5 eco-friendly gift ideas for new babies

Gifts for the eco conscious baby – five practical ideas that are not greenwashed bamboo offerings on affiliate links

by Katie Virk

Congratulations! Your friend is having a baby! Social etiquette demands you run to the nearest big supermarket and buy them a cute little outfit for the newborn.

Welcome to the world of consumerism little one.

Of course there are many beautiful plastic free, organic cotton, ethically made alternatives. But, eco consumer beware! A gift that is unwanted, un-needed, or unused is not eco. Gifts that lie at the back of the drawer for two years then get given to the charity shop, or worse chucked away, are not eco (no matter how plastic free and ethically made they are).

Get a new family something that they really need, something that they would have had to go out and buy anyway. Even if it is (shock horror) plastic. Then you save the pointless carbon footprint and the landfill waste of a useless gift.

What do I buy for new parents? Five ideas that will be truly appreciated:

1. Books

This is my go to when social etiquette demands I buy a brand new (not pre-loved, second hand, homemade) gift. There is little more precious to me than time spent snuggled up reading with my beloved little squish. By giving books I’m giving the gift of that special loving moment to a new parent. Also when your little one (or more likely you) are tired of them, there’s a big market for second hand books as they last really well.

Plus there are so many adorable board books to swoon over. I love (amongst many many more):

  • ‘Everywhere Babies’ by Susan Meyers
  • ‘Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes’ by Mem Fox
  • ‘Peepo’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
  • ‘Tickle, Tickle’ by Helen Oxenbury
  • ‘That’s not my…’ series of books by Usbourne

2. Sippy cups / spoons / weaning items

I do get a few weird looks when I turn up with weaning items for brand new babies. Clearly I know they’re not going to be nomming down carrot purée for a good few months. But time flies and soon they’re going to need this stuff.

Is plastic kitchenware eco? Yes, since the parents are going to go out and buy it anyway, you are not adding any extra plastic waste to the world. And you’re saving on the waste of an unnecessary gift.

Baby weaning gifts

In the first few months of weaning you can’t beat plastic for being strong, light and dishwasher proof. I wouldn’t give a metal sippy cup to a child until they are old enough to know not to whack their own head with it. (Those things are seriously heavy). And I wouldn’t inflict non dishwasher proof kitchenware (i.e. anything wooden or bamboo) on tired new parents.

Our plastic sippy cups are nearly six years old and still used daily.

3. Presents for the new parent

Babies only want milk and a warm chest to sleep on, they couldn’t give a stuff about gifts. New parents, on the other hand, need all the help they can get. Think fancy tea, coffee, nice biscuits, smelly soap, moisturiser etc. Bonus points if you find a lovely plastic free, environmentally friendly version. But frankly a packet of hobnobs is more eco than a baby outfit that gets worn once and tossed, (and much tastier).

4. Nappies

Whether the new parent is planning on using cloth nappies or not, most people will still use the occasional disposable. It’s probably sensible to have a packet on hand in case of crazy diarrhoeal illness (of the parent, or child, or both) or washing machine breakdown.

Babies are going to use the same number of nappies whether you gift them, or whether their parents buy them. By gifting something the baby would have used anyway you’re keeping an un-needed gift out of landfill. You can also opt to buy some of the more eco nappies which look a bit more like a special gift than a bumper pack from Aldi.

Baby nappies gift
Want to be eco? Don't buy the soft toy, buy the nappies!

5. Car seat / cot mattress / breast pump

The saying goes ‘the most eco item is the one you already own’. Apply this to newborn babies and it’s the one that their parents were almost certainly going to have to buy brand new anyway. There are two items even the most eco conscious parents are advised to buy brand new (car seat and cot mattress). And some parents may feel icky with second hand items for more personal use such as breast pumps. These are big ticket items but you can club together with friends and all chip in. You will need to tell the new parent your plan and check their brand/size preferences, so this is probably one for family and close friends.

Whatever you end up buying, the key is to make sure it is something parents will actually use, so if in doubt, check to see if there’s anything in particular they need before heading to the shops.

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