Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Minimal Baby Year One: The Things We Haven't Needed

We're raising our baby on a tight budget in a small apartment in a town where we don't know anyone. The result: a minimal baby. No space, no waste. And not a lot of gifts, which was fine with us.

I also avoid plastics in my home because I look at everything in terms of its end state: Where will it be in 200 years? What will it do to our health in the meantime? Committing to a low-plastic life takes more effort, but I've gotten into the habit and actually enjoy the look of my home with very few petroleum-based possessions.

Here is an illustrated list of what we haven't needed in our baby's first year, for anyone who is wondering if babies really need all that stuff. Special thanks to some Renaissance moms and their babies for demonstrating no-frills mothering.

1. Feeding the baby Vouet Virgin and Child
My baby refused to drink from the bottle on her own. It wasn't something I planned. I know that not every mother can breastfeed; this is just what we ended up doing. Also, I happen to be self-employed so I can arrange my work schedule around her feedings. What we saved in the process was a lot of clutter in the kitchen: bottles, formula and its accessories, and a sterilizer (which I don't believe in for a healthy, full-term baby anyway).

At 7 months, I introduced solid food using baby-led weaning, further saving us the expense of jarred baby food and (plastic) utensils.

2. Diapers etc. Commons. G Bugiardini, detail from The Story of the Tobias
I'm kidding with the Renaissance baby peeing on the floor. What I do practice at home, however, is diaper-free natural infant hygiene. That has meant no disposable diapers and no garbage, but also no diaper rash cream, no wet wipes, and – very noticeably in our home – none of the artificial fragrances that we commonly associate with babies these days.

We have a set of 24 flat cloth diapers, which Frieda wears like a loin cloth with an elastic band, and a compostable Beco Potty. 


3. Transportation and furniture Commons. 
Tommaso Masaccio The Distribution of Alms and the Death of Ananias 
See that mama in the painting with that bare-bottom baby? That's me! Instead of a baby carriage, stroller, or swing, I've been doing it the old-fashion way. I carry that baby. We are fortunate to live car-free in a walkable town, and all we've needed until now are an Ergo carrier and our two arms. Sometimes my arms get tired, yes. 

I was also lucky that Frieda was not born via C-section, so I could lift her immediately after birth. Along with being the most natural way to transport babies, baby wearing has great benefits for both mom and baby. Besides calming the baby through the closeness to Mama, carrying your baby helps rebuild your body after birth and increase your bone density through weight-bearing.

Our baby has never touched a Bumbo seat, either. It never occurred to me that an adult human lap needed a plastic replacement for holding a small baby.

4. Cleaning the baby's nose da Vinci: St. John the Baptist
I dreaded having to decide which torture instrument to use to clean my baby's nose. In fact, I procrastinated so long that I discovered that my bare fingers, a piece of toilet paper, and some gentle handling are all I need. Whew! No nose-cleaning bulb, no snot vacuum. Another chunk of plastic with batteries avoided.

I don't use nose drops. My doctor recommended breast milk, which is great for traveling. It sure beats having to fish out a small bottle out of my purse while my baby is congested on an airplane.

5. Bath Time
Johnson & Johnson/ Willem Fruit Piece with Covered Gilt Goblet

Washing the baby seemed to be the area where the most plastic products are on the market. I still wanted to keep the bathroom as plastic-free as possible. My husband found an antique enamel baby bathtub on eBay and when our baby was ready to play with bath toys, I just went into the kitchen and found some fruits and vegetables to dunk into the water. They float, are biodegradable, and come in attractive colors!

A baby's skin doesn't need the chemicals that are loaded in soaps and shampoos. Our skin is naturally coated with good bacteria that enhance the skin's immune function (keeping bad bacteria under control) and this coating requires a pH of 5.5, which soaps and hard water throw out of balance. I've found that adding 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into the bathwater keeps baby's skin soft for the entire week, not by moisturizing her skin, but by giving those good bacteria a healthy environment.


Please feel free to comment and add any items that you have been able to do without. Also, this is just the way I do things. It's not the only way. Contact me if you'd like to contribute to my blog and tell us about how you are raising your baby. 

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