Updated: May 19, 2021
Thinking back to when I was pregnant for the first time, there was a list as long as the queue at the Babies Galore register on a Saturday afternoon of things that we were told we were going to "need" for our baby. I have also worked on the retail side of the baby goods industry and discovered everything from electric baby wipes warmers to special nappy bins that require special cassettes of special plastic bags to work!
So how does a conscious consumer navigate the barrage of product marketing that comes with the territory of pregnancy and motherhood? Just like with any other lifestyle decisions, research is key to avoiding the greenwashing and getting caught up in the flurry of consumer culture. Here are some easy ways to do some research:
* Ask mums and dads who are further along the parenting journey - their experience will never be exactly the same as yours, but it can be very helpful to find out from others who have been there before about what worked for them and what turned out to be a waste of money and resources.
* Make use of the abundance of sustainable lifestyle blogs available - these were not around (or at least barely heard of) during my pregnancies which is a shame as I'm sure they would have been a very valuable resource. Here are some specifically from eco-conscious mums to get you started:
* Join a Facebook Group:
Still not sure where to start when it comes to sustainability and motherhood? Here are some tips and things to consider which you can apply to setting up your maternity and baby wardrobes:
You might be tempted to give in to the convenience and cheapness of fast fashion seeing as you may only be wearing these items for a short period of time, but it is well and truly worth putting in that bit of extra effort to apply the principles of sustainable fashion for both your health and that of the planet - which may turn out to be more affordable as well.
Some things to consider when choosing maternity wear:
The short timeframe that maternity clothes are worn it makes them the perfect candidate for secondhand shopping. All the traditional outlets like Vinnies, Salvos, Red Cross and Anglicare are great sources of lightly worn preloved maternity clothes. If you're looking for specific secondhand items, try Facebook Marketplace, Ebay and Gumtree. There are even some preloved maternity shops online such as Serendipity Maternity Boutique and Motherly Instincts which sell a selection of new and secondhand plus hire out for formal occasions.
I don't think I know a mum who isn't happy to pass on or lend their maternity wear post (or in between!) pregnancies! This is a great way to save money and reduce waste.
If you have a special occasion to attend while pregnant, there is now the option of hiring (yes - hiring! This sure wasn't around when I as preggie!) some high end maternity garments! Motherly Instincts (mentioned above) , Mama Rentals and Bump Style all specialise in this and Glam Corner has a dedicated maternity section.
There are many styles of regular clothing that can also accommodate your beautiful pregnant figure so why not shop your existing wardrobe or look for pieces that you know you can continue to wear into the future. Certain styles work best for this including wrap dresses, loose maxi dresses, tunics, empire line dresses and most items with stretch.
If you're handy with sewing or know somebody who is, you may be able to alter or upcycle pieces from your wardrobe or that you find in the thrift stores.
* Buying New
There will obviously be some items that you will want to buy new (hello underwear and hosiery!) and these are the ones that you will need to ask some questions about in order to determine which choices are the most sustainable and ethical:
- Who made the item? Does the brand provide evidence that their workers are treated fairly? Was the production environmentally responsible.
- What is it made from? Are the components free from harmful chemicals? Are they composed of fibres that are natural, recycled or at least recyclable?
- Is it made to last?
- Will it add value and flexibility to your existing wardrobe?
- Is this purchase helping small businesses to thrive?
Hosiery is an important item - what I like to think of as a "bridging" item - for creating and maintaining a capsule wardrobe and is especially useful for adapting outfits for use during pregnancy. Think of all those loose fitting, free flowing Summer dresses that are the perfect maternity cross-over pieces - you can use layering with tights and a cardigan to create a trans-seasonal outfit that will take you through a winter pregnancy.
Swedish Stockings Conscious Pantyhose from Sustainable Hosiery & Essentials Australia is a hosiery brand that rates very highly on the scale of ethical and eco-friendly fashion labels. Swedish Stockings use fibres that are made from recycled nylon and use zero-waste and zero-emissions production methods to create hosiery that is made to last and a recycling program to keep them out of landfill at the end of their usefulness. All their products are OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified which means that there are no harmful chemicals used in the manufacturing process or existing in the finished product which you are wearing close to your skin.
If you are opting to wear pantyhose during your pregnancy, this is one item that you will most likely need a style designed specifically to accomodate your bump to avoid any discomfort from tight elastic or waistbands rolling down. Swedish Stockings offer two maternity styles:
Matilda is a semi-opaque 60 denier pantyhose style which are knitted in 3D from recycled yarn to provide soft support and coverage for an expanding belly as well as support for tired legs - perfect for the cooler months.
Also made from recycled yarn, Amanda offers all the same benefits as Matilda, only in a more sheer 20 denier weight - ideal for corporate dress and for going out as well as for added support but a more bare-legged look.
To achieve the look and feel of sheer pantyhose on your legs, but without anything around your belly area, try Swedish Stockings Mira Premium Stay-Ups or opt for knee-highs and socks instead. Support knee-highs such as Irma or Bea are a great option to combat the swelling that often comes with the pregnancy territory.
Pregnancy and the post natal period is a time when you want to feel really comfortable, well-supported and free from unnecessary exposure to harmful toxins. Wearing organic cotton underwear from Woron Sustainable Fashion Essentials will help you to achieve these feelings with the benefits of breathable, moisture-wicking, hypo-allergenic and chemical-free fabric.
- Woron Organic Cotton Briefs - these ethically made briefs are low rise so can sit below your belly bump and sit smoothly with flat seams, without riding up.
-Woron Organic Cotton Soft Bralette - as your breasts change during pregnancy you may want to switch to an underwire-free bra for greater comfort and flexibility. These organic cotton soft bras are a perfect option, with no wire, clasps or uncomfortable seams, yet accomodating and supporting for larger cup sizes. Although not a breastfeeding bra as such, their soft cup design would make it easy to adapt and continue to wear post-pregnancy.
* Baby's Wardrobe
Naturally, preparing for baby's arrival will be very high on your list of priorities! It can be difficult to decide exactly what to have ready in advance and how many of each item as you can't be sure what size baby will be or how messy they will be! So it can be wise to wait and see how these factors play out as well as what you will receive as gifts. As with maternity clothes, it can be an awesome bonus to receive hand-me-downs or to be able to purchase things secondhand. You will probably want to have some core basics on hand from the start however and if you're keeping the sex a surprise you'll most likely want to keep baby's clothes gender-neutral.
Many people are now becoming aware of the damaging effects of toxic chemicals used in the production of apparel and also existent in the clothes that we wear. Chemicals that have been located in commonly worn fabrics have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, allergies and skin irritation so these are things that you don't want sitting next to your skin and certainly not anywhere near your precious baby! Babies' skin is