I should be writing my novel. Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo. Sometimes I have to get other stuff out of my head before I can settle down and write fiction, though. That’s what blogging is for. Something that has been on my mind lately is the way that babies have become an accessory to the Pinterest Moms out there. I am amazed by all the handcrafted stuff out there that new moms will allow their children to have just because it is adorable. Of course we all want our babies to be Instagram-ready at all times and look like a Pottery Barn Kids ad. Moms from the pre-Pinterest era will remind you that some items give up some form in favor of function, however.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a mother. I am an aunt. I am a former babysitter. I am a former child care worker. Before you spout any, “you’re not a mom; you wouldn’t understand,” nonsense, Pinterest Moms, I will tell you that I have a huge extended family (lots of babies) and have been listening to child safety warnings since I was babysitting you for pocket money in middle school and high school. Not being a mother does not make me less knowledgeable than you. It does not take a genius, nor a mother, to recognize that hand-crafted does not equal safe.
Recently, I was put in my place by a gaggle of new moms when I tried to tell them one of their adorable Pinterest items was a choking hazard. I politely stated that I did not want to be a buzz kill but was concerned for child safety. I was basically laughed at. For my readers, the image below is not the exact product. It is an example of the product being discussed. Now, pacifier clips have been around for years and years. They come in quite handy. I am all for pacifier clips. They will usually be included in my baby shower gifts. I have nothing against Crystal Dream, who makes product shown below. I only chose this image because I think it is adorable. If I had babies and could be convinced this product is safe, this is the one I would choose.
Courtesy Crystal Dream
Beads and buttons. Top items on the choking hazards list since the term choking hazard was invented. Why are they being used in a product we encourage our babies to put in their mouths? The only reason I see is because they are cute. Is that a good enough reason to train your child that beads and buttons belong anywhere near your mouth? I do not believe so.
What the Pinterest Moms told me was that they are completely safe. They are “made with a special 75lb weight string.” Well, I hope it is not string. The constant wetting and drying would rot string quickly enough. I assume that it is actually 75lb test fishing line, if they know the strength of the string. That is what is often used in crafting. Do you know what 75lb test actually means? I did not debate it with these woman. I opted to pick my battles, so to speak. I spoke my mind and left it at that. What 75lb test means is this: the weakest point of the line will withstand 75lbs of pressure so that the line doesn’t snap while reeling in a fish. It is made for fishing. You catch a fish with it. If it was too damaged while reeling in the fish, you cut the damaged line. Imagine a baby with one of these pacifier clips. Pretty, shiny beads are going to get their attention. They are going to play with it. That line holding it all together is going to go through hell. Just because an average baby cannot pull it apart, doesn’t mean it’s indestructible. The line will be bent, stretched, and twisted. The pacifier will get caught. That line will be yanked on repeatedly. All of this assumes that it is the line that will break. In reality, this line is only as strong as the knot at each end.
My one argument with the Pinterest Moms was that there is a reason this type of clip is not sold by the major baby products manufacturers. I was told that they are made by the major companies, and sold in Target, Walmart, Babies R Us, and Buy Buy Baby. This was shocking to me. I was going to write to these retailers. When I checked their websites, I found no beaded, buttoned, nor pearled pacifier clips. Not a single one. All there were, on all four sites, were the traditional, safe clips as pictured below.
Courtesy Babies R Us
Maybe you’re still asking, “What’s the difference? How do you know the boutique pacifier clips are not safe?” Read their disclaimers. They will at least say not to leave baby unattended with the product. Many add that it is a possible choking hazard. You will not find any safety ratings for these products. You can easily find safety ratings for products from major retailers, like the MAM pacifier from Babies R Us, shown above. Major retailers have Research & Development, Legal teams, and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) all making sure that product is safe as humanly possible. Boutiques and DIYers don’t have that sort of oversight. They may have done what testing they think they need to do, but I suspect that the vast majority are relying on things like “75lb test” for their safety measures.
We may have to agree to disagree when it comes to choking hazards, but what about the sanitary aspect? I cannot fathom how many germs and food particles are going to get trapped in those beads. It turns my stomach thinking about it. The hefty ribbon a retailer like MAM uses is designed to be washed, and to stand up to repeated washing. That adorable Etsy product, not so much. Sure, you can hand wash it, but how sure are you that you are getting all the soap and yucky dish water out from between the beads and from the line running through them? Remember, this is going in your child’s mouth. This is an irresistible item to teethe on. I am certain that heat from the dishwasher, and possibly even the detergent, would weaken the line over time. Using the washing machine is asking for it to get tangled and break in the wash.
I am not anti-DIY. There is a lot that can be improved by DIY or from buying from a DIYer. I am pro-local business, pro-small business. Quite a few of these boutique business are focusing on eco-friendly alternatives. I am ALL for that. Organic yarns and fabrics for baby clothes, bedding, and stuffed animals is fantastic for children who have allergies and sensitive skin. There is a trade-off there in that these fabrics are not flame retardant, but that is an individual choice. I understand the need to put children in clothes that won’t make them miserable every day of their lives, and to give them toys that won’t make them ill. To me foregoing the flame retardant fabric makes sense in a case like that. I can even understand the “hippy” parent who is taking a stand and reducing their impact on the environment. My hat is off to those parents, truly.
What I don’t understand is foregoing safety for fashion. This is your baby, your offspring. You are responsible for raising a happy, healthy, well-adjusted human being to adulthood. If you want an adorable diaper bag, that’s great. You can treat that as an accessory, like your shoes or your purse. Please, don’t treat your children like accessories. They are not Pinterest models designed to make you look good. They are individuals. Treat them with more respect. Better yet, ask yourself: as a parent, how would you feel if your child did choke on such an accessory when non-choking hazard versions were in abundance?