked at the relationship between SIDS and the use of bedding, specifically, soft bedding. These studies have found that infants who slept on their stomachs or sides were more likely to have their faces covered by soft bedding, and that this increased the risk of SIDS.
While the mechanism by which soft bedding might increase the risk of SIDS is not well understood, it is plausible that soft bedding might increase the risk of rebreathing (i.e., re-breathing exhaled air that has a high concentration of CO₂).
So, what does this have to do with the breathability of fabrics? Well, if you think about it, the fabric that your baby sleeps on is in contact with their face. And, if the fabric is not breathable, then your baby could be at risk of rebreathing exhaled air, which could lead to an increase in CO₂ levels and potentially contribute to SIDS.
So, what is breathability?
Breathability is a measure of how well air can pass through fabric. The higher the breathability, the better air circulation and the cooler and more comfortable the fabric will be.
Breathable fabric is a fabric that allows air to flow through it. This prevents the fabric from trapping heat and moisture, which can lead to skin irritation. As a result, breathable fabrics are often cooler and more comfortable to wear.
They were first introduced in the 1970s for use in sportswear and have since become popular in a variety of clothing, including activewear, outerwear, and even infants’ clothes.
How Breathability in Fabrics is measured:
Resistance of Evaporation of a Textile (RET)
To measure breathability, the Resistance of Evaporation of a Textile (RET) test is often used. This test measures how well a fabric can transfer heat and moisture away from the body. The lower the RET, the more breathable the fabric.
The RET is measured by evaporating water from a textile sample in an enclosed chamber. The chamber is connected to a hygrometer, which measures the humidity inside the chamber. The amount of water vapor that escapes from the fabric sample is then calculated and used to determine the RET.
The RET can be affected by a number of factors, including the type of fabric, the weight of the fabric, the tightness of the weave, and the finish of the fabric.
Breathable fabrics are important for a number of reasons. They can help keep you cool and comfortable in warm weather, prevent skin irritation, and allow your skin to breathe.
The chart below shows the different RET scores ranging from 0 to 30+ with 0 to 6 being awarded for extremely breathable fabric comfortable for high-activity wear in warm weather.
• 0-6: Extremely breathable, comfortable for high-activity wear in warm weather
• 7-13: Very breathable, good for moderate activity in warm weather
• 14-20: Somewhat breathable, suitable for light activity or cool weather
• 21-30: Not very breathable, better suited for cold weather
• 30+: Not breathable
As you can see, the lower the RET score, the more breathable the fabric. For example, a score of 0-6 is considered extremely breathable and would be comfortable for high-activity wear in warm weather.
Some common treatments fabric undergo to become breathable:
In order to become breathable, the fabric is often treated with a number of different chemicals.
- One common treatment is known as wicking. Wicking fabrics are designed to draw moisture away from the skin and into the fabric where it can evaporate. This helps to keep the skin dry and comfortable.
- Another common treatment is known as an anti-microbial treatment. This treatment helps to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi on the fabric, which can cause skin irritation.
- UV Protection treatment is also used to protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
- Finally, some fabrics are treated with a water-repellent finish. This helps to keep the fabric dry and prevents moisture from seeping into the fabric.
Type of Breathable Fabrics:
There are two main types of breathable fabrics: natural and synthetic. Natural fibers, such as cotton, linen, and wool, are generally more breathable than synthetic fibers, such as polyester and nylon.
Microfibers are a type of synthetic fiber that is very small in diameter. They are often used to make sportswear and other types of clothing that need to be breathable.
Breathable fabrics can also be treated with chemicals or finishes to improve their breathability.
Natural Breathable Fabrics:
Natural fibers are generally more breathable than synthetic fibers. They allow air to flow more easily through the fabric, which helps to keep the skin cool and dry.
Cotton is a popular natural fiber that is often used in sportswear, activewear, and casual wear. It is also a common choice for infants’ clothes because it is soft, comfortable, and breathable.
Below are the common organic breathable fabrics in most baby clothes and products;
- Wool: Wool is a natural fiber that is often used in cold-weather clothing because it is warm and insulating. However, wool is also breathable and can help to regulate body temperature.
- Cotton: Cotton is a soft, natural fiber that is very absorbent. It is often used in warm-weather clothing because it helps the skin to stay cool and dry. Cotton ventile:
- Cotton ventile is a type of breathable cotton fabric. It is made from 100% cotton that has been tightly woven. This makes it more water resistant than other types of cotton fabric. Ventile was first used in the 1940s for pilots’ uniforms. It is now commonly used in outdoor clothing, such as jackets and tents.
- Linen: Linen is a type of natural fabric made from the flax plant. It is a very strong and durable fabric. linen is also one of the most breathable fabrics, making it ideal for hot weather.
- Hemp: Hemp is a type of natural fabric made from the hemp plant. It is a very strong and durable fabric. Hemp is also one of the most breathable fabrics, making it ideal for hot weather.
- Silk: Silk is a natural protein fiber that is obtained from the cocoons of silkworms. It is often used in clothing because it is smooth, strong, and has a high lustre. Silk is also breathable and can help to regulate body temperature.
