Parenting and sustainability – so much we can do, so little time we have. Setting habits and family values early is so important with the littlest members of our family looking to us as role models from day dot. After about a year with our little boy we’ve learned a few hacks along the way that are easy, and anyone can do. In this post we will help you create sustainable habits with your baby’s food, clothing, nappies, and toys. Papatūānuku/Mama Earth says thanks!
Hack 1: Your baby's food
Make food at home as much as you can in bigger quantities – this will save time, money, and pouch food packaging. What’s better than giving fresh, nutrient-dense food to your little bundle of joy? Dedicate some time to make it in bulk and we found around one year old there wasn’t too much need to make meals separate from ours. Store your prepped meals in food-safe containers and use masking tape for labelling which works well in the freezer. I like to use ball jelly jars and freeze the food in single portions that are age and appetite appropriate – cutting down on food waste.
You can also use second-hand glass containers, reused takeaway boxes, stainless containers and silicone pouches. Having healthy meals always ready to go is hugely helpful. As an example, I set aside small portions in the fridge in the jelly jars if we make an adult serving of rice. Then when we need a quick meal for our little one I just add hemp seeds and a generous fat portion to the pan heated rice for a well-balanced snack. The Milk To Meals book helped us a lot and really glad we read that before our little guy started solids.
Hack 2: Clothing
Conscious consumption can be a challenge when it comes to clothing considering how fast your baby grows and everyone seems to love gifting cute booties! There are a few things you can do to keep your baby’s wardrobe under control. Facebook Marketplace and other online platforms will be your new best friend with so many great buys. You’ll often find exactly what you’re looking for and buying second-hand clothing is also a fantastic hack to get high quality clothes without the full price tag.
One important thing to keep an eye out for is the fabric composition - opt for natural fibres where possible. Synthetic fabrics shed micro plastics into our waterways when they are washed and break down as plastics at the end of the garments life. The fabric that is against our babys skin is an important consideration! GOTS certified organic cotton and wool are great for little ones.
Hack 3: Nappies and trying EC
A disposable nappy takes 500 years to break down and then the plastic remains in our ecosystems as micro plastic forever (literally). It’s safe to say we’re advocates of reusable nappies for this reason as well as limiting chemical exposure to baby’s sensitive reproductive areas – the composition of some nappies isn’t too flash. Everyone has their own situation so whether you are using reusable nappies none of the time, part-time or full time there is no shaming or judgement here. The important thing is taking whatever steps you can. Can you switch one nappy a day to reusable? The night nappy? Reusable designs are pretty good now and the days of leaking is a thing of the past when you have a reusable corrected fitted and padded.
One thing I can share from our journey is that reusable nappies were a lot easier because we did elimination communication/EC at the same time. Since it was only rarely that I cleaned poop from nappies (we maybe had 30 poop nappies, or 'misses' in 15 months total with most of these in the newborn period) it wasn’t a big deal for us. EC is a parenting option for families to potty their baby from birth rather than relying solely on nappies. Babies have been telling us about their need to ‘go’ since the start of time...even if this is the first time we have heard of it! EC works by responding to these signals, your baby’s natural timing, and your intuition. You then physically respond by holding them in an EC-specific hold or helping them sit on a potty. EC plus our stash of reusable nappies has essentially kept over 3000 nappies out of landfill thus far. If EC sounds interesting, check out the baby section of our blog and support group for more information.
Hack 4: Toy Libraries
Toys - an essential tool for your child’s development, but which ones do you buy? These days the toy market is flooded with plastic and the products are not designed to last. Our number one hack for a sustainable play time is utilising your local toy library. Keep your little one excited about new things to discover while minimising clutter and resource use. Toy libraries also help you to figure out what your baby is into during their various development stages. One week it might be music, the next could be mobility or puzzles. You can get all the big stuff from toy libraries too, like slides and the larger 'things that go brrrm' toys. This option is budget friendly and the toys are used and enjoyed by many families. The world is your playground at the toy library.
So there you have it. Four things to think about when it comes to your sustainable parenting journey. What will you do? Do you have any other ideas you would like us to champion?