For Melbourne mum Su-Ann, her own mum’s minimalist approach to life has been her biggest inspiration in pursuing parenthood with sustainability in mind. Not just cloth nappies, but also reusing toys, sheets and muslin cloths from her own childhood bring much joy to her parenting journey.
Despite being a self-proclaimed perfectionist, she has found cloth nappies to be one of the easier parts of motherhood – balancing being a mother, a wife and a partner, for example, is a far greater feat, she says. Her friends and the online community she has found since starting cloth mean Su-Ann has a washing routine that “isn’t much work”, and she has so much valuable advice for those new to cloth, you don’t want to miss a word of this interview.
Welcome, Su-Ann @claradumpling
Tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live.
My name is Su-Ann. I live with my husband, Francis, and baby girl, Clara, in Melbourne. My daughter has become my life and her smile brings me so much happiness. We live next to a park and there’s heaps of family friendly cafes around. I can’t wait to take baby girl to play when she’s older.
The thing people don’t know about me is …
I like to go through Ikea the other way round from the back.
How do you like to relax and unwind?
I like travelling, which is unlikely these days.
What is the most important lesson you want your children to learn?
I want my children to learn to be kind to others but also be confident in their own abilities. To help those who need help and seek it when needed themselves. To know their worth and how much they are loved and valued.
Tell us about your motherhood journey.
Two days from the start of Clara’s induction, I ended up with emergency c-section due to drops in her heart rate. I’ll never forget holding her in my arms for the very first time. I just wanted to wrap her up and keep her safe forever.
The most challenging part of motherhood for me has been the first month of crazy hormones. It’s so emotional and I felt like I was losing my sanity. Riddled with anxiety for not creating the “perfect space” for my baby, I wore myself out trying to clean every day. Resting and just setting a task to do one thing per day helped. My nipples were cracked and all damaged from improper feeding. I desperately wanted to breastfeed but it pained me each time. I cried when she cried. I also fed every time Clara cried, which left my nipples all black and dry. We found out Clara had a tongue tie and, once snipped, my nipples started healing. Also because I fed 2-3 hours and started using the dummy instead.
The most rewarding part is every moment Clara learns something new. Now, she’s crawling, clapping, and singing. I’m just in awe of how fast she learns. Such a bundle of joy; her laughter is the best medicine.
What have you found to be the hardest part of motherhood?
Letting things go and learning to go with the flow. I’m a perfectionist and like to be in control. The hardest part isn’t solely being a mother but being a partner and wife as well. Respecting and listening to my husband as well as understanding we have different ways to parent is tough.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Can you describe your village and how it has impacted on your motherhood journey to date?
We are blessed to have both sets of parents not too far away. We have family lunch on Sunday so Clara gets to know her grandparents. We took her to Malaysia to visit her great grandmothers. What a beautiful moment it was to see four generations in one place. Friends have passed down clothing/ sheets/ sleeping bags/ blankets and are a wealth of knowledge. I’m so glad to be on this journey together.
What are your thoughts on sustainability and how parents as a whole can make a difference?
Children are the future and, as parents, leading them by example and making sustainable choices ourselves encourages them to do the same. Growing up, my mum always found ways to recycle grey water and never liked to waste food/clothing. She’s my inspiration. Mum would turn off the toilet tap. We manually filled it after washing our hands, rinsing dishes, and showering over buckets to collect runoff water. She grew her own herbs and used broken clothes as wash rags. She always found a way to reuse things whilst maintaining a demanding full time job and I always think she’s amazing. Mum kept some of my old toys, bedsheets, and muslins that my daughter is now using too.
Can you talk us through your journey to using cloth with your daughter?
My friends were using modern cloth nappies, so I was curious. My mum saved all my own muslin flats and I wondered how different it is now. Before baby girl was born, I purchased three cheapo cloth nappies. I didn’t know about the rise settings and they always leaked. So I stuck with disposables. My friend also bought us a BamBam, which worked well. We used them until 4 months, then I bought Candies and Bottoms Up Junior, and love both.
What has the response to using cloth been like from your family and friends?
My husband has been great. He likes that it’s cost effective and he helps with nappy changes. My mum also supports cloth. However, my mother-in-law doesn’t understand why I would wash baby girl’s poo. She thinks disposables are easier. I’d rather wash pooey nappies than soiled clothing and a dirty car seat though.
What do you love most about cloth?
My girl has runny, explosive poos, which were best contained in cloth. Apart from reducing landfill waste, not worrying about what size nappies to buy and being more cost effective in the long run. With all the stock piling going on at the moment, we’ll never have to worry about running out of nappies.
What have you got out of being a part of the cloth community?
