I have been thinking about this particular post for a few months now. We are weeks away from welcoming another little baby into our home and the excitement and anticipation around here is contagious. There is nothing quite as magical as having a newborn in your home. It forces you to simply slow down, to embrace every precious moment and of course, to enjoy the warm snuggles and to breathe in that soft, sweet smell of a new little life.
As we wait, I think about how a baby will fit into our zero waste lifestyle. Is it possible to have a baby and not create extra waste in our home? We are about to find out! I have thought a lot about what is important and what a baby truly needs. Really, a baby does not require much. We as parents are the ones who get sucked into the hype and marketing of what a baby “needs” or what our friends have. There is so much cute stuff out there, it can be hard to say no. When I had my other two children, we were not living this lifestyle and I went over the top buying things that we did not need. I have since passed a lot of this on, even giving away things I once felt necessary only two years ago. I look forward to keeping things a lot simpler this time around.
Below are a few suggestions I have come up with that I believe will help us incorporate our new little one into our zero waste lifestyle.
If your goal is to live a zero waste or minimal waste lifestyle, switching from disposable to cloth diapers is an obvious choice for reducing waste. We plan to use cloth diapers on the new baby. We started using cloth diapers when our youngest was almost one. Looking back, I am not sure why it took us so long to make the switch from disposable. I suppose I was caught up in the ease of disposable and the thought of cloth seemed like so much more work. Honestly, I promise, it really isn’t. Once you come up with a system that works for you and your family, it becomes part of your daily life and we haven’t looked back.
We keep a large cloth wet bag hanging behind the door in our bathroom and this is where we put the soiled diapers until we wash them. We wash the diapers every few days. I wash the diapers in warm water with a cold rinse. In the warmer months, I hang them outside to dry. One could also use a pail with a lid, to keep the smell under control. I simply dispose of any waste in the toilet, rinse out the soiled diaper and put it in the laundry bag. There are a few different options for cloth diapers out there.
A little research is necessary to see what type will work best for your family. We use two different varieties, the pocket diaper; which consists of a waterproof outer layer and an inner layer that has a pocket opening. An absorbent washable insert is stuffed into the liner and then taken out for washing. The other cloth diaper we use has a cloth outer shell, which is attached with buttons to an absorbent washable insert. The soiled insert can simply be unsnapped and the outer layer reused if the diaper has not been heavily soiled.
There are also biodegradable, flushable bamboo liners available to lay on top of the reusable inserts to contain the waste and make it easier to remove from the diaper, wick away moisture and protect the diaper from diaper cream. We choose not to use these, but they are available. Cloth diapers come in different sizes and colors. Our diaper shells are adjustable in size and have grown with our son. You can choose this option, which I find more economical or purchase different sizes as your child grows.
The initial investment into cloth diapers can seem like a lot, but the cost is almost entirely up front. Once you make this purchase, you will not have to return to the store every week or two to restock and you will spend significantly less in the next two to three years using cloth over disposable. You will have everything you need for the duration of your baby’s diaper-wearing days. You can find second-hand diapers online in your local area to help minimize the cost and many local baby stores, as well as stores online, have cloth diapers available. Make sure to do your research and shop around. The most expensive cloth diapers are not necessarily the best (in my opinion), so if your goal is to make cloth diapers more economically feasible, shop around to find the best price.
Moving to cloth diapers is one of those changes that feels monumental. And it is. Just not for the reasons I thought it would be. I thought it would be messier and more labor intensive, but it isn’t. The monumental changes for us have been incredibly positive. Our costs have decreased and more importantly, we have reduced our impact on the environment.
I will touch on this briefly as I am not an expert on this method. In the little that I have read, I am convinced that it could possibly work. I just want to mention it as it could be an option some people choose and it is most certainly an option that pairs well with zero waste. Some people practice elimination communication soon after birth. Elimination communication is essentially the practice of diaper-less baby care. The parent or caregiver uses timing, signals, cues and intuition to address an infant’s need to eliminate waste. The parent or caregiver will try to recognize and respond to baby’s bodily needs and enable them to urinate and defecate in the toilet.
Sometimes, diaper cream is necessary. When my son was very little, we discovered he had an allergy to dairy, but before we figured this out he suffered from a terrible bout of diaper rash. He is now two and we rarely face diaper rash anymore but on the occasion that we do, I have been able to use a little coconut oil and cornstarch and it has gone away rather quickly. It has become a bit of a passion of mine to find natural alternatives for as many products in our home as I am able. I do this for two reasons, first, to really know the safety of ingredients we are putting on our skin, and second, to eliminate unnecessary packaging.
In preparation for our new little one, I have done some research and I have made natural diaper cream. I have not used it yet, so will have to update you on the success of it. Based on the ingredients, I am optimistic that it will do the trick.
Natural Diaper Cream
- ½ cup coconut oil – coconut oil is naturally antibacterial
- 1 tbsp. carnauba wax – creates a protective barrier for the skin
- 2 tbsp. almond oil – soothes skin irritation and inflammation
- 1 tbsp. bentonite clay – fights bacteria and protects the skin from moisture
- 1 tbsp. zinc oxide – protects the skin from moisture.
