babies are not plastic free

If you are an eco-warrior parent and managed to go completely plastic free from birth until whenever, I need to talk to you!  Though I did not implement my best efforts, I still think even if I had committed to plastic free or zero waste, I would not have been successful.  From the hospital stay to time restraints to sleep deprivation, I commend you if you were ZW successful with your newborn… and then tell me what superpower you used to manage!

Of course nowadays there are several options for where and how you want to give birth, and some may be more environmentally friendly than others.  Given this was our first baby, we chose the hospital because we were not confident to do anything else; this choice ended up being quite positive and really reiterated the fact that nurses are freaking superheroes!  However…

Some time ago I had jaw surgery and posted about hospital waste.  I realized then that there was no away around waste in a medical capacity.  The same goes for our hospital stay this time around with baby.  There is so much going on, you really are not focused on telling the nurses to refill your reusable cup instead of bringing you more straws and Styrofoam.  We were far too tired and preoccupied with bringing a new human into the world that we did not refuse the hospital food, which of course was served with plastic cutlery and packaging (kind of like on an airplane).  I did not refuse any medications they gave me post-birth that came in plastic packaging, because damn it, I needed them.  And I also did not allow myself to feel guilty about these wasteful choices.

Then you get home and realize this is going to be one crazy ride.  Filled with waste and plastic rubbish!  The first two weeks with baby at home were challenging to put it mildly.  Sometimes things just do not go the way you planned or hoped, and you need to make adaptations, which in my case, often involved plastic.

Disposable diapers.  Yes, I went there, ZW friends.  As a new parent, I had enough on my plate that I did not need to add extra laundry to it through cloth diapering, so we used disposables.  We must have added over 150 plastic diapers to the landfill.  But I can’t feel bad about that because our mental wellness had to come first, and disposables got us through the first weeks of baby’s life.  Convenient?  Yes.  Sustainable?  Hell no.  Happy to report we have been cloth-ing it for several weeks now that we (kind of) learned the ropes and are able to do the laundry and prep involved.  Horray!

Wet wipes.  Again, we used these for a little while, but not as long as the diapers.  We soon switched to washcloths and a DIY wipe solution.  Win!

Bottles.  Is this even possible plastic-free?  Sure, they make glass bottles for babies, but they often have plastic components as well.  Sure, ideally we just breastfeed and avoid all waste, but that is also not always possible when your body does not play along.  Fortunately, I do not have to use bottles much anymore.

Clothing.  I am not talking about plastic microfibers in our clothing, though that is always worth mentioning (why don’t washers have filters yet?!).  I am talking about packaging and tags… typically always plastic.  Fortunately, we have some extremely generous people in our lives, so a lot of our clothes for the wee one are second hand or were given to us.

Transportation.  Oh my goodness!  The child transportation industry is SUCH a money grab!  And as wasteful as the wedding industry.  All the necessary gadgets to move around with baby = crazy.  Car seats expire, cannot be sold used, and have a limited size and weight limit until you need to replace it; sure, you may give it to someone who needs it, but they only have until the expiry date!  And then?  Laaaandfill.  Baby carriers are largely made of fabrics, but the clips are plastic; a wrap would be the alternative, but I went with one my friend gave me, which has clips.  Fortunately, the carriers do not have an expiry date, but you need to make sure you take good care of them so they last as long as possible (oh, who am I kidding, nobody makes things that last anymore).  Strollers or other pushchairs are also often necessary, depending on your activity.  Sure, you could use the carrier everywhere, but what if you want to do some hiking?  Infant hiking backpack it is.  What if you want to go on a brisk walk, which the carrier may not allow for?  Off-roading chariot it is.  Again, I got these second-hand from friends, except for the backpack, which I can pass on to someone else when I do not need it anymore.

We avoided excessive waste and plastics where we could, but we put our mental wellness first, and if that meant using something convenient made of plastic – we did it.  Of course we were not happy about it, but we made peace with it, because your first child is a crazy new experience and you literally have to learn e v e r y t h i n g in a very short time.  It is demanding, exhausting, limiting, and tests every part of you.  It is also indescribably amazing.  So our baby may not be plastic free, but she sure is a gift!

So, fellow eco-warrior parents, tell me what you did to avoid waste during and after pregnancy.  Was it a challenge?  How much did you prep beforehand?

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5 comments

  1. Hi popping over from Zero Waste heros. I didnt know car seats have an expiry date!!!!!! This really made me think about hospital childbirth. We dont realise the waste. I was so lucky to need no medication. But I to used disposables until his cloth nappies fitm No way could I afford at full set of newborn reusables xx

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  2. All the things you describe are true.
    We managed to start cloth very soon, maybe day 4 ? Because I found that my mental state needed a task I could complete and succeed at. And of course we have a huge washer and dryer conveniently in our home. If I had to go to a Laundromat or something – forget about it!! And let me tell you, now bubba is 8 months and sleeps thru the night (stopped night feeds at 6) and I cannot have him wake us up due to a wet diaper so he sleeps in a disposable. It keeps him dry all night and I have no bad feelings about that at all actually. We are better parents because 9 out of 10 nights we all sleep until 5:45.
    I got bottles second hand and just bought the little mouth piece new (Swedish design) so that worked out 🙂
    I have thought about it tho and my kid will NOT have a plastic free life. I will not deny him Legos or buckets. If he wants Barbies, hell yeah he’ll play with mine. (I don’t know who I’d be without detective/president/cool chick Barbie!) I’ll try to get all plastic toys second hand to lessen the eco-impact of course. I know some will be new. He will wish for things and get them.
    PS. We also lived off of Clif bars for like 6 weeks LOL. Well almost 😉

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    • You do what you have to to get through the first bit! I definitely neglected a lot of my Eco-conscious ways just to cope. Now things are changing again to be more environmentally friendly. I think it will be hard to have a plastic free child for sure – Lego will win!

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