Having a baby is a big business – not just for you but for all those big name companies that want to sell you something. The cost to your wallet can be huge, and the cost to the environment and your child’s health even bigger. For example, we throw away around three billion disposable nappies each year, with each conventional disposable nappy containing up to 200 unnecessary chemicals.
We all know breastfeeding is the cheapest and healthiest way to feed your new baby, yet the big companies spend millions each year trying to convince vulnerable mothers otherwise. Breast milk contains loads of antibodies and other goodies just not available in formula and, as your baby’s needs change, so will your milk.
If you are having trouble with breastfeeding, seek help straight away. The La Leche League has a 24-hour help line (0845 120 2918) and you can find links to other resources here.
Despite many years of boycotts and campaigning against them, big companies such as Danone, Gerber, Heinz, Hipp, Milupa and of course NestlÈ are still pushing formula worldwide. The Baby Milk Action Group (www.babymilkaction.org) estimates that 4,000 babies die every day from unsafe formula feeding. You can make your voice heard by joining the boycott of these companies’ products.
When your baby is ready to wean (usually at around six months old), invest in a trip to the library to borrow a good book on weaning and learn how to make your own nutritious baby foods. That way you will know exactly what your baby is eating and not be paying £1 a shot for someone else to have mashed some carrots for you.
Did you know that a conventional disposable nappy uses around a cup of crude oil per nappy? That it takes anything up to 500 years to degrade? That around seven million trees are cut down each year to provide the pulp for disposable nappies? That it costs a two-child family over £2,000 to keep the children in disposable nappies? That those nappies will fill more than 250 black sacks of rubbish destined for the landfill?
Modern cloth nappies have evolved from the terry squares and rubber pants you wore as a child into easy to use, easy to wash and easy to dry parent-friendly nappies. You can have them in purple or green, with spots or stripes or even goth patterns. They come in cotton, hemp, wool, fleece and more.
You can set yourself up with a full kit of cloth nappies for under £100; and if you have £300 to spend, you’ll be able to buy top of the range, organic cotton nappies. Many local councils offer incentive schemes to encourage more families to make the switch to cloth (Real Nappy Finder).
For more information, try the Cloth Resource (www.theclothresource.co.uk).
Equipment, toys and clothes
You don’t need to buy a lot for a new baby. If you breastfeed, you won’t need a steriliser or bottles and all the clutter that goes with it. If you put your baby to sleep in your bed (co-sleeping), you won’t need a Moses basket or a cot or all the bedding. For more information on co-sleeping and its benefits for the whole family,
see www.deborah jackson.com
Ask around friends and family and you will probably be able to borrow virtually all you need. Charity shops also have lots of good quality baby clothes – babies wear them for such a short time that they often look brand new. Try your local National Childbirth Trust (www.nctpregnancyandbabycare.com) too as they often organise nearly new sales where you can buy clothing, toys, books and equipment.
Many cities now have toy libraries (www.natll.org.uk) that work just like a book library. You pay a small fee (20p a week) and borrow up to five toys. Or get together with a group of friends and rotate toys among you.
Join your local library too. You will probably find that they have special events for young children and you will have access to literally thousands of books for free, plus access to the Bookstart Scheme (www.bookstart.co.uk) that could give you free books for your baby.
Don’t waste money on a special baby bath. Either hop in the bath with them (especially good for mothers new to breastfeeding or for fathers to help with the bonding process) or just use the sink in the bathroom.
Most of the time, special baby washes, wipes, shampoos and so on are an unnecessary expense and may even be harming your baby. Many of them contain harsh and dangerous chemicals, such as parabens, petrol by-products.
Warm water and (organic) cotton wool are all you need for all but the messiest poo but do invest in the best quality olive oil for massaging your baby all over to keep the skin nice and smooth.
Having a baby needn’t mean that you compromise on your ideals. It just means that you may have to work a bit harder not to fall into the parent trap of forever opening your wallet.