An Overview of Organic Baby Slings

Why and How to Find Eco Friendly, Organic Slings, Carriers and Wraps

Just like the clothing you buy for your baby, your baby slings and carriers should be made of fabrics and materials that are healthy and free from the chemicals in conventionally-made options. Start snuggling your baby in a natural, organic baby slings and carriers. 

 

Why conventional baby sling carriers are bad

If you look only for comfort and convenience when shopping for a baby sling or carrier, you could be setting your baby up for exposure to unhealthy chemicals and materials that are used to make conventional sling carriers. Read on to find out more.

 

Conventional cotton’s unhealthy characteristics

Regular cotton may seem like a natural baby carrier fiber, but unfortunately, its environmental record is far from natural.

  • Though cotton crops make up only 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land, it uses more pesticides than any other crop, with 16% going to grow this textile crop. Cotton is also the fourth most fertilized crop worldwide.[1]
  • Farmers exposed to agricultural chemicals like those used for cotton crops suffer from a wide range of serious health problems.[2] The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that well over 10,000 people die every year due to exposure to insecticides.[3]
  • Children’s skin and internal systems are far more vulnerable and sensitive to the effects of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. Pesticides have been linked to many childhood health problems, including birth defects, autism, endocrine disruption, and neurodevelopmental delays.[4]
  • Cotton is an incredibly water-intense crop. To grow the cotton for a single cotton T-shirt, a farmer uses 400 gallons of water on average.[5] Additional water is required to wash, dye, weave, and size cotton fabric.
  • When cotton is converted into material suitable for making baby slings and carriers, loads of hazardous chemicals are used to process it, including softeners, heavy metals, silicone waxes, ammonia, and formaldehyde.[6]

 

The problems with polyester, nylon, and rayon

Human-created fabrics like polyester, rayon, and nylon don’t have the same agricultural eco-woes as cotton, but they do come with their own special environmental problems:

  • Rayon is made from wood pulp and requires toxic chemicals like sulfuric acid to transform the pulp to fabric.
  • Polyester and nylon are both fabrics made from petroleum-based ingredients, supporting the hazards of this industry (greenhouse gas emission, oil spills, and so on).
  • Producing polyester results in dangerous byproducts such as volatile monomers and solvents that are sent into our fresh water systems.[7]
  • Creating human-made fabrics like polyester and rayon requires a lot of energy.[8]
  • Acrylic fabrics are polycrylonitriles which is a class of substance that is suspected to cause cancer according to the US EPA.[9]

 

Toxic chemicals used in textile production

Today, there are all kinds of chemical additions mixed in with our fabrics to provide a variety of convenience features for things like baby carriers that have a tendency to take a lot of abuse like iron-free and stain-resistance. But these chemicals have come under scrutiny for their human health risks.

  • Some manufacturers add perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), the same material used in Teflon cooking products, to give fabrics a no-iron quality. PFCs have been linked to many human health problems, including cancer.[10]
  • Formaldehyde is often applied to textiles to keep them from shrinking, but this chem has been linked to allergic skin reactions.[11]
  • Synthetic dyes used to color all types of fabrics contain strong solvents, heavy metals, acids, and other toxic components.[12] Cotton is inherently resistant to dyes so much of the color applied to it is washed away into rivers.

 

What to look for in organic baby slings and organic baby carriers

Hopefully by now you’ll see that the eco-hazards and health risks posed by the conventional textiles industry isn’t something to take lightly. With every textile purchase you make, you have the ability to either support eco-friendly operations or environmentally-destructive ones. Below are organic, eco friendly materials that can be used for baby carriers. 

 

Organic cotton baby slings and carriers

Organic cotton can be used to make baby slings. You’ll know it’s organic if you see that it is made from Certified Organic cotton fibers. Certifications through official bodies are best:

Though organically-grown cotton will use the same amount of water as conventionally-grown cotton crops, it will not come with the same chemical burden. Nevertheless, organic cotton still requires a lot of energy and water to process into textile form.

Options for purchasing organic baby sling:

 

Bamboo baby wraps and carriers

The benefits of bamboo are nearly boundless! Not only is it an extremely soft fabric for making baby slings, bamboo baby wraps are long-wearing and very environmentally-friendly. See why:[13][14]

  • Bamboo stocks (bamboo is actually a grass) can grow up to 47 inches in a single day, making it rapidly renewable.
  • Bamboo will grow in almost any climate, making it highly versatile.
  • When bamboo is harvested, it is only trimmed back—the plant goes on to produce more bamboo.
  • Bamboo does not naturally require irrigation or pesticides. There are some large plantations, however, using these agricultural methods, making it important that you choose organically-grown bamboo.
  • Bamboo has a complex root system that can benefit the local ecosystem by preventing soil erosion.
  • As bamboo grows, it releases a great deal more oxygen into the atmosphere compared to trees.
  • Bamboo is easily dyed (unlike cotton) so that the effluent flowing from factories is much less hazardous.

Yet despite all of bamboos benefits, it isn’t a perfect fiber. In many countries, tropical forests and complex ecosystems are being bulldozed to make room for single-crop bamboo plantations, which depletes the soil and degrades living spaces for wildlife. Looking for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified bamboo is therefore a good idea. Additionally, turning bamboo into a fabric can be water and energy intense, though perhaps no more than cotton or rayon.

Nevertheless, bamboo baby carriers are a great choice, and here are a few for you to look into:

 

Hemp eco baby carriers

The growing of hemp fibers is surrounded by controversy, mostly because the average consumer doesn’t understand that hemp used for its fiber is a very different plant species than hemp grown for marijuana.[15] But if you can get past that controversy, you’ll see that the environmental benefits of hemp as a textile for making eco baby slings are numerous:[16]

  • Hemp produces three times more fiber than cotton per acre.
  • The industrial growth of hemp requires no agricultural chemicals like pesticides or herbicides.
  • Soil in which hemp is grown is improved by the process as hemp adds nutrients, stimulates beneficial microbial growth, and helps to prevent weeds.

