green babies | 26th Apr, 2012

What stuff do you really need to buy for a green baby?

When you're expecting, there's a lot of pressure to get set up before the baby arrives. Every extra thing you buy new has an impact on the planet, so what can you get secondhand? And do you really need all these baby products anyway? We asked some environmentally aware mums to separate the essentials from the junk.

What do experienced mums say?

“All you really need is lots of wraps and toweling wipes – all the other things are just extras!” Erica

“The first time you don’t realise how quickly they grow out of things. We got a floor seat thing for our son that said it was good for up to 18 months. He was soon sitting up for himself and stopped using it after six months.” Michele

“When you’re at home for the first few months going out to the shops while the baby sleeps in the pram can be great relaxation. But be careful that you don’t get lulled into buying heaps of cute junk that you really, really don’t need and regret almost instantly.” Mersina

A mum on stuff – 40 seconds

What should you buy new?

  • Bedding: mattress, mattress protector and sheets for your cot and a change mat are all recommended new so as to avoid dust mites and mould that can cause asthma and eczema. Check out the SIDS information which is available through the Maternal and Child Health Centres when choosing bedding for your baby’s cot.
  • Baby wraps
  • Bottles, teats and bottle brush.
  • Towelling squares: very handy for cleaning up spills.
Safety requirements you should be aware of
  • Some baby equipment has safety requirements that older goods might not meet. This is especially true of cots which need to have bars spaced so that babies can’t get their heads trapped in them. Also make sure you avoid lead based paints, which you should only find on older products.
  • Be aware that second hand or hand-me-down car restraints (capsules and booster seats) can receive invisible damage if they’ve been in an accident that reduces their effectiveness, a bit like bike helmets.
  • Many people prefer to hire capsules and seats because they have had a safety check.
  • There are health and safety concerns about certain plastics and some have now been banned in children’s toys and accessories.
  • Check out the fact sheets at for standards and helpful information about child safety. Or call the Consumer Affairs Victoria Toy and Nursery Safety Line on 1300 36 48 94

What you might prefer new

  • Prams can get a real work out during their few years of service so finding the one you want second-hand and in good nick, while not impossible, can be a challenge. You could also look into hiring instead of buying.
  • Choice have heaps of good free information to help you with purchases of baby equipment.
  • And just for fun: OK, some of those ‘onesy’ baby suits are pretty cute! But try not to go crazy with baby clothes – they grow out of them so quickly anyway. And you’ll be amazed as people you barely know start showering you with baby clothes!

What you can hire

Hiring tends to be the more sustainable option, as hire goods get plenty of use before they need to be disposed of.

  • Baby capsules: By law you need to use a baby capsule in the car till your baby is six months old. They cost $200-$300 to buy. You can also get capsules which convert to child car seats. Or you can hire them for six months, including installation and demonstration, from around $100.
  • Maternity hospitals and some local councils hire capsules and often offer concession prices from as low as $40 for six months.
  • There are specialty baby hire businesses which hire capsules, car seats, strollers, breast pumps, high chairs, porta cots, stair gates – just about everything you could think of! Just type ‘baby hire’ and your location into Google (or your search engine of choice).

What you will most likely get given by friends and relatives

Get the word out that you are expecting and the offers of second hand baby stuff will come flooding in. Babies get through clothes so quickly most people who have had their kids are keen to see their clothes get some more love. Most of the clothes passed on have been worn so little they are like new.

What you can buy second hand

Secondhand is not only a whole lot cheaper, it’s better for the planet. It means less resources go into making stuff, and less stuff ends up in landfill – think of it as recycling! You might also be surprised by the amount of baby items you can get in as-new condition – since they are used for such a short time.

You can buy just about everything second hand. This process might take a bit longer than filling up a trolley at the shops, but it is more fun. Check out op shopsand garage sales. Online check out eBay, Gumtree and mum’s blogs and forums. Also have a look at the newspapers and the Trading Post (most of which will also have websites). There are also second hand baby fairs where you can find just about everything you need under one roof. Try Googling to find one near you.

A mum on babies’ markets – 53 seconds

  • Cots As mentioned above check the spacing of bars to make sure they meet safety regulations. If the cot has lead based paint you’re better off avoiding it – babies have been known to chew through the paint.
  • Change table You can get a change pillow to sit on the floor wherever you are or on top of drawers. You can also get stand-alone units with a storage area underneath.
  • Bassinets This is not essential but handy for having your baby right next to the bed – which is so much easier for the non-stop night time feeding in the early days, because you don’t have to get out of bed.
  • Bassinets can also be nicer for a tiny baby, who can get a bit dwarfed in a big cot.
  • Prams If you are thinking of having more than one baby think about getting a pram with the option to add another seat.
  • A baby carrier or sling These have the advantage of keeping your hands free while babies are comforted by being in contact with you. There are many different styles and brands to choose from. You can find heaps of information and tips from parents at They also have a service where they will loan you different types so you can try before you buy.
  • Baby rocker This is handy but not essential.
  • A play mat is pretty handy. Op-shops are great for these. They are designed to be machine washable.
  • Breast pump Yes, pretty essential. eBay is great for this or you can also hire them.
  • Drawers or wardrobe Spruce up old or second hand items with a sand and varnish or paint.
  • Reusable nappies You can score hand-me-down re-usable nappies via online second hand and swap sites. They do discolour and cop a bit of wear and tear, so you might like to also get a few pairs of new outer layers for ‘going out’.

Make it yourself

Got some spare energy and don’t mind a bit of DIY?

  • You could make your own baby sling. You can find patterns online.
  • Make homemade baby wipes with pieces of towelling cloth and a thermos of warm water (you can add soap and essential oils like lavender) to avoid disposable wipes.

What you can borrow

Public libraries Of course we all know that we can borrow books for free from our local library. Most also now loan out children’s CDs, DVDs and toys. Don’t know where your local library is? Contact your local council.
Toy libraries Quality toys are expensive and children quickly outgrow or become bored with them. For a small membership fee you can join a toy library and borrow a large variety of educational toys, puzzles and games every week or two. Borrowing new toys instead of buying them helps save the planet, saves you money and significantly contributes towards the development of your children. They are run by volunteers and their membership fees to cover the costs of toys. Visit to find out whether there is one near you.

A mum on toy libraries – 42 seconds

Why it matters

Even though we’re recycling more than we used to, we’re also buying more stuff, so the amount of waste we send to landfill has remained the same. Some of the stuff we dump contains toxic materials that leach into our soil and groundwater. Other stuff, such as organic waste, creates greenhouse gases when it’s buried in landfill. The biggest problem though is all the water, energy and raw materials used to produce the stuff we buy that is lost every time we dump our used products into landfill. In fact, producing the foods and goods we buy is responsible for more climate change than our household electricity, gas and transportation combined.


Got 20 minutes? Watch a great animated film, The Story of Stuff, to find out a whole lot more.