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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
Having your first baby is a bit like getting married. The minute its obvious that you’re pregnant, sales clerks see pound/dollar signs in neon lights on your forehead. There are so many things to buy. All of them designed to make your baby smarter, better, faster, happier, cuter…and with a rounder head. And very little of it do you actually need. But when you tell the sales clerk you’re looking to buy organic, environmentally responsible products…well…weirdo. Sadly, I suspect that those of us looking to buy natural products for their babies are in the minority, because even the big ‘healthy living’ stores like Planet Organic and Wholefoods have very little to offer aside from nappies and baby skincare.
As I’ve recently had a baby, and have gone through all the trouble of tracking down these products for my own use, I thought it might be helpful to share my list of essential items to have prepared at home for when your baby arrives. You can get most of these things from Amazon, however, if there are local eco stores in your town, I would encourage you to shop there…or better yet, see if you have friends and family who could lend you or give you hand-me-downs of the following items. So many of these items are used for such a short time, and not all can be found in environmentally friendly versions or at least in effective environmentally friendly versions.
As a blanket statement, when buying new cotton items, I prefer to buy organic, but if you’re getting non-organic hand me downs or gifts, don’t sweat it and just use those. Why buy organic? Because cotton production is responsible for 25% of the world’s insecticide use and 10% of its pesticide use, with those pesticides being amongst the most hazardous and carcinogenic. Not only do you not want any of that residue against baby’s skin, it’s just more environmentally responsible.
Hospital Bags – For You & Baby
Make sure that you have two bags ready to pack. It’s much easier to keep your things separate from baby’s things. This is so your things can be easily accessed during labour and you’ll only need access to baby’s things once he or she is born. Your bag should be a small suitcase or duffle bag and baby’s bag can be your nappy/diaper changing bag. My husband bought me this Skip Hop changing bag for Christmas before the baby was born and it was perfect to have in hospital, it was an absolutely fantastic changing bag for the first couple of years, and to be honest, it is so well made that I still use it to this day as a little overnight bag for my daughter when travelling.
When it comes to wraps, it’s probably best to go to a sling library if there’s one near you to try them out. They just weren’t for me. But a fitted carrier was perfect for us. You can get this Ergobaby carrier we used to carry our daughter when hiking in Italy. We loved it so much, we even bought the Ergobaby Doll Carrier version for our daughter to carry her ‘baby’ around in now!
Something to Sleep In
I know plenty of people who used an empty drawer as baby’s bed for the first few months of their lives. And others who chose to co-sleep. But…I wasn’t about to put my baby in an empty drawer. And despite being a natural mama, I just wasn’t comfortable with the risks associated with co-sleeping (even with safe co-sleeping guidance) because I am a very heavy sleeper. We were given a Moses basket and I found it useful having her in the basket right beside my bed to pick her up for comforting and late night feedings. I liked that it was made from renewable resources and would easily biodegrade once it had reached the end of its lifespan. I found the Moses basket to be convenient, safe, easy to move around the house and inexpensive. Only you will know how long your baby needs to be sleeping in your bedroom with you, but the Moses basket will contain them for roughly 3-6 months before they outgrow it and need to go into a cot (unless you are a long-term co-sleeper). To go with the Moses basket, you will need a mattress, fitted sheets and ideally a stand or rocker base.
I’ve included links below to a plain, palm basket (the same one we had), a natural mattress to fit it (it comes with a mattress, but you may wish to have a natural mattress which is free from any toxic chemical residues) and the same rocker base we had.
You may be able to live without the rocker base or stand…but your lumbar region may not, so give it some consideration.
Two fitted sheets should be enough. I recommend organic cotton jersey sheets. The jersey is soft and doesn’t need to be ironed. There are organic waterproof mattress protectors for Moses baskets, but unless your mattress isn’t already waterproof, as most are, you won’t need one of these and it is just an added expense.
You will be given many, many blankets as presents. Some for the cot, some for the pram. But just in case these don’t appear until after baby is born, its best to ensure you have one in the house ready to cover your baby in their Moses basket and/or pram. Cellular blankets are made with a loose weave so if the blanket goes over baby’s face, they should still be able to get air and will be less likely to overheat which is associated with cot death. The cellular blanket options in the links below are made from organic and unbleached cotton, silk, bamboo and merino wool, so even if you’re vegan there are natural options.
