Caring for a baby is tough enough — add sustainable shopping practices into the mix, and you may just feel too overwhelmed to make a single decision. Luckily, shopping for baby essentials that are kind to both your newborn and the planet is super simple, as long as you know what to look for.
“For packaging, you want to find companies that use biodegradable, compostable or reusable materials,” says Dr. Krupa Playforth, M.D., FAAP, founder of The Pediatrician Mom. She says that although single-use plastic may be unavoidable for some items, minimizing single-use plastic in either packaging or the product itself is ideal. When shopping, she recommends buying from companies that are transparent about their processing and their policies and that favor safe, ethical and fair working practices for their workers. “Shopping locally is another bonus,” says Erin Rhoads, a sustainability expert and author of “Waste Not: Make a Big Difference by Throwing Away Less.” “I also try to choose items that can be repaired easily too.”
Materials worth considering include bamboo and organic cotton for clothing, bedding and for both cloth and disposable diapers, according to Dr. Sandra Bonat, pediatric physician director at VIP StarNetwork. Opt for glass or stainless steel bottles over plastic bottles, and sustainably sourced and natural wood for the likes of cribs and furniture. For skin care and bathing products, Bonat recommends natural oils like avocado, coconut and calendula as well as organic and plant-based ingredients such as chamomile, aloe and shea butter.
Thanks to our collective increasing understanding of the way overproduction harms our planet and our bodies, brands are making it easier than ever for us to identify sustainable products — including baby essentials. While Rhoads says “a good sustainable business will have clear information on how their goods are packaged,” she recommends shooting the brand a quick email if you’re unsure about its packaging “and suggest they display this information on their website. Let them know too much plastic packaging has a burden on the environment both during production and its end of life with most of it never recycled.”
To further orient your search for the perfect sustainable baby essentials, some helpful labels to look for include Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or the Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Rhoads says. “If a company is B Corp certified, that’s a good indication a brand is committed to trying to create a product that is better for the community and the environment,” Playforth adds.
While sustainable materials are often produced without harmful chemicals, Bonat says this may not always be the case. “Parents should look at labels and read ingredients to determine if a product is nontoxic,” she says. “Parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, lead, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), Bisphenol-A (BPA) and synthetic fragrances and dyes are all things to avoid in baby products.” Not only are fragrances unnecessary for babies, but they often have dozens of potentially harmful chemicals that could cause skin irritation, allergies and future health issues, according to Rhoads.
Our experts agree that one of the most eco-conscious ways to shop for your baby is to, well, not shop at all. That means sourcing items from friends and family members, or heading to reputable websites like Good Buy Gear, Rebelstork and Once Upon A Child for secondhand baby items (be sure to always check for recalls when shopping secondhand, advises Playforth, and to vet each product carefully for the likes of peeling paint, loose buttons, frayed edges or anything that might operate as a tourniquet that can cut off your infant’s circulation).
Due to safety concerns, however, Playforth recommends budgeting for brand-new baby items under certain circumstances. “You want to be careful about reusing safety-related items that may be more susceptible to wear and tear. A good example here is a stroller, a car seat or a crib,” she says. “These are made of a combination of plastic, fabric and metal, and over time those materials can degrade and impact safety. In the case of strollers, brakes can fail. These items should typically be purchased new.”
Here, expert-approved baby essentials to shop that limit harm to the environment, your wallet and, most importantly, your precious baby.
Babies outgrow their high chairs notoriously quickly, so this option designed for use from 6 to 36 months with a removable harness makes for a sustainable, long-lasting option. “The Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair is a durable, affordable and versatile high chair that will grow with the child and can be used for a long time,” says Bonat.
For a highly absorbent, hypoallergenic disposable diaper that won’t cause irritation, look to these newborn-friendly diapers. “Bamboo disposable diapers are very popular with parents when thinking about sustainability, and there are a number of recommended brands, including Dyper,” says Bonat.
Playforth says another great diaper for those focused on sustainable living is Eco by Naty, which is free of any plastic and is suitable from birth to four months. “Especially in the first few weeks, the disposable ones might be helpful because infants under 2 months have a lot of dirty diapers,” she says.
