a zero-waste pregnancy?

The question mark in this post’s title is because I do not know if it is possible to have a zero-waste pregnancy/birth, namely if you decide on a hospital birth.  But there are ways we can be aware and lessen our waste.

I have been quiet on the blog-front; I had a challenging final month of pregnancy, then prepping for birth, and finally having our second child after two days overdue (that was long enough).  Since then it has been joy, sleep deprivation, trying to maintain balance, the holidays, and lots of adjusting for all.  As I take my time to write this post I have had some time to reflect, namely on my environmental impacts.

Perhaps you read my post: zero waste? Yeah, just wait ‘til you have kids.  Perhaps I should rethink that to: zero waste? Yeah, maybe once you’re one month postpartum. Maybe not the catchiest title, but I’ll explain.

For the most part, my pregnancy was low-waste.

In addition to my regular wardrobe, I wore the same maternity clothes I had from my first pregnancy (jeans, two leggings, one shirt, and one nursing tank and bra), and in the final month, when even those didn’t fit, I wore my husband’s clothes and shoes… and sweatpants.  Once I am finished with them I will give them to a mom who needs them. Maternity clothing is a huge business; I could have just as easily gone to a thrift store and bought some oversized clothing.

I cooked bigger meals to freeze some in prep for the first weeks postpartum.  I stocked up on large batches of bulk items, and bought extra at our refill store to have enough dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo bars, and more.  I was planning ahead, because as we know when we need something quick, it is almost always wrapped in plastic.

For the baby I prepped the cloth diapers we already had, wipes, and I went through my daughter’s clothes to see what could be reused.  We also received hand-me-downs from a friend.  The only extra furniture we bought was an old dresser refurbished by a local resident.  We didn’t need much else.

For the hospital I packed my own toiletries, clothing, food, and reusable water bottle.  That saved us from having to use a lot of single-use items at the hospital, like gowns, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and cups.  I also refused drug interventions (for pain) in labour, which I did not do in the name of waste reduction, but rather because it hindered more than helped during our first child’s birth, so I didn’t want them; the avoided waste was just a bonus! Of course that was just my experience, and every mother/baby/labour is different.

What waste did we create?

Some waste came from vitamin and medicine packaging.

Some waste came from the hospital stay, such as food containers, straws and foam cup (I brought my own reusable water bottle, but forgot a straw), and other single-use items associated with a hospital, like disposable bed padding.

Some waste came from postpartum pads.  I have accumulated cloth pads over the years, and added a few postpartum pads to the stash (Lunapads and Homestead Emporium), but for the first days I used the disposable kind.  You mothers will understand why.

Some waste came from disposable diapers.  As with our first child, we  used single-use diapers for the first weeks to transition to cloth.  We borrowed newborn cloth diapers from a friend, but baby legs are so tiny that they don’t always seal properly.  I had a lot more healing to do this time around, so doing the extra laundry was not something I wanted.  We used both cloth and plastic until transitioning fully to cloth at 6-7 weeks.

Some waste came from quick meals we picked up when the time just wasn’t there to cook.  Fortunately we had a few friends come by with full meals for us, and they made the effort to bring it to us plastic-free because they knew that was important to us; grateful to have friends like this in our lives!


Having a home birth would have cut down some of that waste, but I did not feel safe enough to do so – that’s just my personality.  I admire women who birth at home, and I would have loved to do so, but I listened to my inner voice that needed to feel safe.  

It is important for us to lessen our impact as much as we can on the daily.  However, it is also important to listen to our inner voice and not forego something as important as our own safety to still “do” waste reduction.  And that’s not something I feel guilty about.  I did what I could and had a great birth followed by a healthy baby – no complaints here!

Do you live a zero or low-waste lifestyle?  Are you a parent?  How was your experience with waste reduction as your child entered your family?  Please share!


  1. Congratulations!
    I remember having a slightly crazed argument with my husband in the middle of the night, wanting him to finally switch our then newborn from disposable diapers to cloth…I had to calm down and try not to sweat it. Like you, after a few initial weeks we made the switch to cloth, even bringing baskets of them when we went away for the weekend (and storing the soiled ones in a giant old ice cream bucket until we could launder them at home). I recently read a book by Keya Chaterjee, The Zero Footprint Baby. It was pretty inspiring. I won’t be doing everything she did, but it gave me some new ideas. Question for you: Do you think diaper liners, the thick hemp/cotton kind, could stand in as postpartum pads? Maybe this is a bad idea but I am curious…


    • Thanks for this comment! I meant to respond sooner. Thanks also for the book recommendation – I may check that out! We are full cloth now, which is great, though the other day I let myself run out (laundry slacker) and I had to use ONE disposable *somad*. As far as using the inserts as pads… there is only one way to find out! I don’t see why not. As long as they sit comfortably – in the diaper cover they are contained (if you’re using pockets), that might be the only problem? They might bunch if not contained because they have no shape to them.


      • Ah, that’s a good point about keeping them in place. I may try it anyhow, depending on what state I’m in at the time! I’m slowly getting more comfortable with reusables; my family can’t do a lot of the standard zero waste practices due to celiac and allergies (so much plastic waste since diagnosis…) but we’re still trying in other ways. Just today we made the decision to stop using toilet paper. I love trees and it was time to make the change. I was slowly preparing for it mentally, but seeing the toilet paper apocalypse a the grocery store yesterday sealed the deal for me. I cut up some old receiving blankets, fought my sewing machine into doing zigzag stitch (oh, tension…) and so far, so good!


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