If you know me just a little, you probably know that I am very passionate about sustainability. Yes — I’m that crazy lady that will stare you down if you throw your plastic water bottle anywhere other than in the recycling bin! No recycling bin in sight? I’ll take your bottle home and recycle it there.
While I’m not as “hardcore” as some people out there, I do go to some length to avoid plastic and use natural, biodegradable, or reusable household and personal hygiene products whenever possible. I’m a huge advocate of bamboo toothbrushes, all-natural and DIY skincare products, solid shampoo bars, cloth pads, menstrual cups, cloth diapers, cloth handkerchiefs, washable cotton/bamboo pads… and the list goes on. What I was NOT prepared for, was how much waste was created when I gave birth. My son was born at home, so the environmental impact of sterile medical supplies (which is very hard to avoid) was minimal at first. I did have a short stay at the hospital postpartum, which led to the use of plastic straws and other food/drink plastic, paper towels for hand drying, etc.
Even more worrying was the first weeks postpartum at home. I was prepared with cloth diapers and cloth wipes for my son, but didn’t think about what I’d need to be more environment conscious in the first few weeks postpartum. I went through an awful amount of disposable menstrual pads, disposable underwear, and yes, even the occasional adult diaper (birth is so glamorous, isn’t it?), and all this waste made my heart feel sick every time I went to the bathroom.
Since my own birth and postpartum experience, I’ve kept a mental list of the ways I might be less wasteful next time around. Without further adieu, here’s my top 5 essentials for your birth bag and those early weeks postpartum!
1. Reusable Straws
It seems like a small thing, but having at least one or two reusable straws on hand can be fantastic, no matter where you’re planning to give birth. When you’re in the middle of labour, a straw can help ensure you get that sip of water, no matter what position you’re in. Straws can be super handy to make sure you’re getting enough to drink while breastfeeding without risking a spill on baby’s head. However, there’s enough plastic straws littering our planet already. Any reusable straw would be great in your birth bag, but I personally prefer silicon straws for their soft, bendy quality during labour. Don’t forget your travel mug and reusable water bottle!
2. Cloth Menstrual Pads
Personally, I can’t stand the feeling of plastic, chemical-filled disposable pads against my nether regions. It just feels wrong! I struggled with this through the first 6 weeks postpartum and knew I had to find a better alternative if I was going to give birth again down the road. If you don’t know already, tampons and menstrual cups are a big no-no during postpartum bleeding. Enter cloth pads — the magical way to keep postpartum bleeding under wraps!
There are quite a few great Canadian companies offering cloth pads/postpartum pads and plenty of options to be found in online stores like etsy. My personal favourite are these locally made F-Wrap postpartum pads that double as padsicles (a soothing ice pack and pad rolled into one).
3. Period Underwear
There’s no arguing that mesh underwear and depends silhouette are pretty great for the first few days and nights after baby’s born. There’s also no arguing that they’re really, really not environmentally friendly products. You’re probably going to be doing a lot of washing anyway (newborns are messy little things!) so why not say goodbye to adult disposable diapers, and hello to period underwear! Knix is a Canadian company with a good selection of leakproof underwear options, but there are also small companies making postpartum-specific underwear (find them on Etsy or Amazon). My new go-to is the postpartum-specific Marissa Underwear, handmade in Vancouver by RevolGirl with it’s soft waistband that can accommodate a mama’s changing belly.
4. Cloth Nursing Pads
Some mamas need them, some don’t. Many baby stores carry washable nursing pads in a wide variety of colours and patterns, and the aforementioned local company F Wrap makes them in multiple sizes to accommodate varying bra sizes/breasts. My current favourite are the ultra thin (read: invisible), super soft bamboobies for every day use, especially when you’re feeling ready to venture out of the house with baby!
5. Breastfeeding Pillow
Breastfeeding pillows are something relatively new to my radar… Before recently I didn’t give breastfeeding pillows much thought… If they work to support me and baby, that’s all that matters, right? Wrong. A pillow that’s filled with polyester microfill or plastic microbeads is not only toxic to you and baby (and you’ll be spending a lot of time with this pillow!) it’s also awful for our planet. Look for nursing pillows that are made with natural fibres like wool, organic cotton, bamboo, buckwheat and kapok.