New Parenthood is a time of unprecedented delight, exhaustion, and all too often, egregious waste. Some of the consumption is hard to avoid - I personally couldn't get onboard with cloth diapers, though some eco-friendly moms swear by them* - but you can minimize your baby's carbon footprint with a little conscious consumerism.
1. A Changing Table
Okay, don't get me wrong: a changing table can be a lovely and useful nursery feature. Since a newborn's most salient feature is its ability to guzzle down milk and convert it into an assortment of waste products, if you're not prepared, you could end up with a Lucy-Ricardo-at-the-chocolate-factory scenario. The thing is that a changing table is essentially a flat, soft surface with diapers and wipes within arms' reach, and a lot of existing spots in your home could fit that description. Before baby arrived, I acquired a changing table (and changing pad, and cute changing pad cover) which was promptly piled over with clothes, stuffed animals, blankets, and other well-intentioned baby gifts that would mostly go unused. What we ended up actually using for diaper changes is a cleared-off section of the bathroom counter, covered with a folded towel and pillowcase that can be easily changed out. It was very handy to have the sink nearby, especially in the early days of liquidy, milk-based poops and surprise pee-pee geysers (boy moms, beware!). Of course, if you're in a tight space or on the go, a towel, baby blanket, or portable changing pad spread over a bed, the rug, etc. will do the trick - just steer clear of white couches and pristine carpets.
It was very handy to have the sink nearby, especially in the early days of liquidy, milk-based poops and surprise pee-pee geysers (boy moms, beware!)
*Side note: this clear, no-pressure article on cloth diapering also explains that even with disposable diapers, you're supposed to chuck the poop into the toilet before throwing the diaper out. Who knew?!!
2. An Array of Adorable Newborn-Sized Outfits
I know, I sound like a major party pooper - why even go through the trouble of having a miniature human if you can't delight in dressing it up in ridiculously tiny ensembles? Isn't it a parent's prerogative to treat their offspring as a quaint fashion accessory, outfitting baby in sassy slogan onesies, statement headbands, and dumpling-sized moccasins, at least until baby becomes toddler and is suddenly in possession of a host of exacting sartorial opinions of their own? If dressing your child as a living doll is the only thing making the sleepless nights and other torturous aspects of parenting bearable, then by all means, go for it. But practically speaking, babies 1) grow from one size to the next at warp speed, 2) tend to baptize their best attire in a variety of smelly bodily fluids, and 3) are easiest to care for when in a simple onesie, allowing easy access to aforementioned bodily fluid-producing regions. Your friends and family will love gifting you teeny tiny clothes for baby, so accept their offerings graciously, supplement with a few comfy onesies in various sizes, and consider budgeting so you can still afford to keep clothing your child for the next 17 years or so.
If dressing your child as a living doll is the only thing making the sleepless nights and other torturous aspects of parenting bearable, then by all means, go for it.
3. Nursing Bras
Okay, this is probably just personal preference, and might only apply to modestly-endowed women like myself, but I found that nursing bras - the kind that look like regular, cupped bras but clip open - were too much of a hassle to maneuver. Remember, ALL of your upper-body attire is already going to have to be boob-accessible, so you want to avoid tunneling through (and potentially leaking on) several layers. For me - again, a small-chested mama, even while in full lactation mode - the best "nursing bras" were simply stretchy, no-underwire bralettes that could be easily pulled under the boob. No unclipping, no inverting of a stiff padded cup. With that said, nursing pads were a must at all times, as they provided the dual function of absorbing leaks and smoothing over the nipple area. If you're just hanging at home or going out in warm weather, a nursing camisole (camisole with built-in, clip-down bralette) + nursing pad is also a great, easy attire option. I had three or four of these Gilligan and O'Malley nursing camisoles from Target, and lived in them through the first few months with baby.
4. A Baby Monitor
Do you live in a sprawling mansion where your baby's cries risk dwindling into thin air before reaching a human ear? If so, get a baby monitor! If not, you probably don't need one. Modern baby monitors feature not only HD video surveillance, but also wireless encryption (baby-watching neighbors, keep out!) and two-way communication capacity, so your little one can hear your disembodied voice projected into their bedroom at any time. Soothing or creepy?? You decide. A baby monitor could give you peace of mind, but it could also create a round-the-clock impulse to check in on your baby via the monitor screen. Once moved to his own room, our infant son was either quietly sleeping or very noisily awake, and I didn't feel a need for a monitor - if I was concerned or wanted to watch him sleep, I tiptoed the five steps to his room and checked in on him in person. You might have a good reason for wanting the option of seeing/hearing your baby via monitor, but choosing not to doesn't make you a neglectful parent. This small act of letting go may even help you relinquish control later on - when you need to hand off your baby to another caregiver, to preschool, etc.
A baby monitor could give you peace of mind, but it could also create a round-the-clock impulse to check in on your baby via the monitor screen.
Most new parents feel overwhelmed and anxious about this new chapter of their lives, making them prime targets for aggressive marketers - the global babycare industry is expanding at a rapid clip, with projections of $109 billion USD in sales by 2026. A lot of baby gear can make new-parenting a little easier and/or more fun, but most if it is inessential - after all, our species was thriving long before the advent of the iPotty.
Bottom line: when making consumer choices as a new parent, consider your baby's immediate needs and comfort - but also the longer-term impacts on your budget, your sanity, and the environment.
5. A Bottle Warmer
You might find that your baby absolutely refuses milk that hasn't been heated to precisely mom's body temperature. Or, your kid might not give a hoot if his beverage is warm or chilled, as long as it's 100% unpasteurized mommy goodness. A bottle warmer, like a lot of baby products, can backfire by building in a dependency - if you only ever offer your baby milk at 98.6 degrees, she will probably grow wary of anything else. Newborns are adaptable! Experiment with milk at different temperatures and in different receptacles, but don't go for pricey products until you know you need them.
A bottle warmer, like a lot of baby products, can backfire by building in a dependency - if you only ever offer your baby milk at 98.6 degrees, she will probably grow wary of anything else.