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

    I know there has been some controversy here about Burt’s Bees baby clothing, but I just wanted to note that I am pretty sure the company that makes the apparel is different from the personal care company (the clothing I believe is made by Ayablu). Of course, since they are using the Burt’s Bees trademark I am sure that the Burt’s Bees parent company is benefiting in some way. However, one thing I really like about Burt’s Bees Baby clothing is that I have seen several items bearing the GOTS certification label. A lot of clothing may say it’s organic, but it could potentially still be treated with harmful dyes or other substances. However, GOTS restricts a lot of that and as far as I know is the most stringent certification for organic cotton products. Sometimes clothing uses cotton that is GOTS certified, and while that is good, it is important that the finished clothing item is actually GOTS certified. From my research it looks like many (if not all) of the Burt’s Bees Baby clothing items are GOTS certified.

  2. Alissa Avatar

    For those in Australia or NZ, “pure baby” has beautiful organic clothing and muslin wraps.
    Nido Organics has lovely organic cot matresses. We bought a “seconds” and had to look really hard to find the slightest mark on it. Really happy with it 🙂

  3. Stefanie Avatar

    I didn’t read every single comment so I don’t know if these were mentioned, but two other great places for organic baby clothes are Nova Natural (baby woolens) and pact. My daughter lives in her woolens from nova all winter (and most of spring and fall for the matter)!

  4. Lashley Avatar

    Patagonia only uses organic cotton (they don’t use conventionally grown cotton, thy do use other materials), so any baby/kids item there that is cotton will be organic.

  5. Tiffany W Avatar

    Can you please give me some suggestions for where to find organic clothing for older children? I love all these baby clothing suggestions. Thank you!

  6. Yas Avatar

    I would highly recommend Penguin Organics, only organic brand with lovely patterns, available at penguinorganics.com or Amazon.

  7. Jess Avatar

    Do you wash all of your organic clothing separate from the conventional? I started buying organic with my first but having to rememeber which was which was overwhelming and I feel I lost the benefit when they would get washed together.

    1. kindahl Avatar

      I don’t think that really matters, from what i’ve read that’s the problem with conventional clothing, you can’t wash out the chemicals 🙁 So I don’t see any harm in washing them together.

  8. Adriana Avatar

    I have only tried Loves baby and Hanna Anderson. Hanna andersdon is expensive but the quality is so worth it. I love the wiggle pants and cross body onesies. I don’t like Loved Baby. Their jumpers suck for chunky babies, they might be ok for scrawny kids but my son is beefy and just did not look good in Loved baby clothes and the material is very thin.

  9. Tierney Avatar

    Baby Gap and H&M and Zara all offer organic options… I can’t speak of the ethics of the company as a whole but you can get great deals on the organic items they offer. I also love a few of the things I’ve bought from sellers on Etsy. They are more pricey but there are lots of little shops that sell cute organic baby items and if you downsize baby’s wardrobe like you suggest, it’s very doable even if overall you spend a bit more on each item! Thanks for the post and congratulations on the baby joining your family so soon! 🙂

  10. Karin bello Avatar
    Karin bello

    I have mostly second hand clothes for my daughter. I get organic cotton underwear for me and her. I also buy some vintage clothing for myself. No problem with smells. I never use softner or perfumed detergent due to its cancerogenic properties. I wash all other new clothes before wearing. Second hand is the best. I also sell myself online or give or trade stuff. It’s fun and sustainable!

  11. Jen Avatar

    I,too, love to buy second hand clothing but since switching to an all natural lifestyle was bothered (and noticed!) the scents of detergents and fabric softener. When I find good deals at the local thrift shops, I soak my new-to-me clothes in Branch Basics Oxygen Boost overnight and then wash in machine with Branch Basics concentrate (1 tsp plus 2 cups water) and Oxygen Boost on a heavy cycle with extra wash/ rinse and all residue and remaining scents are gone! Love me some Branch Basics! Cleans EVERYTHING!

  12. Amber H Avatar

    We love the basics (pants and shirts) from Mabo kids. They have decent sales, and that’s when I stock up.

