Updated: Dec 12, 2018
This is an article I wrote, which I thought was going to be published on a No-Waste page on FB. The title was a suggestion and theme guide, in all honesty, though, I do not believe this is a realistic goal in our modern world. I feel more drawn to "low waste parenting" or "sustainable parenting".
Full-disclosure: Some shops I am an affiliate of, these will be indicated with a "*". Many of the items I make myself "~" or are for sale in my online store "+", others are just products that I have found and some we use ourselves. Please let me know if any links need checking. I will be adding individual articles full of links, suppliers, and research for each section with a bold title. To get to these, please click on the bold title. If there is no article please be patient it can take weeks to get all the research together, if there is something that you would really like to know more about please send through an email using the form with some information on what interests you and I can add you to the mailing list so you'll be the first to receive updates and new article links.
Today I’m going to focus on a plastic-reduced parenting and nappy bags for around the newborn to six-month mark.
Please feel free to get in touch if you would like some ideas for other age brackets.
I have been fortunate to have been living a waste-conscious life for nearly 30 years and to have 16 years of experience with caring for children from all walks of life and all ages.
I am a seamstress by trade and my passion is developmental neuropsychology and raising healthy children, sustainably.
Let’s look at the standard items used in the daily life of a family with an infant and see if I can shed some light on some more sustainable options; I would love to say ‘plastic-free’, but I’m not entirely sure it’s 100% achievable and we must always remember to be proud of how well we are doing on our waste reduction shift and not get too bogged down in perfectionism or absolutes.
Below you will find some items and alternatives. For more details, research, photographs, tutorials and products as well as other information please head to my website.
This post includes information on the following: NAPPIES
ELIMINATION COMMUNICATION WIPES
NAPPY CREAMS/RASH CREAMS/TEETHING GELS ETC.
BABY LED WEANING
And finishes with a minimalist, low plastic NEWBORN PURCHASE/GIFT LIST
Here's our low-plastic nappy bag and contents: (all of these items are discussed in more detail below and there are links on where to find them or similar items)
Baby carrier Handmade waterproof patchwork play mat
Handmade cotton rabbit
Hand-knitted merino wool blanket
Handmade wooden car Wooden and silicone rattle/chew toy
Waterproof cotton change mat
Organic cotton shopping bag/smaller nappy bag for express trips Hand-knitted wool jumper Op-shop onesie Cotton short-sleeved t-shirt Op-shop leggings
Handmade nappy bag Handmade waterproof wet bag Handmade cotton/elastene pull-up knickers Modern Cloth Nappies Handmade bum wipes Aluminium (and plastic) spray bottle with homemade mixture Handmade wash cloths Bamboo fork and spoon Wooden fish teether toy Handmade waterproof breast pads Handmade beanbag/mini heat pack
DISPOSABLES - they’re made of plastic and are full of nasty chemicals which can react with that delicate baby skin causing issues such as nappy rash. Nappies do not break down… every disposable nappy ever made is still in existence and will be for a predicted 400-500 years.
Alternatives: ‘BIO-DEGRADABLE’/ORGANIC DISPOSABLE NAPPIES – many bio-plastics have been designed to break down in a controlled composting environment with regulated heat and moisture levels so the actual quality and time of how it degrades in landfill may still be unknown for many of these products.
Bamboo Nature Moltex - they do premie nappies too. MODERN CLOTH NAPPIES – there are 100% plastic versions (PUL* and polyester) and some with PUL outers and bamboo, organic cotton linings. These are just as convenient as disposables, just pop them into a wet bag when you’re out then tip them into a dry pail until you have a full load. Then simply dump the whole basket load into your machine – you don’t even have to touch them if you have a top loader!
RAWr Nappies - Bamboo and Hemp options TERRY FLATS/PRE-FOLDS/FITTED NAPPIES – 100% bamboo, organic cotton or cotton are available but these still need a waterproof shell, which will be made of PUL.
