16 Zero Waste Ideas for New Moms, Dads and Baby
I am now at that stage in my life where I am wishing to become a mom. We have been trying for some time now with no luck, but that doesn’t mean that I am not thinking about all the things that I can do as a new mom to avoid waste in the future — time to prepare! I have a bunch of friends who live a low-waste lifestyle and are in the process of growing their families. They have been my source of inspiration for the list below.
So, here are a few ideas from my friends and myself for the new moms who want to reduce their waste.
Cut up T-shirts when at home
Breastfeeding VS Formula
Reusable Nursing Pads or these Breast pads with a travel bag
Natural Fibre Swaddling Blankets
Reusable or Homemade Wipes
Reusable Changing Pad
Secondhand Toys or Non-Toxic Toys (I have to add the toys to the store)
Buy Quality Big Items That Are Sustainable
Chemical Free Baby Products
Join No Buy Groups and Kids Groups on Facebook
Get Books from the Library, Garage Sales, or from the Thrift Store
Ask for Money Instead of Gifts (Instead of Baby Shower Gifts, ask for money that will go into savings account for the Baby)
Homemade Baby Food
Now that you have an idea of what’s in for you, read ahead to find out all the details on why you should choose these zero-waste newborn solutions. I have included some of my shop products and other affiliate links throughout plus some other recommended finds from friends — I’ve tried to include some DIY solutions too because you definitely don’t always need more ‘stuff’
This had to be at the top of the list. Not only is this solution widely known, it just makes sense. It saves you money, saves a ton of waste, and can prevent skin rashes like eczema from the skin-irritating materials. I’m convinced the only reason disposable diapers exist is for convenience's sake and for companies to find a new way to make money. It was not that long ago that cloth diapers were widely known, accepted, and used by basically all — I am sure many of your parents included. If you click the embedded link above you can read about all the dangers of disposable and a list of harmful chemicals found in them. The cloth might take a few extra steps to clean but are by far the superior choice.
2. Cloth pads
I’ve always heard that new moms underestimate their need for a LOT of pads, postpartum or not, a lot of you are likely menstrual pad users. Similar to the cloth diapers above, many big-box disposable brands include harmful chemicals that can negatively affect your body’s natural ph balance down there. Especially given the physical trauma that area of your body has gone through, treat it with care and save on money by picking up a set of reusable cloth pads. Bonus — you will never run out or be stuck without them again! Just make sure you pick up enough to keep a steady rotation. I have some bamboo ones in my shop that come in a ten-pack for lighter days. Postpartum you probably want to opt for something heavier and thicker like these overnight ones on amazon.
3. Cut up T-shirts when at home
This is a practical prep tip that is sure to come in handy for so many things. Take a look around your home for any old 100% cotton tee shirts, bedsheets, or towels that can be used throughout your time as a new parent. Cut them up into handtowel-sized squares and place them in a bag or basket near your baby’s changeable. You can use these for the inevitable variety of messes and clean-up that will need to happen.
4. Breastfeeding VS Formula
Obviously, be sure to consult with your doctor first to ensure you make the right choice for yourself and your baby. Circumstances arise where a nutritional formula is necessary, and that doesn’t take away from your experience or quality of motherhood at all. If you are stuck choosing between the two, I’d urge you consider looking into breastfeeding from the waste perspective. The International Breastfeeding Journal did a commentary on the carbon footprint of milk formula back in 2019 that is a very interesting read, I’ve pulled a quote from their conclusion below that accurately sums up the insight provided:
Formula feeding is a maladaptive practice in the face of contemporary global environmental and population health challenges. Breastfeeding protection, support and promotion helps to safeguard planetary and human health by minimising environmental harm.
The mass production required is not sustainable in the least. I urge you to look into this resource further and proceed to make the educated choice that is best for you.
For formula users, it is recommended to never recycle formula, if you prepare too much or your baby turns out to not be as hungry, you are forced to waste product. Check out this youtube video for tips on how to not waste formula if this is a situation you might have to deal with. You could also consider choosing bottles that you can donate second hand, or reuse into your child’s early childhood life.
5. Reusable Nursing Pads or these Breast pads with a travel bag
Your nipples with thank you for letting them rest against 100% cotton or another natural fabric pad rather than the bleached, boxed single-use one. Many nursing bras have to insert slots for reusable pads to comfortably rest inside instead of using a disposable one with the adhesive. The natural fibers allow for better breathability and will help the healing process from dryness or soreness resulted in breastfeeding. You can throw them in the wash and lay them to dry instead of spending $10+ on a new box every few months.
You could use my tip above of using existing fabric for a variety of uses including swaddling blankets, but if you want to opt for buying new, consider purchasing natural fibers for blankets, clothing, and all other material that will be against the baby’s sensitive skin. Great environmentally friendly and toxin-free choices would be cotton, bamboo, hemp, or linen.
7. Reusable or Homemade Wipes
You can make homemade wipes from the fabric scraps tip I have earlier in this post or invest in a set of reusable ones such as this pack of 10 organic cotton ones. They can easily be moistened with a bit of water for gentle use and won’t contain any of the chemicals or fragrances that come in prepackaged wipe boxes. The store ones I’ve seen always come in plastic — even the refill packs. If you are in need of a sustainable wet wipe option try out something like The Honest Company’s plant-based, fragrance, and chemical-free, biodegradable pack you can stock up for in bulk.
