Back in March before my daughter was born, I condemned the widespread use and improper disposal of single-use nappies, suggesting that washable diapers would be a better option.
I was inundated with a deluge of responses. The majority applauded the fact that I had brought this issue to light. Others, obviously feeling bad about their fallacies then exposed, accused me of preaching and suggested that when push came to poo, I would not practice what I preached.
Today, I have the healthy and beautiful three month-old Juliette at my side and, contrary what many of the comments predicted, she has never had a disposable nappy on her bottom. She has never had nappy rash and we really don't find it a hassle to throw on one extra load of washing a day.
Setting up with cloth nappies has cost us only $230 as there are plenty going cheap on Trademe. There is also a wealth of knowledge and advice from cloth nappy users out there that is well worth taking the time to listen to.
Being an environmentally conscious parent doesn't require too much extra effort, especially if you are not afraid to ask some of the millions of people who have done it before what worked for them.
This week I thought I would pass on a few things we've found that have made the journey easier as first-time parents:
Mother's Little Helper
One of the best things we ever did was get a copy of Wendyl Nissen's book. It's now our standard gift for expecting friends too. It's filled with great advice on raising chemical free kids and not only does she sell beautiful products but gives you the recipe so you can make more yourself. Certainly not a commercially traditional route, but definitely one to be applauded.
I don't mean to harp on about it, but they're our single biggest cost saver. There are many different types out there; it's a matter of finding the right ones that suit you. I prefer the Imse organic toweling ones while mum loves the good old cotton squares. Sure we go through over twenty a day, but we're starting to integrate the potty (an excellent bamboo fibre Beco Potty from Nature Baby), as Juliette is well aware of when she is doing a number one or number two.
Flushable, 100% biodegradable, sustainably sourced bamboo liners
These things get rid of the number twos without a hassle (cutting down on scrubbing time) and are washable too. 90% of the time you are dealing with number ones and the liners go into the wash with the nappies. We get two uses out of them as nappy liners and a further four as wet wipes (using Wendyl Nissen's all-natural recipe). Once they've reached the end of their usable life they go in the compost.
The perfect form of waste minimisation. Rather than dropping big money on "cute" clothes, we have pillaged the treasure chests of relatives and family friends. We've also set up a clothing and baby gear library amongst friends so we can pass on our outgrown clothes to get some additional use in-between our future offspring. Juliette spent the first couple of weeks of her life in the same epic little basket that my two brothers and I did.
Sharing the load
I work much of the day while mum looks after Juliette. But laundry is my duty as is cooking dinner and I pitch in with everything after hours. It's only an extra 10 minutes to wash and fold the nappies and giving mum a much-needed break and a nutrition-packed meal makes the night duty much easier.
We were lucky enough to have the knowledge of an experienced obstetrician, Dr Silvia Rosevear, to help us with the birth. Knowing that she was on hand to give us the advice that we needed gave us comfort in a time of need. Everyone providing advice has the best intentions, but after being turfed out of the hospital dazed and confused at 4am then given varying advice from the multitude of postnatal midwives, it was nice to have someone to completely trust when we were unsure as to what to do. Having that one person to call on is really important.
Sometimes finding the time to shower let alone get the groceries is near impossible. These guys drop off delicious, fresh, locally-grown produce straight to your door. They even combine them with excellent recipes, in case your own repertoire doesn't yet include lovely fresh fennel salad.
I reckon that we have the best wool in the world and rather than wrapping up the little one in plastic that may well leach nasty chemicals into her soft skin, natural fibres keep my winter baby warm and happy. Not only is it light-weight and scratch-free, it's super easy to wash and wears really well.
I love listening to tunes and so does Juliette. I have a couple of songs up my sleeve that I boom out to distract her on the rare occasions that she drops the bottom lip. She is yet to develop a distinctive musical taste and thus enjoys my singing - even if everyone else around thinks that I sound like a dying seagull.
So far we have been extremely lucky with Juliette. As it seems every parent opines, I reckon she is the most beautiful thing that exists (thankfully she takes after her mother). So I share my opinion with you on some of the things that I - very much still a rookie parent - have benefited from.
If anyone out there has any ideas they would like to share on parenting that is good, or better for the environment than the norm, please share them by comment or email. I would love to try them out on Juliette and would encourage any other parent readers to do so too. It really isn't that hard raising a baby with the environment in mind- they will thank you for it later.
Sam Judd is co-founder of multi-award-winning charity Sustainable Coastlines.