Baby Waste, Part 1: Buying vs. Making

Updated: Apr 18


Having a baby has been hard on the "Modest" part of our "Modest, Modern Living." Before Roz came, I tried hard to prepare for the fact that I would not have the time or energy to continue to make all of our household cleaners and things, because making them has been the factor that has cut back on so much waste (particularly plastic waste) in our home. But trying and doing are two separate things, and I did not make enough to get us through the fog period, so I had to buy things that came in extra packaging or non-reusable containers, or even disposable versions of things (ie: diapers - Roz was too small for our cloth diapers to begin).

I had a fair amount of guilt about the waste going on in our house, but my exhaustion and business with Roz outweighed my guilt for a while. Here are a few things about minimizing our waste output when we returned home that I would have liked to have known before I went into the hospital to deliver Roz.

Overall, it was better for my mental health to not worry about making everything and instead buy things to keep our household running. If you feel overwhelmed by the thought and effort needed into maintaining a minimal waste lifestyle, go ahead and do disposable diapers. Eat take out. Buy things in bulk. It's OK for a little while. When I started to feel more capable, and I'd gotten a full night's sleep (it eventually happened), I started with simple things to reduce my having-a-baby-induced-waste.

Diapers: We were definitely NOT pros at cloth diapering when Roz came, nor was she even big enough for our cloth diapers to fit her without majorly leaking. Therefore, we went with disposables; and ultimately, I think we did it in a fairly environmentally friendly way. We tried to use the diapers up first from the hospital (but she got a pretty bad rash around the elastic so we gave them away); then we used up a few packs of some-kind-of-"green" diapers from a friend whose newborn rapidly grew out of them; and then we transitioned into some small cloth diapers we inherited from family, before she could finally fit into her Bum Genius 5.0's and AIO's (all-in-ones). We were slow to jump on to the diaper sprayer and splash guard pail train, but since we've been using them, I'm not sure how we pre-cleaned diapers before laundering them. (Lots of laundry stink scrubbing poop... ick.)

*Incidentally, all human poop (except the exclusively breastfeeding poop) should be flushed down the toilet, even if you're using disposable diapers. It usually scrapes off (or even rolls off) neatly into the toilet from the diaper. Landfills were not meant to handle human waste the way sewers can - the bacteria in human poop is incredibly toxic.

Laundry detergent: this was probably my biggest fault environmentally, because while I bought good stuff for the baby, I bought liquid versions of it that came in plastic bottles. I am still buying detergent at this point, but I've begun to buy the powdered version that comes in recyclable cardboard boxes. I will get back to making it at some point, it's just a rather labor- and time-intensive process.

Dish detergent: this is neck and neck with laundry detergent in my waste output... Before Roz was delivered, I had gotten around to making a TON of dish washer tabs that kept our dishes clean for more than two months, but when we finally ran out, I was still too occupied with Roz (/too lazy) to make the next batch, so I bought the little tabs that came in a zip lock bag. Again I should have bought a cardboard box of powdered dish detergent, but we were shopping almost exclusively at Trader Joe's at that point, so we got what they had; since then, we've started sourcing some of our grocery needs at places that offer bulk goods or loose produce, but more on that another time. Now, I'm back to making our dish tabs in bulk. Whew. One thing down.

Household cleaners: I'd say I bought household cleaners, but really, I wasn't cleaning the house... so... Saved environmentally and financially on that one! I'm not really even kidding, I just wasn't cleaning the house for a while. Having a C-section will inhibit one's ability to bend over, and I felt like I was on the slow train for recovery. These are really easy to make, though, (most of them are some version of vinegar or rubbing alcohol and dish soap + some essential oil) so when I finally did feel like I was able to start wiping down surfaces, I just started using the bottles I had filled to the brim before I had surgery to remove a little being from my body.

Food: My sister made a chicken pot pie for our first night home that started us out on a great foot (my husband said that was one of the best meals he's had after being stuck in a hospital for days). And fortunately for forethought, we had made an entire freezer-full of prepared meals that lasted us about six weeks (wow) after delivery. This helped enormously, because cooking dinner was so far from my capability at that point. A lot of the meals were from making double and freezing half. I found that to be the most efficient way to save food for the freezer, and I started doing it about six weeks before my due date (though she came 2 and a half weeks early). When we ran out of freezer food, we did do a downward spiral into ordering delivery or takeout quite frequently, and it's only in the recent months that we've gotten back on track with menu planning for the week and eating out much less.

Slowly, slowly, I've begun to get back on my feet again and reincorporate homemade goods and foods one at a time. It has been more than ten(!) months since she made our [human] number three, and while I still haven't gotten back into full swing of making all of our cleaners with minimal waste, we are generating less waste than the first few weeks after we came home from the hospital. Good, not great. But I'm working on improving it.

Overall, things became much more manageable six months out.

Just need to remember that if we do it again...

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