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Buying baby clothes is, let’s face it, one of the most fun things to do in preparation for your new arrival. It’s hard to resist those cute onesies! And those mittens, and that kimono, and and and….
But as conscientious consumers, we know that less is more and babies grow very very quickly, meaning that cute newborn outfit will only fit for a couple of weeks. As such, pre-loved is often best for newborn clothing. But if you do have to buy new, what do you need to watch out for and which are the best brands for organic newborn clothing?
What to watch out for when buying newborn clothing
The biggest thing to look for in clothes for newborns and babies is the fiber used to make the bulk of the clothing. Almost all babywear is made with some kind of cotton, typically conventional cotton that has been bleached and dyed. More on this in a moment, but first, let’s take a quick look at a few other potential issues with baby clothing, including the presence of chemicals known as:
- Functional (or effect) chemical substances
- Auxiliary chemical substances
- Chemical substances not intentionally added
These three categories are used by scientists to describe chemicals commonly found in textiles including clothing (as well as sheets, drapes, carpets, etc.). They’re also used by regulators looking to manage exposure to potentially problematic chemicals, and by organizations who offer certification programs for eco-friendly, non-toxic textiles.
In brief, functional (effect) chemical substances contribute to the design or certain properties of the final article and are intended to be present in the final article at a high enough concentration to remain useful. Examples include:
- Colorants (dyes)
- Anti-wrinkling agents
- Antibacterial agents
- Anti-shrinking agents
- Oil, soil, and water repellants
- Flame retardants
Because these functional chemicals are intended to be present in high amounts in the final product, these are often the chemicals that cause most problems for human health, and that we want to avoid for our babies. They’re also typically intended to stay embedded in or on the textile, rather than easily leaching out. However, with ongoing exposure to sun, air, water, the sweat on our skin, and to detergents or other cleaning agents, these chemicals may be more easily ‘released’ from the textile.
As such, older textiles may pose more of a risk for exposing us to functional chemicals, although very old textiles may have already leached away most of the chemicals. Put simply, it’s hard to tell, without testing, how much exposure your baby might get from hand-me-down baby clothes once treated with these kinds of functional chemicals. And, because babies are very good at getting their clothing dirty, and parents are understandably concerned about clothes being flammable or shrinking, these chemicals are alarmingly common in baby clothes.
Auxiliary chemical substances (process chemicals) are required for the creation of textiles but don’t confer any intended property on the final product. As such, these chemicals are not meant to remain in the final product and don’t serve any purpose if they do. Examples of auxiliary chemicals in textiles include:
- Organic solvents
- Acids and bases
- Biocides as preservatives during storage and transport of goods
Because these chemicals are not intended to be present in the final product, they may be more likely than functional chemicals to cause environmental damage as they are washed away in waste-water or become airborne pollutants. They may also pose a risk to factory workers manufacturing household textiles.
If you buy or acquire new baby clothes or other textiles, such as crib sheets, towels, rugs, etc., it’s a good idea to wash these at least once before first using them. This will help to reduce exposure to chemical residues in such products.
Finally, unintended chemical substances, i.e. contaminants and degradation products, are those chemicals present in the final textile but that were not put there intentionally by the manufacturer. These chemicals have no function in the final product and are usually at a low concentration compared to functional chemicals.
Examples in this category include:
- Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)
- Arylamines derived from certain azo dyestuffs and pigments
- Dioxins (from chlorine bleach)
- Toxic metals (e.g. heavy metals) due to impurities from the raw material.
The best non-toxic baby clothing
So, now we’ve got that out of the way, here are our top picks for organic baby clothing.
Highlights: One of the easiest and most affordable ways to guarantee a constant supply of organic and sustainable baby clothing for your baby’s first few years of life.
I live in Canada and I love it, but boy am I envious that readers in the US have access to UpChoose!
UpChoose Baby Essentials is hands-down the easiest and most affordable way to ensure a constant supply of sustainable, organic, gorgeous baby clothing to fit your baby for the first few years of life. This practically zero-waste, smart baby wardrobe service has buy and rent options for new and preloved high-quality organic baby clothing at a fraction of the cost when you buy everything individually.
UpChoose partners with premium organic clothing brands as part of a circular model that enables resell and reuse. You can take advantage of the service by sending individual items from these partners back to UpChoose for credit with the brands themselves and with UpChoose, or you can exclusively use UpChoose for all your baby clothing needs, which entirely removes the hassle and worry of trying to stay on top of all that growing your amazing baby keeps doing.
UpChoose can deliver all your baby clothing essentials (plus toys!) in one easy set that arrives on schedule at each phase of your baby’s growth. When they grow out of items, you just send them back to UpChoose for free and get credit for the next size up. The subscription model makes it super easy, with options to rent or buy on an ongoing schedule.
For anyone hoping to keep clutter to a minimum, avoid the hassle of sending clothes to thrift or trying to stay ahead of the growing-game, and who just wants to be eco-friendly and get adorable organic baby clothes arriving in the mail each month, this is for you. The only downside is that UpChoose isn’t available outside the US! The company currently has customers in 91 cities across 33 states in the US, and they are partnered with the following brands:
- Under the Nile
- Finn + Emma
- Kate Quinn Organics
- Colored Organics
- Burt’s Bees Baby
- Hanna Andersson
- Monica + Andy
- Tane Organics
- Winter Water Factory
- Kickee Pants
- Quincy Mae.
You can explore a range of rent or buy options and subscriptions on their site, with starter packs, clothes-only, or full sets with accessories such as baby toys, all of which are organic. Prices range from $29 per month to rent or $179 to buy, and they offer generous discounts if you pre-order a month or more in advance.
