The Environmental Risks Of Having Babies

Unless you live under a rock, it’s fair to say that you’ve probably noticed the remarkable decline in fertility rates at a global level. In 1950, women had on average 4.7 children in their lifetime. Nowadays, the fertility rate in the world has declined to 2.4 children per woman. However, when you start focusing on individual countries, the results can be even more surprising. In the UK, while childless couples are not in the majority, it’s an upcoming trend, as the birth rate has declined to 1.7 children a woman.

Women have fewer children with many claiming that they prefer to postpone starting a family while they build a professional career and dedicate their attention to their friends and partner. Ultimately, contrary to the common belief that a woman should have children as early as possible in her adult life, women can conceive healthy babies in their 40s and some even in their early 50s, which implies that there is less of a rush to start a family. But, more importantly, Millennials tend to reject altogether the idea of having children because they are concerned about the safety of the planet. This behaviour has spread through countries where the rates of death in childhood remain low – in other words, in what we call rich countries. The desire to replace the population is shrinking, as people become more and more aware of their environmental impact. Having a baby puts strains the planet resources significantly. But, sometimes what is best for the environment is what you want for your family.

How can modern women embrace all the joy and excitement of motherhood without putting the planet at risk?

Green baby, happy mummy

The burden of nappies

On average, a baby will go through 4,500 nappy changes until they are potty-trained. From newborn to toddler age, parents will change their baby up to 10 times a day before gradually reduce frequency as their baby grows older and requires few nappies in a day. With around 3 billion disposable nappies thrown away every year in the UK, the environmental burden is phenomenal! Indeed, disposable nappies can’t be recycled. As most as thrown away with general waste, they tend to end up being burnt or in a landfill – without mentioning those that are flushed away in the toilet and part of large blockages in the sewers. While this might not be the first thing that comes to your mind as a new parent, disposable nappies are the worst for the environment. They contain plastic – and also come in plastic packaging – which stops them from being recycled.

Consequently, even though it’s easy to understand why parents prefer disposable options – washing a dirty nappy is probably the last thing you want to do –, it’s essential to measure the real impact of your nappy habits. Reducing the use of plastic in your family starts with the choice of your nappies. Reusable and washable nappies can be hugely effective, as long as you ensure you can reduce your energy waste too. Indeed, as a baby can change nappies up to 10 times a day, you need to keep a sufficient stock of cloth nappies to reduce the washing frequency.

Avoiding plastic car seats

Plastic is pretty much everywhere when it comes to getting the best baby gear. With careful shopping, you can avoid it in most places, but there is dedicated equipment that can be tricky to find in a structure that is both sustainable and safe. Baby car seats, for instance, tend to be made out of unhealthy material, such as polyurethane foam which is derived from formaldehyde and benzene – both carcinogenic substances – or even PVC which can affect both the development and the hormonal balance of your child. Flame retardants materials such as PBDEs are a common element of most baby seats, even though they can lead to cancer and thyroid issues. Aside from being harmful to the environment, most car seats can also lead to health problems in human beings too. Is it truly the choice you want to make for your baby?

A safe and sturdy seat doesn’t have to affect life on the planet – theirs and the wildlife too. However, it can be tricky to spot an eco car seat that meets your requirements both in terms of recyclability and safety. You can, however, address the issue by making a list of eco-friendly options and checking a site such as for helpful and objective reviews. Alternatively, you can also compromise by selecting a combination of materials which lets you disassemble the chair when you don’t need it anymore, so that most of the car seat can be recycled.

Choose safe toys for your baby and the planet

Another common area that is the haven of plastic manufacturers is baby toys. From squeaky toys to chewable animals, plastic finds its way into the mouth of your baby quicker than you might know. Here too, the beloved toys are not only harmful to the planet, but they can also put your child’s immune system through a lot of pressure. Switching to eco-friendly and organic options can seem tricky at first – quality toys come at a price – but if you know where to look you can find plenty of great choices!

Wooden toys, for instance, are perfect for toddlers and older children who can develop their motor skills safely. They are also sturdier than most plastic toys, making them a lot more durable! You can find recycled plastic toys that are safe from toxic substances and ideal for bath time games. The bottom line is that you might have to spend a little more on a quality toy. However, you’ll be investing in quantity over quality, hence keeping your budget over the long term.

The best nursery rooms are green

The design you choose for the nursery room is going to set the scene for your green parenting. The truth is that, while there are plenty of safe and eco-friendly options, most baby shops choose to display products in terms of colours, sizes and prices, which can make it tricky to identify the items that are safe for your family. But, keep your eyes open, and you’ll be able to spot plenty of ethical and sustainable nursery essentials.

For the crib, take the time to compare options. Brands such as Balyletto have collections of sustainable wooden cribs with non-toxic finishes; however, you might need to order these from an online shop or a specialist retailer. Similarly, the mattress is the second highest toxic risk in the nursery room. Opt for 100% organic cotton mattress with an eco-friendly waterproofing element to avoid any issue.

What about your energy and water consumption?

Having a baby means that you’ll find yourself washing your laundry and dishes a lot more often. Ultimately, even with the best of environmentally-friendly products, you’ll still be consuming humongous amounts of water and energy. Unfortunately, baby items need to be washed after each wear – unlike adults who can wear the same item more than once; babies can spit, drool, experience nappy leakage, etc. it’s not uncommon to change your baby up to 5 times a day!

So, how can you cut down your energy and water consumption? You can use colour-catching sheets that let you wash everything together without sorting out colours. Additionally, picking eco-friendly appliances can save you up to 6,000 gallons of water per year while maintaining your electrical efficiency.

Green up the wardrobe too

Baby clothes are the cutest thing in the shops! But picking eco-friendly items of clothing can be difficult if you’re not careful. As a parent, here’s a painful lesson to learn: the cutest outfit is not always the best for the environment. While it doesn’t mean that organic and non-toxic fabrics can’t be stylish, they may not be what you expect for your newborn. Indeed, eco-friendly dye and all-natural wood for button create a sweet look, but they tend to be gender-neutral. In short, open up your mind to new possibilities!

Spread the word

Last, but not least, environmentally-conscious parents have a duty towards society; namely, they need to educate their friends and relatives. There’s no denying that new parents receive tonnes of baby items from their social circles, from funny baby outfits to practical changing and lounging equipment. If you want to avoid any toxic issue, you need to make it very clear from the start that you intend to buy green.

The best way to do this is to share your baby registry online so that friends and family can receive the guidance they need. It’s a good idea to share your list of wanted items from the moment you sent baby shower invitations, as this leaves your friends plenty of time to get ready and share the cost if they’re going to buy you something.

In conclusion, you shouldn’t let your environmental concerns stop you from having a baby. On the contrary, with a little bit of creativity and strategic thinking, you can keep motherhood as green as possible!


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