Twenty years ago, my husband and myself were considered a bit 'fanatical' for dragging our garbage to a recycle center and using cloth diapers. Today, I read an article linked off the the MSN main page on 'How to Green Your Sex Life'!
Of course my mind went directly to the cost of birthing and babies, both financially and as it impacts the environment.
I read somewhere (And try as I might to provide a link or resource for you to follow, I couldn't find it. If someone has it, please share.) that the cost of a birth at Patch Adams' Gesundheit! Hospital was $28. This sounded about right at the time, because I think that's what I paid for my 'birth kit' from Cascade Birthing Supply for my homebirth. Today the kit costs $30.
Now, granted, that kit contains a lot of 'disposable' items, as does a hospital birth, but it doesn't have to. Let's break it down:
At home during a birth, a woman wears her own clothes (or none). There is no special bulk laundering with harsh disinfectants. The mother is immune to the germs in her own home, and those of the people in her home with whom she shares close contact. Thus, her baby is also immune. There is no need for harsh chemicals to be anywhere near her or her baby, because it is unlikely either would be exposed to anything that would make them sick, unlike the hospital nursery where infection is always a concern.
The birth bed is made up with fresh linens, then a waterproof layer is pinned into place. We used a shower curtain, but some people use a picnic tablecloth; the kind that has a fuzzy side and a waterproof side. Next, the bed is made up again with more clean sheets.
Sometime disposable chux pads are still used, sometimes towels, but as anything becomes soiled, it is cleared away by the midwives or her assistants and goes into the washing machine.
The midwives don't typically use disposable instruments: they are scrubbed between each use with an antimicrobial solution and either sterilized in an autoclave or the oven.
Nothing sterile is opened until it is used, and in many cases it will never need to be used. Gauze for instance, might only be used if there is a tear or an episiotomy, which is very unlikely at a midwife attended birth, in home or in hospital. My favorite all time midwives (CNMs-Certified Nurse Midwives) are hospital-based and are amazing at keeping a mother's bottom intact! They offer truly mother-friendly services all the way around!
In any case, if there is no tearing, there's no stitching. If there's no stitching, no IV, no meds, etc., there's nothing to dispose of. The bonus is that mother and baby get a birth that's not only inexpensive, safe, and gentle, but possibly ecstatic as in the You Tube video posted below.
The cord can be tied with new shoelaces and cut with boiled scissors, or the placenta can be left to fall off, which is called a lotus birth. Personally it grosses me out and seems like added work, but some people find value in it.
I'm always amused when I see check lists that require parents to spend a small (or large) fortune! My birth/baby cost very little for the first several years. My birth was inexpensive and eco-friendly. I never used bottles, formula or pacifiers. I used cloth diapers that I then used as rags for YEARS. I used a baby food grinder and bought all of 2 or 3 jars of Earth's Best organic baby food in a pinch. I barely used the crib I was given, and used the strollers for carrying stuff because the sling worked so much better for transporting baby. The highchair, however, I found indispensable when she started eating solids somewhere between 6 and 10 months. For me, it was the only way to contain her long enough to offer her food.
However, the following list is actually pretty good.
I did make a couple of comments in [brackets and an alternate text color].
What newborns need, the simple list:
Warmth (mother's arms), Food (mother's breast), and love (mother). In short, Nature designed this relationship so that all babies need is to to be held close to mom's heart just like they were on the inside.
What newborns need, the more complicated list:
Diapers (though those Using Elimination communication might argue that)
Clothing of some sort (also debatable, depending on climate; but oh! aren't baby clothes CUTE!
A couple of hats (although protection for the soft spot from heat and cold could be a blanket)
Mittens, if the baby is a scratcher
Outerwear if it's cold
Receiving blankets and/or larger, warmer depending on climate
[OK so far; babies need to be kept protected and warm.
Although one list I saw included how to fit your newborn for SHOES!
Babies don't walk, people, they don't need shoes until their feet need to be protected, and even then, they learn to walk better barefoot so the muscles can develop properly. In any case, one great resource for natural baby products is Baby Bunz.]
If you are nursing, you need no special equipment, just a few good nursing bras and some breasts pads, but some people try to include so much stuff and make it so complicated!
If birthing interventions haven't sabotaged breastfeeding attempts, it shouldn't be difficult.
Any pillow is a 'nursing pillow'! Breasts are portable, can't be lost, are always sterile and the milk is always warm. That said, you may find the following handy:
Breast pump and bottles (some would say hand expression works just fine once you get the hang of it, and that cup feeding is better as it doesn't confuse the baby)
If you are formula feeding:
Bottle sterilization system
Formula (constant and immediate supply)
[All of this is hard on the environment, not to mention the production of artificial baby milk
and the impact that millions of frequently sick babies has on the environment and economy.]
Diapers and covers, if you aren't doing Elimination Communication
If using cloth, get a few dozen in assorted sizes. You'll use them forever!
Weleda Diaper Cream
Homemade cleanser and cloths (Mix a squirt of natural liquid soap, a little olive oil or calendula oil, and a little water. Keep in a squirt bottle with some thick, soft paper towel or flannel wipes.)
If using paper and plastic diapers:
[There is NO SUCH THING as a 'disposable' diaper. They last in landfills for up to 500 years. Tons of biological waste goes into landfills because people don't empty the contents into the toilet before tossing in the trash as they are supposed to do. That waste can contain the polio virus that sheds from babies getting live polio vaccines which can leach into water supplies as landfills were not built to deal with such issues. Other illnesses can be spread by flies.]
Babies grow fast! Buy a small amount of newborn, and check out Mothering advertisers for some that don't have chemicals.
Babies don't get that dirty. They don't sweat and they don't play in the mud (yet). Keep their bums and creases clean and you really don't need to deal with wet, slippery babies for awhile. There are, however, a lot of neat new 'mother's helpers' you could splurge on. Just keep in mind their skin is sensitive, so stick to natural ingredients and avoid alcohol that will dry out their skin.
You could keep it simple and sleep with your baby! (Yes, it is safe if you use common sense! Read Dr. Sears take on it here.)
A Co-sleeper makes it easier if you have a small bed.
If your baby sleeps all alone, you'll need:
Safe crib bumpers
Waterproof crib covers
Extra blankets to keep baby warm in place of you!
Extras like pacifiers, bouncy seats, baby swings, etc. are just more unnecessary 'stuff'. One acquaintance called these types of things 'super duper baby neglecting devices'. She meant that these kinds of things are often used to replace interaction with mom. Now, I agreed with her assessment before I had my baby (at which point I discovered some of the things I thought I'd never use, I actually found useful on occasion), and I still do to a certain extent. For instance, car seats are a must have for car safety.
However, they are so abused that its leading to 'flat head syndrome', which before the cause was recognized was leading to surgery! Where is the common sense in carrying around several extra pounds of plastic at an odd angle? Babies are meant to be picked up, carried, talked to, enjoyed, nursed.
Why stick them in a baby bucket for hours a day? There is a time and a place for distracting babies, but many people don't use such things appropriately.
A good baby sling (not a backpack as baby's bones are still soft and growing so splaying the legs is not good) is a wise investment though.
A care seat is a necessity (it's the law for the car!)
A bulb syringe can be useful, along with saline drops, if you baby is stuffy
After the birth, some mothers even use reusable sanitary products or go organic.
Really, living gently on the earth can begin with birth (or before)!