Eco Baby Care – Natural Feeding, Diapers, Bathing
Preparing for baby to arrive
Giving birth can be amazing – creating a new life, a connection with nature and all living things – a humbling reminder of our place in the world. No matter how
far science has progressed, in order to produce a baby, there are still natural processes to be followed. Humans have become so used to having what we want, when we want it, but wanting and planning for babies can become a reminder that nature doesn’t work that way. Not everyone is able to give birth to babies, and certainly not when and how they want. Thankfully many are still able to become parents, and at various times many will be able to support for parents as they in caring for their babies as they love, nurture, feed keep them clean, healthy and safe.
In recent years it seems that previously welcomed “progress” and developments in baby care might not actually be as wonderful as they were first thought to be – not only for us, but for the environment. As new generations of babies will continue to be born hopefully we can leave them a healthy environment to live in, and in particular do what we can to make sure we minimize the environmental impact of our baby care, – natural feeding, diapers and bathing.
Even before our baby arrives we have our expectations on how things should be and may be overwhelmed by the conflicting advice and pressures on birth and baby care. It doesn’t help that some parents seem to take their competitive streaks to the next level, and like to discuss/ brag about birthing methods, baby birth weights, use of pain relief and the various baby childhood milestones despite many of these being natural occurrences, rather than actual achievements – like parenting isn’t challenging enough already! Thankfully somewhere most of us still have some natural instincts, including the need to ignore some of the annoying comments and opinions of others. By doing this we are more able to focus on helping our babies, who are somehow driven to develop and grow.
I remember when I was pregnant with my first baby, one mother was promoting natural home births, as her two babies had been delivered at home by her husband. ( Good for her!) She expressed her horror at my plan to have my first baby in hospital. I explained that my husband wasn’t keen to perform a home cesarean, which was the only exit route for my baby due to placenta previa. Hospital was the only option for us.
Birth plans are great but sometimes they may need adapting on the advice from experienced experts we trust. We may plan for a Natural home birth, or a water birth with a midwife, doula or trusted family member, using natural pain relief methods, or at the hospital with every medical pain relief and other resources available. Whichever route we opt for, or combination of approaches, the safe arrival of our baby is the main priority. I admit that during a long, long labour I discovered to my dismay that the organic Lavender oil I had planned to have rubbed onto my temples whilst I meditated was not sufficient pain relief. I was grateful to have an epidural and realized the health of the baby I held in my arms was more important than religiously sticking to the original plan.
Consult with your health care provider and look for local sustainable antenatal classes to attend to help you to feel as ready as you can be. Decisions regarding organic feeding, diapers etc can be made with the help of research, but they don’t have to be set in stone. There are many ways for natural baby raising! Babies and parents do not come with a one method fits all guarantee. Even subsequent babies in the same family don’t follow the same pattern. That would be too easy!
The most natural and eco-friendly baby feeding is breast feeding. According to Health Canada, “Breastfeeding is the normal and unequalled method of feeding infants. Health Canada promotes breastfeeding – exclusively for the first six months, and sustained for up to two years or longer with appropriate complementary feeding – for the nutrition, immunologic protection, growth, and development of infants and toddlers. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/index-eng.php
Breastfeeding mothers require a good diet, and enough fluid intake to produce nutritious breast milk. There is support and advice available from healthcare professionals and local sources and including La Leche league http://www.lllc.ca
However, despite the best made plans and intentions, breastfeeding is not possible for all mothers and babies.
For babies who are not being breastfed or receiving breastmilk, only commercial infant formula is recommended by Health Canada as a breastmilk substitute. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/index-eng.php
When the time comes for weaning, consider home made, or organic locally produced baby food where possible, following current advice, avoiding certain foods, and additives such as salt. There are many websites and books offering advice
For health reasons I was used a variety of feeding methods and sources for one of my babies .For some reason, my breast fed, organically home-made food, child led weaned baby is currently my fussiest eater. My mixed fed – breast with one formula bottle a day baby, who ate from jars, home made, etc is my least fussy! One way or another they were born and fed and weaned and have survived that stage of life with no apparent ill effects.
In Canada and the US more than 20,000,000,000 disposables are disposed of in landfill sites each year, taking a possible 250 – 500 years to decompose . Previous generations of mothers would have moved from moss, leaves and other plants and woven cloth to fabric/ towelling diapers which would be have been laundered without the use of washers, and dryers, pegged out to dry by wind or sunshine, or draped around the fire place. We now have a wide range of diapers to choose from – from commercially produced disposable diapers, through to ecofriendly more bio degradable disposables, organic reusable cloth diapers, other cloth diapers, traditional towelling fold and pin diapers to no diapers. Attachment parenting advocates ‘encouraged observation’ to learn the signs when baby needs to empty bowels and bladder, and catch it in a pot or ‘something’. Either way, those 20, 000,000 disposables are bad news for the environment.
“From birth to toilet training each child will use approximately 5,300 disposable diapers. It takes 440-880 lbs. of fluff pulp and 286 lbs. of plastic (including packaging) per year to supply a single baby with disposables. They are the 3rd largest single product in the waste stream behind newspapers and beverage containers. In areas where paper, glass, tin cans etc. are collected for recycling, diapers make up an even larger portion of the garbage.
Landfill sites do not provide the conditions necessary for diapers to decompose. They are in effect “mummified” and retain their original weight, volume and form. Human faeces can contain harmful pathogens and when faeces are placed in our landfill sites, as with disposable diapers, there is potential for public exposure (via rodents, pets, insects or birds).
Disposable diapering uses 37% more water than cloth diapering
Disposables appear to produce less sewage because in them, human waste goes to dump sites. This practice violates World Health Organization guidelines and is technically illegal. Washing cloth diapers at home uses 50-70 gal. of water every three days. For perspective, a toilet-trained person, flushing the toilet 5-6 times a day, also uses 70 gal. of water every three days.
Waste water from washing cloth diapers is relatively benign while the waste water from pulp, paper and plastics contain solvents, sludge, heavy metals, unreacted polymers, dioxins and furans. The potential environmental impacts of the disposal of these materials are considerable. Although cloth diaper use also emits air pollution, the air pollution from the manufacture of disposables is far more noxious. Pulp bleaching emits dioxins and furans into the air, as does incineration. Incineration often produces toxic air emissions and toxic ash.”
This author of the above has produced a helpful guide to choosing the most suitable reusable diaper for you and your baby.
There are also alternatives to disposable baby wipes. Organic cotton balls or reusable, washable facecloths. Even when we go out these can be taken out in waterproof lined bags.
Is there are reusable nappy support group or supplier you can ask for advice? Is it possible for you to try out the options and find one that works for you, perhaps even combining diaper solutions. Any reduction in reliance on disposables is a good thing.
Keeping baby clean
Babies don’t need to smell like commercially produced baby products, however familiar those scents might be to us. Sometimes water is sufficient to clean a baby but there are many natural, organic products available suitable for baby’s sensitive skin. Natural barrier creams and remedies help to keep even the most sensitive places healthy.
Having babies is a natural process. Hopefully we can keeping their feeding, diaper changing and cleaning as natural as possible too. It’s good to learn from others, including other parents of young babies, and share tips, but baby rearing is not a competition.
It’s easy to say, but I hope we can enjoy caring for our babies. As we care for them, we bond with them and help them to stay secure, healthy, and well – able to get on with the natural processes of growing and developing. As we bring babies into the world and into our homes , to nurture them, and help them to grow, we are mindful that one day they may have babies of their own. We have a responsibility to take care of the environment not only for us, but also for our babies and their babies.