With the impending birth of our second child on the horizon, I’ve given a lot of thought to packing my hospital bag and what I used last time and what I’ll definitely want to bring this time. Being a little wiser, and greener, I’ve given consideration on how I can minimize my environmental impact, while also keeping in mind that I’ll have just had a baby, so I need to be realistic. I’m not the greenest person on the plantet by far, but the amount of waste that a hospital creates is insane. If you’re planning on giving birth in the hospital, there are steps you can take to be a little greener.
In general, the hospital will supply diapers for you during your stay, which makes things easy. When we stayed in the hospital with the birth of our son, I made sure to take every single pack of diapers in the room, if they weren’t nailed down. But that was before I decided on cloth. Now, while I would love to bring my cloth diapers with me to the hospital, it’s not practical. Possible, yes, but definitely not practical given that you’re already exhausted, sore and have limited resources. If it’s something you can pull off, then I commend you, but there are other greener alternatives to conventional disposables.
- Seventh Generation Diapers – Seventh Generation are my favorite disposable brand. They work best on my son when I need to use disposables. While they’re not any more biodegradable than your conventional diapers, they’re chlorine free, fragrance free and free of any of the awful chemicals that regular diapers have. These will be accompanying me to the hospital when I give birth.
- Nature Babycare Diapers – I had the opportunity to try these out and I love them, but they weren’t readily available and given my gestating status, I usually don’t realize that I need diapers until I needed them yesterday. These are really great diapers because they’re also all natural, compostable and biodegradable. Everything about these diapers are eco-friendly, and the little leaf design on them is adorable.
- gDiapers – g diapers are another great biodegradable alternative. They may be a little more cumbersome in the hospital, but the liners are flushable (check with your hospital before you flush them if you decide to use this system while you’re there) and unless you have a blowout, you can reuse the diaper and the snap in liner (the snap in is really easy to wash with some warm soap and water and dries in a few minutes.).
Wipes are another thing that they do supply in the hospital. My hospital supplied just basic paper towel like wipes that you simply wet down, which are great from a chemical free standpoint, but if your hospital supplies disposable wipes, they may be a brand that harbors unfavorable chemicals. Again, if you’re planning on being brave and bringing your own cloth wipes to the hospital, hats off to you, but here are a couple of different wipes brands we love:
- Whole Foods 365 Brand – I actually love these the best out of any of the “healthier” wipes brands out there. They’re bigger and sturdier than other brands, and when you have a toddler, the last thing you want is a wipe that won’t function. I use less wipes, and I rarely worry about getting, um, poop, on my hands.
- Seventh Generation Baby Wipes – Seeing as how we’re fans of Seventh Generation, these are another great alternative to cloth wipes when you’re out and about (or in the hospital).
- Nature Babycare – I loved these wipes when I tried them, but again, they didn’t have them readily available. I generally use cloth wipes at home, so I don’t really go through a lot of disposables, but since these are also biodegradable, I highly recommend these for your hospital stay. Bonus! They also make biodegradable bags. This would be great for a hospital stay, and also if you’re out and about, or traveling.
Again, bringing as much as you can from home, without having to rent a U-Haul, is key. Although, I will tell you, for the love of all that’s holy, take the hospital grade aspirator home with you. Tell them you lost one and take two. This was invaluable advice that was given to me (by Kathy, I believe) and we still use that thing to this day. Literally. I’ve been using it for the last two weeks. Of course, there are things you can do in the interest of health, and things you can do to create less waste at the hospital, but disposable things are going to be thrown away, no matter how you cut it. So pick what will work for you and use stuff that the hospital gives you if it’s just going to be thrown away anyway.
- “Un Petroleum” Jelly – If by chance you need petroleum jelly for something, this is another one of those things that the hospital will supply for you, and you can save them the trouble of having to give you some, by bringing your own safer alternative. We love this stuff and I feel better knowing that it has no harsh chemicals. It’s a nice sized tube, so it’ll last you awhile and you’re not creating excess waste.
- Formula and bottles – If for some reason you’re not planning on breastfeeding (and really, no judgment here, we realize that it’s not possible in all situations). Bring your own formula to cut down on waste. They go through TONS of those little nursettes and while they’re easy (and definitely add to your formula supply), they create so much waste. Bring a few bottles with you to the hospital and a small sample of dishwashing detergent. Again, this is definitely personal choice. You’ll be exhausted and we won’t be up in your grill if you do choose the nursers (I don’t really remember much of my hospital stay, I was that tired). But you know, if you do bring your own, this is the time where your husband or partner can really shine (bottles, that is).
- Baby skin care – Granted, you won’t be giving your baby a full bath in the hospital, but if you want to give them a sponge bath before you go home (also great to do with a nurse present if you’re first time parents, so that you don’t feel totally clueless when you get home), bring your own baby care products. And opt for full sizes, so that you don’t have to create extra waste by loading up on samples. Our safe skin care cheat sheet is a great resource if you’re not sure of what’s out there.
Accessories for Mama.
Of course, you’ve just given birth and while you can’t have all of the luxuries of home, you can bring some things that are not only pampering, but at the same time, reduces your impact.
- Your own water bottle – If you don’t have one already, treat yourself to a new stainless (or safer plastic) water bottle. You’re going to need to stay very well hydrated after going through childbirth, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Not only will this reduce your husband taking a million trips to the water dispenser at the hospital (because sure they give you a pitcher, but the water eventually gets warm, ew), you won’t be using disposable cups. I LOVE my Thermos Intak, but really, any stainless is a great choice as it insulates your water for longer periods of time.
- Toiletries – There is never a shower that you will look forward to more, than the one you’re finally allowed to take after giving birth. If you’re delivering your first child, trust me when I tell you, to bring your own toiletries. I made the mistake of forgetting my toothpaste and the stuff that the hospital supplies, is horrible. Not only are you reducing your impact by not adding to hospital waste, but most of the stuff they provide you with, really sucks. So pack your own stuff. If you already have smaller travel containers, and want to carry smaller amounts, go for it, otherwise, skip the sample sizes.
- Towels – You’re going to have dirty clothes, therefore, you’re going to already have a bag of laundry that you’re bringing home with you, so bring your own towel. Again, not only is this reducing excess water consumption (in their laundry department, that is), but hospital towels are crap. I’m not saying to bring your best set of towels, but even an older towel from home that you might not care about as much, is definitely better than the standard hospital towel.
- Reusable breast pads – Again, you’re going to have laundry, and breast pads really don’t take up much room in the grand scheme of things, so putting these in your bag instead of disposables, again, will help cut down on excess waste.
Of course, we could go crazy and recommend a million things to help lessen your impact, but some of them are just not practical. Like bringing your own cloth maxi pads. Trust me, you’re going to want to use the disposable stuff that they give you in the hospital. The aggravation is just not worth it. And if you have any other ideas, definitely contact us, and we’ll happily add it to the list. Especially if it’s something you did in the past and it worked out for you. Again, we realize that you’ve just given birth, so we’re trying to be as realistic as possible.