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.
If I had known we were going to co-sleep I may have been tempted to buy gear that my babies would have refused to use. We transitioned them to a secondhand crib at around five months, so the nursery did get plenty of use.
Did you use your co-sleeper? Did you keep a bassinet or a moses basket in your bedroom, or did you put your infant to sleep in a traditional crib? (If so, how did you handle all those night feedings?) Were you blessed with a newborn who enjoyed sleeping for long stretches in a separate space from you?
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?
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.
And how much did all that cost? We spent less than a thousand dollars on my son’s entire first year..and relished every dime that we set aside for later. (Not to mention all the packaging that was saved by buying used instead of new.) We both sometimes reflect on baby gear that we could have splurged on, but at the time it was also fun to see just what we could live without.
So what all did we pass up? New baby clothes, a wipe warmer, a bottle sterilizer, lots of disposable diapers (although we did use them at night), and much, much more. What did we buy used? Almost everything!
What did you cross off your registry list and what did you buy used for baby? Did friends and family support your decision to limit your purchases? Did you even have a baby nursery or get creative with another room in your home?
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.
Did you live without a baby tub? Do you have any tricks for sink baths? Did you end up just using the full sized tub with some sort of insert?
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!
The Growing Up Green Potty Seat is simple, elegant and priced similarly to it’s plastic counterparts at just twelve bucks. If you try infant potty training, as we sort of accidentally did, you’ll be getting years of use out of this investment. (Plus, having a seat that fits on the toilet means that you won’t have to clean out a small potty on a daily basis…)
The Growing Up Green Bamboo Booster Seat is the most expensive of the three at nearly sixty dollars and the one I’m least sold on. Somehow all the right angles give me anxiety about applesauce and pureed yams becoming encrusted in the cracks. I cannot count the hours that I have spent cleaning my daughter’s high chair. It’s curved and has as few angles as possible, and yet…it can be horrifying what lodges in the corners. So if there’s a place for a secondhand plastic product, I think perhaps it’s highchairs and boosters.
Would you consider any of these bamboo products? Do you own any new or used wooden baby gear? Have you had success with the Bamboo Booster Seat?
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.
On the other hand, if you’re the last one to welcome a baby, herds of relatives and friends may be thrusting their gently used Boppy pillow and Ergo Carriers into your life. You may even be slightly bummed out that you won’t be unwrapping a single new toy, as you have grocery bags full of wooden cars stored in the basement. (Note to readers, Rebecca and I wackily loved all things used and never had the urge to purchase new gear. This may seem weird, but it’s true.)
I have to say that I belong to both parts of the hand-me-down system. We supply expecting friends with deliveries of sturdy secondhand cloth diapers and tiny denim overalls, most of which we bought used. But my daughter will probably never own a piece of new clothing as we have endless tubs of beautiful girl’s clothes handed down to us by my four nieces. It’s fun to be on both ends of the cycle!
So are you the one handing down the goods or are you receiving the secondhand baby gear? Are you buying secondhand gear online and hoping to stumble into some gear exchanges later on? Do you prefer to buy new items for your first child and save them for your future children? Do you loan out gear between the births of your children and ask people to return it?
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.
Pink clothes. Now that I know I’m having a girl, what if everyone buys her pink clothes? And pink blankets? How will my daughter defy gender expectations in pink ruffles? Well, it happened. And at six, my daughter’s favorite color is . . . yes, pink. She also wants to grow up and become a doctor (okay, or a ballerina).
Bad baby gifts. What if someone buys my baby something and I hate it? I really over-thought this one. Two choices: I can keep it or donate it.
For the baby, it’s a magical jungle. For me, a garish petroleum product that will one day wind up in a landfill.
Did you have any goofy pregnancy obsessions? What were they—and what did you do to alleviate your (admittedly silly) concerns?