- 5 drops vanilla essential oil
- 5 drops lavender essential oil
Put all ingredients except the zinc oxide and bentonite clay in a heat safe bowl and, using a double boiler method, turn the heat up to medium high and melt all ingredients. After ingredients are melted, turn off the heat and add the bentonite clay and zinc oxide. Stir with a wooden spoon or use a whisk until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Pour into your method of storage. Let cool. This cream can be stored for up to six months. Zinc oxide and bentonite clay can be purchased in your own container at Nezza Naturals.
Baby Shampoo and Wash
We use a baby soap bar from our local Soap Exchange. The main ingredients are olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba and Calendula oil. There are a few zero waste options for us to choose from at the Soap Exchange and at Nezza Naturals.
A combination of shea butter and coconut oil is a wonderful, gentle option for your baby’s skin. Shea butter can be purchased from Nezza Naturals and comes in a glass jar. I have yet to source a bulk version. Let me know if you find one! Mix equal parts of the two and store in a jar to keep on hand after bath time or if baby has dry or irritated skin. This could also be used for mild diaper rash.
These are a big item that produces a lot of waste. The alternative? Reusable cloths. I know, the convenience of wipes is one that even I have a hard time letting go of, but the alternative can be pretty simple too. When we are home, we use cotton cloths and water. When I am out, I have an easy, gentle, chemical-free solution that I make and bring with me in a glass jar along with reusable cloths. I store the soiled cloths in a wet bag along with soiled diapers.
Baby Wipe “TO GO” Solution
- 2 cups Water
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. baby wash or shampoo
Mix solution together and store in a jar for home or the diaper bag.
We use just plain old cornstarch. It does the job!
We happen to be having another boy so we are lucky to be pretty set up with baby clothes. Anything else, we try to purchase second-hand. Buying second-hand makes so much sense economically as they grow out of these clothes so quickly and a lot of the second-hand clothes are just like new.
Cotton Swaddle Blankets
We use cotton and bamboo swaddling blankets and have quite a few from when our son was a baby. These can be given away after you have finished with them. If you thoroughly use these blankets until they have reached the end of their useful life, because they are a natural fiber, they can be composted. They are also great to use as cut-up rags for cleaning.
Every woman’s choice and experience with breastfeeding is her own and I respect the options, whether it be breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, formula feeding, or supplementing breastfeeding with formula. I strongly believe that, despite my passion for zero waste, this is a choice that should be kept separate. I’ve had two different experiences with breastfeeding. My first was that my daughter decided she was finished with it at four months and would prefer a bottle. I pumped for a time and then eventually she took formula. I wanted to be able to breastfeed her longer than this, but she had other plans and I needed to respect that. My son was completely opposite, he never took a bottle (no matter how many times we tried) and ended up breastfeeding for twenty-two months before he quietly decided he had had enough. My hope is to have the same experience with this little one, but we have to wait and see what this baby has in store for us. Breastfeeding of course is the most waste free and economical way to feed your baby, but if that is not an option or not your choice, there are quite a few options available.
Nursing pads can be a necessity for many nursing mothers. There are cloth, reusable options available at most baby stores or you can find them online.
Whether your choice is breastfeeding or formula feeding, a bottle will inevitably be required at some point. We have the brand, Lifefactory from when our son was a baby. They are a glass bottle with a silicone sleeve. Although not 100 percent waste free, we would like to use these instead of purchasing new ones. If you are looking for a stainless steel option, Klean Kanteen makes baby bottles. This is a company we are fond of for our own water bottles, but I am sure there are many more stainless steel options available as well.
Making your own baby food is an easy and economical alternative to packaged baby food. When they are young, it is easy to make big batches of different fruits and vegetables and freeze them in ice-cube trays. As they get older, you can also blend up whatever the rest of the family is eating. There is also, Baby Led Weaning. Baby Led Weaning is a method that involves skipping the purees and not feeding your baby with a spoon. Baby Led Weaning is offering your baby soft, cooked, small, easily manageable foods. It is a method that leaves it up to your baby to decide (with your guidance) when and how much he or she wants to eat. They feed themselves with their hands and it allows them to explore and select their foods.
We have made the decision to keep things simple this time around, only having what we deem as the necessities to welcome this new little one. It is great to know that there will always be someone willing to take these things when we are finished with them and anything I think we need, I will always try to source second-hand.
Writing this has helped me focus on my goals and what I feel is important. It has helped me organize and prioritize what I feel is necessary to care for a new baby as well as the many zero waste alternatives that are out there. I will update you as we venture through this new chapter of our lifestyle. I am sure there will be bumps in the road as we navigate this new part of our zero waste lifestyle.
Tips from readers are always greatly welcome. If this is something your family has been through before and you have some ideas or input that I haven’t thought of, please send it all my way!!
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