Look how cute! Isn’t she gorgeous. This was my baby when she was just a few months old. But this photo also fills me with horror and guilt when I think back to the consequences of putting her in a garment made of 100% wool. And I cringe when I see it right around her face.
Shortly afterwards, she succumbed to the most horrendous atopic eczema which thankfully, only lasted almost three years. I say ONLY three years, it was a long three years, but it could have lasted well into her teens. She missed out on three months of development – no crawling or exploring as normal babies do, as she just lay on the floor scratching and crying. We cut her nails short, tried putting socks on her hands to stop her scratching at night, but she’d wake up having scratched her face to pieces, stuck to the sheet as she was caked in blood. We attended a weekly eczema clinic to try to find solutions – but just found that she was allergic to the emollient they’d given to treat her skin in the bath. She developed skin infections where she’d been scratching and I was constantly at the GPs getting more Diprobase and in desperation, topical steroids, which over time, will thin the skin. But if it’s a choice between pus-filled, red raw infection and the smallest amount of steroid cream, then I made my choice. Whether it was the right one, I don’t know. I went to see a homeopathic practitioner and made the changes in my diet whilst breastfeeding to see if that helped. It didn’t. I remember just walking her in her pram for hours to try to get fresh air to cool the skin down. In the end, we took her to the seaside, and the seawater seemed to help and gradually, as she turned three, the eczema subsided and she has beautiful skin now and is thankfully, eczema and totally allergy free and can wear pure wool (though I’m still extra cautious about her wearing it right next to her skin).
So what am I saying? What I’m not saying is don’t put babies in pure wool. I’m well aware that traditionally, wool has been used to clothe babies for centuries. And many babies will be fine. I’m just saying to err on the side of caution with very young babies especially if you have any allergies, hayfever, asthma or eczema in your family and especially between the ages of 3 and 6 months. My son had worn the dreaded sheepsuit before my daughter, with no horrendous consequences (other than the embarrassing photos to haul out when he brings a girlfriend home) and I didn’t even think twice about trying it on my daughter. But I should have known better. I had severe eczema as a baby which lasted until early teens – I mean wrapping up in bandages eczema – and severe asthma which meant I was hospitalised at age 11. So I still kick myself for being so blaze about it. Maybe something else would have been the trigger for her, maybe she would have got it anyway, but what I do know is that wool garment triggered it.
I just know what I’d do if I was to do it over again and I can only speak from experience. No matter how much I love 100% wool and how wonderful it looks knitted up, personally I would keep the beauty of it until the child is a little older. There are plenty of alternative yarns for very young babies.
I thought I would share my experience after being a lone voice in a discussion elsewhere – interested to hear other people’s experiences so that maybe we could build up a better picture of the effects of wool on skin and I’m guessing I may get a lot of people disagreeing, but that’s fine – it all helps to build a picture. If you do decide to comment, it would be interesting to state whether you do have any hereditary skin conditions or allergies in your family.