Synthetic Breathable Fabrics:
Unlike natural fibers, synthetic fibers are made from man-made materials. They are often used in sportswear and other types of clothing that need to be breathable.
Below are the different kinds of synthetic breathable fabrics;
One of the most popular breathable fabrics is microfiber. Microfiber is a synthetic fabric that is made from very fine fibers. It is lightweight and has a soft, silky feel.Microfiber is often used in sportswear because it wicks away moisture, making it ideal for activities such as running and hiking.
Porometric polyurethane laminate:
Porometric polyurethane laminate (PPUL) is a type of breathable fabric. It is made from a layer of polyurethane sandwiched between two layers of fabric. PPUL is often used in sportswear and activewear because it is lightweight and has a high level of breathability.
PTFE laminate is a type of breathable fabric. It is made from a layer of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) sandwiched between two layers of fabric. PTFE laminate is often used in sportswear and activewear because it is lightweight and has a high level of breathability.
Polyurethane coated fabric is a type of breathable fabric. It is made by coating a layer of fabric with polyurethane. This makes the fabric water resistant and Breathable. Polyurethane-coated fabric is often used in sportswear and activewear because it is lightweight and has a high level of breathability.
Hydrophilic laminate is a type of breathable fabric. It is made from a layer hydrophilic material sandwiched between two layers of fabric. Hydrophilic laminate is often used in sportswear and activewear because it is lightweight and has a high level of breathability.
Why you should insist on Microfiber-made Materials in Baby Products:
Compared to all the different types of microfiber used in the manufacture of different breathable materials, microfiber has the thinnest fibers. As a result, it is more comfortable for babies and does not cause any skin irritation. In addition, microfiber is more absorbent than other fabrics and dries quickly. This makes it ideal for use in baby products such as blankets, clothing, and towels.
Microfiber is also a very strong and durable fabric. It is resistant to tearing and abrasion. In addition, microfiber is resistant to mold and mildew. This makes it ideal for use in baby products that will be used often and exposed to moisture.
Finally, microfiber is a very affordable fabric. This makes it an ideal choice for baby products that need to be replaced often, such as blankets and clothing.
5 Benefits of breathability in infant fabrics?
There are a few reasons why breathability is so important in infant fabrics:
- 1. To prevent skin irritation: When a fabric traps heat and moisture, it can lead to skin irritation. This is especially a problem for babies because their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin. By choosing breathable fabrics, you can help to prevent your baby’s skin from becoming irritated.
- 2. To keep your baby comfortable: Breathable fabrics are often cooler and more comfortable to wear. This is especially important in hot weather, when you don’t want your baby to get overheated.
- 3. To help your baby regulate their body temperature: Babies have a hard time regulating their body temperature. This is because they don’t have sweat glands, which help to cool the body down. Breathable fabrics can help your baby regulate their body temperature by allowing heat and moisture to escape.
- 4. To prevent diaper rash: Diaper rash is a common problem for babies. It is caused by the wetness and heat that can build up in a diaper. Breathable fabrics can help to prevent diaper rash by allowing air to circulate and keeping the area dry.
- 5. To reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): SIDS is a rare but serious problem that can occur in babies. It is believed that SIDS is caused by a combination of factors, including overheating. Breathable fabrics can help to reduce the risk of SIDS by allowing heat to escape and keeping your baby’s temperature regulated.
Breathability is an important consideration when choosing fabrics for your baby. Breathable fabrics can help to prevent skin irritation, keep your baby comfortable, and reduce the risk of SIDS. When in doubt, choose a fabric that is light and airy. These fabrics will be the most breathable and will help to keep your baby cool and comfortable.
How to pick the best breathable fabric used in making baby gear:
There are a few things to consider when choosing the best breathable fabric for your baby:
1. The weight of the fabric: Heavier fabrics, such as denim, are not as breathable as lighter fabrics, such as cotton. If you live in a hot climate, you may want to choose a lighter fabric so that your baby doesn’t get too hot.
2. The weave of the fabric: fabrics with a tight weave, such as twill, are not as breathable as fabrics with a loose weave, such as gauze. If you live in a hot climate, you may want to choose a fabric with a loose weave so that your baby doesn’t get too hot.
3. The type of fabric: Some fabrics, such as polyester, are more breathable than others, such as nylon. If you live in a hot climate, you may want to choose a more breathable fabric so that your baby doesn’t get too hot.
4. The color of the fabric: Darker colors absorb more heat than lighter colors. If you live in a hot climate, you may want to choose a lighter colored fabric so that your baby doesn’t get too hot.
Essential Baby Gear That Should be Made with Breathable Fabrics:
A baby lounger is a great piece of gear for your baby. It is a safe place for your baby to sleep, and it can be used both indoors and outdoors. Baby loungers are often made with breathable fabrics so that your baby doesn’t get too hot and reduce the risk of suffocation.
Bath towels are often made with breathable fabrics so that your baby doesn’t get too hot and reduce the risk of suffocation.
