‘Should we be having another?’:Parents repent in the zero-waste baby movement

Sydney comedian Veronica Milsom was six months pregnant when a chance discussion with her partner about climate change led to a complete life change. Parts of Australia were flooding,others were on fire and they felt generally helpless.

“My partner turned to me and said ‘do you think we should be having another baby?’,” Milsom says.

“It made us both question why we were bringing another generation of children into the world when it was facing imminent environmental disaster.”

They already had one daughter,Lila,three.

Their solution was to try raising their next child Zoe,now 12 months old,with zero waste,which meant a ban on disposable nappies,single-use plastic,a clothes drier,wet wipes and,as she got older,squeezy pouches (pureed fruit and yoghurt in a plastic pouch). She also requested no gifts.

It seemed like a fair compromise but for someone who had been only mildly environmentally friendly,it also seemed like a huge challenge. When she had Lila,wet wipes were king and it seemed so much easier to use regular disposable nappies but,with Zoe,her mindset changed completely.

Veronica Milsom with daughters Zoe and Lila.

Veronica Milsom with daughters Zoe and Lila.Kate Geraghty

She believes her strict form of “zero waste baby” is still niche but the baby eco market is rife with competition. New eco-friendly nappies and other baby products are emerging all the time.

“I committed to doing it for the first three months of her[Zoe’s] life,” she says.

“I ended up doing it for much longer. For my first baby,I was an environmental disaster,as most people are so I looked at my second baby as a chance to repent.”

She certainly took it seriously,beginning in the birthing suite.

Milsom,37,took the placenta home after the birth because she didn’t want it to be incinerated. Instead,she put it in the freezer,cooking it into a sausage roll,complete with pastry,two weeks later.

“It was one of the most horrendous experiences of my life and worst still,I made my vegetarian husband help me cook it,” she says. “I’m not sure I’d do it again.”

The completely nappy-free approach lasted for six months when she switched to bamboo biodegradable nappies instead.

“She wasn’t very good at it and I wasn’t committed to it,” she says.

Northern NSW mum Edwina O’Connell is an advocate of using fewer nappies by offering the potty in early stages of life,sharing her story on Instagram with parents interested in reducing nappy use.

“I’m not strict even though I’ve always used minimal plastic and do a lot of recycling but this isn’t so much nappy-less,as using less nappies,” O’Connell says.

“It’s about shifting your perspective. When you’re aware of the signs that your baby needs to use the potty,offer it to them when you can. It’s just to know that it’s an option.”

She began the minimal nappy usage with her daughter,now aged six,whose signals,she says,guided her through the process.

“She was nine weeks old when I started looking into this,realising there was a whole community out there and even a title for it,” she says.

“I just noticed her patterns,watched for visual signals (there are many) and found a lot of anecdotal information that babies are born with a natural instinct to avoid soiling themselves. I just followed that.”

Though the nappy-less approach didn’t work for Milsom,her zero-waste experiment was mostly successful with plenty of long-lasting changes. Family and friends still don’t bring gifts but babysitting offers are welcome. Toys are either wooden or recycled. Single-use plastic and wet wipes have never returned to the household.

“It made me feel a lot better about my contribution to the world and bringing a new human into the world,” Milsom says.

“A lot of it was experimental but also practical.”

Zero Waste Baby is available on the LiSTNR app or wherever you get your podcasts.

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