How Minimalist Did You Make Your Baby’s Nursery?

Did your baby sleep in a drawer or a cardboard crib? (The latter item really does exist and is pictured below.) Did you even have a nursery or did you simply pull baby into bed with you? Did you manage to outfit your baby’s nursery entirely with hand-me-downs or gear from Freecycle?

Of course having a minimalist nursery (or none at all) isn’t the only way to go green, but there’s so much pressure to gear up that it’s nice to know how people manage to creatively raise their babies without all the newest gadgetry. In our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, we try to share a variety of money-saving options for going green with baby, but our favorite is to buy less and buy used.

Do You Need Co-Sleeping Gear?

We had no intentions of sharing our small full size bed with a newborn, but fatigue quickly convinced us to co-sleep. My son’s nursery sat untouched for the first few months of his life, as he either slept in the sling or in bed with us. Any other attempts were encountered with hours of shrill tea kettle shrieks that drove us to comply with his terms.

With our daughter, we were thrilled to borrow a co-sleeper from friends. We blissfully imagined having the bed to ourselves while our newborn snoozed safely nearby. In the end, my daughter utterly refused to be anywhere except right up against me while she slept. We found this out after breaking the co-sleeper while setting it up and sending it back to the company for repairs that cost just as much as the item itself.

What If There’s Carpet in Baby’s Nursery?

Should you rip up the rug in baby’s nursery, ship it off to the landfill, and replace it with sustainably grown bamboo hardwoods? Or would it be better to steam clean the thirty year old orange shag carpet and incorporate the color scheme into a homemade quilt? How do you balance your environmental ideals with aesthetic desires and budget restraints? Has anyone encountered this very dilemma?

In our old home, one of our children ended up in a carpeted room while the other spent her babyhood a nursery with hardwood floors. If I had a limitless budget, I suppose we would have donated the carpet to a charity and put in wood floors throughout, but the recycler in me couldn’t allow a perfectly usable rug to be dumped into a landfill. (Even though I know carpets are much less healthy in a home environment than hardwoods.) Did you struggle with issues like these while you prepared for baby?

Simplifying Your Baby Nursery: What Don’t You Need?

In The Eco-nomical Baby Guide,we share that we felt pressured to purchase baby-oriented gizmos to be “prepared” for the transition to motherhood. When our babies actually arrived, we realized that no amount of gear could compensate for grueling work of caring for a newborn. Life wasn’t a hardship because we didn’t own wipe warmers, it was hard because living without sleep and showers for extended periods of time was an absolute shock.

In the months before my baby arrived, Rebecca’s input helped me bypass the baby aisle and look to consignment stores and craigslist. My husband and I also repurposed what we already had to outfit the nursery. In the end we purchased only one new piece of new furniture–a combination dresser and changing table from Ikea—and ended up with a beautiful nursery. It was outfitted with a used rocking chair with homemade seat covers, (which honestly turned out to creak annoyingly every night from 3-5am….) homemade curtains, a solid maple secondhand crib, a used boppy with a new cover, and art given to us at our baby shower. Stacks of gently used pre-folds purchased from a diaper service and a dozen secondhand diaper covers filled the shelves as we waited for baby.

Did You Buy a Baby Tub?

I was sure we would simply slip our infant into a sink full of bubbles and save a large hunk of plastic from entering the landfill. When we found the kitchen sink bath to be far trickier than anticipated, my husband insisted on buying a baby tub.

Of course, now I realize that gently used infant tubs are everywhere! I do actually wish we would have searched for one while I was pregnant because I was too crazily exhausted to seek out anything other than food and showers in the months after I gave birth.

If I ever did buy a tub, I do think the Spa Baby Upright Baby Eco Tub is rather clever. It is made out of 100% recycled plastic without polycarbonate, bisphenol-A, or paint. Although it claims to be usuable for newborns to 10 month olds, I’m not sure how easily baths would go on either end of that spectrum.

Sustainable Wooden Baby Gear at Affordable Prices

While we haven’t yet discovered a ceramic crib, we are happy to report that there are some unexpectedly eco-friendly, beautiful and affordable pieces of green baby gear. Rebecca and I both focused on minimizing with our babies to avoid being swallowed in a sea of plastic doodads. But the Growing Up Green product line would have also been a great alternative considering that it carries sustainable, simply designed products at reasonable prices.

My favorite is the Growing Up Green Wood Step Stool. It’s currently half off at just over twenty bucks and is both sturdy and beautiful. Made from pesticide-free, sustainably raised bamboo, you can also feel good about its sources. (In the interest of full disclosure, I do have to share that it’s made in China. Sigh..) My kids are now five and nearly three, and the step stool is probably their most frequently used piece of furniture. I would love to replace the blue plastic garage sale number with one of these!

Are You Handing Down Baby Gear or Receiving Secondhand Baby Goods-or Both?

This month we’ll be exploring how to outfit a green nursery with high quality baby gear on a budget. Of course, our favorite green strategies involve those old school R’s: reduce, recycle and reuse. But it can be tough to score all secondhand baby gear if you are the first one of your friends and family to have a child. You may end up being showered with so much loot that it’s hard to find your way out from under the pile of ribbons. If that’s the case, heading off to the consignment shop is a bit futile until your child grows out of all those gifts.

Things I Obsessed Over during Pregnancy that Seem Silly in Retrospect

During my pregnancy, I had some real concerns about giving birth and breastfeeding. But I also enjoyed obsessing over other issues that—six years later—no longer feel quite so urgent. Here were my particular bugaboos:

Nursing pads. What are nursing pads? Do I need nursing pads? How do I choose nursing pads? What if I choose the wrong nursing pads? Who knows why I cared so much about nursing pads. Read my nursing pads reviews. Or buy some LANAcare nursing pads and be done with it.

Cloth diapering. Prefolds? Diaper covers? Pocket diapers? All-in-ones? How will I ever decide? How will I wash them? If only I could have gone into the future and written the Eco-nomical Baby Guide, then brought it back to 2006 so I could read it and learn everything I needed to know about cloth diapering.

Baby Gear I Wish I’d Splurged On After All

If you’ve read The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, you know I got pretty hardcore about baby gear. That is, if it wasn’t going to last a long time or perform five functions at once, I didn’t want it. The pleasant side effects of this policy was that I didn’t have mountains of blinking plastic toys to wade through on my way to the kitchen. I saved money and the environment. Great!

But . . . in retrospect I have to wonder if I might have eased my restrictions just a bit to make my life with a new baby a little easier. In Baby Gear I Lived Without, I go over some of the common baby items I didn’t buy. Here are a few things I might have liked after all:

Make room for baby by reducing, recycling, and reusing

January is a great month for reorganizing your bathroom or decluttering the kitchen counters but I remember that both my pregnancies spurred my (limited) organizational tendencies into overdrive. At the time, our house was a thousand square feet and we wanted to evaluate how we used every inch in the days before our babies arrived.

But instead of rushing out to buy hundreds of dollars of bins, shelves, and baskets to hold our stuff, we started with what we had. (This is mostly due to our green ideals, but our tightwad tendencies were a factor as well.) So where do you start if you are overwhelmed, without an organizational system, and pregnant? With tiny, tiny steps.