This past week we’ve been sharing on our Facebook page some of the lessons we’re learning and things we’re trying with our brand new baby boy! We’re so keen to give him the best possible start to life while thinking about where everything comes from as well as its impact on our planet. We’ve also loved hearing from other more experienced mums and dads as they share their top tips and experiences, we feel like we’e learnt a lot! So here is a summary of what we’ve been thinking and learning this week.
Being idealistic vs realistic
Living ethical and sustainable lives is really important to us, and so naturally we wanted to extend this to our baby and his life too. While this is good and honourable, having a child is also hard work and tiring and there’s not room for beating yourself up over it. These first couple of weeks have been such a huge gear change for us as we adapt to being parents and get used to our new routine. In light of that we’ve tried to cut ourselves some slack while we make this transition. This doesn’t mean our values go out the window… but below you will see something of the ideal, and something of the realistic.
Oh Nappies! An essential and central part of the baby experience. Some reckon the average baby will get through some 2500-3000 nappies in their lifetime Thats a lot! And most nappies out there are less than 25% biodegradable! That’s quite a scary amount of waste. On top of this a lot of nappies use chemicals to aid absorbency, with possible links between these chemicals and and nappy rash, eczema and other skin conditions.
This gives us two main considerations, avoiding any nasties on our son’s bum and keeping waste to a minimum. The obvious and well loved solution is washable nappies, this practically eliminates waste! We’ve been given a load of Pop in nappies to use. These are the modern take on the classic terry nappy. Yes they are expensive, there’s no getting round it, but will they end up more expensive than 2500-3000 disposables? That’s a hard thing to calculate, we reckon 2500 nappies may cost you somewhere in the region of £500 which would get you around 30 pop in nappies. Of course the big perk of the reusables is you can hold on to them for any subsequent children or pass them on to a friend as someone has kindly done to us! This is a great solution, no chemicals and no waste.
But this is where we come back to being kind to ourselves. Reusable nappies are clearly the winner, but there is the extra pressure of washing and drying the nappies to make sure you have them ready as well as carrying a sopping wet nappy around when you’re out. We’ve allowed ourselves some grace these first couple of weeks while we’ve been in the hospital and adapting to our new regimen. So yes we admit we have been using disposables. But there are disposables and disposables. We’ve opted for beaming Baby’s biodegradable nappies. No unwanted chemicals are to be found here, also claiming to be 77% biodegradable within 4 years (normal nappies take about 400), the most biodegradable nappies in the UK. So if disposable nappies are going to be used, this is the best option out there. Once we find our feet we will start using our pop ins, but for now this gives us a bit of breathing room to settle in to life. Also the regular pop in we have are still a little too big for our boy!
Nappy changing extras.
Ok, that’s nappies sorted but when changing nappies there also tend to be some kind of wipes involved as well as a bag for disposing of that smelly wet nappy. We run into the same issues here, unwanted chemicals and waste. Midwives recommend plain cotton wool and water as a gentle and biodegradable option. We’ve found these cotton pads that are made of fairly traded organic cotton (we may write a future post on cotton and the ethics of organic cotton the good and the bad). Baby wipes tend to be filled with chemicals suspected of contributing to nappy rash, eczema etc. But we can’t deny their convenience especially when out and about, though none meet all our criteria. Water wipes are 99.9% pure water which we like, but are primarily made of polyester, i.e. plastic. Not so good, making them a single use plastic. Beaming baby make biodegradable wipes in partially biodegradable packaging, but include far more ingredients, albeit natural ones, but we’d rather stick to water only. These are made of cotton, but then cotton uses more energy to produce than plastic. swings and roundabouts!
Fortunately a friend kindly pointed us toward cheeky wipes! These are to wipes what pop ins are to nappies! a reusable, washable, zero waste solution! complete with convenient containers for storage. These look very promising and we are keen to try them once we exhaust our current supplies! This eliminates the single use problem, unwanted chemicals or issues of landfill.
Finally nappy bags. We’re currently using beaming babies 100% biodegradable , which do a fine job, however we’re asking the question of whether we need them? Sure out and about those dirty nappies need to go somewhere, but at home? A proper bin will probably suffice. Fortunately his poos don’t smell that bad yet!
Another big part of having a child, dressing them! This one’s really simple, second hand, all the way. Baby clothes get so little use, they wear them for a few short months before growing out of them! We’ve been so fortunate to have friends who have had babies before us who have kindly donated their unneeded baby clothes. And we now have others in line to receive these items when we’re done! It’s such a good way of doing things, sharing and passing on. On top of this charity shops are always a winner, baby clothes are crazy cheap. There are more than enough baby clothes in existence, let’s keep using them. Of course people love to buy new babies clothes as a gift. That’s all good, just be sure to pass them on when they’re too small so they can get a nice long life.
