Consumer Speak

Having a baby changed Alex Langhorn’s buying habits, and she now prioritises convenience as well as natural and environmentally-friendly products that have an element of novelty

As a child, tissues were a luxury in my house. We were a working class family and had to make things last as long as possible. I can remember toilet paper being rationed by my mother when times were tough! When times were good, my brothers and I would get our own box of children’s tissues, usually in a box in the shape of a cat or a dog.

As a legacy, I consider tissues a bit of a luxury. Before having a family of my own I didn’t really think about tissues as a staple. I was never organised enough to carry tissues in my handbag. How things have changed! Now I have a two year old, and a day doesn’t go by without a call for one tissue product or another. We use:

Regular tissues: For the onslaught of colds that my son brings home from nursery. I usually buy the supermarket’s own brand, simply because we go through so many. But it is important for little noses that the quality is still good. I don’t like balsam or Olbas as they tend to irritate sensitive skin. I would be really keen to use organic, bleach free or sustainable tissues given that they are used so frequently but they are very expensive and not easy to find in the shops. As a compromise I try to use cotton muslins as much as I can and choose tissues packaged in recyclable cardboard. Box design is not really an issue for me.

Pocket sized packs of tissues: It really pays to make sure you always have some sort of tissue with you, and pocket packs are great as they stay fresh and clean when you are on the go. I only wish they had more than five tissues in each pack and I worry about the plastic wrapping so they are not something I like to buy.

Baby wipes: Lots! I used to stick to the branded Huggies or Pampers sensitive range due to reputation, but now I go for the supermarket’s own to save money. So long as they are fragrance free and suitable for sensitive skin I give them a try. I know some parents use these for everything from changing nappies to cleaning sticky fingers but I prefer to keep a damp flannel on stand-by to avoid repeatedly using what is essentially a chemical wipe on my toddler’s skin. I have tried a 100% organic range but they cost three to four times the price of regular wipes and are very difficult to find in supermarkets, and when you buy online you have the added cost of postage. In any case, using a flannel avoids the need to use a disposable wipe which you essentially just throw in the bin.

Moist toilet wipes: A must for toilet-training! Not usually one to give in to gimmicks, but Postman Pat toilet wipes have encouraged my toddler to use the loo on many occasions. Toilet wipes are not something I would have given a thought to prior to having a child and will be phased out as my little boy gets older as they are definitely a luxury that is costly to the planet.

Toilet tissue: Quality is important; you can immediately tell if you have picked up the discount brand. It is false economy really as you have to use more of a thinner toilet tissue. I still try to buy in bulk where I can as it saves time and money.

Kitchen roll: Another thing that we go through in vast quantities! There is always something to mop up, so the cheaper the better for this one. I know that the more expensive brands are superior but I just can’t bring myself to pay a lot for something that is just going to wipe up spilt milk.

Napkins: I have surprised myself by finding our family entertaining guests more frequently now that we have a young child (perhaps because we can’t get out as much as we used to so people have to come to us now).

When I have guests over for dinner, or little kids’ parties I like to use recycled napkins. Again, they are not easy to find but I did find a website online after doing a search for biodegradable products. The downside is you have to bulk buy 1000s, but it feels better than using dyed paper napkins.

Cosmetic tissues: I was less aware of the impact of my habits on the environment before, but it is something I am really conscious of now. If I can use something other than a disposable tissue I will, so my cosmetic tissues for cleansing etc have been replaced by a bamboo flannel or a muslin cloth.

I think, being taught that tissue products are a luxury commodity from a young age has meant that I don’t take them for granted. I try to find re-usable alternatives where I can and would really love to be able to swap the products that I do use for sustainable versions. The cost of these alternatives is the real barrier.

Having a baby has definitely changed my buying habits in terms of a need for convenience, a consciousness of environmental impact, a preference for natural products… and at times, a need for a bit of novelty!

Alex Langhorn is a careers consultant at the University of Manchester. She lives in the south of Manchester in England with her two year old son and husband.