Tag Archives: babies

Zero Waste Babies

Today I wanted to talk about zero waste parenting.  It was around the time I was in my third trimester while pregnant with my daughter that I really started looking at ways to reduce the vast amounts of waste we produce in the process of raising a child.  I was determined not to contribute to that and it was in my research that I became aware of zero (reduced) waste living.

Baby Wipes

I’m going to start with one of the easiest zero waste things I do as a parent.  I make my own baby wipes using only 3 ingredients: coconut oil, tea tree essential oil and boiling water.  Have you ever read the list of ingredients on a package of baby wipes?  I suggest you check it out because most of those ingredients boil down to being formaldehyde and phthalates.  I used to keep a packet of Water Wipes in our diaper bag for outings, but now I use one of these incredibly convenient 2- pocket (get it, one for clean wipes, one for dirty!) waterproof wet wipe bags filled with 5 or 6 reusable baby wipes. When at home, I make my baby wipes using Cheeky Wipes (or if you’re in the US you could try these organic Charlie Banana ones which I wasn’t able to get here in the UK).  You could use just cut up squares of terry cloth, muslin or flannelette if you are on a very tight budget or if you want to use organic textiles.   Be sure to check out my video below which shows you how to make them in 10 seconds flat!

Nappies/Diapers

So lets talk about that number one environmental parenting problem – nappies (or diapers as we call them in Canada and the US).  Disposable nappies take 500 years to degrade in landfill (note I don’t say biodegrade) and the average baby will fill up 12 wheelie bins per year with disposable nappies.  Now multiply that by the number of babies on your street, in your neighbourhood, in your city and…yeah, that’s a lot of garbage which will still be sitting in landfill when your great, great, great grandchildren will be sitting in their nursing homes.  But the good news is that modern cloth nappies are  easy to use.  We use a brand called Applecheeks which are made in Montreal, Canada, and they are wonderful (and easy to find for sale here in the UK).  They fit our baby beautifully AND – here’s the best part about them – you don’t have to pull the stinky, pee-soaked insert out before washing.  I’m a total wuss when it comes to touching anything gross or dirty (like poop) and they are brilliantly designed so the insert comes out in the wash automatically.  When it comes to dealing with um… solids, we buy these flushable bamboo nappy liners which catch the poop and you can neatly pick it out of the nappy by the clean corners and toss it in the toilet and flush it (you probably shouldn’t really flush the liners even though they’re biodegradable – see why here – but I confess to having done it myself a few times when the poo was just too gross).  I’m a big proponent of using second hand items normally, but I will share from my own experience that it will save you money and frustration in the long run if you don’t buy second hand when it comes to cloth nappies.  Often the PUL material (the waterproofing part!) or the elastics in the legs can be degraded from improper care or simply from the nappy having reached the end of its lifespan and you will end up with lots of leaks and frustration, before ultimately  giving up on cloth diapering.  While many recommend having around 24 cloth nappies, we found that because we use biodegradable disposable Naty nappies for overnight and longer day outings, we actually only have needed around 15 newborn nappies and around 10 of the size 2 nappies.  For the first couple of weeks as you’re getting to grips with being a parent, you also might find it easier to use biodegradable disposable newborn nappies before moving into newborn size cloth nappies.  With this number of nappies there is no messing about with sloshy buckets of disgusting water.  I just line a pedal bin with one of these PUL (waterproof) lined drawstring laundry bags (for US Amazon link click here), throw the used cloth nappies straight into the bin and every 2-3 days throw the whole thing – bag included – into the washing machine.

