Our family has hardly had to buy any clothes for Samuel. As I'm sure is the case with many expecting parents, we got a mix of gifts and hand-me-downs to last us perhaps for an entire year.
We got lots of gifts from my family and friends when we visited Chicago a few months ago. These included a pijama so Samuel will remember his Midwestern roots (and notice the paw-print underneath the foot)
And a few cute shirts with "green" messages on them.
We had a baby shower here in Colombia in August, and got a typical complement of baby gifts. There were overalls so the baby can look just like his father
Or his mother!
We also got disposable diapers for newborns from a relative who didn't know we were planning on using cloth diapers. I'm sure they'll come in handy in emergencies. I wouldn't want to be so sanctimoniously ecological that I waste perfectly good diapers.
I have been consistently amazed at how small everything is. Look at this sock,
or at Sammy's shoes next to mine.
Now I'm a big guy, and of course babies are small, but I do think a lot of the clothes we got aren't going to fit our baby beyond his first few weeks, if at all! For instance, look at these pants. They're super-skinny.
They came with a box of stuff my mother-in-law sent from Spain. Some neighbors of hers have a grandkid that's outgrown a lot of clothes, so she collected them and sent them in a shipment. A few of the outfits look like fruity Little Lord Fauntleroy getups, very Spanish.
But most will be great for Sam. This reminds me that in Chicago some family friends, under the delusion that we'd already had our child three months before and that it was a girl with my wife's name, gave us some adorable girl outfits. We're pretty open-minded and gender-neutral, but we couldn't imagine Samuel wearing a purple hat with knit flowers and sequins. My mom ended up giving it to a homeless woman she works with that just had a daughter. As for the pink towels and washcloths, we hung onto those. What will Sammy care if we dry him off with pink fabric?
We've gotten a lot of great hand-me-downs, too. This is a diaper I wore as a child. My mom's been using it for 25 years or so as a soft-touch cleaning cloth, but it's still in great shape.
We haven't found good, thick basic cloth nappies for Samuel in Colombia, so this will come in handy. Here are the types of thin cloth diapers we've found here:
We also had to buy a few things ourselves, just to fill in supply gaps. My wife got washcloths and some clothes at a cheap, dollar-store-style baby store.
At another store in Bogota, she'd found a similar pack of seven washcloths for like $25US instead of the $4 she spent on these. The only difference is that the ones we bought were made in Colombia, while the other, pricey ones were imported "from the USA", which really means from China.
We also bought a yellow outfit. I think it was my sister-in-law who insisted that a newborn baby's first outfit should be yellow. It brings luck or something.
This yellow outfit is in knit acrylic. Something that drives me crazy here in our part of Colombia is that often people use imprecise words for things. For instance, for the acrylic yarn you find in most fabric stores, people say "wool". So if you want real wool (which is common in our cool region with lots of sheep), you have to say "real wool" or "virgin wool" or something like that.
Many people gave us dolls for Samuel. Most of them are made of synthetic fabric and stuffing, like polyester. Not only do I dislike the idea of my son playing with and sucking on estrogen-mimicking polymers during his early development, but I'm sure these toys come from the factory with fabric additives. But again, I don't want to be one of those unbearable people who rejects gifts and doesn't let their baby do normal things like playing with toys. So I attempted to mitigate and remove any nasty chemicals from the dolls by washing their exterior with a soapy cloth. If you think a burly, hairy man hand-washing cutesy dolls would be a silly sight, you're right:
Here is my reaction when one of the dolls starting barking as I washed it. I didn't know it had one of those awful little chips inside. Who the hell actually enjoys hearing dolls make irritating recorded noises?
I got my revenge though. When I was finished washing them, I hung them up to dry. The patio looked like a stuffed-animal installment of the "Saw" movies.
We have some friends, actually our only real friends in our town. In fact, it's the father of my stepdaughter, and his wife. They have four kids, including a baby girl that was born a little over a year ago. Anyway, we have sort of a commune with them. We always eat at one another's houses, we're constantly loaning things to one another (even cars), and of course we raise my stepdaughter jointly. Obviously, they have a lot of baby clothes and supplies. They need to buy a new, bigger carseat, so we made sort of a collective carseat ownership deal with them. We'll buy the big-kid carseat for them, and they'll give us the smaller one, in addition to the bigger one later on when Samuel needs it. I really like the idea of sharing ownership of things that you only use for a short time.
Our friends also gave us their breast pump, which they have never really used because they work in a hotel they own, so the baby is always with them. This breast pump functions either with battery power, or you can plug it into the wall. It seems like a pretty asinine design. You have to squeeze this little thing, and then it draws the milk via an electric pump. Why not just design it to be fully manual, or at least to also function without the batteries? Furthermore, if I were my wife I certainly wouldn't want to plug my breasts into an electric socket!
The breast pump only works with a certain brand of bottle. Our friends gave us the bottle that came with the pump, and we've since bought two more. Here is one that we bought:
Notice the little green circle that says 0% BPA. This means the bottle contains no bisphenol-A. Bisphenol-A is an organic compound that is tied together in polymer chains to make polycarbonate, that indestructible plastic from Nalgene bottles. In the past few years there have been conclusive studies showing toxic effects of BPA, especially on babies. So now most bottle manufacturers have renounced BPA in their products. The bottle shown above is made from polypropylene, which I feel better about because it's just made from simple carbon chains. Our other bottle is made from polyethersulfone, which I learned from a technical document is made from benzyl rings, sulfur, and oxygen atoms. I'm not thrilled about that benzyl rings, but the bottle says it won't leach BPA. Anyway, the funny thing is that the bottle our friends gave us, the same brand but from maybe two years ago, doesn't have the 0% BPA label, and seems to be made out of polycarbonate. I'm thinking we'll use that one as a shampoo bottle or something.
So that's my take on our gifts and hand-me-downs. For me, part of being green is not buying a lot of stuff. Getting clothes and baby supplies from other people is a way to buy less. Even with gifts bought new, at least it's not our money we're spending!
But the really responsible way of getting the stuff you need for your baby is to make it yourself, or have friends, family, or neighbors make it. That will be the topic of my next Third World Green Daddy post.