What does your baby really need? Maybe it’s easier to ask ‘What doesn’t your baby need?’ Parents to be and new parents are flooded with adverts and marketing that prey on the their naivety to make them believe that unless they buy their fancy new gadget they will fail as a parent.
As someone who spent time 16 years in the nursery products industry, I became only too aware that this industry is out of control and not sustainable. Fortunately we worked with the few but growing number of brands that were ethical in their processes, however even then I did question the real benefit of a lot of stuff sold for babies.
When Becky and I started Baby Bank Network we were keen to only redistribute things that we deemed useful. I say useful as I know from experience that a cot, a pram and lots of other baby gear is definitely not essential. I co-slept with my babies and the cot we inherited for my daughter became the holding place for clothes that were destined for the wardrobe (sometimes they did make it there!) and with my son born 5 years later we never bothered with a cot, just upgraded to a 6ft bed instead. The buggy I had for him was soon replaced by a sling and shopping trolley when I realised that not only was this much cheaper but far more convenient around the local shops. My ‘earth mother’ leanings were borne out of a desire to not buy stuff that would just become waste and pollute the planet and to not pollute my babies with toxic chemicals but also to not spend money we didn’t have on stuff we really didn’t need.
Recently I’ve been observing the rise of Minimalism and Zero Waste movements and how these are making people consider that happiness doesn’t come from owning stuff but instead from experiences and connection with one another. I’m interested in how and when this will trickle down into the world of parenting. Because most new parents-to-be don’t live in communities where they are around babies and therefore parents of young children to observe and learn from, they take their guidance from online magazines, blogs and parenting sites. These publications rely on advertising revenue to survive.
Mulling over all this and seeing how Baby Bank has grown as partly a result of people so willing to give us their grown out baby stuff, a lot of which wasn’t really needed in the first place, I thought I’d take a look at how we can spend less money on stuff we don’t need whilst also improving our health and wellbeing. Here are some ideas that I’ve found useful with links to further reading should you want to know more.
- Have a Baby Moon [i] A Baby Moon is a month of being with your baby 24/7 for at least a month (1 moon cycle hence the name). In that time you stay in bed with your baby, in the house or close to it. The idea is to bond with your baby, get breastfeeding established and recover. In many cultures the mother is looked after by her mother or other family so she can just be with her baby. This is the time to keep guests away (unless they are bringing food or are coming to cook and clean). During this time a lot of skin to skin contact is recommend so you won’t need many newborn baby clothes.
- Human Milk [ii] for human babies is the most environmentally friendly food for a baby. [iii] Formula milk companies are quick to sign up parents to their parenting clubs to be as a way to get their brand ‘out there’ as they are not allowed to advertise newborn formula milk. The carbon footprint of formula feeding, not to mention the cost is huge. It is possible to transition a baby from breastmilk to animal or plant milks without ever needing to buy a can of formula or the associated bottles and sterilisers by using a cup.
- Baby wearing [iv] is the term used to describe carrying your baby in a sling or baby carrier. Not only are there great health benefits for the baby but it is a far cheaper option than buying a newborn pram. When your child is 6months+ you can upgrade to a more substantial carrier that will also go on your back or consider buying a lightweight and cheaper stroller if you feel you need one.
- Bedshare – Most babies around the world sleep with their parents. One of the common comments I heard was “they won’t leave your bed” Well my kids did as did I from my parent’s bed! There are lots of benefits of bed sharing including better sleep for everyone, less gear to buy (no need for cribs and cots) and most importantly health and wellbeing benefits that will last a life time. Find out more at Attachment Parenting UK [v] (If bed-sharing it is important to follow these guidelines as set out by Lullaby Trust and Unicef).
- Use washable nappies [vi] at least some if not all of the time. They save you money and are not a single use plastic item. They are also super cute and leave you feeling rather pleased that you haven’t literally thrown your money in the bin and contributed to depleting non renewable resources or climate change. There are now a fantastic range of washable nappies to try. Or you could go nappy free by using elimination communication. [vii]
- Buy once, buy well or borrow. At Baby Bank we made a point of only asking for items we deem as essential. There are a lot of baby items you can buy that are no more than landfill fodder. If every time you thought about buying something you asked yourself some simple questions like – do I really need this? Once I’ve used it can it be reused? After it’s worn out can it ultimately be recycled? The concept of a circular economy[viii] is still unheard of for many nursery goods suppliers. If all companies thought like this we wouldn’t have to ask those questions. Until then it is our responsibility to be mindful in our purchasing. We would love to work with suppliers who have thought about this and want to make products that last so can be passed on to many families and then can be returned to them for recycling.
[ii] http://www.ibfan.org/docs/FormulaForDisaster.pdf http://ibfan.org/docs/Carbon-Footprints-Due-to-Milk-Formula.pdf
[vi] https://www.closeparent.com/product-info/pop-in-advice/why-reusable-nappies Close Parent are just one of many manufacturers of washable nappies. I have linked to them because they have supported us in the past with products in kind.