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:
Bottles (plural). I got by with one bottle for my daughter’s entire babyhood, and I was very proud of it. It was a plastic bottle, too, since I purchased it right before the BPA scare was all over the news and glass bottles came back in style. If I had to do it again, I’d get a set of glass bottles. A whole set!
Breast pump. My hospital gave me a free hand pump, which was nice. But you know what would have been even nicer? A more sophisticated model like the Hygeia breast pump.
Eco-friendly disposable diapers. I bought six packs of disposable diapers for my daughter’s entire diaper-wearing career. That’s an accomplishment to applaud (I guess), but because I used so few disposables, I should have shelled out the extra money for Seventh Generation diapers that don’t use chlorine.
Stroller. We bought a Maclaren Triumph stroller, and it is hands-down the best piece of baby gear I had because we used it daily for over five years. But for a little more money, I could have bought the Maclaren Quest instead, which would have made the first ten weeks with a new baby more enjoyable.
Baby monitor.Our first house was so small a baby monitor wasn’t necessary. We didn’t really need one after we moved, either. But now I wonder what life might have been like with the monitor. I could have ventured out to the backyard during naps or sat out on the front porch reading. Did I inadvertently tether myself to the nursery for all those years?
Dishwasher. This last one is just wishful thinking. There is no way I could have bought a dishwasher in those early days of parenthood. But oh, what a difference it would have made!
Did you purposefully skimp on any baby gear for cost or space reasons? What baby gear do you wish you had? Or what fanciful doodad (maybe some baby bangs?) would you like us to talk you out of buying?
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.
Start small. It gave me great happiness to attack the medicine closet or a spice cabinet. I simply pulled out everything, tossed it into a box, and was very selective about what we put back in. Having these small, but really important areas organized spurred my motivation to move onto the next zone in my home that was driving me crazy. (We are currently living in a much bigger home and I am not pregnant, but I had the pleasure of sorting through my medicine cabinet and bathroom shelves last week. I still have to open them regularly just to admire the neat, labeled pull-out tubs made out of empty kleenex boxes. One is for cold and flu medicine, one for first aide, etc. Order, even in small spaces, is bliss when life with kids is such chaos.)
Play Furniture Tetris. A friend of mine with a similarly sized home coined this phrase and I loved it instantly. For awhile we kept baby in our bedroom and gave up the nursery altogether. Then we shifted the office contents into the living room and moved everything about once more. We were constantly asking ourselves how to repurpose what we already had. Could the baby’s dresser also work as a changing table? Could our small shelf be a spot to stash towels in the bathroom?
Recycle for profit. Taking boxes of rarely read novels to the used book store or selling our loot on craigslist earned us the money to buy what we really wanted for our home. Plus we scored space on our shelves to display what we really love.
When in doubt, donate. Even if I think I just might someday use that ugly turquoise fish pitcher, I’ve learned to toss it in the donation pile. I feel it improves my personal thrift store karma and of course it scores us a lovely tax write-off as well. Also, by recycling something I loathe we recover precious household space.
When I was in the midst of parenting a newborn, any change in our environment took approximately sixteen times longer than it normally would have. But when I was pregnant, I could organize three cupboards of tupperware in less than fifteen minutes. (I so wish that crazy organization drive was still with me today!) Where are you in the parenting spectrum? What do you plan on being able to organize this month? Stay tuned for upcoming posts on tackling your closet…maternity jeans and all!
As of last June, it became illegal to sell new or used drop-side cribs in the U.S. So Joy asked, “What should you do with your drop-side crib?” and readers came up with solutions. Joy, for example, plans to pass her drop-side crib on to another family–along with information about the ban and the crib immobilizer kit that makes it impossible to lower crib rails.
These sides don’t drop!
Commenters have chimed in with offers to donate their sturdy drop-side cribs to other readers free of charge. Today I approved a comment from Megan, who says, “So glad everyone is just giving away drop down cribs despite the ban. Way to think of others and their children.”
Do you agree? Is it wrong to pass along those banned cribs? Or would you accept a secondhand drop-side crib from a friend?