#4: How to make friends

Two baby boys in cloth nappies
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With two children under two – one a tiny, clingy newborn, Mary-Louise became a single mum. She moved into her parents’ home, going from washing whenever she felt like it to having to share a machine with four other adults. Still, she endeavoured to make cloth nappies work. And why wouldn’t she? Mary-Louise says cloth has brought her life-long friends who support each other through the best and the worst times. And, like many who catch the cloth nappy addiction, a new nappy in the post always brings a smile.

Today, two years down the parenting road, ‘just let him eat nuggets and don’t sweat the small stuff’ is Mary-Louise’s parenting motto. She knows that motherhood has taught her to be strong, and it’s more important to teach her boys to be kind and to surround themselves with kind people. She wishes she had more time for cleaning and holidaying by the beach, but she also knows how lucky she is.

Welcome, Mary-Louise @my.two.wild.ones

Tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live.

My boys and I live in the beautiful Blue Mountains, New South Wales, with my parents, my sister, and my youngest brother. I have my diploma in early childhood education and I was the lead educator in the preschool room prior to maternity leave. We are very lucky to have such a supportive and loving family surrounding us. 

What’s on your bedside table?

Lamp, drink bottle, hair tie, and bobby pins (those things are like gold so got to keep them close by).

How do you like to relax and unwind?

Each evening, once the boys are asleep, I try to watch an episode of some sort of TV show. At the moment it’s Grey’s Anatomy. 

Tell us about life with two under two?

Alfred turned 2 just after Christmas so it’s now 2 under 3, but it’s been great! The first few months were hard. Edward has always been quite a clingy baby, but in those first few months he cried a lot and I was still adjusting to becoming a single parent. But my family went above and beyond to help me wherever they could – mostly with caring for Alfred because Edward just wanted to be held the whole time! It’s getting easier now that Edward is a little more dependant but the latest challenge has been from him being diagnosed with a milk and egg allergy. Alfred was never the type of baby to put things in his mouth, but Edward, on the other hand, likes to taste everything so I have to be really on the ball, especially when Alfred is eating so no allergy foods end up near Edward. 

What does a typical day in your life look like right now?

Chaos haha! Some days are great and I get so much done; everything seems to fall into place. But there are occasional days where nothing seems to go right. On those days, I just pause and remember how lucky I am. 

What are mealtimes like in your home?

Busy now that Edward eats food too but the boys are both pretty good eaters. 

List your top 5 activity ideas for kids.

My fave is slime! I make it with lux soap flakes and water beat with an electric mixer. Water play. Baking. Anything outdoors. Reading. 

What has been your most memorable moment of motherhood to date?

The moment that Alfred and Edward met. It was so beautiful. Alfred was only 17 months old and I didn’t really expect him to show much interest but he was so in love with Edward straight away. He wanted to hold him and kiss him. Looking back at the photos still melts my heart. 

What is something your babe has said or done to make you smile this week?

We took Alfred’s bike to the park. He hopped on and started riding it calling out, “Look mummy! Ride bike!” He was so proud of himself. It put a big smile on my face. Edward has started saying “Mum.” His first word! And he’s also discovered open-mouth kisses.

What family traditions do you follow?

I brought both of my boys home from hospital wrapped in the same knitted blanket that myself and my siblings were brought home in. My eldest brother will bring his baby home in it once he arrives in June. My family also use the father’s first name as the eldest son’s middle name. So my dad has my grandfather’s name as a middle name; my eldest brother has our dad’s name for his; Alfred has his father’s name as his middle name; and, my brother’s name will be his son’s middle name.

What motivated you to use cloth with your children?

I found them intriguing. I can remember looking after a child at work years ago that used cloth nappies (Hippybottomus ones to be precise) and I thought they were a great idea. My mum found me a bundle of second-hand Peapods to see if would like doing it before splurging too much. It just grew from there. Since then I’ve tried at least 30 different brands. 

Do you find it more difficult having two children in cloth?

I don’t think it’s more difficult but the washing part is more time consuming. I’m lucky that Edward does “plopable” poos which is just amazing; however, Alfred’s poos are horrendous haha! So the hardest part would be that Alfred’s poos are very time consuming to sort out. Edward is quite a clingy baby so he isn’t a fan of me disappearing into the laundry three times a day. 

What has been your biggest challenge as a cloth family and how have you overcome it?

Alfred and I moved into my parent’s home when I was about 5 months pregnant with Edward. I went from washing whenever I liked, to having to share a machine with four other adults. I had to change up my wash routine to work around other users, plus I had to fine tune it because I went from a 7.5kg machine to a 12kg machine. This was tricky at first with just one in cloth but became a lot easier once Edward arrived. Now that Alfred is only part-time cloth, I have just been boosting the main wash with terry squares whether they are dirty or clean. 

What do you love most about cloth?

