Is SnoozeShade safe?
When you're buying products for your baby, one of the first questions you should always ask is 'Is it safe and, if so, why'?
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 safe 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 or 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 good 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!
SAFE ENOUGH FOR A NEWBORN
So I went back to the basics and found that there are safety tests for toys for babies and they mean 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.
So when I designed my products I made sure that my straps were the correct length to never be an entrapment or strangulation risk. I used super strong zips that pass heavyweight tests so they can't be easily pulled off by little hands. My fabric has been tested for flammability and it self-extinguishes which is the ideal.
WHY DARK COLOURS WORK BEST
I was worried about the use of a dark colour so I spoke to 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.
And 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."
What I also learned is that colour is very important for the blocking of UV. A darker colour naturally blocks more UV than a pale colour. Paler fabrics either provide significantly less UV protection or must be chemically treated or must be a solid thick fabric (which would impact air-permeability).
WHY 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 and trap hot air.
A synthetic fibre cannot retain moisture or heat 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 showed that it was highly air-permeable.
Breathability does not, as you might think, relate to an exchange of air. 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 and 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 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 hoods. These hoods are made from thick impermeable (often waterproof) fabric. So on a hot day I would 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 it 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.
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.
A pram is a never a sealed unit (like a car for example) and also the fabric enables air to pass through it.
WHAT ACTUALLY 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 in which is why I added zips which can be used to check in on baby - and the good news is that baby can see out better than you can see in.
SO WHAT'S THE BEST THING TO DO WHEN IT'S HOT?
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 millions of times.
Finally, 10% of the cause of heat stroke in children is the ambient temperature. So if you're out and it's hot and humid - the advice would be firstly try and get somewhere out of the humidity.
Also, a pram fan can be useful to at least get the air moving around. 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.