Next up is bath time! babies get mucky from time to time and need a good wash! However washing too much has proven to be detrimental to a baby’s skin. We’ve had several friends comment on how washing their baby less has been better for them, with one story of how reduced washing resolved problems of eczema and painful sores! we were advised to avoid washing our boy for as long as possible, maybe 2 weeks or so. Baby’s have such gentle, delicate skin which is why we try to avoid all the chemicals. Bathing once a week or so is all you need, with regular wipe downs of bums, hands and other mucky bits. It’s less work for us, less water being used and makes for a happy baby. Again we won’t be using anything in the bath when do bathe him other than plain water. And for moisturiser we’ll stick to some sweet almond oil, its light, rich in vitamin E, hypoallergenic and gentle on baby’s skin. We use this one. The non-organic option is significantly cheaper, we opt for organic for our baby to avoid any chance of pesticides or other chemicals being present in the products we use to protect his sensitive skin. Our thoughts are if we are using less products overall we can spend more on the ones we do buy where it matters.
Breast feeding is an incredible thing! A zero waste, super nutritious way to feed your baby that requires basically no equipment, travels everywhere with you and self regulates. Its so wonderfully designed. And as we all know ‘breast is best’, it’s wonderful for your baby, and it’s so worthwhile persevering with it. But it’s not always that simple, sometimes women can’t breast feed, in our case only one breast is working property, and he can’t get all he needs from breastfeeding alone. This is ok! We can only do our best. Sometimes bottle feeding is necessary, whether expressed breast milk or formula. Sadly this then requires tons of equipment, bottles, teats, some form of steriliser, packets of formula. Baby’s health and well-being has always got to be the most important thing, but there are still a few steps that can be taken.
Like many other things, pass on/sell sterilisers. We were given ours by a family at our church which was very kind of them, this saves us money and means it gets more use. The main thing we’ve done is bought glass bottles. We’re not big fans of plastic in general, but particularly when it comes to containing foodstuffs. As we’ve been seen with BPA, chemicals from the plastic can leach into the contents, especially when the plastic is heated (think sterilising and washing). we’ve also found plastics tend to hold on to smells and colours and don’t wash as well. We much prefer glass for food and drink. As a friend also pointed out stainless steel is another good options. Here is a rundown on some of the glass options, here are some stainless steel alternatives, and here are the glass bottles we use (mainly for their compatibility with our breast pump).
Waste in the Hospital
You can never know how things will go with a baby. We naively assumed we would be out of the hospital within 24 hours of the birth exclusively breastfeeding. While the birth went very well, we ended up in hospital a further 5 nights. We also needed bottles, teats and formula as our baby wasn’t feeding enough as well as some issues with breast feeding. This meant we had to use the hospital’s single use plastic bottles and teats which we painfully had to put in the bin on a regular basis. While it couldn’t be helped we felt so guilty doing this! After several days, a waste-conscious midwife made us aware that there was a recycling bin hidden away the she was desperately trying to encourage people to use! Using this was an improvement but we wished we had come prepared to bottle feed with reusable bottles (preferably glass) and teats with a more restricted flow that would help support breastfeeding better. We really weren’t happy with the teats there as it felt like we force feeding him with an uncontrollable flow of milk. This is definitely something we would come prepared for if there were to be a next time! Dad’s bring lots of snacks! And a bag to take home any recyclable packaging from them. And don’t beat yourself up like we did!
We didn’t think we would need a dummy, they get a bit of a mixed press and so we weren’t going to use one unless we needed to. It’s become apparent that when our little boy is distressed sucking on something really helps him to soothe himself and calm down. Problem was he ended up doing this on a bottle or the breast and ended up feeding too much and throwing it back up! He’s very happy sucking on our little fingers but this makes it rather hard to do anything else. So we’ve taken the plunge and ordered some dummies. As we’ve said before we have concerns about plastics and food and drink and so we have some hesitations about using a dummy made out of plastic and silicone as it will be spending a lot of time in his mouth! Chemicals are often added to soften the teat and add colour. Fortunately there is a natural alternative, there are plenty of natural rubber dummies to be found, no plastic, chemicals and fully biodegradable. Most are also made of a single piece of rubber leaving no nooks and crannies for bacteria to breed. Here is a selection of four choices out there. Here is where we found ours.
So there we have it, these are the things we’ve learned and been talking and thinking about this week about bringing up a baby in the best way we can that also cares for our planet. I’m sure there’s loads more out there we’re yet to discover, or things we could do better, so do drop us a comment if you have a tip or suggestion we’ve missed. We’re loving this new journey of being parents, and we hope this little series has been helpful in some way!