Why I Chose Organic Baby Clothes

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Why we switched to organic baby clothese- and how you can too- even on a tight budget
Wellness Mama » Blog » Motherhood » Why I Chose Organic Baby Clothes

This may be a controversial post, although I don’t intend it to be! This pregnancy, I’m making the switch to almost all organic baby clothes. This isn’t something I did (or was able to do) with our other children, nor was it something I considered a priority until recently. In fact, there are several reasons that I’m just now making this switch with our 6th baby.

Organic Baby Clothes: Why We Switched

With our first two children (a boy and a girl), we were so grateful to receive hand-me-downs and not have to purchase many baby items at all. In fact, we used these same clothes for all of our children, but after being worn by 2 boys and three girls and stored in the attic in between, there were very few clothing items that were still wearable.

Earlier this year when I cleaned out the attic and took stock of the baby clothes, I found exactly 6 items that were not stained or had holes beyond repair. A lot had also dry-rotted from the time stored in the attic.

Since I knew I’d need to replace most of the baby clothes anyway, I started researching the most sustainable and eco-friendly options for baby clothes and discovered that almost all of them were organic lines.

Our family has eaten almost completely organic for years, but I hadn’t prioritized organic clothing in the past. When I started researching, I found that perhaps this should have been a priority for me much sooner… Here’s why:

Pesticide Use on Cotton Crops

Cotton is one of the most sprayed crops in the world.

In fact, while cotton only makes up 3% of the total farmed land area, it accounts for 25% of the insecticides and 10% of the pesticides used worldwide, making it one of the most chemically treated crops. Because of these troubling statistics I decided to purchase organic baby clothes to do our part to reduce the amount of pesticides used, but also to help protect our baby’s delicate skin.

There are dozens of pesticides used on cotton crops and about half of them have been named as possible or probably carcinogens by the EPA.

Our last baby struggled with eczema, and I always wondered if it was partly due to being born breech and not getting the same bacterial transfer during the birth process, but I also thought that her clothing might have contributed to the problem since she seemed to react to wearing clothes for a while.

Environmental Impact

Startlingly, only about 10% of the pesticides used on cotton crops are thought to actually accomplish their job and the rest ends up in the air and water supply. The EPA estimates that up to 2 million birds may be killed annually from just one of the insecticides used on cotton.

Thankfully, most pesticide residue is removed from cotton during processing, but small amounts remain and the environmental impact is still tremendous.

Problems with Processing

If pesticide and herbicide use were the only problem with cotton crops, that would certainly be bad enough, but the problems don’t stop there.

Cotton also requires dozens more chemicals, including bleach, during the long process of turning raw cotton into fiber for clothing and even food. Cottonseed oil, though not technically considered an edible oil, undergoes a long chemical process to become a usable food oil.

Synthetic Fabric & Clothing

While conventional cotton sprayed with dozens of pesticides isn’t a great option, it is still typically a better option than many synthetic fabrics.

Many synthetic fabrics are made with petrochemicals, plastics and other substances that have been linked to endocrine disruption, hormone imbalance, and even potentially some types of cancer. Sound crazy? Think of all the problems with plastic use in our homes and environment and consider having those plastic chemicals in contact with your body’s largest organ for all or part of the day… every single day.

Flame Retardant Chemicals

Aside from the problems with the fabric itself, there is a bigger issue looming with many children’s clothing: finishing chemicals and flame retardants.

This is a tough issue. On the one hand, protecting children from fire with flame retardant chemicals seems like a great idea. On the other hand, the chemicals used in this process, including PBDEs, have been linked to various problems including hormone disruption, early onset of puberty, and developmental delays.

Over 80% of children’s items tested (including clothing, bedding and cloth toys) contained these chemicals and these chemicals were found in blood and urine samples of most children and even in breastmilk.

Organic Baby Clothes: What to Do

The great news is that while there are a bevy of bad options for baby clothes, there are some great options as well. Organic cotton is growing in popularity and organic cotton farming is emerging as a major crop in recent years with good reason.

Organic cotton is grown sustainably and without toxic pesticides or other chemicals. There are strict guidelines for growing, transporting and processing this cotton to avoid contamination. Not only is this option much more environmentally friendly, it is safer for the farmers and their families and provides a long-term solution for cotton growth as pests are becoming increasingly resistant to pesticides.

