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?