Babies and budgets
The daily routine
Once baby arrives on the scene, there are plenty of day-to-day activities to keep new parents busy. Here are a few tips to help you care for baby while making the best use of your time and resources. With a little preparation you can meet your baby's needs while ensuring your household's bills don't go up.
Bathing a baby doesn't use a lot of water but all those baths add up. Remember that baby bath water is good for re-using on gardens (avoid the vegie patch). To save your back, transfer the water into a bucket or invest in a greywater hose.
If you're spending lots of money on various cleaning products for your house and are concerned about the number and level of chemicals in these products, try surfing the internet for 'green cleaning' to find advice and recipes for cleaning your home using natural products like bicarbonate of soda and vinegar.
You may wish to remove chemicals and other hazardous waste from your house before your baby becomes mobile, or ensure that they're stored safely and securely. If you're disposing of hazardous household waste it's best to contact your local council for information on how to dispose of hazardous waste. Planet Ark's RecyclingNearYou is also useful for finding out about what is recyclable in your area.
Save money and excess packaging by making your own baby food. Ice cube trays can be used to freeze food in small portions for later use. Heat food in microwaves in glass or in specifically labelled microwave-safe containers. Reducing food waste is another way to save money and energy.
CSIRO research shows that Australians are throwing away over one billion disposable nappies each year, with each of these taking up to 300 years to decompose.
A decision on cloth versus disposable nappies may seem like a clear choice, but each option has energy use and waste disposal impacts. The impact of cloth nappies comes mainly from the water and energy used to wash and dry the nappies. The biggest impact of disposable nappies comes from production and disposal.
There have been a number of recent life cycle assessments on the impact of these choices. Using cloth nappies isn't always the best choice—if you always wash them in hot water and tumble dry them they may even have a greater impact than disposables. If, however, you wash and dry them efficiently—generally washing full loads, washing in cool or cold water and line drying them as much a possible—the impact is far less than for using disposables. If you buy second-hand cloth nappies, or use them on a second child, and if you wash in an efficient front-loading machine, the impacts get even lower. Cloth nappies are also considerably cheaper than disposable options.
Choice estimates a baby will use about 6,500 nappies from birth to toilet training so it's well worth considering your options. Cloth nappies are available in many styles from the traditional terry towelling squares to fitted modern cloth nappies with Velcro or snap closures. You might want to choose cloth nappies for some of the time, but use disposables when you are travelling or for overnight stays—there's no single answer that'll suit every family.
There's little difference between the impact of biodegradable and non-biodegradable nappies. Putting biodegradable disposable nappies in the rubbish has the same impact as putting a non-biodegradable nappy in the rubbish. To achieve any benefit biodegradable nappies would need to be composted.