Thankfully, whether you are expecting your first child and starting from scratch, or already have one or more children, there are simple (and inexpensive) options for avoiding harmful chemicals in clothing:

1. Organic Clothing

If you are starting from scratch with baby clothes (like I am this pregnancy), consider creating a simple capsule wardrobe and choosing all organic clothing. While organic clothing is sometimes more expensive, I’ve found great deals on organic clothing making it the same price or cheaper than the main baby brands.

As a sixth-time mom, I also realize that with my first couple of children, we had many more clothes than we actually needed. Sure, they were hand-me-downs, but I spent so much time washing, folding and organizing the mountain of baby clothes… and my kids never even wore some of them because they had so many! In fact, babies wear the first couple newborn sizes for such a short period of time that only my favorite 7-10 outfits for them were ever even used.

To simplify, I’m sticking to just those 7-10 outfits this time from the beginning. Reducing the amount of clothing we have has allowed me to choose higher quality options and not spend any more money. I purchased 7 outfits and some extra onesies and hats from these brands and didn’t spend any more than I would have at any baby store:

  • L’ovedbaby
  • Under the Nile
  • Burt’s Bees Baby
    (Update: I purchased and received as gifts a few items from Burt’s Bees. I feel it important to note that this company is now owned by Clorox and does contribute money to prevent GMO labeling and has changed the original organic formula of many Burt’s Bees products. From my research, their clothing is still organic and as I said, I received some items from them, but do not consider them the best choice of organic clothing.)
  • ThredUp: I was also able to get many of these brands secondhand through ThredUp – a win for the environment and my budget.
  • Etsy: Unfortunately, there are no local companies that make organic baby clothing where we live, but I have several crafty friends who do and the homemade blankets and clothing from them are my most treasured baby items. I love handmade items so much that I often look on Etsy for baby gifts and kids’ clothing now.

Other Organic Brands:

As demand grows, there are thankfully quite a few brands that meet organic standards but that I have not personally purchased from (since we are buying so few outfits for this baby). Thanks to readers who vetted and suggested these options. Most of these are available online and some are available in local boutiques or stores. I’ve linked them here to give an idea of the pricing and styles of each brand:

2. Second Hand Natural Fiber Clothing

My research on baby clothes made me want to throw away all our non-organic clothes and start from scratch, but since this is neither financially responsible or remotely reasonable (I have NO desire to shop for a new wardrobe for 8 people!), I found a second solution: choosing natural fiber clothing second hand when possible.

As I mentioned above, while cotton is highly treated with pesticides, dyes and bleach, most of the residue is removed before it is made into clothing (though not all, so organic is still the best option when it is possible). Synthetic materials, however, contain plastics and chemicals that are not removed during processing and which can be absorbed through the skin and affect the body in various ways.

Since (most of us) have to wear clothes anyway, we can reduce much of our exposure to chemicals in clothing by choosing natural fiber clothing (cotton, wool, silk, cashmere, hemp, and linen). Even better (and more eco-friendly) is to choose natural fiber clothing from second hand sources like thrift stores and consignment shops. Not only is this more eco-friendly since clothing is being reused, but these items are also typically less expensive and have been washed multiple times to remove any remaining residue.

As much as I’d love to, I can’t fully replace all of our wardrobes with only organic options (though I am going to do this slowly if we need to purchase new items), but I can choose natural fiber fabrics and purchase second hand when possible. (TIP: I’ve found that our local thrift and consignment stores often have some incredible deals on natural fiber clothing (cotton, linen, etc.) when I have the time to look!

Bottom Line

In a perfect world, we could all choose organic clothing all the time and remove the need for synthetic materials and highly sprayed cotton… Heck, in a perfect world, we’d also be avoiding plastics and choosing all organic food too (or growing our own).

Since that isn’t possible for most families, we can still make positive changes by choosing safer options whenever possible, especially because these options don’t have to be more expensive and can even save money! Choosing natural fiber materials from second-hand stores benefits us, the planet and our budgets and helps reduce the need for environmentally taxing new materials to be created.