Prepare to spend the next six months of your life mopping up poo, wee, vomit and drool. You will get used to it. These muslin squares were recommended to me by every parent I know. And they were right. They serve as burp cloths, drool catchers, towels, napkins, baby wipes…you name it. Its best to buy around 20-24 of these. Organic cotton is good, but bamboo is far more absorbent and the ones below are made from organic bamboo.
A Tippitoes Bath & Sponge
I am recommending this product specifically by brand as it has a raised section in the base and anti-slip back rest that helps babies feel supported and safe. Everyone told me to not bother getting a baby bath as you can wash them in a sink or the dish pan. This was bad advice! I did this for the first few weeks and consequently my little one hated bath time and screamed her way through – first in the dishpan (which was awkward) and then in the sink (which was uncomfortable for both of us)…until my friend lent me her son’s Tippitoes bath that he’d outgrown. Bath time instantly became fun, for both baby and me. She felt supported and safe and I was able to have more fun with her as she splashed around and giggled. More practically, I could finally wash her more easily with the sea sponge now that I wasn’t having to hold her in place. This product is not natural. It is plastic and it is expensive-ish for what it is at around £13.99. Unfortunately I now can’t seem to find it for sale anywhere, so here is a similar alternative which is a best seller on Amazon. However, there are still plenty of the Tippitoes tubs which can be found second hand on eBay. Don’t bother buying any baby toiletries as they are too harsh for baby’s newborn skin and you won’t need them until later down the road. For the first year or so, I still only used coconut oil with a single drop of lavender or chamomile essential oil to wash my baby. If you absolutely, desperately need some soap, a drop of Dr Bronner’s baby wash is adequate.
Your baby will need a couple of hooded towels for after bath time. Lots of shops recommend Cuddledry apron towels which do look really cozy and they are organic. If you can afford them at £29.99 each, great. However we just bought very simple, hooded organic baby towels which we use for bath time and now that our baby is older, we can take them to the pool too. Norwegian company Norwex also do a very deliciously soft baby towel set too, but they aren’t organic and they aren’t cotton or bamboo – but it is embedded with antibacterial silver, to help bacteria from surviving on the surface of the towel between uses and it comes with a little wash cloth. So there are a few options for you to consider, all of them excellent. Heck, I’ve even bought second hand baby towels and just put them in a good boil wash to get them clean.
There are some wonderful ways to make your own reusable baby wipes at home and below is a link to my YouTube video on how to make easy DIY homemade wipes in 10 seconds flat using any old cloths you have available.
For when you’re on the go, Norwex do a set of gorgeous thick baby wipe cloths embedded with antibacterial silver with a chic little reusable wet wipe bag. I used to recommend Water Wipes for on the go, but now I think these completely address the difficulties of doing baby changes out of the house.
Even if you already plan on using reusable wipes, you may want to make your life easier when baby comes – even just for the first couple of weeks – by using Water Wipes. I’m not here to judge if you want to use them longer (just please don’t flush them!). You’re going to be so busy at first, feel free to be kind to yourself and give yourself one less thing to think about washing.
The olive oil and cotton wool combo recommended by the hospital is just really messy and you cannot use conventional baby wipes on a newborn – nor would I want to do so at any stage (have you seen the ingredients in those things???) – but Water Wipes are 99.9% water and .1% fruit extract, so they’re very gentle on baby’s skin and they do an excellent job of cleaning even sticky meconium.
You’ll need to have some disposables packed away in your baby’s hospital bag anyway, so just go ahead and buy a pack of eco-friendly disposables. We are a cloth nappy household and I would encourage anybody else to do the same. Modern cloth nappies are effective and just as easy to use and maintain as disposables. But for the same reasons as recommending the Water Wipes, you’ll want to make life with a newborn as easy as possible for those first couple of weeks. Out of the natural brands of nappies, we found the Swedish brand Naty, available here in the UK, worked the best for us and our friends. They are made from GMO-free corn, are biodegradable and don’t contain the chemicals found in conventional brands such as Huggies and Pampers. We also tried Beaming Baby Biodegradable Nappies but found them to be consistently very leaky. Bambo Nature Nappies are great as well and are widely available. We still buy the eco-friendly disposables for longer outings away from home so I recommend finding one that works for you. That being said, I would discourage anyone from buying conventional disposable nappies. The average baby will create around 2 tons of nappy waste in their lifetime and this will take a minimum of 500 years to degrade away in landfills, so please do give cloth nappies or at least eco-friendly disposables a try.
