KoBoZaa/Shutterstock, via monicaandandy.comIt’s no secret that the word “organic” is a trendy buzzword for manufacturers of everything from apples to shampoo. There is real science behind the importance of pesticide-free foods going into our bodies—but what about what goes on our bodies? It turns out that experts seem to agree organic supplies in general, including organic baby clothes, are a good idea for babies.
“Baby skin is more delicate and sensitive,” explains Gervaise Gerstner, MD, a New York dermatologist. “Babies have a higher ratio of skin surface area to body volume, which means they absorb chemicals easier. Their skin is actually 30 percent thinner than adults’, too.” It’s this skin concept that leaves baby especially open to absorbing harmful additives and synthetic chemicals that are often sprayed on large-scale commercially produced fabrics that aren’t of organic origin. “The U.S. has strict requirements on what can be called organic cotton. The National Organic Program says it must be 95-percent free of chemicals and pesticides. Some chemicals, such as orthophosphates, endosulfan, and methamidophos can cause skin irritation and rashes. It’s debatable whether or not they cause cancer, but high doses of these chemicals are thought to cause endocrine disruption,” Dr. Gerstner says.
It’s not just a matter of organic cotton for little ones, though. According to Dr. Gerstner, you should be avoiding synthetic materials altogether when it comes to little ones. “Organic baby clothes are a good idea but the main recommendation is to avoid synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers are made with PVC, petrochemicals, esters, and other chemicals which are known to be linked to immune disorders, behavioral issues, and cancer with high exposure. Looking for sustainable fibers and non-toxic dyes is a good start.”
A study published in 2014 actually demonstrated a link between the use of ethers, commonly found on mass-produced children’s and baby clothing, to early puberty onset, hormonal disorders, and a host of other issues. If you think this all sounds pretty scary, you’re not alone. There has been a major trend for even fashion to go organic over the last decade or so, and on-trend designers are hopping on the health bandwagon eagerly.
“I set out with the intention of being a dress designer,” shares Monic Royer, CEO of Monica + Andy, a line of entirely organic children’s clothes. “Before my daughter was born I didn’t think much about organic baby clothes, but when she was born she kept getting rashes and skin reactions. We realized even the hospital clothes were bleached and chemically treated, so I spent a lot of time focusing on more natural and safe materials. Everyone was talking about organic mattresses, strollers, and pricey ‘safe’ formula—but what about what we put on our babies? I knew I had to focus on baby clothes.”
Royer says the need for organic fabric-based baby wear is a growing trend, and it’s not just about the desire for a pesticide-free lifestyle for most parents. Flame retardants in particular, are commonly used on almost all international shipments of clothing, meaning if it’s made overseas and doesn’t have an organic certification, it’s probably sprayed with flame retardants. Her company hasn’t stopped short at offering just fashion-forward dresses and seersucker toddler shorts, because her line expanded to newborn hospital wear to meet growing demand.
“Millennial moms are super aware of the additives they’re using, and nobody is 100-percent perfect, but everyone is leaning into the trend of getting healthier and more aware, especially when it comes to children.”