Suggested buys: Target - Budget option
Baby Beehinds - Bamboo and Hemp options
ELIMINATION COMMUNICATION or early potty training, which can be done from birth - reduce the use of nappies on a daily/nightly basis as well as the length of time you need them for (this is AWESOME!) Suggested buys:
Go Diaper Free Book - Birth* - the ultimate guide to toilet training from birth Go Diaper Free Book - Toddlers (18m+)* - for those who have older children but still want a peaceful, baby-led way through toilet training.
*(PUL is polyurethane laminate, which is polyester fabric with an extra heat-treated plastic layer to make it waterproof).
WIPES Plastic Option: PACKETS OF DISPOSABLE WIPES – made from plastic, packaged in plastic, full of chemicals which can react with babies skin.
Alternatives: PACKETS OF ‘DISPOSABLE’ BAMBOO/BIODEGRADABLE WIPES – the packaging is made from plastic, many are still full of ingredients, which can react with babies skin. Don’t be fooled by the ‘disposable’ label on the bamboo wipes, just chuck them in the wash with your nappies and reuse them. We have had our last packet on rotation in the wash for two months now. They will eventually begin to thin so compost or dispose of them when you’re ready.
After much searching I have found only two companies who make biodegradable wipes that do not include any known skin allergens. Many of the 'baby', 'natural' and 'organic' wipes still contain known allergens, so please read the labels very carefully. We have used other reputable natural baby brand wipes and the result was a nasty nappy rash.
Suggested buys: Pure Baby Wipes by TOMs
Really though, we never liked wipes from the beginning. T's hands are too big to get into the packets and we've found that they don't actually seem to leave L clean, so now we're full-time on the handmade cotton wipes.
HANDMADE COTTON WIPES to wash and reuse. We love our smaller wipes of around 10cm for bum wipes and face washers for everything else.
With these we use a METAL SPRAY BOTTLE filled with a homemade Essential Oil wipe mixture (filtered water, 1 tablespoon liquid coconut oil, 1 drop lavender EO, 1 drop Frankincense EO, 1 drop tea tree EO, 1 drop Copaiba EO. (original recipe here); just chuck the dirty cloths in the dry pail with your washable nappies, washable sanitary cloths and hankies.
Plastic Option: COMMERCIAL CHANGE MATS, change tables from cheap materials.
A couple of HANDMADE COTTON AND PUL CHANGEMATS, they are machine washable, waterproof and very versatile and can still be used when you move to potty training or are great to allow for responsible nappy-free time and to catch any misses.
Plastic Option: DISPOSABLE PLASTIC BAGS.
Alternative: REUSABLE WET BAG MADE WITH COTTON AND PUL. Machine washable.
CLOTHING Plastic option:
Polyester, acrylic, nylon, poly-cotton, lycra etc.
Alternatives: Keep to NATURAL FIBERS, you can find near new 100% cotton baby clothing at the OP SHOP for 50c-$2 an item. Often you will still be able to pass them on or take them back to the op shop after they have been worn as babies grow so quickly, at this stage they often outgrow items before they damage or soil them.
There are many brands of SUSTAINABLE BABY WEAR available now, keep an eye out for ORGANIC COTTON, BAMBOO AND HEMP and make sure you purchase fair-trade where you can.
Gday Baby - Made in Australia. Merino wool and Organic Cotton
Pure Baby - Organic Cotton
Aster and Oak - Organic Cotton
Baby Gift Works - Organic Cotton
Elves in the Wardrobe - Organic Cotton
Sapling Organic - Organic Cotton
Suggested Buys: Membership to Australian Breastfeeding Association
Easily the best plastic-free option, if you are able to do so, try EXCLUSIVE BREASTFEEDING ON DEMAND. This is the best no-waste option for the first six months. (Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months and then a combination of breastfeeding and solids is recommended for a minimum of two years. Extending breastfeeding beyond this has many benefits too.)
Plastic options: MATERNITY BRAS: often made from polyester and we are usually encouraged to buy more of these than we need. If you’re washing your nappies daily/every other day consider reducing right down to one bra/top option per wash load.