Baby Stuff

Now what I’m about to say relates to just about everything you buy for your baby.  Clothes, furniture, baby baths, slings, highchairs, strollers…you can get it ALL second hand.  Regardless of the size of your pocket book and ability to buy everything shiny and new, the environmental impact of buying and using second hand baby stuff will make a difference.  There are some things you should buy new for either safety or functional reasons and as far as I’m concerned these are:  car seats (unless its a friend giving you a hand me down which you know is still new-ish and safe to use), mattresses (you don’t want to risk giving your baby a bed bug filled mattress or something…urgh) and cloth nappies/diapers (for the reasons I’ve already mentioned).   I appreciate this gets harder as babies turn into toddlers and toddlers turn into kids and they’re much harder on their stuff and properly wear it out.  In particular newborn stuff is barely used at all, so head to your local charity shop, the Oxfam Online Charity Shop, nearly new sales or go onto eBay (or hit up your friends with older kids who can give you hand-me-downs).  Its not just all the baby ‘stuff’ that creates a mountain of landfill, its the packaging that all the baby ‘stuff’ comes in and the garbage that creates, not to mention the shopping bags its put in when you buy it.  I’ve found its emotionally easier to part with things I bought second hand as well, and not create a shrine to my child in the loft.  “Awww, that’s the tub we bought in John Lewis.  Let’s keep it ‘just in case’.”  Its much easier to just be happy that I only spent a few pounds on something second hand, be grateful for the service it provided and then send it on its way to a new home where it can be used again by another baby.  I live in a fairly well-to-do area and its not just those on a budget who have tapped into the second hand baby market, but everyone.  So whether its for financial reasons or environmental reasons – or both – think about what you could get second hand for your baby or child.  If you are pregnant and you’d like more advice on what you actual need for your baby – the real essentials and not all that other stuff they’ll try to sell you in shops – check out my post on Baby Essentials.

How to Fail at Weaning Your Baby

Eating.  We all do it eventually.  Its like rolling over, sitting up, or walking.  But when you have a baby, all these things feel like they will never happen and you’re constantly on the watch for signs of them.  You see your baby slightly flail about a bit and spend the next two hours making phone calls to family and friends proclaiming that “he almost turned over”.

We have a wide group of mummy and baby friends, so have a pretty balanced perspective on what’s ‘normal’ for my baby’s age group.  I try not to focus too much, however, on the one friend’s baby which has been able to hold on to the edge of the furniture and walk around the room since he was 6 months old.  Mine is 8 months and, well, she can sit.  No, wait, last night she pushed herself up to standing in the bathtub.

However, as I’m a foodie and a former professional pastry chef in the fine dining industry and my husband is a great…shall we say patron of the fine dining industry…I thought that weaning our baby would be a non-issue.

We decided to wait to wean our baby until she was at least 6 months old.  There is a lot of pressure to start introducing foods earlier than this.  (Ladies of…ahem…a certain generation, will say that your baby is hungry and needs baby rice (a nutritionally empty food) at…oh, around 17 weeks.  Ignore them.  They’re the same ladies who were telling you to stop breastfeeding and give baby formula so they could ‘sleep through the night’.)  We had a number of reasons which we based our decision upon.  There were the physical factors, such as whether the baby was able to sit up on their own and able to shove items into their mouth.  (She was).  And also that solid foods just aren’t as nutritious as breastmilk or formula.  You need the certainty in the early days that 100% of what is going into your baby’s tummy is doing them good and helping them to grow.  But mainly, we were concerned that the human gut is not ready to deal with solid foods until at least 6 months of age and while your baby may happily take solid foods earlier than that, giving them any earlier can increase the risk of health problems such as atopic conditions (eczema, asthma), autoimmune conditions (coeliac disease) and other chronic conditions (diabetes).  Essentially these are all inflammatory conditions and not something we wished to put our baby at risk for by giving in to our excitement about moving on to the next stage.

I sought my mother’s advice fairly early on.  Apparently I threw my bottle of formula on the floor at 3 months old and she decided that meant I was ready to move on to food.  As I have suffered with numerous atopic and digestive inflammatory conditions for most of my life, I decided that I would not be repeating that route.

