What is the common use of sheepskins with babies? Is it safe forbabiesof all ages? What are the benefits?
I was drawn to this topic through curiosity from selling our own sheepskins and this post from Reddit touches on it. I originally expected single sheepskin rugs to be mainly used as intended by their name. But more and more often I find that is not the case and one of the main uses is from mothers and their babies.
Some have said that it is just traditional as a baby shower gift in New Zealand and Australia. Which is a popular area for sheepskin use and production. However from the my own perspective it seems something that is not limited to just Australasia. As I have had many American customers purchase them for this very reason.
Despite it’s origin of tradition, various issues arise from my exploration into the use of sheepskins with babies that I hope will provide you insight on.
What is the common use of sheepskins with babies?
Is it safe for babies of all ages?
What are the benefits?
One aspect that is profound is the amount of high quality photographs that are taken with babies on top of the rugs. You only have to google sheepskin baby, and find 100’s of pictures. This would suggest that sheepskins could be used more for aesthetics. Much like parents that love to have framed pictures splashed throughout their home of their offspring at any age. But the sheepskin is something that is not strictly necessary in this case. They could use many other items. But when you look at baby photography in general, the pictures tend to be of the baby with a blanket, head dress, rug, toys and more. From there parents choose to adorn their baby with these typical items and every now and again it turns out to be a sheepskin. It’s likely that the tradition just became popular and spread to other regions. Combine that with the fact that sheepskin is considered to have natural benefits to the health of babies, and humans of all ages for that matter.
Several pieces of research support this including a study presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress from the European Lung Foundation, found babies that slept on animal fur for the first 3 months after being born, were less likely to develop asthma or allergies later on in life. This is due to being exposed to microbes found in natural animal furs. Therefore it seems best to not keep your infants wrapped in cotton wool, but wrapped in sheep wool instead! Ok not literally.
In contrast to this it is generally recommended by the public education campaign; Safe to sleep to not use any kind of blankets, sheepskins or pillows in your babies crib. As they claim it to increase risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). In spite of this, there was a New Zealand study group that examined SIDS risk factor among a control group. The study concluded that there was only an increased risk when the infant was prone, or face down. Not when lateral or supine (face up). In addition to this they found a decreased risk of SIDS for infants that shared beds with another. Keep this in mind if you personally choose to allow your child to sleep on a sheepskin at all. It might be best to simply use the sheepskin for play and tummy time. In other words purely supervised use, in order to reap the benefits of the sheepskin and stay safe at the same time.
The chemicals used in the tanning process are something that should be considered too. Although it is the underside leather which is chiefly affected in the tanning process. The chemicals from certain sheepskins can leave a lasting smell and thus can be inhaled. Chemicals like formaldehyde are potentially harmful to humans. So it is imperative you check with whatever company and/or persons you purchase from. At Luxzura we ensure none of our products use formaldehyde or other chemicals which are known to be harmful in our production. And due to EU Reach Regulations our sheepskins must adhere to certain guidelines.
What type of wool would suit babies if it is for practical use?
Several types of sheepskin like Icelandic, Tibetan and Mongolian, have much longer fibers than their counterparts. We recommend sheepskins with soft, dense and shorter wool. So that excludes the aforementioned types. In this circumstance it is intended to benefit the babies comfort level, not his or her sense of beauty. We have produced a sheepskin specifically for infants you can find here. This wool is dense and comfy. Not only that, the wool is cut shorter which would reduce risk of SIDS. Lambskins are another prudent choice for newborns as it is softer than regular wool. The drawback is that it’s less durable. So consider this with your purchases.
Lastly the benefits. To state the obvious, wool is generally soft and fluffy. Thus more comfortable to sit or lay on as opposed to the floor. Wool fibers wick moisture away from the skin and air and it is a good insulator. This keeps your child warm and dry. Wool is hypo-allergenic and can trap dust, allergens and other air particles. It is less likely then to release them back into the airways of your child. Once trapped they can be removed by gently vacuuming.
In conclusion, choose a sheepskin that has soft, dense and short fibers. Environmentally friendly and decide whether or not to allow your baby to sleep on them. If so never in prone position.