Have you ever considered organic clothing? Purchase anything second hand? Will you consider it now?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


96 responses to “Why I Chose Organic Baby Clothes”

  1. Lauren Avatar

    Great list! Nyme Organics is adding Texas organic cotton baby clothing this year! Grown to sewn in the US.

  2. Taylor Avatar

    I love it! My boyfriend and I have been discussing this topic (mostly organic clothing in general) and have been beginning to research it. Perfect timing for this post!

    I do have a question about organic clothing and cloth diapers. I’ve been purchasing cloth diapers (mostly pockets) off and on to stock up before a baby comes into the picture. Since I’ve been researching organic clothing, I was wondering how the synthetic materials in cloth diapers (like PUL, microfleece, fleece, microfiber, etc) are on a baby’s delicate skin. What is your opinion on it? Do they make organic cloth diapers with natural materials? I am 100% for cloth diapering, so I just want to find the best options for my future kiddos 🙂

    Thanks, Wellness Mama! Your website has helped my boyfriend and I live much healthier lives, and we are so grateful. Congrats on your pregnancy!!

    1. Tierney Avatar

      You should look into wool diaper covers! You can use things like organic cotton and hemp for the absorbent portion and organic wool for the waterproof portion 🙂

  3. Dawn Avatar

    American apparel has a few organic items like onsies, hats, bibs, pants and shirts plus they are made in USA, win win

  4. Megan Avatar

    Thanks for this post!!! Super helpful! We have tried to start slowly making the switch to organic (or at least natural fibers, as you say). We are not there yet, but there is a dream! H&M clothing is another option – some great organic basics for kids and moms (also great maternity line!!). Many coupons you can apply there, too. My mom shops for clothes at the thrift store and then hangs them over an ozone air filter she has to get the gunk out! Many blessings as you prepare for your little one! 🙂

  5. Randi Avatar

    This is great information! I think I’m going to start swapping in new clothes as organic for my 9 month old. I just let grandma know too.

    Have you tried Baby Gap’s Organic brand? How does that stack up? Unfortunately I don’t think I can buy any of these brands locally. Good thing for Amazon Prime.

    1. Alicia Avatar

      In my humble opinion, baby gap organics are overpriced for the quality– I do not like their fabrics as much as other organic brands.

    2. Alicia Avatar

      I would highly recommend beginning with switching to just a couple basics by a company like under the Nile (easily found on Amazon or eBay,etc) and work your way from there!

  6. Jennie Avatar

    I saw something recently that the trend toward eating organic food caused a LARGE decrease in the amount of pesticides/herbicides sold. It was so encouraging to me that the consumers can make a difference. Thanks for pointing out that same process can happen with clothes. With a family of 8 we do not buy new clothes often, from here on out, I will buy organic when we do. I am so happy for you and your family to be welcoming a babe into your arms.

  7. Mariana Avatar

    I never got to understand the flame retardants thing… sure, you want to protect your child from fire, but what are the chances of getting involved in one? It could help, but for how long? Does it really pay for the risk of having those chemicals around all the time?
    I just don’t get it.

    In other subject… how are you doing with the pregnancy? Did you discover if you are having a boy or a girl, or it will be a surprise? Do you have names already? (I know you are very reserved on your personal life and your family’s, but I’m sure I am not the only one curious and excited about the new baby! Please tell us something! 🙂

  8. Tina Nymann Avatar
    Tina Nymann

    Oh, wish I had had the choice, when my girls were small. Really good, that you have switched to organic now!

  9. Cecilia Avatar

    Love this article. My kids have been wearing organic pajamas and underwear for three years now. Hanna Andersson pajamas are fabulous, organic cotton, I purchase on sale for $20 a pair and their kids organic underwear is by far the best. HA has a great organic baby line, just have to wait for sales.
    I agree, I love Berts Bees clothing line. Everything is so adorable and reasonably priced, $3.99 for a coverall and matching hat at TJ Maxx/Marshalls. H&M is also fantastic, they sell organic underwear and basics for babies and kids. Organic onesies are 3 for $12. You should definitely look into the organic line at H&M.
    Under the Nile is great, love the little dolls. My youngest (2) loved chewing on the hands and feet.
    I had never used a pacifier with any of any children until the last one, it became necessary. Natursutten is a great line of natural rubber from the hevea tree, they also sell amazing teethers. I’m super passionate about all things natural and organic and I’ve learned so much from you. Thank you and Best wishes with this little ones birth.