But both my husband and I were incredibly excited about introducing foods to our little girl and in anticipation, I attended the weaning session at my local Children’s Centre.  Firstly, I was the only person who turned up.  Obviously all the other mothers of 4 month olds in Peckham were at home shoving baby rice down their children’s gullets and marvelling about how they slept through the night now.  (BTW, sleeping through the night is an abnormal baby behaviour.  Tiny little tummies aren’t designed to go for 8-12 hours without food.)  Once the dietician started her session, with just me and my baby in attendance, I realised that I was probably not the target audience for this kind of session. And the dietician realised that I wasn’t, either, quickly glossing over the display of packaged baby cookies and baby rice she’d painstakingly set up to demonstrate to mothers which kinds of sugary foods to avoid feeding their babies.  (“I can see I won’t need to show these to you.”)  We had a useful conversation on baby led weaning and how to prepare the fruits and vegetables for a baby to eat and a quick demonstration on how to assist a choking baby, but other than that, I came away fairly uninspired and unenlightened.

Finally 6 months of age arrived.  First we decided to go the Baby Led Weaning route.   I cooked some sweet potato and…my baby very politely tasted it and declined seconds.  The same thing happened with broccoli, spinach, peas, red lentils, greek yogurt and applesauce.  I do try to avoid giving her too many fruits, as I’d like her to avoid developing the dreaded sweet tooth which my mother and I both have.  I’m not sure if this is a futile attempt on my part, but I’m sticking with this approach.  She loved over-ripe bananas and she did enjoy gnawing on a piece of pear once and some peach puree, but other than that, I felt I was wasting both my time and some rather expensive organic foods.

And it was just so messy.  I mean really really messy.

Sometime just before 7 months of age, I gave up on full-time Baby Led Weaning and got out my little mouli which I then used to prepare most of the above vegetables.  I had no better success.

And my red lentil dish, though very well cooked, gave her terrible stomach cramps throughout the night.

So around a month or so ago we decided to go the Ella’s Kitchen route.  If only for the sake of convenience.  I was tired of cooking nice foods and watching them get gummed around and smeared on the Bumbo tray for a while before being put in the compost bin.  And it was around this point that we discovered something.  It wasn’t the food that was the problem.  It was the person giving the food.  Daddy could open up packets of Ella’s Kitchen lentils with cumin, vegetable moussaka and squishy salmon fish cakes and they’d all be gobbled up with relish.  I would try to give her the same food and be met with disdain.

At this point, I’m sorry, I don’t have the answer for you.  If you’re struggling with weaning your baby onto foods, I don’t have a solution.  Each morning I make porridge which I try to share with my baby and am met with a mouth shut tight as a Cabbage Patch Doll’s.  My health visitor says this is a phase and she’ll probably grow out of it after she’s two.  Great.

As for the other babies we know, well, they’re all eating platefuls of food.  Some do baby led weaning and others have been conventionally weaned.  But somehow their parents are getting the stuff into them.

I got the The Ella’s Kitchen Cookbook from the library yesterday and intend to copy all my baby’s favourites from the book.  My first attempt, a rich and creamy macaroni cheese made with Boots baby pasta stars was rejected last night with a look of utter disgust.  So I ate it.  It was delicious.

But apparently not as delicious as the manky, half eaten carrot I found the baby about to tuck into from the dog’s bowl…

The Aldi Baby Event

Sometimes a girl just has to accept she’s living on statutory maternity pay…and even that won’t last forever.  So today when the Aldi supermarket one day baby event was launched, the baby and I were out of the house by 7.30 and battling the South London traffic to Old Kent Road.  You can tell I’m not an experienced Mum, because in my head, I envisioned queues of Mums, waiting for the doors to open, all rushing in to get the £19 Hauck travel cot I wanted.  (That’s how things used to be in the pre-baby days when I would go to fashion sales, etc, so surely that’s how things would be at the baby sale.)

As it happened, I was the first one in the parking lot (managed to get the parent/child parking spot right outside the front door) and there was just me and one other woman, at 7.45 in the morning, waiting for the doors of Aldi to open.  Like bums, waiting to get in to buy the cheap off-brand booze, but instead we were after baby-grows and nappies.

What a geek.

