A few weeks ago Little Girl ended up in one of my old t-shirts at bedtime. It’s a long story, but the end result was that she loved sleeping in a “nightgown,” and wanted to know why she didn’t have one. The answer, of course, is that her mother doesn’t like nightgowns. I can clearly remember having my own nightgowns twist around my legs in the middle of the night. There I was in bed, sweaty, scared, and confined until I woke up enough to free myself of the torture that was my nightgown. Still, if the kid liked having a nightgown, why shouldn’t I try to buy one? I tried, but it is much, much more difficult than you could ever imagine.
I started my quest at Gymboree. I love Gymmies. They wear well, wash well, and don’t get all pilly. But while they sell nightgowns, there’s a problem with them. Two, actually. They are polyester AND contain flame-retardant. I don’t know what scares me more, thinking about my kid sweating her butt off in polyester or having her come in contact with flame retardant, which has been found to cause a raft of health problems. On second thought, it was definitely the flame retardant that gave me the greatest pause.
Flame retardant, according to one recent study, has been found to “trigger obesity, anxiety and developmental problems” in rats exposed to the chemicals. Other researchers are trying to link it to autism. Heck, the evidence is mounting so quickly THREE Republican Senators joined Democrats in calling for tougher restrictions on the stuff. So yes, ugh, Gymboree. Why did you put that junk in your nightgowns when your original pant-and-shirt Gymmies are 100 percent cotton jersey? I’ll answer for you: Because you had to. By law, children’s sleepwear must be flame retardant. Cotton pant-and-shirt Gymmies don’t need flame retardants added because they are designed to be worn snugly on the body. (Learn more about the laws children’s clothing manufacturers have to follow by reading this fascinating primer, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Office of Compliance Children’s Sleepwear Regulations.)
At the time, though, I didn’t know that so I continued my search. I tried Lands’ End next. They had cotton nightgowns, but only for adults. No kid nightgowns at all. Then I tried J.C. Penney and Carter’s. Oh, and Kohl’s and Target. I found lots of nightgowns, but none of them were cotton and almost all of them contained flame retardants. It was very annoying. Finally, I went to the Holy Grail of shopping sites, Zappos.com. I found a pretty cotton nightgown, but it was flame retardant. Good thing, since I didn’t really want to plunk down $43 for a nightgown. I am a good online shopper, so I kept trying until I realized that my efforts were futile.
Tonight, Little Girl is sleeping in the cotton shorts and top I got her at Children’s Place, but as I was tucking her in she asked me again for her “pretty nightgown.” When was it coming in the mail, she wanted to know. Since it’s going to be nearly impossible to find a nightgown without flame retardant, I’m thinking I may try to sew one. Anyone have a good pattern they can lend me?
Eagle-eyed readers may notice that I tagged this, among other things, ‘blame it on Big Tobacco.’ The Chicago Tribune had an incredible series that explains why flame retardants are dangerous and how they got their start. (Basically, people wanted to make sure they wouldn’t burn their homes down if they fell asleep smoking so the tobacco companies pushed for firefighters to get on their side and back flame retardants. Tobacco’s hold over us and our environment is frightening.)
Here’s the full investigative series. If you can only read one thing, though, take a look at this story that explains where you can find the highest levels of the chemicals, why babies get a higher daily dose of the stuff, and why you should wash your hands after touching dryer lint.