By Katie Virk
Making things gives off carbon. Growing the raw materials, transporting them to the factory, powering the machines, packaging, transporting to distribution centres or shops… There are carbon emissions at every stage of the manufacturing process. So it follows that a sensible way to reduce your carbon footprint is to buy less stuff.
However it often feels like babies didn’t seem to get the ‘buy less stuff’ memo. I remember literally having to take a run up to muster the force necessary to get my car boot to close on the mish-mash of bouncers, travel cots, pushchairs, sterilisers, white noise machines etc, that all seemed vital for a one night trip away with a baby.
By thinking carefully about purchases, we can choose items that will stand the test of time and so buy fewer items overall. The baby items we are still using six years on all have two things in common. Firstly, they are hard wearing, i.e. made of tough materials that won’t fall apart the first time they are washed. Secondly, they can be put to multiple uses at different stages.
For example if you buy clothes that are obviously maternity wear then you’ll have to go out and buy another set of new clothes when you’re no longer pregnant (because no one ever fits into those pre-pregnancy jeans again). But if you carefully chose clothes that will work for you while you’re pregnant AND afterwards then you’re saving money and the environment.
With that in mind here are eight items I bought for my pregnancy / baby that I’m still using six years later.
1. Vest tops
A great piece of advice I received when pregnant was to save money by skipping the maternity-specific vest tops with their clips and ruching. Buy a long stretchy vest with those ‘bra-style’ straps instead. The longer length covers your bump and you can lengthen the straps to drop it below your boob to feed. Then when breastfeeding comes to an end you can tighten the straps (to encase your now shrunken assets) and have a normal vest which will be wearable for years to come.
2. Sippy cups
Look for sippy cups that have a push-on lid rather than a screw on. This means when your child no longer needs the lid you can use the base as a regular cup. Our ‘Tommee Tippee First Cups’ have been used (and dishwashered) daily for six years and still look as good as new.
3. Cloth wipes
Ours have been in daily use for six years. Initially wiping cloth bums, then repurposed into cleaning cloths, face cloths, wipes for sticky fingers, napkins for lunch boxes, hankies for running noses. You name it they’ve wiped it. My mum loved our wipes so much she went out and bought a pack for her house, despite her youngest child being well over 30!
We have the bamboo Cheeky Wipes and they still seem to be in great nick despite heavy use for six years. I confidently expect them to last another six years at least.
4. Maternity Coat
Before becoming a mum I actually cared about how I looked (!) and therefore did not own a practical waterproof coat. So, (in an uncharacteristically sensible move) instead of buying a maternity coat I bought a waterproof (with an inner fleece) one size larger than my usual clothes. Cue six years of farm park visits, puddle splashing and rainy nursery pick-ups and I am ever grateful for a coat that actually keeps the rain out and the warmth in.
Buy men’s PJ bottoms instead of maternity PJs and then your partner can have them when you're done. Or if you’re in a same sex relationship, just go for something a little looser that will comfortably fit under your bump so it can be used post baby too.
6. Open ended toys
Wooden blocks, Lego, Duplo, Playmags, silk scarves, nesting eggs, cuddly toys… All still in daily use and loved by our six year old. We always come back to these simple items that can be used in an infinite number of ways and they often form the base or backdrop for his increasingly complex games.
7. Board books
Now appreciated on a whole new level as my ‘baby’ can read these to his younger cousins. Causing my heart to actually melt with the cuteness of it.
8. Baby bottles / breast milk pots
I bought some little silicone sealing discs that click into place where the teat would usually go. This means we can use our old baby bottles as food storage pots. I recently met a mum of a 10 year old who whipped out some snacks in what was clearly a pot from an Avent breast pump, and my first thought was ‘this is my kind of person; we’re going to be friends!’