Cloth diapers are a more sustainable bet than their disposable counterparts, and you only need to wash them every couple of days. Playforth recommends these Standard 100 Oeko-Tex-certified Esembly diapers as a popular cloth option, and this starter kit contains everything you need to try it out — like three organic cotton inner diapers, a waterproof outer diaper, an upcycled drawstring storage bag, diaper cleaning detergent and organic skin care.
Playforth is a big fan of Monica + Andy’s sustainable clothing line. Not only is this set made of gentle GOTS-certified organic cotton, but because it’s unisex, you can pass it along to any new parents regardless of their preferred baby aesthetic. Its butter-soft muslin material is said to get softer the more it’s laundered, so it’s bound to be a staple for as long as your baby fits into it.
For sustainable and stylish baby clothes that come highly recommended by Playforth, grab these Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson pajamas made from GOTS-certified cotton with an Oeko-Tex Standard 100 stamp of approval. Between its 18 playful patterns, you’re bound to find one (or two!) that bring a smile to you and your baby.
Plastic bottles aren’t only a burden on landfills, but they can contain BPAs that may stunt a baby’s development. Bonat recommends a safer, more sustainable alternative in Philips Avent Natural Glass Bottles, which, like a nipple, only release milk when your baby takes a sip.
“Burt’s Bees Baby is a well-known brand with organic cotton baby clothes and other essentials, such as crib sheets,” says Bonat. Get the best of both baby worlds with this wearable blanket boasting more than 27,000 Amazon reviews and a bottom zipper for easy diaper changes. It comes in 27 adorable patterns from quilted elephants to friendly bears, making it highly giftable — and useful — for any baby.
Related: 31 sustainable gifts to help lower your impact on the planet
“If a parent would prefer to use wipes rather than washcloths, I like WaterWipes,” says Playforth. “Their products are gentle on the skin, and compostable and biodegradable.” These wipes with more than 71,000 reviews are made with just a drop of fruit extract, making them gentle enough on premature baby and newborn skin.
Nursing comes with a unique set of challenges, and these sustainable pads make it that much easier. “Reusable nursing pads, rather than disposable, are easy to care for and a great way to decrease waste production,” says Playforth. “There are an array of good options available now, and I've had personal good experience with Bamboobies.”
“Hape is one of my absolute favorite brands for baby toys,” says Playforth. “They have an array of options, which are made of sustainable wood or bamboo and have simple, elegant designs. The painted ones are finished with water-based paints, and the quality is high.” Bring music to your baby’s ears with this pound-and-tap toy with more than 16,000 reviews designed to help them develop their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
“Lovevery is another brand I really like,” says Playforth. “[It makes] some of the toys that have had the most staying power with my kids. They have a focus on sustainably sourced materials and the company tries to minimize carbon emissions with shipping.” For an all-around good time, opt for this Amazon’s Choice multifaceted gym set with five development zones each designed to promote stage-based learning while preventing overstimulation.
Playforth is a big fan of Force of Nature's multipurpose and antimicrobial cleaners made with nontoxic, fragrance-free ingredients like water, salt and vinegar. They’re safe for use on baby gear and toys, and you can use them virtually everywhere in your home while you’re at it. Bonus: They come in reusable bottles.
For a safe and sustainable baby bottle, opt for this comprehensive recyclable gift set that comes with slow and medium flow nipples, silicone sealing discs, travel covers and more. “They’re plastic-free and grow with the baby,” says Rhoads.
Rhoads recommends Bumbleride strollers for its sustainable and low-toxicity recycled materials free of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFAS) from its cork handle to its padding made from untreated Oeko-Tex-certified polyester fill. For an all-wheel stroller that’s at once compact, reversible and foldable, the Era Reversible Stroller makes for a great bet. Plus, it’s ready to use as soon as your baby is born.
Babies tend to toss around and flail while they eat — invest in these sustainable, organic bowls that stand up to shattering all while reducing waste. “[Coconut bowls] turn a waste product into a child’s food bowl,” says Rhoads. The packaging is completely recyclable and their polished finish is soft and smooth enough for your baby’s skin.
Rhoads recommends upcycling any old Mason jar into a baby-friendly bottle for the ultimate sustainability hack. This DIY kit allows you to do just that with the inclusion of two slow flow silicone nipples, a BPA-free plastic cap and a silicone sleeve to baby-proof any kind of 8-ounce Mason jar you’ve got lying around at home.