Zero Waste Babies

By Thuy Henderson, Guest Blogger, Full-Time Mom, Full-Time IT Professional, Full-Time Tired

As a mama of two, I can confirm that kids are basically the epitome of being wasteful. You get all the love, snuggles, kisses, and cuteness though so it sort of evens out. With a two and a half year old and one year old, life gets busy. There are so many shortcuts today that make it more convenient or easier as a parent, but some of these easy fixes can have such a negative impact on the earth.  You won’t be able to control everything and there will also be things that won’t work for your family, but don’t beat yourself up over it, being a parent is already hard enough.  Consider these swaps and see what a difference it can make not only with your waste production but your wallet too!

Breastfeeding aka Liquid Gold

Breastfeeding is hard. Not every mama can and if you’re not able to, that’s OK.  My daughter was born a month premature.  Surprise mom, I’m here.  Where’s my milk? My milk production was low so we supplemented with formula until my production increased, soon we were exclusively breastfeeding, engorged breasts and all. No more tubs of formula from plastic bins or bottles! Formula is expensive, mama’s milk is free. Not only is it good for baby, but it’s great for mama too.  Baby gets all those lovely nutrients and antibodies while you lose the baby weight from pregnancy. You both win.

Cloth Diapering

Cloth diapering isn’t what it used to be with the plastic pins and plastic covers.  There are so many options now and they all come in cool prints: all-in-ones, pockets, pre-folds, and if you prefer pins and covers, they have those too.  Did you know that it takes like a billion years for a disposable diaper to break down in landfills? It doesn’t, but it might as well be that long.

I promise it’s not as disgusting as you think.  A good washer will do most of the work for you.  And if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, no need to rinse the diapers before washing! Life hack: dry them out in the sun and watch the stains disappear. Try this with your clothes too, it’s like magic.

Cloth diapers can be an investment in the beginning, but will save you money in the long run.  Your baby will thank you for no rashes and you’ll thank the cloth diaper for no blow-outs and for us, an early potty-trained kid (TBD for the one-year-old)! We have about 20 diapers that have lasted two and a half years and still have a lot of life left in them. With proper care, cloth diapers are long-lasting and a great option to reduce waste.

D and A play in a hand-me-down playset. In the summertime, our boy likes to just hang out in his cloth diaper or nothing at all. The neighbors haven’t complained yet.

Borrow or buy secondhand baby items

That fancy vibrating swing that has five positions to stop baby from screaming is not worth the $200+ you’ll spend.  It comes wrapped in plastic, covered in Styrofoam, more plastic, and packaged in a box, wrapped with plastic. Everything you think you need, you don’t, or you’ll only use it for a month. Search for used items like swings, rocking/gliding chairs, highchairs, changing tables (the floor works great!), baby carriers, and even baby clothes at secondhand stores, garage sales, or friends and family who have had babes and don’t need these items anymore.  You’ll save these items from being thrown into a landfill and your baby won’t even know or care they’re in a used onesie that says “Dad’s my HERO.”  Babies can’t read anyways.

We picked up this playhouse from a neighbor that no longer needed it. Now all we need is green grass for the lawn.

Make your own baby food and snacks

One day your kid will love that oatmeal-banana muffin (mix one cup oats, two bananas, and bake at 350° F for 12 minutes), the next day, they won’t even look at it. Or in the words of our two and a half year old, “ew, ’scusting.” I find that food waste is the biggest problem at our house. We don’t have picky eaters.  They eat anything and everything from steamed veggies with grilled chicken to curry or pho.

All those packaged baby foods, snacks, and juices filled with sugars, sodium, and preservatives, no thanks.  It’s easy to make your own at home.  By making your own baby food, you know exactly what your baby gets and you don’t have to deal with all the packaging, jars, bottles, etc.

When planning for meals, I don’t make special separate meals for them – they eat what we eat, cut up into tiny bite-size pieces. When they were younger, everything was pureed with breast milk, yogurt, or water. Here’s where there’s a lot of waste: kids LOVE to throw food on the ground.  No matter what I say or do, this is something that I’ve accepted I can’t control.  Life goes on. Leftover fruits and veggies can be thrown into a blender and poured into a reusable pouch for a quick on-the-go snack. Throw those oatmeal-banana muffins in the blender too!

Our boy enjoying a meal of oranges, salami, cheese quesadilla, and a reusable pouchie filled with a fruit and vegetable smoothie. Not pictured, all the food on the ground.

Use a toy library

Babies mostly like boxes, so if you do end up getting that expensive swing, save the box, cut a few windows and doors, and your kid will love it more than any creepy talking animal toy.  Like the swing and baby food, toys come with so much unnecessary packaging.  It’s supposed to be baby-proof packaging, but it might as well be adult-proof, too.  If you haven’t cut yourself with the hard plastic that covers the toy, it will take you forever to unspin all 500 of those twist ties.  Save yourself the trouble and the waste and get a membership to a toy library.

We use the Minneapolis Toy Library for our kids.  We pay a yearly membership fee and each month, we can check out up to five toys for the kids.  This not only helps to cut down on waste, but is great for trying new things that we wouldn’t have considered.  My favorite part is that my house doesn’t turn into kid toy hell.

D plays with all the fun new toys dad checked out at the Minneapolis Toy Library.

These are some of the things we’ve tried that have worked for us. As the kids grow, we’ll continue to consider what we can do to be mindful of our impact and reduce waste. Every kid is different, every family is different.  What works for us may not work for you.  What are some changes you’ve made that have worked for your family?


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