100% COTTON, ORGANIC COTTON OR BAMBOO CROP TOPS OR MATERNITY VESTS.
Cotton Crop Top- Budget cotton option
Cotton Crop Top - Budget cotton option
Boody - Bamboo
Shift to Nature - Organic cotton
BREAST PADS: made from plastics with a non-disclosed chemical content.
Invest in half a dozen sets of HANDMADE, WATERPROOF, REUSABLE, WASHABLE BREAST PADS, again the waterproof component is going to be PUL.
Alternatives: GLASS BOTTLES. STAINLESS STEEL BOTTLES. NATURAL RUBBER TEETS.
CUP FEEDING. Babies can drink from a cup from birth. This is a brilliant companion to breastfeeding if you wish to share feeding with other family members.
Glass bottles - with 'breast-like shaped teat'
Stainless steel bottle - silicone teat, ergonomic for small hands, grows with child
Stainless steel bottle - 'safest bottle on the market' 100% plastic-free, grows with child
Plastic option: CONVENTIONAL PLASTIC DUMMIES
Alternatives: NATURAL RUBBER versions OR CHOOSING TO NOT USE PACIFIERS.
Natural rubber dummy - orthodontic
NIGHT TIME/NURSERY Plastic option:
COT WITH SYNTHETIC MATTRESS, WATERPROOF COVER and all the other goodies that come with cots such as mobiles, travel cots, mesh screens, baby monitors and then the creation of and decoration of a nursery using things such as toxic paints and then filling it with plastic toys etc.
ROOMING-IN (is now recommended to reduce SIDS)
Consider a bed that will grow with your child so you reduce your purchases. Be mindful of the material the frame and mattress are made of. Look for organic cotton, bamboo or hemp bedding, as age appropriate.
If you fit into the low-risk category I highly recommend CO-SLEEPING as the ultimate in plastic and waste reduction for babies at night.
You can try co-sleeping from birth with a BABY NEST. Or jump right in and try co-sleeping without a baby nest, just pop baby in the bed with you. I definitely recommend getting a waterproof mattress cover and a spare set of sheets though!
Look into purchasing a FIRM NATURAL RUBBER/LATEX MATTRESS for the family and find a climate suitable blanket for the baby to use. Nannies love to knit! Encourage them to use natural yarns such as wool, alpaca, cotton or bamboo or to make a quilt with organic cotton fabric and cotton/bamboo wadding.
Bubs Nest - Organic Cotton
Although I'm not affiliated I did draft patterns and manufacture samples for the company when they first began. They're mum owned as well as ethically and sustainably minded, supporting local women in Brisbane with an alternative income.
PRAM Plastic option:
The components of a MODERN DAY PRAM, including the fabrics are plastic.
Try a CARRIER
Suggested Buys: (these are the two brands we have used and love)
Hybrid (buy)+ (info) - Organic cotton from birth
Erganomic - 'the best', grows with the baby
CAR SEAT We’ll just suck this one up. Safety first! Consider skipping the capsule and purchasing a high quality 0-4years seat. Do not buy secondhand.
Waaaaaay too many…
Look for LOCALLY HANDMADE TOYS and those using organic cotton fabric and corn starch/eucalyptus/hemp stuffing. WOODEN TOYS are now readily available in big chain stores, and there are some beautiful handmade wooden toys available from most local weekend markets.
Suggested Buys: (These are the toys we have and love, but the list is endless)
Toilet roll inner
Leather and wood tambourine - op shop
Play mat/picnic mat/large change mat.
SO MANY… Bouncers, jolly jumpers, walkers, activity gyms, iPads, T.V.’s etc.
EVEN MORE CHOICES… Boxes, sticks, cups, cutlery, reading together – both baby books and reading your own book out loud, boxes, toilet roll inner tubes, cuddles, singing, dancing, yoga (baby-led stretching), baby massage, anything that you are doing, oh, and did I mention boxes?
