So as some of you may know I am currently expecting baby #3 and as I start to think about what I want for my birth this time around and gather together all our newborn bits and bobs from the loft it got me thinking about sustainable choices for birth and beyond.
My first baby was a typical collection of the disposable and plastic norm (albeit slightly pared down). We started our low waste living journey when she was 6months old so for my second pregnancy and birth I incorporated more sustainable choices (reusable pads for me, reusable nappies for baby, vegan nipple balm, sulphate free soaps for baby etc) Now another baby is imminent I wanted to look in to what more I can do this time round to go a bit further.
So here’s my personal product recomendations and ideas for packing a more eco friendly birth bag and making more conscious purchasing choices for things you want/need in pregnancy and those newborn days. Even if you just get one idea or want to try one suggestion out – remember no matter how small, your effort is making a difference, to you, your baby and to the planet.
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A creamy blend of soothing lavender and chamomile, with nourishing shea and coconut oil, this gentle butter melts into your baby’s skin, encouraging a calm and restful night’s sleep while healing and protecting from skin irritants and common baby rashes.
Reusable drinks bottle
Its super important to remain hydrated while pregnant and while in labour so caring a water bottle around with you can help make sure you keep up that water intake. And if you’re breastfeeding baby then you’re gonna be thirsty, so great to have a drink in reach at all times! Reusable bottles are great for around the house as well as out and about, where you can top them up at free refill stations.
Vegan Lip Balm
Very dry lips can be common in labour, especially if you are using gas and air. Keep them moisturised with a nourishing lip balm. In an easy to pop in your bag tube – this natural lip balm is rich in nourishing and organic ingredients; jojoba oil, illipe and mango butter to smooth and soothe and myrica wax seals in the moisture and offers that protective layer.
It can be easier to drink with a straw while in labour as you have hands free drinking – your birth partner can simply hold it out to you to drink from.
However, plastic straws generally can’t be recycled, so straws have to be sent to landfill, where they take a long time to degrade, can leach chemicals like BPA, break down into microplastics, and can be ingested by wildlife. There are however alternatives:
Bamboo Drinking Straws can be reused hundreds of times and can be composted at the end of their life cycle. Our bamboo straws are an eco-friendly and sustainable solution to plastic, made without the need for any harmful pesticides or chemicals. The entire process is safe, non-toxic and completely organic. Each straw is 100% organic, handmade and biodegradable.
Silicone Straws tend to be light and durable, made from 100% Pure Food-Grade FDA/LFGB certified Silicone.
Let’s face it birth can be messy, there’s literal blood,sweat and tears! Plus throw in some milk, amniotic fluid and maybe some newborn poo aswell. That post birth shower is definitely well earned! Instead of using space in your bag for your usual bottles which are often 500ml plus, or having to resort to plastic travel miniatures why not opt for a travel tin of shampoo and soap bars. With the added bonus that they won’t leak in your bag! I would also recommend a travel kit for an easy grab and go solution!
Opting for second-hand maternity clothes is both financially beneficial and eco-friendly. Charity shops, facebook selling groups, local swap meets, nearly new sales, and hand me downs from friends and family are great options to get clothes that you’ll only need for a few months. Then when not needed anymore you can sell on local groups or donate to charity. I also found that I personally couldn’t be bothered with most nursing friendly tops and just opted for a vest top with a normal top over the top for a discreet feed and now I just wear my normal clothes and feed regardless.
If you do purchase new, look for clothes that are made of sustainable materials, so they have less impact on the planet, and also usually last longer as well. This includes bamboo, hemp and organic cotton. GOTS certified organic clothing will be very kind on your skin and is super breathable if you’re pregnant over summer (I’m now doing this the third time so trust me on this!) . Because they are very durable and quality garments, there is usually plenty of life left in them once they’re no longer needed so you can sell them on or donate them.This keeps items away from landfill and extends their life – it also means one less garment being made and the impact of the production that goes with that.
Borrowing or passing on goods from friends/family is a great way to get items you need without adding to demand or sending anything to landfill. See if a friend or relative has a birthing/yoga ball, tens machine etc before buying. I bought a tens machine for my first birth, had it on five minutes and really didn’t get in with it so it was a wasted purchase really. You could borrow one and just buy some new pads.
Scar & Stretch Mark Lotion
If your newly acquired tiger stripes or C-Section scar are bothering you or you feel they are in need of some nourishment, this lotion is a great option. It contains a range of fruit extracts and essential oils that work in a number of ways to soften and reduce scar tissue and stretch marks.
Rich in vitamin C, lemon essential oils function as an immune system booster is vital to help skin repair and regeneration. Lemon stimulates the white blood cells, increasing the body’s ability to produce healthy, new skin cells that will eventually cover over the old, dead skin cells in a scar. Coconut oil is effective at decreasing the appearance of stretch marks, by accelerating the skins recovery following damage. Grapeseed Extract is great for for boosting wound healing! When applied during pregnancy grapeseed extract prevents the appearance and formation of stretch marks by regenerating any damaged blood vessels and improving connectivity skin collagen and tissue.