The preloved sets include gently-used clothes returned directly to UpChoose by customers or via their brand partners. The company inspects every item to make sure it’s in good condition and offers these preloved sets at a considerable discount, around 60-70% lower than retail price. Even the new sets are 20-30% lower than retail price!
Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about UpChoose. This is the way of the future, with sustainable, zero-waste, circular economy models of conscious consumerism.
Highlights: All of Under the Nile’s products are made with 100% Egyptian organic GOTS-certified cotton.
Under the Nile are one of the fantastic brands partnered with UpChoose. They make beautiful organic baby clothing, homewares, and toys, including an organic terry snap front hoodie (view here) I’m pretty smitten with. All their products are made with 100% Egyptian organic cotton that is GOTS certified, with most made at a Certified Fair Trade facility in Egypt. They use no azo dyes, and products are free from BPA, flame retardants, formaldehyde, fragrance, PVC, and lead.
Under the Nile use low impact dyes for the lowest environmental impact, which also helps to reduce water and electricity consumption as clothing fibers are dyed at lower temperatures. The company claims this uses 60% less water and results in only 5% wasted dye, compared to 50% waste with conventional dyes (which are also toxic). Under the Nile is bleach-free, using oxygen whitening where necessary rather than chlorine. Their clothing is also free from lead and nickel in snaps and dyes.
Highlights: Great company that sells a variety of organic cotton essentials from a GOTS-certified factory.
Nature Baby offer a wide array of organic baby clothing and toys, including a newborn gift set complete with: 1 x Long Sleeve Bodysuit, 0-3M; 1 x Knotted Beanie, 0-6M, and 1 x Wrap. These organic cotton essentials are presented in a reusable organic cotton drawstring bag, making this a great gift, and all items have been pre-washed at their GOTS certified factory to minimize shrinkage.
Nature Baby also offer newborn mittens (view here) made with GOTS certified organic cotton and soft encased elastics at the wrist. Their Henley pajama suit is another great choice (I love their Galaxy Print!) as this GOTS certified organic cotton one-piece helps to keep your baby snug and warm, with snaps part way down the neck and around legs to make diaper changes easier. Again, the mittens and the one-piece have been pre-washed to minimize shrinkage.
Highlights: Growing baby brand that sells a range of newborn clothing made from organic cotton.
Happiest Baby offer a small number of items of newborn clothing made using organic cotton, including long sleeved body suits (view here) and the Happiest Baby Sleepea Organic Cotton Swaddle. This is pretty much the same as the SNOO Sack but doesn’t have the wings to attach it to the SNOO.
The SNOO sack itself is a super convenient sleep sack that makes it easy to swaddle your baby without needing any fancy folding and tying techniques. The hip-safe sleep sack has a special inner band that holds your baby in a cozy embrace to prevent startling, and the soft mesh windows at the shoulders and waist help prevent overheating. Two-way zipper makes for easier diaper changes, and the Velcro is extra quiet (not that you have to undo the Velcro for diaper changes!).
While predominantly aimed at families in the US, Happiest Baby also sell select products in the EU at happiestbaby.eu, United Kingdom at happiestbaby.co.uk, Australia at happiestbaby.com.au and in Canada through Indigo, Well.ca and West Coast Kids. Note, though, that SNOO is only authorized for use in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia and Canada. The original purchaser is not covered under warranty for a SNOO used in other locations.
Highlights: Finn + Emma create timeless designs made from durable organic ingredients.
In addition to making cute baby toys, Finn + Emma make durable, delightful, organic baby clothes and clothes for kids. These feature timeless designs that are great for passing on when your child outgrows everything. The clothes are made in a socially responsible fashion with fair labor standards and everything is made with GOTS certified organic cotton and non-toxic, eco-friendly dyes.
Most of the 0-3 month offerings are graphic bodysuits/onesies with cheeky and cute slogans such as ‘homegrown’ and ‘I’m the reason we’re late’. As a novelist, I’m especially drawn to the simple onesie with ‘Plot Twist’ type (View on Finn+Emma).
Highlights: A popular brand with an incredibly wide variety of baby offerings, all made with GOTS-certified organic cotton.
Burt’s Bees are a great choice for many things baby. They offer diaper creams and other toiletries, reusable cloth wipes, spit-up bibs, and many more items to fill out those nursery shelves and drawers. All made with GOTS certified organic cotton and of impeccable quality, their clothing range includes onesies, hooded towels, rompers and pajamas, hats, mittens, and more.
Burt’s Bees also have a Baby Bee Box that would make a wonderful gift for new parents. With a whole host of essentials, including clothing, toiletries, and even a board book, this is made even better by the fact that the company donates to the Red Cross with every box bought.
Highlights: Organic baby clothes made in fair trade facilities in India using GOTS-certified cotton.
Parade Baby make organic cotton baby clothes with GOTS certified cotton in fair trade facilities in India. Designed in Vancouver, Canada, these clothes are made with organic cotton grown in India, helping to reduce shipping of raw materials. Parade Baby use nickel-free snaps and azo-free dyes, and the clothing is hand-printed in India, meaning every item is unique! I especially love this cherry romper (view here).
Highlights: More on the simplistic side, but made with unbleached, undyed, GOTS-certified cotton that’s as eco-friendly as it comes.
If you’re looking for super simple, plain white organic cotton onesies, Rawganique have you covered. Buy a bunch for a fun onesie-decorating babyshower activity! Made with GOTS certified organic cotton that is unbleached and undyed, these onesies are as eco-friendly and non-toxic as it comes. Rawganique also offer a couple of organic cotton baby caps (View on Rawganique) and baby socks (View on Rawganique).
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