Infant crib sheets and crib blankets should be made with breathable fabrics. This will help to keep your baby comfortable and reduce the risk of SIDS.
It is important to choose a car seat that is made with breathable fabrics. This will help to keep your baby cool and comfortable while they are in the car seat.
These are blankets that are used to wrap around your baby. It is important that they are made from breathable fabrics so that your baby doesn’t get too hot and reduce the risk of SIDS.
Go for baby carriers made using breathable fabrics so your baby doesn’t overheat, has good air circulation and is comfortable.When in doubt, choose a Baby carriers are often made with breathable fabrics so that your baby doesn’t get too hot and to reduce the risk of suffocation.
Pajamas are often made with breathable fabrics so that your baby doesn’t get too hot and to reduce the risk of suffocation.
Crib beddings are often made with breathable fabrics so that your baby doesn’t get too hot and to reduce the risk of suffocation.
Get crib liners that are made with breathable fabrics so your baby has a comfortable sleep without the risk of suffocation.
Breathable fibers are important in diapers to keep your baby’s skin dry and to reduce the risk of diaper rash. Check out safe diapers for Sensitive Skin here.
Climbing into a playpen shouldn’t be a sweaty affair. Look for one that’s made of breathable fabrics to keep your kiddo cool and comfortable while they play.Many playpens are made with breathable fabrics so that your baby doesn’t get too hot and to reduce the risk of suffocation.
We have reviewed the best playpens for crawling babies here.
Are breathable baby bumpers safe?
No, the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) has warned that crib bumpers are hazardous and increase the risk of suffocation, strangulation, and entrapment regardless of whether they are breathable or not. The safest sleeping environment is one on a firm mattress with only a properly fitting sheet in between. In 2022, AAP revised its sleep guidelines and now insists that inclined sleepers are unsafe and the 2021 Safe Sleep for Babies Act will ban the use of crib bumpers entirely.
The ACT passed the Senate in May and the US House of Congress on June 22, 2022, and is now law of the land. No more unsafe crib bumpers!
Inclined sleepers, like the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play or Boppy Baby Lounger, can be a danger to babies.
Breathability is an important consideration when choosing fabrics for your baby. Breathable fabrics can help to prevent skin irritation, keep your baby comfortable, and reduce the risk of SIDS. When in doubt, choose a fabric that is light, loose-weaving, and brightly colored.
Q: Are breathable crib liners safe?
A: The federal ban on crib bumpers doesn’t include non-padded mesh crib liners and it is fair to say that there is no proof that these are dangerous. However, the AAP has said that “there is no evidence that liners reduce the risk of SIDS, and there is a potential for suffocation, entrapment, or strangulation”. So while breathable crib liners may not be explicitly banned, it is always safest to follow the guidance of the AAP.
Q: Are breathable crib blankets safe?
A: Yes, crib blankets are safe as long as they are used properly. The AAP recommends that parents use a light blanket that is no larger than the baby’s chest and that is placed under the baby’s arms, not over the head or face. Breathable fabrics are a good choice for crib blankets as they will help to keep your baby comfortable and reduce the risk of SIDS.
Q: Are breathable car seats safe?
A: Car seats made with breathable fabrics are safe as long as they are used properly. The AAP recommends that all infants and toddlers ride in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the minimum weight or height limit for the seat. After that, they should remain in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they reach the maximum weight or height limit for the seat. Breathable fabrics will help to keep your baby cool and comfortable while they are in the car seat.
Q: Are breathable mattresses necessary?
A: No, breathable mattresses are not necessary. However, they can be a good choice if you are looking for a mattress that will help to keep your baby cool and comfortable. Breathable mattresses are also a good choice for babies who suffer from allergies or asthma as they will reduce the risk of dust mites and other allergens.
Q: My baby is always sweating, is this normal?
A: Yes, it is normal for babies to sweat. Babies have immature sweat glands and they do not regulate their body temperature as effectively as adults. This means that they are more likely to sweat when they are hot or when they are experiencing a fever. However,
If your baby is always sweating, it is important to make sure that they are dressed in breathable fabrics so that they don’t get too hot. You should also check with your doctor to rule out any medical conditions that could be causing the excessive sweating.
Q: Is it OK to use a fan in my baby’s room?
A: Yes, it is OK to use a fan in your baby’s room. However, you should never place the fan directly on your baby or in their crib. The AAP recommends that parents use a fan to circulate air in the room and keep the room cool, but not to point the fan directly at the baby.
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Sandra W. Bullock is a grand-mom to two boys and is part of the review board here at Motherhoodhq.com. She is responsible for the quality control of content and is among our most experienced moms. She has over 20 years of writing parenting content online focussing on baby safety indoors and outdoors. She has written widely on babyproofing nurseries and homes for infants and toddlers and published work on privacy and the safety of baby monitors. She is a renowned advocate for non-wifi baby monitors that cannot be hacked and spends a lot of time educating parents on how to secure their homes – including ways to secure the baby from harm in and around homes. Sandra is a native of Atlanta where she also works. She can be reached using her email, Sandra.w(at)motherhoodhq.com