Mother of two and founder of Musluv, Natasha Jacquot, has an important message to spread about sun care and babies. After years of research, Natasha has developed a new, patented product in Australia that works to safeguard the delicate skin of babies worldwide.
My first baby, Alex, was born during one of the hottest summers Sydney has ever had, when the temperatures were regularly topping 40 degrees. My husband, Thomas, and I had relocated from London to Sydney the year before, and one of my biggest worries was how much more UV exposure there is on this side of the world, especially now we were in the scary position of being first-time parents.
As a former lawyer, detailed investigation is in my nature. To try and educate myself about the dangers of the Australian sun, I immersed myself in medical research. I found out that babies are particularly vulnerable to sun damage because their skin is so much thinner than an adult’s skin. I also discovered that researchers believe that because baby skin cells are still immature, they can be more susceptible to UV damage. Worryingly, this means that sun exposure during infancy and childhood, could contribute to later skin cancer more than the same level of sun exposure at other times of life.
Dr. Alice Rudd from Skindepth Dermatology says, “It is important for all parents to be educated about sun damage- 100% of children will have moles on the skin by the age of two, compared to Spain where only 26% of children will have moles by age 10. Our Australian sun is one of the most brutal and harmful contributors to sun damage; it is possible that early sun exposure kicks off a mutagenic pathway that is exacerbated with every subsequent sun exposure. Mothers need to be educated about their baby’s skin and shield it from the harsh rays.”
What is also very concerning is that the summer of 2017 was dubbed as being the “angry summer” by Australian climate change scientists, when over 205 heat records were broken. Unfortunately, this trend is set to increase over the next five years, including an expectation of more extreme weather this upcoming summer of 2018.
The thing that concerned me the most was seeing the high number of parents covering their prams with thin muslin wraps. I understood why parents would do this – in fact I used to do this myself, with Alex. It was always so convenient to grab a basic muslin swaddle from my baby bag and just drape or clip it on the pram to try and provide a little shade from the sun.
But what I only realised later on, after trawling through technical textile journals and getting some independent lab-testing done, is that ordinary muslin fabric is just far too porous to use as a sun shade. Almost all the UV goes straight through and we certainly have an excess of UV here in Australia, even during the winter months.
Dr Ritu Gupta, a specialist dermatologist from Platinum Dermatology Skin Specialists in Ultimo says, “I think that there is a lack of awareness amongst parents of the extent of the need for sun protection in babies. If you hold a muslin up and see the light through it, then it’s probably only going to have a UPF of about 8. Covering a pram with ordinary muslin is inadequate. It’s really a matter of education – parents know that they should use a pram cover but they need to make sure it really is effective at blocking UV, otherwise it’s just giving a false sense of security.”
I was worried that parents were not aware of the risks to their babies’ sensitive skins, especially when the babies were in prams angled upwards, which meant they would catch a significant amount of UV rays.
I wanted to not only warn parents of this risk, but also give them a safe and portable alternative, which would be just as convenient and baby-friendly as a muslin wrap.
I shared my ideas with a good friend of mine, Erin, who encouraged me to think seriously about going into business, and together we started our brand, Musluv. Our aim was simple: to give good, trustworthy baby sun care advice to parents, and to help them get out and about with their babies. As mums, we both knew how important it is for new parents to get out of the house and connect with the outside world, for their own well-being. We wanted to take away some of the worry they might feel in doing that.
We knew that any baby product had to be very light and easily transportable for a parent, and it should offer them great flexibility. There already exist lots of excellent, fitted pram shades out there, but you would never be able to use them as simple drape over your baby in the sunshine, or as a makeshift tent on the beach. Our product is made of pure cotton muslin and can be tucked away in a baby bag ready to be taken out and used whenever needed as a baby carrier sun shade, a pram cover, a car window shade and a breastfeeding canopy, as well as in lots of other ways.
It also had to be a product that parents could trust implicitly. As a mum, I identified a few areas which I knew would concern any parent.
First, the product had to have the highest UV protection at UPF 50+, and this protection should be retained even if the cover was washed frequently. The layered technology of Musluv covers ensures optimum sun protection and we confirmed this with wash and UV testing through independent labs.
The second was that it had to be able to be used safely to enable a good airflow in the pram. Lots of parents have been scared off using pram covers because they are worried about their prams becoming mini hothouses. Whilst the main safeguard against this is parents’ vigilance (and not allowing a pram, uncovered or covered, to face direct sunlight for long periods of time), we wanted to make sure that air could flow very freely through the fabric itself. Again, independent lab-testing confirmed this. As an extra precaution, we made sure that parents can be flexible in how they attach the Musluv cover, with its soft cotton ties, so that they are able create ventilation openings to allow any warm air to escape.
The third was that the fabric should be non-toxic for a baby. So, for example, the UV treatment we use follows the Oeko-Tex standard to ensure that it does not contain harmful substances.
It was only once we had achieved these three objectives (which took us many years) that we were happy to launch the covers to market.
One other aspect of the business I have absolutely loved is the process of designing our covers. We wanted them to look great on any pram or wrapped around a baby, and we spent a long time workshopping a fresh and modern colour palette to go with our bold but sweet, exclusive graphics.
Musluv covers are currently available to buy online at www.musluv.com, with the new limited-edition collection and a new, dark charcoal “sleep-time” cover available from December 2017 onwards.