Another easy way to save money and waste is by investing in a few reusable changing pads like the one linked to my store above. Make sure you choose one that is soft enough and doesn’t contain any toxin fillers between the layers. Consider how many diapers will need to be changed vs the number of times you plan on doing laundry a week and purchase the amount accordingly. I have seen some cute coloured and patterned ones out there but personally, I think white is easiest to keep track of cleaning needs.
9. Secondhand Toys or Non-Toxic Toys (I have to add the toys to the store)
The average annual spend on children’s toys in Canada is $122 per household data from Statista . From a financial perspective, buying secondhand would take that a long way. You could also ask around to family and friends who have children out of their newborn stage to see if there are any sanitizable toys they would be willing to pass on. Though with a new baby, I understand the desire to preserve memories so if you are looking for cute new non-toxic toys that are made to last, check out the ones in my store here.
10. Buy Quality Big Items That Are Sustainable
Quality over quantity is an essential practice in living a low waste lifestyle. For big-ticket items, it makes a lot more sense to make an investment in things that will last rather than buying cheap and needing to dispose of and buy again later. When it comes to buying for a baby, there are a LOT of big purchases to consider. From baby highchairs and cribs to strollers and car seats, there are many decisions to consider. Regardless if you are looking to buy new or used, it is really important to do some research about the products to learn their lifespan (did you know car seats expire?), the materials used, and reviews from other users. Consider joining some zero waste baby groups to get quick feedback from other new parents and to support one another in making the right decision that is in line with your commitment to sustainability.
11. Portable Bidet
It’s inevitable you are going to end up going through a LOT of paper products for cleaning up both the moms and babies after birth. It’s the perfect time to invest in a hand bidet. It’s basically just a spray nozzle attachment with a long hose for easy cleaning. If you have your changing table close to water access this could be a game-changer for your baby’s clean up as well! Check out this great one I’ve linked from amazon.
12. Chemical Free Baby Products
It is a bit frustrating that you have to do your own investigations when it comes to determining what baby products are actually safe. Shouldn’t all baby products just be chemical-free? Madesafe.org is a must-have parent resource. They have a list of Toxic Chemicals found in Baby & Children’s Products you can review to know what main ingredients to watch out for. They have a product database to find brands that meet their strict scientifically-backed requirements as well as a banned list for brands that don’t make the cut. This list includes products that are known to have behavioral toxins, carcinogens & probable carcinogens, heavy metals, developmental toxins, reproductive toxins, endocrine disrupting compounds, toxic flame retardants, and more. It’s as easy as putting the product name into a search bar.
13. Join No Buy Groups and Kids Groups on Facebook
Facebook community groups honestly are the only reason I am still on the platform. I love that there are so many groups dedicated to low waste life and making exchanges with your community. If you aren’t familiar, I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised to find local pages dedicated to selling second-hand items that you might be searching for. It’s much better to buy off directly from another caring family, and when you are finished with your items — you can return the favour to another new set of parents!
Try searching for “No Buy your location” “ Parent Exchange your location” or “Your location Kid’s Buy and Sell”
14. Get Books from the Library, Garage Sales, or from the Thrift Store
There is absolutely no reason why you should need to purchase books brand new. The awesome thing about most baby books is that they are built for durability. You can easily use a sanitization wipe or spray to clean off any grime left from the previous owners.
Pro Tip: Instead of receiving cards at your baby shower - ask that guest bring a book for your new baby instead! If they wish to write you a message, they can inside the book. You are way more likely to cherish their words of encouragement there in a future time of need. Many small baby books fall in the $3-$5 range similarly to cards. Fill up your baby’s library and cut the paper out — a win, win!
15. Ask for Money Instead of Gifts (Instead of Baby Shower Gifts, ask for money that will go into savings account for the Baby)
This can be tricky depending on the dynamic between family and friends but it is definitely becoming way more acceptable to make a request like this. Setting up a new savings account for your child is a great way to get ahead of future expenses and takes away the pressure from physical gift-giving and the waste associated with things you might not even end up using. It also allows for celebration to be focused around community and spending quality time rather than more ‘stuff’.
16. Homemade Baby Food
While many baby foods come in glass jars that can be reused, a great zero waste alternative would be to make your own out of whole, nutrition ingredients. Check out this great recipe I found from the blog Yummy Toddler Food from Amy’s 10 Easy Homemade Baby Food Ideas blog post.
1 cup blueberries, diced strawberries, diced peaches (peeled), diced kiwi (peeled), diced pineapple (peeled), diced banana (peeled), diced mango (peeled), diced avocado (peeled), or beans (rinsed and drained)
Choose one fruit, the avocado, or beans and add to a blender.
If making the puree with blueberries, strawberries, peaches, kiwi, pineapple, mango, or beans, add ¼ cup water and blend, adding more water as desired to make a thin, very smooth puree. If making avocado or banana, just blend (without water) until very smooth.
Serve or store in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the fridge, or up to 3 months in the freezer.
That’s today’s list! What do you think of these tips? If you have any others, be sure to leave them below in the comments for all the other new and upcoming parents to see.
Hey, Claudia here
I am a senior graphic designer, a dog mom, an advocate for a zero-waste lifestyle, climate change, and sustainability. My articles are based on personal experience and well researched to give you the best source of information for all things zero-waste.