5 Tips for Living Sustainably During the Fourth Trimester with Dietician Abby Cannon

The Nyssa team are huge fans of Abby Cannon, an attorney turned dietician and the mastermind behind Abby's Food Court, where she provides advice to make low waste living both doable and enjoyable. Abby recently became a new mother and kindly shared her top tips for maintaining a sustainable lifestyle during the Fourth Trimester:

"As a dietitian and sustainability expert, I had lofty goals for how I’d continue my low waste lifestyle during my Fourth Trimester. I researched products and spoke to family members and friends who recently had babies to gather insight into what I’d need to reduce my waste at the hospital and beyond.

For the hospital, I packed snacks in glass jars, reusable coffee cups and water bottles, bamboo silverware, organic cotton pads, and reusable diapers for the baby. Then, after 23 hours of labor, my husband and I found ourselves eating a hummus platter and fruit platter, both of which came wrapped in plastic wrap, off of Styrofoam plates with plastic silverware…

 I start with this anecdote to demonstrate that as well-intentioned as we may be, there will be plastic, there will be waste, and it’s all okay! Accepting this is challenging for a die-hard environmentalist like myself, but there’s so much going on post-birth, so many unexpected experiences and emotions that it’s impossible to anticipate and plan for everything.

Most importantly, we always must remember that living a sustainable life must be sustainable. Having a baby and living through the Fourth Trimester has never made that clearer.

Despite the challenges and exhaustion, there are ways to reduce your waste and be more sustainable in the Fourth Trimester! These tips become increasingly useful and applicable once you’ve had a bit of sleep!

  1. Reusable Water Bottles

Of all the plastic I didn’t avoid at the hospital and at home in those first few weeks, I was able to avoid plastic water bottles. Proper hydration is vital during pregnancy, labor, and post-birth. It becomes increasingly important when breastfeeding as breast milk is 90% water. A dehydrated mom likely means a dehydrated baby. Even if you’re not breastfeeding, staying hydrated is a top priority. Hydration helps if you experience difficulty urinating, night sweats, constipation or hemorrhoids.

I recommend having full water bottles within an arm’s reach at all times. I love water bottles with a straw function to make it easier to drink while breastfeeding or bottle feeding.

  1. Reusable Diapers for Baby

I’m in love with reusable diapers for my baby. They are so much easier to use and get accustomed to than I anticipated AND they cut down on so much waste. Each year in the United States, we throw away 37 billion disposable diapers. These take up 30% of non-biodegradable waste in landfills! The negative effect of disposable diapers outweighs the convenience. While sitting in landfill, they take about 500 years to decompose, release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and the waste can enter the water supply, contaminating water.

Not only does using reusable diapers cut down on waste, but also babies who use cotton diapers potty train an average of one year earlier than those in disposable diapers! And, while the upfront cost is higher, overall you save thousands of dollars by investing in reusables.

Finally, in uncertain times (aka during an unprecedented pandemic), where many parents are scrambling to stock up on diapers and increasingly anxious about what to do if they run out, having reusable diapers provides a sense of security and normalcy.

  1. Glass Bottles for Baby

I don’t like eating or drinking out of plastic for health and environmental reasons and I definitely didn’t want my baby eating or drinking out of plastic. The chemicals in plastic leach into the foods/beverages that come in contact with it, particularly when the food/beverage is heated. Yes, most plastic bottles are free of the most harmful known chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA). However, the substitutes for BPA aren’t much better!

Glass is inert and nothing from glass leaches into the milk (or other food/beverage housed in it). There are great options available, including ones where you can convert mason jars you already have into bottles for the baby!

And, in case you’re wondering, you can freeze milk in glass! You just have to take some extra precautions when thawing from frozen (i.e., leave room at the top of the jar to allow for the liquid to expand when frozen and don’t put a freezing cold jar into a hot water bath!).

  1. Snack Naked!

I came up with the phrase “Snack Naked” to encourage my clients to eat snacks that are plastic and package free. By avoiding packaged food, you naturally eat the healthiest foods- ones made from real, whole food ingredients that are minimally processed.

Before I gave birth, I stocked up on nuts, seeds, nut butters, and dried and fresh fruit. I made my own trail mixes that I stored in glass jars. I brought these to the hospital and kept them by my bed when I was home. My husband and I were snacking on them constantly. It was great to know that I had a healthy, zero waste way to snack and nourish myself! And, for the first time I was literally naked while snacking naked ;).

  1. Nyssa FourthWear™ Postpartum Underwear

When I found myself in the hospital in ugly disposable mesh underwear stuffed with bulky ice packs that barely stayed cold, I longed for a better, more sustainable solution. I discovered Nyssa FourthWear postpartum underwear a few weeks after giving birth and quickly became obsessed. The underwear is incredibly soft and comfortable, and the heat/ice pack stays hot/cold for a while. Because I had an episiotomy and a second-degree tear, I constantly needed to apply a warm compress to support healing and FourthWear enabled me to do that comfortably and sustainably.

And, even though the underwear is specifically made for postpartum use, it’s also perfect to soothe period cramps. The most sustainable products are those that serve multiple functions."