I love the friendships it has created for me. Being in cloth groups on social media has definitely made a new community for me but becoming a brand ambassador for Bottoms Up Junior has definitely created quite a few beautiful friendships. Myself and the other reps along with the owner have a group chat which is pretty much like a mother’s group where we talk about anything and everything. We all support each other through tough times and get excited for one another during milestones and happy life events. I also love trying different brands and styles; it’s always exciting when I get one that I haven’t tried before. 

Looking back at your cloth journey so far, of what are you most proud?

I think I’m most proud of giving my sister-in-law the courage to try cloth on their first baby who is due in June this year. She’s very quiet and she worries what others think so I think having me by her side is helping her not be afraid to just dive into it. 

Have others supported your decision to do cloth?

I’ve been very lucky to have support from everyone about using cloth nappies. I don’t make anyone else use them on my children and their father struggles with changing them in disposables so I would never expect him to put them in a cloth nappy. It’s rare that anyone besides me changes their nappies, but on the odd occasion that they do, they take the cloth nappy off and add it to the dry pail and put them in a disposable. This doesn’t bother me. I have never had anyone say anything negative to me in regards to cloth. It is more likely people comment that I am doing an amazing job.

You’re at a parents group catch up and you’ve only got one minute to give another parent your best cloth tip, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to give it a go and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It can be overwhelming trying something new so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Try a variety of brands/styles because different nappies suit different babies. 

How do you stuff your nappies?

I like to organise the inserts and shells by brand when I’m hanging them out so when I take them off, they are all already in their own piles. I then stuff by brand. 

What are some practical tips you can share around organising your cloth supplies?

Go with drawers! A change table that has drawers is the best! It’s wonderful to have them all beautiful and on display but reality for myself is that it’s not too often that I have enough time to make them look all pretty and organised. Being able to just chuck them into a drawer and hide it away is wonderful.

What are your time management tips for cloth?

Organise it so you put your main wash on at night just before you go to bed so it’s ready to hang out in the morning. This gives it the entire day for drying. 

How do you deal with wriggly babies?

I just try to be fast. Finding time to stuff can be hard; I try to do it when someone else is home to entertain the kids. Alfred gets nappy rash unless he has athletic wicking jersey or microfleece against his bottom. 

How do you approach dressing with cloth?

Both of my boys have tiny bums, so I don’t have any issues with having to upsize clothing. I see baby clothes just the same as nappies … addictive. 

Do you have any other tips to share?

My number one tip is to always try a variety of cloth nappies. Some people give up so quickly when it isn’t working for them but it could be as simple as trying a different style/brand.

How has cloth changed the way you approach life?

It’s definitely made me more conscious of our waste. Small changes make a big difference. It’s important for our world but it also helps with not filling our bin every week. There’s a lot of people in our house so we create a fair bit of waste. I use wetbags and reusable containers instead of plastic bags and plastic zip lock bags. Keep cups, metal straws, most of our recyclables get used as craft supplies. 

It is often quoted that having children is one of the worst things you can do to the environment. How would you respond to this statement?

I can see why people make this statement but it comes down to choices. If you make eco-friendly choices, then your child’s waste isn’t going to be as intense as someone who opts for disposables in every aspect. Even just swapping disposable wipes for cloth wipes would make a huge difference. 

Do you have any funny cloth stories to share?

I had one brand that was prone to giving plumber’s crack. I barely used them because I couldn’t get them to work, but it had been raining so the nappies on the line were taking forever to dry and I had run out of clean dry ones so I had to dive into the ones I don’t use much. So I put one on Edward, then sat him in the lounge room. He started complaining midway through our dinner, so my dad picked him up. Almost immediately, he passed him to me though because he had done a poo and it was overflowing out of his plumber’s crack. Luckily his poos are pretty solid, otherwise it could have been much worse. 

In brief

Number of bums in cloth. 2 – However my eldest has shown interest in the toilet recently so he is part time cloth part time undies. 

Time in cloth. Approximately 2 years.

Full or part time. I would say part time due to Alfred being in undies sometimes. Both children wear disposables when with their father. 

Nappy style. I prefer AI2s/pocket nappies. I have tried AIOs and fitteds but I’m not a fan of them. 

Stuff or snap. I either stuff or just lay the insert in the shell. 

Pre-stuff or lay as you go. I trialled laying as I go because of the boys being on different rise settings but it seemed to take longer than having them pre-stuffed so now I divide the nappies, stuff, then each baby has a drawer so I can quickly grab one that’s ready to fit whoever I’m changing. 

Line or tumble dry. Line dry.

Favourite nappy print style. This changes almost weekly but I’m a sucker for Aussie animals and plants. 

Favourite cloth related product. Bamboo valour wipes. I love them for boosting Alfred’s nappies. They absorb quickly like microfibre but aren’t prone to compression leaks. 

Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Love.

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