  13. Kelly Larsen Avatar
    Kelly Larsen

    My mother in laws advice for buying from companies like Hanna is to buy when there is a sale. She said a lot of the time there would be sale for clothes of an up and coming season ahead of time, and that’s when she would get stuff so she would get more for her buck.

  14. Kelly Larsen Avatar
    Kelly Larsen

    My mother in law bought Hanna clothing for my husband and his sister; and kept them stored after they grew out of them. The coolest thing is now our children have worn them! They last a long time if you take care of them and store them well.
    Over the years from having our kids we have added a lot of new outfits from different organic companies too; they are so much nicer and seem to have a lot more growing room as well.
    I’ll never go back to anything else.

    I used to love Burt’s bees products even their clothes, but then I found this article: https://www.alternet.org/2015/09/burts-bees-consorts-bee-killers/
    It made me change my mind about supporting the company.
    Thought I would share.

  15. Joey Avatar

    I have been buying organic cotton baby clothes on Etsy! There are actually quite a few shops that offer them & the quality has been great! But read descriptions carefully, as some shops also offer prints that are non-organic.

  16. Alie Avatar

    Thanks Katie! My first baby is due in a month– my midwife says I will have a small-ish baby (around 6 pounds) i just bought a few organic outfits 0-3 months. Will baby be swimming in these outits for long do you think? Can’t decide if it’s worth buying newborn sized clothing or just stick to 0-3 months to get more wear out of them?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I’ve always just bought a couple of sleepers in newborn sizes since they really do grow into 0-3 month (and even 3-6 month) really quickly.

      1. Alissa Avatar

        Congratulations on your first baby! My little guy was 6lb 10oz, but then he lost alot of weight (more than 15% by day 5). He was in “tiny baby” until 3 weeks, and I was glad for those clothes as it was nice to get some special photos of him once he was out of NICU. He was in 0-3 at about 6 weeks.

        Personally if the budget allows it, I’d buy a few newborn sizing, just 2-3 special items. Those early days go so fast, but it is also when they are meeting the family for the first time and you take so many photos! Plus it’s amazing to look back a year later and think “how did you ever fit in there!!”

          1. Alissa Avatar

            Sorry, I was replying to Alie. Should have made that more clear 🙂 congrats on your 6th bub tho!

  17. Alicia Avatar

    So happy to finally see a post on organic clothing!! I have been buying organics almost exclusively for our two children for years. I might add that European standards and certifications for organics/Eco-friendly fabrics are much higher and more stringent than those in the US (such as GOTS certification). We like organic cottons for much of our clothing but for base layering you cannot find a better material than woolsilk. It is temperature regulating, naturally anti-microbial, ideal for sensitive skin, stain resistant, etc etc. My children wear their woolsilk daily under their other clothing and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Best part of it is that you rarely need to wash it! They can wear the same piece daily for a month or maybe more before there’s a need to wash it (especially if it’s fully covered with other clothing). If you need more info or suggestions about organics I am happy to help! I’ve tried it all!! <3 blessings on your little one on the way Katie!!

  18. Jen Avatar

    Katie, I’m relatively new to your blog, but I’m learning so much and have found your posts to be a great resource. Thank you for that. In this post, you touch on a concern and regret that I have had as a mama: that so much of what I’ve learned about wellness has come too late to be a benefit during my pregnancies and my three children’s earliest years. I try to remind myself that, in this case, worrying about what’s past doesn’t serve me, but I find it difficult to shake the regret I feel about what I didn’t know (and didn’t think to research). I’m wondering if you have experienced a similar struggle at times, and if so, how you’ve reconciled yourself with what you obviously cannot change. I know this is a more personal perspective, and perhaps outside the scope of what you intend for your blog, but if you are ever inclined to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I think that every mom struggles with this… well, and everyone, really, since it comes down to the old saying “hindsight is 20/20”. There are so many things that all of wish we could change about the way we have done things, from the food we give our kids to that speeding ticket we got last week. For me, I just endeavor to do better in the future, and try to learn from the past, and accept that I will never know everything, no matter how much research I do. Remember, too: spending too much time worrying and researching and planning is time spent away from those wonderful kids!

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