Slow Living: My plans to parent a baby sustainably

Blogger Gender Reveal...it's a girl! Next fox baby outfit

I had plans today to share a Halloween-themed outfit, but life disagreed with me getting proper outfit photos of my maternity Halloween outfit (rather than costume!) before today, and after this weekend would be too late, so you’ll only find it on Instagram.

Instead I’m talking parenting, sustainability and slow living. In my eyes, it’s not about being “hippy” and making every single part of your life green, but making conscious decisions to make better choices where it’s feasible to do so. Trying to live more slowly is part of this, turning away from unnecessary plastics, for example, and choosing different options.

The question I keep asking myself is, how does social media mesh with living slow? It’s really a big question for another day, but with a baby on the way, I’ve been thinking a lot more about how I can make these conscious decisions to take things more in the moment and not simply collect “stuff” just because it’s pretty. Here are my thoughts so far (and these will be expanded into larger posts in future, I’d imagine, when I actually start trying to live this way!):

Minimal living

I guess this kind of defines this list overall, but when you really think about it, babies don’t need a whole lot of things. They need somewhere safe to sleep, clothes to keep them warm, food to keep them alive, and some form of stimulation to help them learn and develop. I can’t say that I’ll only be providing the absolute basics for our baby, but I want to try to keep what we do obtain minimal where possible.

I’ve already started this around our house. We’ve cut back on buying random stuff where we can and have got rid of things we don’t need. We’re only replacing these items when they need to be replaced and not just because we feel like it. I’m thinking quality over quantity, and being more aware about the sources of the products we are buying.

For baby, this means not buying ALL the clothes just because they’re cute. I’ve bought basics already in newborn/first size (hoping she comes out this size!): a set of white vests, a set of babygrows with arms and legs, and a set of babygrows with short sleeves, plus 3 outfits for 3+ months. But I’m planning to stop there (or as close to as possible – I can’t help that Next has ALL the cute clothes!) as I’ve been told I’ll get lots of baby clothes gifted.

See more of my pregnancy posts here:

Cloth nappies

Call me crazy, but I’ve done (/am doing) my research, I have serious plans to use cloth nappies for our baby. I know, I know – sounds archaic and counter-intuitive and all those other ridiculous things, but have you considered that, for an average baby from birth to potty training, you could go through 6000+ disposable nappies? These are made out of materials that take between 200 and 500 years to break down, and don’t forget the fact that as these sit in a landfill breaking down, they also contain basically raw sewage that’s leaching out into the environment – yuck!

There are lots of resources out there for cloth diapering around the world, and so many brands to choose from, plus they make VERY cute designs. Right now, I’m a little overwhelmed with all the options – it’s no longer just a cloth with a nappy pin, you can get all-in-ones, pocket nappies, covers and more, plus you need to get wet-bags and dry-bags for storage (rather than nappy bags and bins) and learn how to properly wash them. I’m in the midst of research to find out what would be best for us. I do plan to have disposables on hand for babysitters who are not used to cloth nappies, for out-and-about, and also for the newborn meconium stage which is rumoured to stain cloth nappies beyond repair.

Some resources for cloth nappying I’ve found so far:

Many people buy cloth nappies secondhand as they can be a big cost at the outset, and I’m feeling slightly squeamish about this, but apparently it’s the done thing! I’ll be looking into it more, plus looking into nappy libraries locally. Environmentally and financially (in the long term), it just makes sense to me.

Reusable wipes

On the same vein, I’m planning to purchase and/or make (see below) a set of reusable wipes rather than the disposable ones. Just think how many we must go through!

Here are some brands and companies I’ve come across for cloth nappies and wipes in the UK so far – as yet, I don’t know which options I’ll be trying:

DIY clothing, muslins & baby nest

This is a slightly bigger ask as it means me motivating myself to get behind the sewing machine again while pregnant so I can be prepared before she arrives. I plan to sew a few basics including muslins/baby wipes out of old clothing and fabrics offcuts, some clothing (for when she’s a little older than newborn, I’d say) and, the big one, a baby nest.

Muslins are super easy to make, especially if you have some sewing experience, but a baby nest is a slightly different kettle of fish. I’ve checked out patterns and bought materials, but I haven’t taken the plunge to start this yet. I decided to make my own after seeing how much people love their Sleepyheads. The reason I’ve decided to have a go at making my own is because it will end up far cheaper, I can control the source of the fabrics I use, and I may even be able to reuse old offcuts or bits I have in my stash. That’s not to say I might not buy a Sleepyhead in future if all doesn’t go well though, but like everything else on this list, I’ll try!