Breastfeeding doesn’t always come easy for everyone, and it can have its moments in the first few days/weeks while you and baby figure out what you’re doing (remember you’re both learning) If you have some soreness or cracking, or just want a nourishing balm then this one is great! And its lanolin free and vegan!
(It shouldn’t be painful though so if you’re experiencing pain or are struggling then please reach out to a IBCLC – a certified lactation consultant)
I absolutely hated using disposable plasticky pads to catch milky leaks with my eldest. When my son was born my low waste living journey had already begun and I opted for washable reusable pads and fell in love! SO much more comfortable and no rustling noises! Feeding a baby and a toddler and having an oversupply meant lots of leaks and they were never defeated and the rate I needed them I felt much better about them going in the washing machine to be used again, as opposed to landfill forever.
I would also highly recommend looking in to reusable cloth pads or pants instead of disposable maternity towels as i just found the cotton of reusables so much more comfortable than itchy plastic. Personally, I found I could use regular menstrual pads and didn’t need special postpartum ones, but you can get a wide variety of shapes/lengths and for different flow types, night, postpartum, etc.
These super soft and large organic cotton muslin cloths are perfect for all those situations on the go, in the house where you need to clean up your baby without any irritation.
Most baby wipes are made of non-biodegradable materials and obviously can only be used once. They are a massive source of waste at landfill and also despite not being flushable (even the “flushable” and “biodegradable” varieties are not truly suitable to be flushed) they often end up clogging up our sewers and waterways.
Cloth wipes are more cost-effective, create less waste in the landfill, and help you avoid the use of irritating soaps and chemicals on your baby’s delicate bottom.
Cleaning up with cloth is as simple as just add water and wipe, though many people use homemade wipe solutions and you can purchase store-bought solutions if you prefer. You can keep them in special wipe boxes, or just use wet bags for on the go. They are available in a variety of materials, cotton is the usual go to or for luxury feels, you can buy ultra soft minky, velour, or bamboo cloths. We have some classic white bamboo terry wipes, or you could opt for pastel reusable wipes in a handy travel tote.
Get eco-friendly by opting for washable cloth nappies instead of disposable nappies. Disposable nappies are made of synthetic materials, filled with chemicals, so besides being non-biodegradable, they can be harmful to your child’s tender skin. And obviously, you can only use them once.
A cloth nappy is a reusable nappy, usually made from cotton or other natural materials. The picture that might come to your mind when we hear the term are those squares of cotton that our mothers used. Now I’m not talking about terries or the endless soaking and boiling of previous years. Modern cloth nappies are easy to clean, dry pretty fast, have poppers or velcro (no fiddly or sticky pins) and come in a multitude of prints and designs. As far as cleaning goes, nappies and many wraps just go in the wash at 40 or 60. No need to soak or to boil wash.
It can sound surprising that cloth nappies are more cost effective than disposables because they can call for a hefty initial investment (though you could always purchase preloved from selling sites to save money). But in the longer run, they turn out to be less expensive than disposables, even better if you can reuse for more than one child, and you can always sell on afterwards.
Most estimates of how much you will spend on disposable nappies are around £850-£1,100 per child. If you choose to use a nappy disposal system, it adds in the region of £200; otherwise you’ll need to add the cost of nappy bags.
However, we paid just shy of £300 for our daughters nappies, they were mostly brand new and are a popular and fairly top end quality brand, we also bought additional spare inserts. She has been using them for 3 years and our son has been sharing for the last 18 months. We have since bought a few more nappies (mostly preloved – some were a bargain at £1 each!) so we can have longer between washing since we have two little ones in cloth. If they were in disposables that could have been over 10,000 nappies between them so far. That’s a lot of plastic off to landfill, not to mention a lot of money. And while our daughter has started potty training and wont be using nappies much longer, our son will be wearing them for around another year, and soon baby 3 will be using them too, and after he’s done with them we can sell them on and get some money back. Yes you have the costs of washing but if you wash your nappies two or three times a week at 60 degrees, and take into account the cost of electricity, water and detergent, then the grand total is about £1 a week, or about £130 over two and a half years.
So disposables could’ve cost us £3000 for our 3 children, instead of the £400 or so we’ve spent on cloth nappies and maybe £260 on washing, as we do wash ours more than twice a week as we have two in cloth. That’s a saving of up to £2340, and we still have the potential to make some money back when they sell on. If we had opted for other brands or for muslins/flats or got them all preloved then there could have been even more savings as those would have a cheaper outlay.
According to WRAP, the UK adds 3 billion disposable nappies to landfill every year, so making the switch to reusables can really make a difference. They are not as hard as you think and most local councils offer a nappy voucher incentive when you buy your first set of nappies.