Facebook groups like CCNDU (Clean Cloth Nappies Down Under) and Bottoms Up Junior VIP help me feel empowered to make sustainable choices, and are supportive in all things parenting. I feel more confident as a whole, not just with cloth. With the help of Clean Cloth Nappies and other cloth friends, I’ve got a wash routine that is actually easier to maintain with a full stash than when I had few nappies.
Best advice you’ve ever been given about cloth.
Exclusively breastfed poos are soluble. Changed my life to just throw the nappies in the machine.
You’ve got one minute to convince a pregnant mother to use cloth – go.
No searching for disposables with everyone stockpiling, and you save money too. Once you have your stash, you don’t have to worry about outgrowing sizes. Cleaning isn’t that much work and you can hire nappy cleaning services for collect from your door if you can’t cope. If it doesn’t work for you, sell them.
What other advice do you have for parents considering the move to cloth?
Try it out, don’t be scared or intimidated. Join Clean Cloth Nappies to set up a wash routine. Ask questions and seek help from Cloth Nappy Reviews and Support (Facebook Group). Cheap nappies don’t last long and have no resale value. If you can afford it, try quality brands and a few at a time so you can see what works. Create your own packs using different brands from places like Earth Babes. Take your time to build a stash that works for your baby.
How would you describe to non-cloth families the benefits of reusable nappies?
I was so tired of washing our car seat because baby girl always exploded out. Now, the elastics sit nice and snug and hold everything in. It’s actually saved me more time not having to worry about explosions and surprise washes. Baby girl doesn’t get rashes when she’s in cloth either.
Our local council picks up small rubbish bins every two weeks to encourage more recycling. If using disposables, the bin would be full after one week’s use. We still have space even after two weeks. Cloth reduces landfill and saves you money by not constantly buying nappies or bin bags.
What are your time management tips for cloth?
An organised system helps – well located 2-3 airy baskets/dry-pails for dirty, pre and main wash. I prewash while hub helps bathe Clara at night. Then on main wash days I do it after she’s gone to sleep so I can hang uninterrupted. All I need to do is chuck them in the machine and take them out when it’s done. I hang on the line as I would our other laundry. I fold and stuff them while watching TV; it’s a chance to have me-time.
What does your cloth nappy change station look like?
We use a bath/change table setup with cloth on the bottom level, Sudocream on the middle, wipes on the detachable shelves on top. I line the padded change table with old muslins so it’s easy to clean any accidents.
How do you manage cloth while out and about?
Double pocket wetbags and mini wetbags to keep dirty/soiled nappies so you don’t have to wash the whole big bag. Get a few as backup in case you are washing one and it’s not dry.
Wetbags also help me organise the pram. I always keep a change mat, old muslins to use as liners, wipes, a few spare nappies, spare clothes, Sudocream, sanitiser, and a few spare mini wetbags inside. I can just grab and go out of the house.
Have you travelled with cloth?
I only took cloth swim nappies along when we travelled to Malaysia, as I didn’t have access to a washing machine for the whole two weeks. If I did travel with cloth, I would make sure I had at least two double wetbags and a few mini wetbags to keep dirty/soiled items.
Any experience with nappy rash?
When we travelled overseas, Clara developed a rash using disposables. It was hot and humid and Sudocream wasn’t helping. Baby Bepanthen seemed to heal much better. Once we returned to cloth, the rash went away.
Your tips for wriggly babies?
It’s so hard to change a wriggly baby. These days I pop baby girl on her floor mat and keep toys at hand to distract her. Side snapping nappies help when I can change her on her belly.
What is your favourite nappy print style?
We love our Bottoms Up Junior (BUJ) Midnight Blooms print. It’s what drew me to BUJ in the first place. Now, we have over 16 BUJ prints and they’re all gorgeous.
And, finally, any funny cloth stories to share?
My girl likes to poop in the car. Usually on the way to places rather than the way back. We had great fun at an extended family dinner when I changed her over two chairs in the corner of a busy restaurant. I’m just glad I brought extra mini wetbags to contain everything (smell included).
Number of bums in cloth. 1.
Time in cloth. Around 4 months, from when baby girl was 3 months old and about 5kg.
Number of nappies. 24 cloth nappies + 2 swim nappies.
Full or part time. Full daytime but still use a disposable at night. Looking to try night nappies soon.
Nappy style. Use both front snapping pockets (Bottoms Up Junior) and side snapping (Candies).
Stuff or snap. Sometimes both.
Pre-stuff or lay as you go. Pre-stuff.
Line or tumble dry. Line.
Favourite cloth related product. Double pocket wetbags.
Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Supportive.