Like bamboo, hemp isn’t a perfect fiber. It does require a good dose of water to keep it growing, and many crops rely on synthetic fertilizers to make it grow plentifully. That said, hemp is a wonderful fiber and a great fit for those looking for natural baby slings and carriers:

 

Recycled polyester baby carriers

Today there are some clothing and baby carrier options made from recycled polyester which is generally manufactured using recycled plastic beverage bottles. This has many benefits for the environment: It save energy, water, resources, and landfill space. Here are a few options using this type of eco-fabric:

 

Eco-friendly dye alternatives

Whatever your textile choice, it’s a good idea to consider fabrics that are free of toxic synthetic dyes as well, including:

  • Color-grown cottons that are bred to produce pre-colored fibers right off the plant.
  • Fiber-reactive dyes are organic substances that react directly with fibers to create covalent bonds and provide vibrant, long-lasting color. Though based on synthetic formulations, these result in lower quantities of hazardous waste water, require less energy during the dying process, and are free of heavy metals. The one downside is that these do contain sodium carbonate, which can irritate lungs and trigger asthma attacks in workers.
  • Plant-based dyes are made by using things like flowers, nuts, leaves, bark, fruit, vegetables, and roots—things that occur naturally in nature—and are therefore renewable. They are not plagued by problems like heavy metals and do not create the same pollution problems as other dyes that are rinsed into natural waterways.

Other eco-friendly baby carrier solutions

In addition to looking for sustainable fibers that are colored using eco-friendly dyes, you can further green-up your baby’s sling or wrap by looking into a few other natural habits and products:

  • Natural latex foam: Polyurethane is commonly used to make baby mattresses, baby carriers, and baby car seats, but it’s full of chemicals including formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, and surfactants, all of which can pose serious health hazards for your baby. Choose natural latex rubber or organic cotton batting for a more natural carrier.[17]
  • Eco-friendly features: If you’re looking for an eco baby carrier, look for options that use recycled steel for clasps and structural parts.
  • Buy used baby slings and carriers: Secondhand baby items are such a great option for parents and babies alike. Not only are they cheaper, they also help to prevent good products from going to the landfill and they require no additional resources to make.
  • Use eco-friendly laundry detergent: The kind of carrier you buy is important, but so is how you care for it. Be sure to use laundry detergents that are made without dyes and fragrances, and look for brands that are based on plant formulations rather than synthetic concoctions to reduce their environmental impact. Read more about this topic on our "Discover Natural Laundry Detergents and Soaps".
  • Homemade baby slings: Of course, if you’re a DIY pro, then you could easily make your own homemade baby sling. To find out how to make baby slings, check out these resources: YouTube, Make Baby Stuff, and Crunchy Footsteps..





Comments



References

1 Cotton and the Environment. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Organic Trade Association: http://www.ota.com/organic/environment/cotton_environment.html

2 Field of dreams: How the ecofashion boom is transforming the lives of cotton farmers in central India. (2007, December). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Ode Magazine: http://www.odemagazine.com/doc/49/field-of-dreams

3 Acutely Toxic Pesticides. (2002, June 6). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/heli/risks/toxics/bibliographyikishi.pdf

4 Pesticides - Children at Higher Risk. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Pesticide Action Network: http://www.panna.org/pesticidesandchildren

5 Hydrology Primer. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from USGS: http://ca.water.usgs.gov/hydroprimer.html

6 Cotton and the Environment. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Organic Trade Association: http://www.ota.com/organic/environment/cotton_environment.html

7 Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry. (2007, September 1). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Environmental Health Perspectives: http://ehsehplp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/info:doi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.115-a449

8 Well dressed? As clothes become cheaper and fashion becomes ‘faster’, how are we to balance our consumption with environmental, economic and social sustainability? (2007, April). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from University of Cambridge: http://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/sustainability/projects/mass/UK_textiles.pdf

9 Finding Tolerable Clothing or Fabric . (1993). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia: http://www.environmentalhealth.ca/fall93cloth.html

10 PFCs. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/node/21726

11 Diagnosis and Treatment of Dermatitis Due to Formaldehyde Resins in Clothing. (2005, November 5). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Medscape Today: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/497713

12 Natural "Green" Dyes for the Textile Industry. (2003). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from TURI - Toxics Use Reduction Institute: http://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/market-research-industry-reports/natural-green-dyes-for-the-textile-industry/natural-green-dyes-for-the-textile-industry1.asp

13 Benefits of Bamboo Clothing. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Buy Organic: http://www.buyorganic.com.au/articles/bamboo-clothing.htm

14 Promoting the Beauty and Utility of Bamboo. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from American Bamboo Society: http://www.americanbamboo.org/GeneralInfo.html

15 Background of Industrial Hemp. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Global Hemp: http://www.globalhemp.com/Media/Magazines/Global_Hemp_Magazine/2000/January/il_task_force_report.shtml#Plant%20Description

16 Industrial Hemp can be used for Paper, Clothing and Energy. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2010, from Hamline University: http://www.hamline.edu/personal/dhudson/eng3370/3370s01/lutterman/hemp5.html

17 Five Problems with Baby Mattresses (Toxic Chemicals) . (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2010, from Healthy Child: http://www.healthychild.com/toxic-sleep/five-problems-with-baby-mattresses-toxic-chemicals/

Stay Connected.
You've been added to our mailing list.
Thank you for signing up!
Like ecolife on Facebook & Google, and join us in the Green movement!