And why was I the first one there?  Because I’m still a newbie at this Mum thing.  Because most normal, sensible Mums with little babies barely think about getting out of the house (or pyjamas) before noontime, and those that do – its only because they’re taking their older children to school.  But I still hold the belief that I will not be defeated by Mum-dom.  I will live life on a normal(ish) schedule…even if it means standing on the Old Kent Road at 7.45am with my baby still in her pyjamas, tucked into her BabyBjorn, and me, looking pretty ok-ish in a white shirt and skinny jeans, but secretly I hadn’t even taken a shower yet.

So, moving on, as I pushed my trolley through the non-existant crowds of fellow shoppers, I got the first of the Hauck travel cots, three packs of giant muslins, a hooded towel and a Tommy Tippee sippy cup.  I mean, there was actually plenty of great stuff there – and all quite cheap…but then, that’s the problem with Aldi.  You go in to buy your polish jam and battery hen eggs and come out with a discount chainsaw instead.

However, for the budget minded organic shopper, there are a few good buys at Aldi.  You can get a few organic veg basics: potatoes, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and onions, a few seasonal organic fruits, organic milk, as well as a few random dry goods throughout the store.  Today, for instance, there were Kallo puffed buckwheat and quinoa cakes (like rice cakes).  You kind of have to go in with an open mind about what you want to buy, but you can come out with your shopping bag full of 100% British organic foods at around 25% less than you would pay at Sainsburys or Tesco.

All good news for a Mum who is about to start baby led weaning and isn’t too keen on the Annabel Karmel ‘all sugar, all the time’ approach to feeding baby.  (I may feel differently after steamed broccoli has been rejected for the 50th time, and I promise, I’ll admit it if that’s the case.)

I should also say that I was really pleased to see packs of Bambino Mio cloth nappies for sale there today.  At our house we use cloth nappies (resorting to biodegradable disposables for outings, travel and nighttime only) and although we don’t use Bambino Mio, I’m pleased that they’re becoming more mainstream and accessible to people on a budget.  (Lets face it, the Old Kent Road isn’t the cheapest property on the Monopoly board for no reason).

So, overall, it was a good shopping trip.  We have a travel cot, so we won’t have to make our baby sleep in a milk crate or dog pen when we go on holiday to Cornwall, later this summer.  We’ve got some adorable elephant themed giant muslins, at 1/5th of the price of the ones at Jojo Maman Bebe.  And best of all, the baby fell asleep in the car on the way home, so after transferring her to the nursery when we got home, I’ve had the whole morning to myself!

Changes

Baby AnnouncementMy recent birthday was a remarkably warm Indian Summer afternoon and I sat in the square outside Spitalfields Market, eating Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes with my friend Jane.   It occurred to me at that moment that things would never be the same again.  And I’m not just talking about being able to resist the rather tantalising looking, yet e-number crammed rainbow cake I’d seen in the bakery earlier.

It all started with my visit to the 20-something substitute midwife a couple of weeks ago.  “You look fantastic for a pregnant lady in her 40’s” she said to me…on the day before my 36th birthday.

I had always been mistaken for being younger than I actually am.  Never older.  So it hit me hard.

Was this the beginning of how it happens?  Getting a Claire Balding haircut, buying a minivan, joining Pinterest?  (Oh God, I just joined Pinterest!)  Next thing you know, boom, you’ve got crows feet and find yourself in tears at the Creme de la Mer counter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve felt great throughout most of this pregnancy.  A little sick at the beginning and perhaps these days, at week 22, I move at a…slightly slower pace.  I desperately am fighting pregnant lady waddle, but am not sure how much longer I will be able to fight that off as my whopper of a baby continues to grow.

I sit here in my living room as the builders upstairs listen (and occasionally sing along) to Latvian radio.  We are converting our second bathroom into a nursery.  A nursery!  I remember when we were house hunting.  We’d see nurseries and think “that would make a great second bathroom!”  I’m excited about this nursery and its future occupant.

But I really do miss having a second bathroom.