If and when you are ready to try cloth nappies, remember that every baby is a different shape so different cuts or brands may fit them best. I learned the hard way that you also get what you pay for with cloth nappies. Also, if you buy ‘one size fits all’ nappies or nappies that are too big for your newborn, you will get lots of leaks and you’ll be put off the whole idea of using cloth. For us, AppleCheeks and FuzziBunz brands were, and continue to be, the best.
If you want to cloth diaper from birth then I would recommend Fuzzibunz because they offer an x-small nappy (4-12 lbs) whereas AppleCheeks size 1 only starts at 7 lbs. That was fine for our big baby but if you know that yours might be a bit more on the tiny size, then Fuzzibunz may be the way to go. You can also buy your cloth nappies second hand. eBay has now banned this practice on their site, but there are lots of Facebook groups where you can buy and sell second hand cloth nappies. It’s not as gross as it sounds and its a cheap way of trying out different brands.
There have also been a few new nappy start up companies within the last year or so, and it might be worth giving one of those companies a go to see how you like their functionality and fit.
You know that cute little Ralph Lauren mini version of Daddy’s sweater vest and khakis ensemble or the adorable Bonpoint dress with cashmere cardigan you’ve already bought your bump? Yeah, they won’t wear it. I mean you might get it on them for a photograph and for meeting the grandparents or something, but your newborn will be much happier in sleepsuits. And you’ll be happier having them in sleepsuits because they’re so freakin’ easy to get on and off. No ironing of tiny miniature pleats or ruffles. Again, I recommend organic and buy a few newborn sized ones, if you can find them. They won’t be wearing them for long but even if you have a big baby, you’ll still get a couple of months’ use out of them. You can then either save them for the next baby, donate them to a charity shop, eBay them or sell them on one of the plethora of specialist organic baby clothes buy & sell groups on Facebook.
I say ‘footed’ sleepsuits so you don’t have to use those horrible little newborn socks that don’t stay on and will just clog up the filters on your washing machine. It’s the same for scratch mitts. If you can find a sleepsuit with built in scratch mitts, you’ll appreciate it so their little talons aren’t ripping apart both you and them. (Tip: If you insist on using newborn socks and scratch mitts, wash them in a lingerie bag so they can’t get into the nooks and crannies…and filters and mechanisms…of your machine.)
Unfortunately when my baby was born, I couldn’t find any organic sleepsuits in newborn size, so we used a combination of second hand normal cotton sleepsuits in newborn size and some 0-3 month organic Toby Tiger sleepsuits. I have now found that L’ovedBaby make newborn sized sleepsuits and sleepgowns.
Have around 3 to 5 or so of these on hand before baby arrives in newborn size. If your baby is born during the colder part of the year, they are handy to layer underneath their sleep suit as an extra layer of warmth. In the summer it may be their main wardrobe staple. What we found worked best for us were these little kimono style bodysuits by L’ovedBaby which wrap around your baby rather than being pulled over their heads…something which is incredibly enraging to a newborn for some reason. Down the road they will also be awfully helpful at containing poo blow outs. The L’ovedBaby 100% Organic Cotton Kimono Short Sleeve Bodysuits come in loads of lovely colours and are available in newborn size which will fit preemies – something normally quite tricky to find in an organic brand.
A Newborn Hat
Just buy one of these little Newborn Baby Hats. These little white Engel brand ones look like the one which Princess Charlotte wore when she came out of hospital and they are made from 70% Organic Merino Wool and 30% Silk and they even come in a Preemie size (2-5 lbs). Little babies only need a hat on indoors during their time in hospital, as they’ve just popped out of a very warm, cozy environment into a cold one. Once they’ve acclimatised however, don’t keep the hat on all the time while indoors like your mother and grandmother will tell you to do. Overheating your baby is linked to cot death and unless your house is very cold, keep the hat off until you go outside. Cotton ones are more common, but wool ones are designed to help regulate baby’s temperature and avoid overheating. If you do prefer cotton (or if you’re vegan and eschew wool and silk) these colourful Toby Tiger jersey hats are so incredibly soft and are in such fun colours…though we only discovered them once our baby was a couple of weeks old.
A Swaddle & This Book!