  10. Laura Avatar

    Do you know of any sources or brands that make organic or safer cloth? I adore making baby quilts bur have always worried about the fabrics I’m using.

  11. Paola Avatar

    I was wondering if there are any brands that would you recommend for teens and adults. Also, have you ever heard of an organic swimsuit? Does that exist? Thanks!

  12. Jan Avatar

    I think L’oved Baby and Under The Nile are both great brands. Burt’s Bees- not so much. Considering they’re owned by Clorox and actively (financially) opposed GMO labeling they probably can’t be trusted to provide truly organic clothing. Since they have no commitment to organic or sustainable farming, these are the types of companies that find “work-arounds” for organic regulations. But more importantly (even if they’re not cheating), our only vote is with our wallet so if we want to know whether the foods we eat contain GMOs we need to boycott ALL of their products. It’s the only way we will affect change in the way we currently farm (i.e..with massive amounts of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and GMOs).

  13. Leslie Avatar

    Hanna Andersson has great gear, including an organic line, and socks that stay on!

    1. Amy Avatar

      Wow, Leslie! Socks that STAY ON! The only thing that worked for me was tights! I’ll DEFINITELY order Hanna Anderson socks the next time around. Thank you 🙂

  14. Lisa Avatar

    I have been buying organic clothing since 2003. Under The Nile is excellent. My almost 2 year old is wearing the PJ’S her 12 year old sister wore. You can use the top as a shirt.
    They wash well and colors don’t fade. I have an nursing gown they made back then. I don’t know if they still make them? Local vendors in my area make and dye hemp clothes. They are expensive, but can pass on child to child. I would like to find more sources for older kids organic clothes.

  15. Holly Avatar

    Forgive me if this is a dumb question, but what are some examples of plastic-containing fabrics? I am thinking- polyester, fleece (polyester), spandex… ?

    I’ve long been wanting to gradually switch to organic and/or used clothing! It’s more challenging than it sounds. My daughter’s school uniform is polyester, my son has a thing for UnderArmour and atheletic clothing, and the baby just gets all the hand-me-downs.

  16. Heather Ann Bueltemann Avatar
    Heather Ann Bueltemann

    When is your baby due? Congratulations how precious! I am 42 and my baby is 1 my hubby preferred along with my family that I do “something” I feel empty but I do have 5 wonderful children who are all puking today. Katie I posted on FB that I need you in my house! LoL
    Again congrats!

  17. Anna Avatar

    Hi, thxx for your time & research?. Just wondering what your thoughts are on hemp fabrics & bamboo fabrics? Kind Regards Anna

  18. James Gordon Avatar
    James Gordon

    Very surprised to see Burt’s Bees listed here. Their parent company, Clorox, is funding anti GMO labling efforts. Not a company I want to be purchasing from.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I agree, but also one of the few providers of quality organic baby clothes at this point. They’ve changed their personal care product formulations and I don’t use those anymore, but for now, their clothing is still one of the few decent options that is even remotely budget friendly.

    2. Jayne Avatar

      I agree. As a single Mom, I understand the need to stick to a budget, but I am continually disappointed that well followed blogs, such as this one, promote supporting large, unsustainable corporations who produce a few ‘decent’ products. This means they make more money and this takes away from local vendors and small scale businesses who make the same products, which are generally better quality and done with more sustainability-conscious mindset. Bottom line, Burts Bee’s a huge corporation and people spending month with them are ultimately supporting the unsustainable practices of the Clorox company as a whole.
      After all as a Mom, yes I am concerned about my budget, but I am also very concerned about the type of world my children are going to inherit from me. It’s always a balance between the priorities of the ‘now’ with the priorities of how those choices are going to affect the future for our local and global community, it’s not just about my one little family for me!

      1. Wellness Mama Avatar

        It’s definitely a tough balance and one that I struggle with as well. But as I mentioned in the article, if you can find gently used clothing that could be the best option for you. I always try to buy local as well, but I have yet to find an option in my town who makes organic clothing. Unfortunately there are currently few organic clothing companies, but if we as moms start demanding it, more will hopefully spring up.

