Our newly expanded family has been showered with gifts galore, from the most practical to the most adorable! Every little thing, down to each tiny pair of socks, has brought us joy!
Some of my favorite items for the baby happen to be labeled as “organic cotton,” or come from a company supporting the “sustainable fashion” movement.
Besides the fact that these products feel and look absolutely luxurious, I had to learn more about what it actually means for my baby’s clothing to be organic and how that compares to the other items that do not list where their material comes from.
Does choosing organic cotton make a difference, or is this a clever sales gimmick?
After reading several articles and watching some heart-wrenching videos on what makes organic cotton ethical and sustainable, my eyes were opened to all the dangerous agricultural practices
I was heartbroken to learn that the life expectancy of the average non-organic cotton farmer in India is only 35, and the poisons these workers spray, touch, and inhale are contributing to 20,000 death yearly!
I couldn’t help but think of all the things my baby would be exploring with his mouth! It is frightening to think that any residual carcinogens from insecticides or chemical processing would remain on the material that children would make contact with.
With just a minimal amount of research, it is easy to understand why organic products spanning from foods to fashion appeal to someone desiring to live a healthy lifestyle.
I now have cause to re-examine my own values
When I think about who I am, do I see myself as someone who seeks out organic, fair-trade, ethical products? Maybe I ought to, more often.
I definitely am sick over the idea of cotton workers being pawns in a money-making scheme and the land and air being soaked in toxins.
Perhaps my values aren’t aligning with my spending habits because while I try to be fair, ethical, and careful about how my actions affect others in my interactions with others, the priority of my purchases has been getting a “bang for my buck” above all.
(Ok, I’ll just confess: I’m a cheapskate!)
Why do I suddenly feel ashamed that all my son’s items aren’t made from 100% pure, organic cotton? The uncertainty of whether or not the manufacturers of every hooded towel and blankie we’ve been given pay their employees living wages weighs on my conscience.
Could I really find out if the farmers who grew and harvested the cotton used to make the bundle of spit-up cloths from my baby shower are protected from dangerous insecticides? Are the dyes in our swaddles harboring harmful chemicals?
Am I not providing the best of the best for my child? Essentially: am I already failing as a parent?
If your inner dialog has been as troubled as mine has, here is a thought that may ground you:
Take a deep breath. Our jobs as parents are to love, cherish, protect, feed, and provide for our children.
If your baby has just spit up, it’s your job to wipe it up lovingly.
Whether it gets wiped with a tissue, a worn-out washcloth, the corner of your t-shirt, or a 100% organic cotton cloth…the important thing, at the moment, is that the spit-up gets wiped- so life can move forward.
We can appreciate that there are companies that make it their business to ensure that their associates are being treated with dignity and fairness. But our business as parents is to do the wiping right away.
In that sense, KeaBabies, Burt’s Bees, or Honest, as examples, help you to take care of your child’s immediate needs by creating reliable items while taking it upon themselves to maintain highly responsible standards in your stead.
Should I be tossing anything that isn’t meeting certified standards of fairness?
Some purists out there might insist that I ought to, but wouldn’t that be wasteful? These items are already in my possession, so I will use them.
Why? Because there are still some measures, I can take to make them as safe as possible while still staying sane. How so?
Wash every item in a safe, baby-friendly detergent and wash your worries away.
That’s every item, no exceptions.
Your detergent doesn’t necessarily have to be made for babies specifically, but nearly every big-brand company makes a sensitive skin, dye-free, or fragrance-free version of their product. Its also recommended skipping fabric softeners altogether, just to be on the safe side.
That way, even if your baby’s clothes aren’t guaranteed 100% organic cotton, or if they are treated with sus dyes or chemicals like formaldehyde (yes, that’s a thing), the wash cycle will take care of that for you.
One step at a time
Ideally, if you wish, you can make ethical, eco-friendly purchasing choices little by little or as your resources allow. Maybe one day, you can be an ecologically ethical purist like some champions are.
You can also request that your loved ones eager to pamper you and your new baby consider patronizing certain brands or look into companies that maintain ethical and sustainable standards when making their selections. If it is important to you, many people will respect your wishes.
But, in the meantime, cut yourself a break from idealism. Being a new parent requires a lot of attention to what is right in front of you, for now.
So wipe-on! Wipe with whatever you have, and be thankful you have the opportunity.
Lauryn R says
This is great advice, thank you so much for sharing this! I have never really thought about the difference between organic cotton and cotton, but you have definitely opened my eyes to this! For my next baby I will definitely be opting for organic and eco-friendly clothing like bamboo. Your baby is absolutely adorable by the way, if I didn’t already have baby fever I do now! 🙂
Nerdy Dad RP says
So glad you are opening up your eyes to more eco friendly organic cotton fabrics for future children
Sandy C. says
How I wish all these great options were available to me when my daughter was a baby. She has a million allergies, and who knows why she got them. Because of chemicals that were in almost everything she ate and wore?
Nerdy Dad RP says
I’m so sorry your daughter has so many allergies! That’s never fun.
Jonathan W says
I definitely only want to buy new things that are organic, because of the pesticides sprayed on regular cotton, but I do agree with the idea that we shouldn’t just toss things without good reason. There’s moderation to every good ideal.
Nerdy Dad RP says
Everything in moderation is key I think. Yes, organic cotton is great, but that doesn’t mean we should donate everything we currently own or turn away gifts because of that.
Cathy Mcinturff says
I have a newborn grandson and am so grateful I read this article. It’s heartbreaking for workers to die so young due to pesticides and this makes me feel good about purchasing organic when possible.
Nerdy Dad RP says
Congrats on your new grandson! It’s great to buy organic cotton when you can. It’s not always doable but when it is, it’s a great thing for so many reasons.