LOTS. Be sure to check that any silicon toys come from a reputable seller and are actually natural as some made-in-china versions are not really silicon, they are plastic.
MEDICAL GRADE SILICON, WOOD, SPOONS (can be refrigerated and also encourages development of fine motor skills)
PAIN RELIEF(for normal developmental pain and teething)
PAIN MEDICATION, PILLS, GELS.
Natural Baltic AMBER ANKLET, homeopathic chamomilla, pulsatila, belladonna (they do come in plastic containers but they make great rattles), ESSENTIAL OIL BLENDS in glass roller bottles, CUDDLES, RUBBING YOUR FINGER ALONG THEIR GUMS, BABY REFLEXOLOGY.
BATH Plastic Option: PLASTIC BABY BATHS, TUBS, NEW BORN INSERTS FOR BATHS.
Alternatives: Most Australian households have large LAUNDRY BASINS, these are great to use from birth, kitchen sink. These are already there and they are at a height allowing you to stand.
ANYTHING THAT COMES IN A PLASTIC BOTTLE. Look out for these as there are so many chemicals in them, babies and their delicate skins do not need these products. Even the brands that are labeled organic or natural may still cause skin reactions in lots of babies.
Babies don’t need to be bathed often and when they do WATER will suffice until they are crawling. Remember our skin soaks in 60% of what you put on it! All you need is a COTTON WASH CLOTH and a tub of tepid water.
NAPPY CREAMS/RASH CREAMS/TEETHING GELS ETC. Plastic options:
ANYTHING IN PLASTIC BOTTLES/CONTAINERS. So may of these products are quite unnecessary and are really not great for babies skin. If there is a recurring issue such as a rash, look at FINDING OUT THE ROOT CAUSE of the issue and resolving that.
DITCHING THE WIPES and making your own spray wipe can eliminate nappy rash, as well as shifting your mindset to using NAPPIES AS A ‘BACK-UP’ and not as a toilet.
For rashes and teething make or purchase glass rollerballs with ESSENTIAL OILS.
BABY REFLEXOLOGY is also helpful for teething pains and gas.
Be wary of the fabric used, often the CHEAPEST VERSIONS WILL BE A POLYESTER or other synthetic fabric.
Buy COTTON, ORGANIC COTTON, BAMBOO, LEATHER OR HEMP. Make your own or buy something locally handmade, this is a great option as you can customize your bag to suit your needs.
Squeezy tubes of puree, jars of puree, prepackaged foods, rusks etc. Melamine plates, bowls, cups and plastic cutlery.
BABY LED WEANING is a great way to skip the puree stage and reduce your waste a phenomenal amount.
Use STAINLESS STEEL, BAMBOO OR PYREX containers for food when out and about. Use bamboo plates, bowls, cutlery and cups.
This is just the beginning.
Take a moment to look around you and see what you have that is plastic, that is disposable and especially the items that you don’t even use!
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Let’s learn to tune in to our children and see through the marketing campaigns. Here’s an idea of how simple and low-waste, low-plastic your set-up and purchases can be for a newborn.
NEWBORN PURCHASE/GIFT LIST
1 x nappy Bag 1 x wet bag
2 x change mats
24 x reusable nappy option.
12 x face washers/flannels 24 x bum cloths
1 x metal spray bottle
1 x liquid coconut oil 1 x baby essential oil roller ball
2 x swaddle cloths, try 95% cotton 5% spandex/elastene or 100% organic cotton muslin (optional but recommended for the first weeks or until the startle reflex reduces)
1 x blanket for sleeping under
a baby nest (optional)
a soft fabric carrier/jersey wrap
3 x onesise/jumpsuits 3 x short sleeved/long sleeved (season depending)
3 x singlet a pair of socks
something to cut babies nails with
a little later: a bouncer – basic mesh version wooden teether toy and pain relief option a handmade and natural fiber plush toy
Did I miss something?
Do you have any suggestions?
How is your plastic reduced journey going?
I’d love to hear from you!
Please get in touch.