Q: What kind of safety requirements are we talking about?
A: Fire safety. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has certain standards that clothing manufacturers must follow regarding the flammability of children’s sleepwear, designed to protect children from burn injuries resulting from contact with open flame.
Q: What exactly are these requirements?
A: All clothing sold as sleepwear from Infant size 9 months to Children size 14 must either be made from flame-resistant materials and/or be snug-fitting.
Q: What does it mean to be “flame-resistant”?
A: Materials are considered to be flame-resistant if they do not continue to burn once they are removed from the source of the flame.
Q: What makes snug-fitting clothing safe from fire?
A: Snug-fitting fabrics are considered low-risk because they are too tight against the skin to provide enough oxygen to feed a flame.
Q: How do sleepwear manufacturers meet the safety requirements?
A: Manufacturers meet the fire safety requirements in one of several ways:
1. They make loose-fitting sleepwear out of polyester, which is inherently flame-resistant;
2. They make snug-fitting sleepwear out of natural fabrics like cotton; or
3. They make loose-fitting sleepwear out of natural fabrics and treat the fabric with flame-retardant chemicals.
Q: Which type of sleepwear is best?
A: Each solution has its pros and cons:
Loose-fitting polyester fabric may fit more comfortably, but does not “breathe” against warm little bodies the way natural fabrics do. Snug-fitting natural fabric can breathe well but may be too tight to be comfortable. And loose-fitting natural fabric treated with flame retardants is comfortable and breathes well, but is typically more expensive because of the costs associated with treating the fabric.
Q: Does all children’s sleepwear meet safety requirements?
A: Children’s sleepwear from Infant size 9 months to Children size 14 must meet these safety requirements if the manufacturer does not wish to receive a hefty penalty. Items marketed as sleepwear that are not made of flame-resistant materials and do not contain flame retardant chemicals must include a brightly-colored tag with the statement: "Wear Snug-fitting, Not Flame Resistant."
Q: Do pajamas or nighties sold as “loungewear” have to meet the same safety requirements?
A: No. This is a loophole that some manufacterers use to avoid the extra costs associated with providing safe-fitting sleepwear. As long as the “loungewear” (or “underwear”) designs look different from their sleepwear product and is kept in a separate location of the store, they are permitted to classify the items under other categories.
Q: It sounds as though finding comfortable and safe sleepwear is nearly impossible unless I want to pay an arm and a leg for it.
A: That is true, but only in some cases. During the cooler months, or if your child’s bedroom is cool at night, he or she will be perfectly comfortable in loose-fitting, flame-resistant polyester. If you prefer a natural fabric that breathes, you can always go up a size or two so that their sleepwear isn’t so tight. (Note: the CPSC does not recommend doing so, as it presents an increased risk of injury caused by fire.)
Q: If I can buy a larger size in the more comfortable cotton sleepwear, why would I even consider spending more on fabrics treated with flame-retardant chemicals?
A: Because it’s ultimately the safest alternative. The companies that invest the time and money into producing flame-retardant natural sleepwear fabrics generally also produce higher quality clothing, which means it will fit better and last longer than some of the less expensive options.
The Bottom Line:
Your child’s PJ’s or nightie may be the most frequently-worn item in her wardrobe and should be as comfortable as possible, right? It will also need to hold up to extended wear and withstand ongoing washings, which means that it must be durable as well.
Whether you choose something roomy and natural from a specialty designer like Sara’s Prints, or a snug-fitting item from a popular designer like The Children’s Place, be sure to check the size charts to ensure that the item fits. Shop around and try different brands and types of sleepwear, if necessary, until you find something you like… And then stick with it for the long term. It’s worth it, if it gives your child a good night’s sleep!
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