Secondhand/borrowed clothing

Tied into the above, babies go through clothes quickly, like really quickly. They’re growing very fast in their first few years, meaning that their clothes are at first sized in small increments from “tiny baby” (usually for those born premature) to “newborn”, “first size”, “up to 1 month”, “up to 3 months” and “0-3 months”. You’d think these were all the same size, right? Turns out that’s not true! As such, baby clothes get quickly discarded, sometimes barely worn.

Some might be a little squeamish about secondhand or borrowed clothes, but as long as they’re properly washed and in good condition, there’s no need to be. I’ll be borrowing off friends and family where I can, but I’m also looking forward to trying Belles and Babes when she’s born – my order is already in! This is essentially a baby clothing subscription service (read more about it here) where you receive 18 items of clothing for £36 per month – the clothes arrive in either new or nearly new condition, all washed and ready to wear. As baby grows, you send back that bundle and receive the next. Repairs are made if possible, or if not, the clothes are upcycled or recycled to reduce waste. Even better, the brands used are all luxury organic ones. Speaking of which…

Purchasing organic/sustainably/ethically/locally made baby clothes

Yes, I’ve already bought some basic, everyday baby clothing (ie. babygrows/sleepsuits for the first few weeks) from big brands like Primark, Mothercare and Next (ie. this dress), but I plan for other non-basic purchases to be ethically, locally or sustainably made where possible. I’ve started scoping out brands and companies I like the look of and that stock items that have this option – here are a few I’ve come across so far, but please give me more suggestions!

I’m also, quite cheekily, adding things I like from these brands (and toy/lifestyle brands) to a Pinterest board I’ll be sharing with friends and family for future gift purchases. It helps with the whole minimal living thing if they buy things we really want/need rather than just because they’ve had to buy something for an occasion.

Montessori living & wooden toys

Speaking of toys, this really warrants a whole post (most likely series in the future), but thinking about play things is another big factor of living slowly for me. I went to a Montessori nursery and honestly believe it gave me a good start in life. The Montessori values of independent learning, positive self-image and self-motivation really speak to me, and most of these techniques involve using items you already have around the house as toys.

My biggest resource for this so far has been How We Montessori – a blog I’ve followed for a long time because it’s so fascinating! – but I’ll be sharing more on Montessori living in the future too.

Baby Box

Somewhere safe to sleep is high priority for a baby. We’ve got a co-sleeping cot for our bedroom for the first few months, then we’ve got our proper cot (which will change into a bed in future) in the nursery, however it’s been strongly suggested that you have somewhere else for baby to bed down during the day. I’ve read a lot about the concept of Baby Boxes around the world and was SO pleased to find out that Leeds actually offered one if you take the Baby Box University course. I completed this and paid a small fee to have the box delivered (collection was free, but Leeds isn’t all that close to us).

Essentially, the Baby Box provides a safe sleeping place with solid walls and a flat mattress to allow baby to lie on their back with no obstacles. It also came with a few free samples of nappies, wipes etc. which will be handy to have, although there are ones that provide you with everything you need to start life with a baby, even including clothes, so it’s worth looking into the options around you no matter where you are in the world.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a controversial topic, but one that needs to be talked about – whether that’s because of the debates around the slogan “breast is best” or because of further debates around feeding in public. Today I’m not talking about the benefits either way in terms of health, but thinking about sustainability and ease.

While bottles, storage bags and more are still often needed during breastfeeding, it’s fair to say that breastfeeding using a lot less resources, particularly if you’re going about it thoughtfully. Although I should add that it’s perfectly possible to bottle/formula feed more sustainably too with eco-friendly or glass bottles. For me, it’s my preference to try breastfeeding first for these reasons. I’m completely aware that it may not work for me and baby; we might both struggle and inevitably find it not to be our journey, but I want to try.

Skincare & laundry

This is something that, I admit, I haven’t looked into properly yet. We’ve recently cut back on our plastic bottle usage in terms of shampoo, body wash, moisturisers etc., and we’re also looking to buy products that are more locally produced or eco-friendly. I want to do the same for baby, but also find ones that are kind to baby skin too.

This is similar for laundry products as we’ve recently switched to making our own, using powder in cardboard boxes, and simply using white vinegar instead of fabric conditioner (hey, it works!). I know I need to look into what I need specifically for a baby, but I think this will be a job for Ben – he’s a little bit cleaning obsessed nowadays (the Hinch effect applies to husbands too – I really couldn’t care!!).

Any suggestions on baby skincare and laundry products would be very welcome!

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My plans to parent a baby sustainably

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1 Comment

  1. November 2, 2018 / 5:15 pm

    excellent article. my friend uses cloth diapers and says they aren’t as nasty as when we were babies. i also love montessori toys. in america we have melissa and doug toys that are incredible. are they also in the UK?

    Joy at The Joyous Living

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