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Sustainable Life: Eco Baby

Mia Swainson

Wow! You’re having a baby, congratulations!

What have you done to get ready? Where do you go to buy baby gear?

If you’re out at the shops, you’ll find gadgets and gear for almost everything. What you won’t find at the shops is the simple approach to living sustainably with your baby. This approach is tucked away in people’s houses and in private conversations. Here’s that private conversation about getting ready to live sustainably with a new baby.

Baby Gear

In Canberra, there’s an expectation that parents will buy a mountain of gear, including a pram, bassinet, cot, change table, new set of drawers, travel cot, baby carrier, car seat, new clothes, thermometer and more. The Baby Centre estimates that the cost of a baby’s first year can be about $10,000. Is it all essential? Does it all need to be new?

Everyone has a different set of furniture and equipment that suits their lifestyle. Most people will tell you that a change table is essential. Not always. One of my Canberra friends changed her baby on a mat at the end of her bed.

Baby bath essential? Maybe not if you choose to get into the adult sized bath with your baby, or if you want to shower with your baby from day one. Have a good think about what you really ‘need’ and what is essential for your lifestyle.

Once you’ve decided what you need, then buying it doesn’t have to be a drain on the budget or a festival of shiny, new plastic. Babies rarely wear out their bassinet, cot or change table. So it’s pretty easy to find good quality, second-hand gear.

Try these places for second-hand gear:

  1. Canberra Baby and Kids market. It’s held every few months at the Fitzroy Pavilion in Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) and has an excellent range of second-hand baby furniture, clothing and toys. It’s on between 9am and 12 noon and entry is $4 per adult. It’s best to get there early to have your pick of the bargains. The next market is on 19 November 2016.
  1. Gumtree and all classifieds offer an online service for buying and selling. Both have a heap of items in the baby or family categories that you can pick-up from Canberra homes, or further afield if you’re prepared to travel.


Breastfeeding doesn’t need any special equipment and is a great way to feed your baby sustainably from the start. The Australian Breastfeeding Association has a free help line, an online chat service and other great resources for parents. You can even take classes before your baby comes, to build confidence in the real thing.

When you decide to introduce solid food, don’t feel like you have to buy baby-specific pre-packaged items. It’s easy to make your own food at home and resources like the ACT Government’s ‘From milk to more’ booklet are available online. There’s also the baby led weaning approach that promotes babies feeding themselves with appropriate, normal food from about six months. If your baby is a good eater, all this will seem easy. If they’re fussy, then maybe you’ll be making blueberry pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner!


Oh yes, nappies. Most people use nappies in Canberra, but they’re not essential if you live in a remote, tropical village or in a town like Byron Bay. Many parents in these parts of the world use the elimination communication method, instead of nappies. This involves no nappies from birth, just timing, signals and baby cues for the caregiver to know when babies have elimination needs. It sounds pretty messy, but those who use it, love it.

So, back in Canberra. Disposable or cloth nappies for a sustainable approach? Disposable nappies create hundreds of thousands of tones of landfill across Australia. In Canberra we send about 3,000 tones of nappies to be buried each year – 5% of the total household waste stream. Their manufacture typically includes the use of hazardous chemicals and non-renewable plastics. In contrast, most cloth nappies are made from renewable materials and their biggest environmental impact is likely to be at your home as you wash and dry them. Cloth nappies win. It is more effort for you, but once you’ve got a system, it isn’t too much extra for the return to your bank balance and for the planet.

Living with your baby is an adventure, a journey to someplace new.

You choose which fork in the road will take you where you want to go. Leave the rest of the parenting advice behind.


Mia Swainson

Mia Swainson is passionate about creating a more sustainable world and believes that everyone can make a difference. Trained as an environmental engineer, Mia has worked in sustainable development with the Australian Government and community sector for more than 15 years. Mia’s work has taken her around the world to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and back to Canberra. She currently tends her kitchen garden, cares for three young boys and is growing her executive coaching consultancy (miaswainson.com.au/wp). More about the Author

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