7 Reusable Items for the Zero Waste Baby

We couldn’t be more thrilled to announce that our son, Grant, has arrived!

He was born at home on June 16th, 3 weeks and a few days early. I just barely made the cutoff the home birth I had planned. At 36 weeks, I would have missed the window for a “safe” home birth and had to go to the hospital. I was so grateful to be able to birth him naturally, in my own bedroom, even though the birth didn’t go as I planned and it was the most mentally and physically challenging experience I have ever endured.

I tried to keep the birth as low waste as possible, but some trash was created, including a plastic bendy straw that proved to be indispensable. Anyone who’s given birth will understand that when you’re laboring, holding a cup to your lips is virtually impossible and a rigid stainless steel straw wouldn’t have helped when I was flat on my back pushing. But I will say, that even though I created a lot less waste than I would have in a hospital, I found it hard to grant myself permission to create some trash.

It’s no surprise that having kids, especially a newborn, can create a lot of extra waste. Disposable diapers and wipes, plastic toys, new clothes, etc. I did as much preparation as I could to prevent waste, but I did recognize that there would likely be some trash created in the early weeks as Max and I adjusted to parenthood. Especially since this is our first child and we are figuring out what works and what doesn’t, what we truly need and what we can do without.

Grant is now 11 weeks old, and we have already learned so much about ways to reduce waste. To help any other new parents and aspiring zero wasters, I have compiled a few reusable items (and tips) to help you drastically reduce waste with your little one:

1. Cloth Diapers: So much to say on this. As a diapering newbie, I wasn’t sure what style of diaper would best suite us or how many we would need. Prefolds, pocket diapers, all-in-ones….I had no clue what they were (still don’t really...) or what would work best for our family. I decided to try out a few different varieties—a friend donated some of her children’s prefold cloth diapers and I also bought a bunch of used BumGenius fitted bamboo diapers on Craigslist (a style they no longer sell, unfortunately). I found that I really liked the bamboo BumGenius diapers from Craigslist and bought 12 additional BumGenius “Littles” newborn diapers that worked great (total of 20 diapers in newborn size).

I do laundry every day to keep up with the cloth diapering demands, which might be hard for some families, especially when you’re adjusting to an already hectic newborn schedule. You could also look into a local cloth diapering service where they pick up soiled diapers and drop of clean diapers each week. I also bought one package of newborn compostable diapers online—they came in a plastic bag unfortunately, and couldn’t be put in our green bin due to our city’s regulations, but at least they will decompose in the landfill. My recommendation is to buy an assortment of used cloth diapers and try out different styles. It’s also nice to have some compostable diapers on hand while you’re healing and figuring out style of diaper you like.

2. Cloth Wipes: I used cloth wipes from the very beginning and love them. At first I just wetted the wipes in the sink before each diaper change. Soon, I found this tedious and decided to pre-wet the wipes with a homemade diaper solution (future blog post on that)! I noticed that once I started using the diaper solution, his diaper rash went away completely (his bum had looked a little red and irritated from just using water). I have 36 cloth wipes on hand, or 3 packages of our unpaper towels. I started out storing them in a glass latch-top jar, but switched to a wipes warmer. 

zero waste baby cloth wipes

3. Washable Diaper Pail Liner: I am using the stainless steel ubbi diaper pail, which is often sold used on Craigslist. With the pail, I purchased 2 reusable diaper pail liners sold on Etsy. They work great and I throw them in with the diaper wash. I store my diapers dry in the pail— I know some people prefer the wet bag method.

  • zero waste diapers
  • 4. Nursing Pads: No one ever told me breastfeeding would be hard! Those early weeks, having my milk come in, latch issues, engorgement, nipple pain...I’m so glad I stuck with it and now I really enjoy spending this skin-to-skin time with my son. I am grateful that I can exclusively breastfeed and one item that I couldn’t do without is reusable nursing pads. I have two packs that I go through a day (6 pairs total) and they have been great for protecting my sensitive nips and soaking up leaking breast milk.
  • zero waste baby nipple breastfeeding
  • 5. Mother Love Nipple Cream: I also use Mother Love nipple cream sold in a glass jar to keep my nips moisturized. The nice thing is, it’s made from all natural ingredients so you don’t have to wash it off before breastfeeding. It has a wonderful buttery consistency, and no petroleum products.
  • 6. Castile Soap Bar: Bath time has been such a joy for Grant and me. I forgo the baby bath tub for now and get right in with him, cradling him on my legs as I gently scrub his body with a soft bamboo washcloth. I use a pure Castile soap bar to keep him clean. It’s made from only 3 ingredients and has been wonderful on his sensitive baby skin.
  • zero waste baby wash bath
  • 7. Washable Underpad: I have the prettiest hand woven changing basket that I fully intended to use for diaper changes, and never did. Instead, I have found it easiest to diaper Grant on a reusable underpad on the ground. For one, it gives me piece of mind knowing he can’t roll off a high dresser. And two, it’s been great for diaper messes that get all over the place. I recommend having two on hand. I also liked to put him on the pad naked for tummy time in the early weeks when he had diaper rash. That way he could wiggle around and make a mess al fresco and all I had to do was throw it the wash.  
  • Thank you for being patient as we settle into parenthood. We have so many exciting projects and blog posts in the works and can't wait to share more in the coming months. In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment below on your tips for staying zero waste with a baby. We're all ears!