My parenting journey began unconventionally by planning a home birth, but I followed the mainstream idea of what babies need: diapers, a crib, a stroller, a car seat, and so forth. As someone who lives a relatively minimalist life, I was troubled by the thought of adding all of this child-related baggage to my clutter-free home. Over time, I realized that most baby gear is wasteful, unnecessary clutter, especially in the first year. I know, you probably think I am nuts. "How can you live without a stroller?" "There is no way I am going to carry my baby everywhere!" "And diapers? Come on, babies certainly need those!" "What about entertainment? My baby will get bored!" I admit that these ideas did not come naturally to me; however, I learned from other parents with similar interests. All parenting philosophies aside, if your main goal is to minimize your environmental impact, the following topics might interest you: elimination communication; breastfeeding and baby-lead weaning; co-sleeping; and babywearing. Today, I write about the first two.
The guiding principle behind elimination communication (EC) (also known as natural infant hygiene, infant potty training, or gentle potty training) is that people are born with the instinct to not soil themselves. Babies communicate the need to eliminate just as they communicate other basic needs, and as parents it is our job to understand when that need should be met. By exclusively diapering a child, the child learns that caregivers will not meet this particular need and that the appropriate place to eliminate is in his pants. Imagine how confusing it must be after two or three years of eliminating in your pants to learn that you are actually supposed to use a toilet! I won't go into the details about how to establish this sort of relationship with your baby, there are plenty of references out there that do a much better job than I ever could. But I will share my personal experience.
While I was pregnant, I thought I was doing my environmental due diligence by committing to cloth diapers. Knowing that I would save landfills from a large volume of solid waste while protecting my baby's bottom from diaper rash made the additional laundry burden worth it. For five months, we happily cloth-diapered our child until a friend and fellow new parent introduced us to the concept of elimination communication. From the day her son was born, she started putting him on the potty. I admit that I was skeptical at first, but after reading Diaper Free Baby, I knew that I had to at least try introducing my infant to the potty. It wasn't long before my daughter refused to poop in her pants, and what an exciting accomplishment that was for us. At this point, I was completely sold. Now our daughter is 16 months old, and while she still has accidents, she doesn't wear diapers during the day and spends most of her time dry. She directly communicates her elimination needs with either a hand signal or words. Our experience has completely changed my perspective and opinion on diapers, and we are fully committed to respond to any future child's elimination needs in this way from birth.
Some people would say that "elimination communication" sounds wonderful, but isn't practical for a child with two working parents. The beauty of EC is that it can be accomplished part time and with zero stress. Anything that ends up in a potty results in fewer diaper changes, and therefore less waste, so why not try it?!
Breastfeeding and Baby-led Weaning
Breastfeeding is a sensitive and controversial topic for many women. Personally, I never questioned whether or not I wanted to breastfeed. And while my breastfeeding relationship was easily established with my baby, I have met numerous women who have struggled for weeks, even months to exclusively breastfeed their babies. I have also known women who, despite their best efforts, were unable to maintain breastfeeding for physical or psychological reasons beyond their control. Breastfeeding is certainly not something women can take for granted, but even if it takes blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of time, the benefits to both mom and baby are well worth it.
Well that's great, but my main point is to minimize "stuff consumption." Obviously, if a baby receives his meals exclusively from mom, infant formula and the waste associated with it is completely unnecessary. If mom stays at home, the need to bottle-feed is also unnecessary. However, many moms work in which case bottles and breast pump supplies are probably necessary. In the end breastfeeding can still lead to waste, but less so than formula-feeding.
Breastfeeding is probably the obvious environmentally-friendly choice to many people, but what about the weaning process? When I was pregnant, I had every intention making my own pureed baby food. It could be organic, I could make my own concoctions suited to my baby's tastes, I would save money, AND I would contribute less waste by not buying packaged baby food! This sounded like a great plan until I learned about baby-led weaning (BLW) which makes it even easier to avoid packaged baby food. It's quite simple: let your child feed himself. This means that the child eats finger foods rather than purees. For us this means our child generally eats what we prepare for ourselves. Honestly, BLW probably lengthens the path to weaning, so you have to be willing to commit to an extended breastfeeding relationship with your child. As a mom who has been breastfeeding for 16 months, I know that it isn't always easy. However, I didn't go into parenting thinking it would be easy, and I know she won't be breastfeeding forever.
Come back tomorrow to read part 2 of Crystal's guest blog!
|Crystal, a nuclear engineer, and her organic baby.|
|Brian, Crystal's husband, also a nuclear engineer, with his organic baby.|