Buy something to swaddle with and a copy of this book: The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp, MD. It does what it says on the tin. Key to the whole process is swaddling your baby. So get a swaddle. Even if you think your baby doesn’t like swaddling. Get a swaddle. You can buy a fancy swaddle like the Gro Swaddle which is idiot proof (I say from experience) and comes in a non-organic option which has recently been redesigned and updated to be better for hip development. You can also just use a big square of fabric like a blanket in winter or a big muslin square in summer.
A Car Seat
If you have a car, you will need a car seat. If you don’t have a car but ever travel in other people’s cars or in taxis, you will need a car seat. What you don’t really need is a car seat base. While they are incredibly handy for easily clicking the car seat in and out of the car, they are expensive (considerably more than the seat itself) and are unnecessary. It takes about 10 seconds to buckle baby into their car seat with the seatbelt.
Do try to get a car seat which is compatible with your model of pram/stroller.
For instance, we have a Bugaboo Cameleon3 pram/stroller system and for our first carseat, we bought Swedish made, uber safety conscious BeSafe iZi Go carseat with five point locking system which clips on to the Bugaboo base with adapters. You can use the same adapters with Maxi-Cosi carseats.
Do try to get a car seat with a five point locking system, if possible, for added safety, or buy a five point locking systems adapter to fit onto your existing car seat. Its available from places like Halfords (here in the UK).
A Pram/Stroller System
Pram and stroller shopping is like buying a new car. You cannot do it online. You have to go to the actual store – perhaps several times – and try each stroller out, weighing up the pros and cons of each. It is a major investment. It is also probably the only baby-related thing your husband will enjoy buying.
It’s great to enjoy shopping for this item together, but it is whoever is planning to be the primary caregiver who needs to make the final decision on this item. If you are the one who will be spending the next two and a half to three years pushing the child in it all day, everyday, then you need to know it will be a reliable and comfortable system for you to use.
You will very likely wish to buy something which converts from pram to stroller so you can use it from newborn to toddler stage.
If you live in a city, make sure you buy something lightweight, with a sharp turning radius and something which is not too wide so you can get onto trains and buses easily. If you live in the country, make sure you get something with heavy duty enough wheels to manage gravel, mud and grass which little wheels can get stuck in. We went for the Bugaboo Cameleon3 because it managed all of the above criteria really well, but there are other good systems available at a lower cost. You can get second hand Bugaboo strollers on eBay, and all the parts are available to buy separately, so it means if one piece breaks or is damaged, you don’t need to scrap the whole stroller. My friend bought the base chassis second hand for £80 and then bought all the other bits, such as the pram and stroller fabrics, new, which saved her a bundle and got her a very nice pram/stroller system for her little boy.
Newborn Healthcare Kit
At some point within a day of two of getting home with your baby, you will be convinced that your little one has a fever and you will need to obsessively take their temperature, or you will need to suck out the little baby boogers from their sniffly noses, or to trim their tiny talon-like nails that grow incredibly fast and are oh-so-sharp. Or if your baby isn’t bald (mine was) then you might even just want to brush their lovely soft hair. This is when you will need a Healthcare Kit. Its not quite as serious as a first aid kit, but is more than just grooming tools.
However you end up feeding your baby, it is helpful to have a couple of bottles on hand. You don’t need to buy a steriliser or a breast pump in advance. Unless you’re full time formula feeding, a steriliser is just another big piece of equipment on your kitchen counter and it’s quick to sterilise using boiling water by immersing everything in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes. The bottles will stay sterile in a covered saucepan for about three hours afterwards. While you may end up buying your own breast pump down the road, don’t bother doing it now. You can rent the really good hospital grade breast pumps from the NCT, your hospital, a variety of commercial companies or your local children’s centre which often rents them for free, with a deposit which is refunded when the machine is returned.
We bought these Nuk glass baby bottles which don’t leach any chemicals into our baby’s milk (there are more endocrine-disrupting chemicals in plastics than the now-banned BPA, I’m afraid, so BPA free just isn’t enough). There are a number of glass baby bottles on the market but we found the Nuk ones were the least expensive, were sturdy (not a single breakage yet) and they have the benefit of the Nuk anti-colic teats which you can buy at plenty of local pharmacies and supermarkets. Edit: Also over time we have found them to be useful as snack pots for older baby/toddlers because they come with little screw on lids to replace the teats. So very zero waste…I’ll be using them for years!
If you’re worried about breakage – fair enough – the LifeFactory ones are really cool and come in gorgeous colours (see below) and they are covered in silicone sleeves so they don’t break when dropped.
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!
My 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.