        1. Natali Avatar

          This fact is completely untrue! I too am disappointed that you are choosing a corporation like Burts Bees to promote where there are so MANY organic companies. All you have to do is google Organic Clothing for babies. This doesn’t even account for the thousands of locally made ETSY and Big Cartel companies that make organic clothing.

          Here are some:
          Colored Organics
          Parade Baby Organics
          Mini Mioche
          Sweet Peanut
          Hanna Anderson (has many organic options and regular cotton)
          Pigeon Organics
          Nui Organics
          Little Green Radicals
          Kate Quinn Organics

          Here is a great compilation: https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/organic-baby-clothes

          Overall I would have liked to have seen a more comprehensive list with companies that truly believe in the practice and are not just doing it because it is trendy!

          1. Wellness Mama Avatar

            Hi Natali, I understand where you are coming from on this and have updated the post to include many of your suggestions. At the same time, I hope you’ll understand that when I write a post I am only able to share from my personal experience and am not able to vette, try and buy from every single company to make a comprehensive list. I merely listed the companies that I’d personally purchased from or received gifts from to share my experience and I agree that there is (thankfully) an ever-growing list of new organic companies (I just haven’t been able to personally try them all).

      2. heather Avatar

        Wellness Mama clearly stated in her post that Burt’s Bees is now owned by Clorox and she doesn’t use them herself any longer. Bloggers have a very large, diverse audience and what you might find offensive and unhelpful, others may use. If you don’t approve of the company, don’t buy from them. It’s that simple.

    3. Elizabeth Gonzales Avatar
      Elizabeth Gonzales

      I used their royal eye cream for years and one day I bought a new jar and I had a horrible allergic reaction to it. So sad, the skin around my eyes literally burned and peeled off. They need to warn people when they change ingredients. I now make my own everything!

    1. Shelby Avatar

      Yes, I just bought a few things from them & was wondering if you recommend them as well.

  19. Sarah Avatar

    We stopped buying second hand because I found I couldn’t wash out all of the scented detergents and fabric softeners. And some chains additionally spray their second hand clothes with a sanitary treatment.

    1. mel Avatar

      I can’t stand to buy second hand clothes either. The scents from detergents and dryer sheets get stuck in the clothing especially synthetic fabrics. It makes me feel sick. I also can’t use laundromat machines. They transfer the scents to my clothes.

      I buy organic fabric and sew pj’s for the kids.

    2. Tabetha Avatar

      We buy second hand, but it has occurred to me that many second hand items have been washed by their previous owners with detergents and fabric softeners and that they can be treated at the second hand shop. Usually, I go to Goodwill, and I’m not sure if they do spray their clothes, but I will do some research from now on. So for me, I guess I have to think about how many washes it will take to get chemicals out of new clothing versus getting them out of used clothing. The benefit of used clothing is that it has already been washed, so probably the original manufacturing chemicals are washed out, but now the detergents and scents are added in…I find that the smell at least stays through a handful of washes…I’d be curious to know what others think. However, also being on a limited budget, I don’t really have the option of new clothing, but I also do capsule wardrobes with my kids, and that really helps. I can also ask relatives for clothes for the kids, but they tend to buy new even though I ask for used and 100% cotton.

      1. Tabetha Avatar

        Yes, from a preliminary search, it does seem that Goodwill sprays their clothing with Febreeze. That explains that sinus infections that I sometimes get when I spend too long in the store!

        It’s also important to me to buy second hand because of the social reality of the way clothing is produced many times using practically slave labor. Even though second hand clothing is part of the consumer chain (we’ve made a market on trash), I hope that it is a step in the right direction. I hope that it encourages keeping clothing out of landfills and reduces my dependency on clothing retailers that use what is essentially slave labor (yes, the second hand clothes, many of them WERE produced this way too), so I am not directly giving money into their pockets.

        I hope that places like Goodwill legitimately help the employees they hire…

        I don’t know if all of my good intentions are born out in the reality of what is going on in the whole clothing industry, etc. but I can only hope.

    3. Camille Avatar

      I always understood flame retardant meant the fabrics being used are naturally flame retardant i.e polyester. In my research the government band the use of actual flame retardant in clothing back in the late 70s but of course I could be wrong. Just my two cents on the subject.

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