There are some mothers who are up-to-date on all the latest recommendations in pregnancy and child development. These women avoid caffeine and soft cheeses during pregnancy and compliment their child in five different languages when he reaches a new milestone (five months ahead of his peers, no doubt). On the opposite end of the spectrum, we find the parents who, through lack of education and resources, remain ignorant of all the expert opinions in child-minding.
And then there are the parents like me. Parents who know all about the baby rules and regulations touted by medical and safety authorities and blatantly disregard them! Why do I do it? I guess I’m just a renegade, a rebel, a rule-breaker in general. Or . . . maybe I am just lazy. Or . . . I am doing it to save the world! Here are just some of the rules I break out of eco-consciousness:
I don’t use paper towels. Okay, there is no rule about using paper towels, but many parents believe paper towels are necessary for wiping up spills and dirty faces. I just use washcloths.
I let baby eat off the floor. The five second rule is in full effect at our house. I hate wasting food more than I value perfectly sanitary eating conditions. A recent study by Clemson University validates my earth-friendly practice, proving that food eaten within five seconds after contact with the floor is safer than food that has been lying on the floor for a long, long time. Good to know. The Grinder, a food media blog, writes about it here.
I wash baby’s laundry with our laundry. I had heard about washing our daughter’s clothes in a separate load. Never did it. I would have to buy a lot of clothes to make up a full load, and tossing just two pairs of pants and three onesies in the wash is not a sustainable practice (for me or the environment). I even found a hospital to back me up on this one.
I let her sleep in a used crib. How many times have you heard that a baby should never, ever, ever sleep in a used crib? I just followed the guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics and my baby has been snoozing peacefully in her secondhand crib for over a year and a half now with no ill effects.
I don’t sterilize anything. This rule may have been revised now that more people are concerned about the toxins leaching from plastic, especially when plastic is heated. However, there are still those who practice vigilant sterilization of every surface the baby may come in contact with: bottles, toys, floors, walls, etc. I belong more to the “germs are good for the baby; they’ll help build her immune system” school of thought.
I don’t turn the heat up. Before the baby was born, we set the thermostat at 62 degrees during the day and turned it off at night. After layering on multiple sweaters, hats, scarves, and gloves, it was perfectly comfortable. Imagine my shock upon hearing babies need the thermostat cranked up to 74 degrees. We didn’t do it. Instead, we turned the thermostat to 64 (the decadence!) during the day and 59 at night. We keep a small heater in her room since it’s dangerous to pile blankets on top of a baby, and we save energy by not heating the entire house. Our daughter always feels perfectly warm and toasty.
I don’t give the baby daily baths. Again, this is not exactly a rule. In fact, many pediatricians recommend bathing babies less frequently to avoid skin irritations from too much warm water. Bathing my baby just once a week (whether she needs it or not) saves at least 120 gallons of water a week, or 6,240 gallons a year!
So why break the rules? I figure all this reckless rule-breaking is better for my budget, my sanity, the Earth, and my baby. Most of the children on the planet don’t live by these conventions and are perfectly happy without paper towels and separately-washed laundry. My daughter will still have a wonderful childhood—the beefed-up immune system and environmental rebelliousness will just be bonuses.