Plant Life

Why Is Organic Cotton Better for Babies?

Babies and infants are much more sensitive to what we put on their skin than adults. Here’s how we make the cutest and safest options accessible to all.

baby laying down in bed
baby clothing packed into a bag

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Choosing organic cotton means limiting a baby's exposure to potentially harmful chemicals usually found in non-organic clothing. Babies absorb much more of their environment than adults, in part through the skin, which is more permeable than adults. The safest alternative is clothes made of certified organic cotton.

For new and expecting parents, few things look as adorable as a cute baby outfit. It beautifully wraps the little one like a warm lasting hug. But one thing that still gets little attention is the quality of the clothes we put on our babies’ sensitive skin. The clothes we find in retail stores or online have often been treated with industrial chemicals that may be harmful (even when you read 100% cotton).

Since the 1950s these chemicals have become more widespread. Today, they are used in millions of consumer products including food, clothes, cosmetics, cleaning products, and toys. The majority of these have never been tested for safety and have been linked to the rise of non-communicable diseases in infants over the past three decades — including asthma, obesity, learning disabilities, autism, and diabetes.

Note: we summarized the key points of this article and all you need to know about organic baby clothes in this infographic (click on the picture below to view and download):

Infographic: Why Are Organic Clothes Better for Your Baby?
Infographic organic cotton upchoose cover photo

Infants Are Vulnerable to Toxic Materials, Pesticides, and Flame Retardants

Babies and infants are especially sensitive to toxic chemicals. The impact is greater in early development — during pregnancy and early childhood — because:

  • They experience greater exposure: relative to their body size and given their more permeable skin, infants absorb much more of their environment than adults. This is exacerbated by their behaviors as they constantly put things in their mouth and explore their environment.

  • They are more vulnerable: as their bodies and brains are still developing, they are less able than adults to naturally break down or eliminate chemicals absorbed into the body. Their developmental process is delicate and can be easily disrupted.

baby crawling on carpet

Photo credit: Corrina Vittalie

The US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) famously summed up this heightened sensitivity of children to toxic chemicals in a 1993 report by concluding that “children are not little adults”. 

“Children are not little adults” — US National Academy of Sciences

Newborn Skin Is More Permeable

A large part of what children absorb in their bodies happens through the skin (the rest is food, liquid, and air — gastrointestinal and respiratory absorption). Our skin is our largest organ. It protects us, helps regulate our body temperature, and plays many other essential functions. It also absorbs a lot of what we put on it.

Babies have thinner and more permeable skin than adults. While it has the same number of layers — three — each layer is thinner for a baby. The epidermis layer — the one tasked with protecting our body — is three to five times thinner than an adult’s and is made up of smaller cells.

graphic showing baby’s skin vs adult skin

As a result, it is less resistant than adult skin, and substances that come into contact with baby skin are more easily absorbed and penetrate into deeper skin layers.

How to Choose Outfits That Respect Your Baby’s Skin

Awareness about organic food has been growing among parents in recent years. However, the message about the impact of chemically-treated baby clothes didn’t spread as fast despite the potential long-term health consequences on infants. In recent years, scientists found widespread use of potentially harmful chemicals in children's clothing.

The baby and children's clothes we find in retail stores or online are usually made of non-organic cotton, polyester (and other synthetic fibers), or a combination of the two. Here's why it is a problem:

The best and safest alternative for your baby today is to choose clothes made of organic cotton that is certified to organic standards across the entire manufacturing process. Organic cotton is grown naturally and sustainably, without herbicides, pesticides, or any other harmful chemicals. Choosing organic cotton means limiting your baby’s exposure to potentially harmful chemicals found in non-organic clothing.

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Organic Baby Clothes Are Still a Hard Choice

Despite the clear health and environmental benefits, it remains unrealistic to expect most parents to switch to organic baby clothes. First, shopping for a newborn is often confusing, if not insane. Thousands of baby products on the market create almost endless choices. New and expecting parents can’t do in-depth research and make well-informed choices on every single issue. Even after hours of googling and reading blogs, they end up compromising.

In addition, baby clothes made of organic cotton are harder to find (today only 0.95% of global cotton production is organic). When available, they are usually significantly more expensive. Most people cannot afford them or justify spending the price as babies grow fast and clothes will only be used a few times. And often, moms get clothes from loved ones as hand-me-downs or gifts and have little control over what fabrics are picked.

Making the Cutest and Safest Options Available to All

UpChoose was started to help solve this. Our mission is to help all moms and dads make mindful choices starting with baby clothing. We do that by organizing smarter behaviors that let us offer parents the best premium organic brands at a fraction of the cost.

Our sustainable baby clothing subscription offers new parents all the essential baby clothing in one easy set, delivered to their door at each phase of their baby’s growth. Parents pick the size they need and the style they prefer (we currently offer Classic, Playful, and Earth Tone styles) and receive a selection of adorable, organic baby clothing essentials curated from premium brands. All the clothes are 100% made of organic cotton and certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibers.

When their baby is ready for the next size, they receive the next set and return the previous one. Because of the return system, we can offer both new and preloved sets and charge each customer significantly less. Our members end up paying up to 70-80% less than the retail value of the clothes. Parents keep getting adorable, healthful clothes as their baby grows while avoiding unnecessary spending and reducing clutter and waste.

Want to get curated sets of premium organic baby clothes at a fraction of the retail price?

Step 1 — Design your set

Take the style quiz to design your set and add your preferences.

Step 2 — Enjoy

Enjoy the softest organic baby clothes.

Step 3 - Swap

Swap for the next size up when needed. Shipping is always free.

An UpChoose Baby Set is also a great gift for a family member or loved ones, or to add to a baby registry. Because it’s a program that grows with the baby, friends and family can contribute at any stage and help make the switch to healthy alternatives sustainable over time.

mother with her newborn

Photo credit: Malika Lewis

With UpChoose you:

  • Take the guesswork out: Get all the essentials in one place and save time to focus on what matters most.

  • Get the best fabrics: Choose your style and receive adorable 100% organic clothes that respect your baby’s skin.

  • Save money: Pay less for organic clothing and earn credit when you return them. Avoid having money sleeping in your closet.​

  • Reduce clutter and waste: Babies grow fast! Pioneer a new model of preloved clothing and help protect the planet.

“The most important benefit I've seen is reduced irritation to my little one's skin! That is priority number one.”

Jenny R., UpChoose member and mom of four from Tennessee