Baby in cloth nappy on the grass
Living with cloth

#9: A fund to help others

Have you ever loved something so much, you’ve started a fund to help others experience the same? Shoshannah has. She became so passionate about cloth nappies and all the benefits they entail, she created The Cloth Community Fund (TCCF) to support other parents begin their own journey. The fund was started on a whim, she says, after random acts of kindness kept appearing on her Facebook feed. But that ‘whim’ quickly took off and Shoshannah’s #clothforall quest has become much closer to reality.

Shoshannah is mum to 16 month old Timothy. She spends her days by the sea, indulging in ice cream and baby cuddles. Initially, she was too scared to start using cloth nappies but now she cannot imagine them not being a part of her lifestyle. Shoshannah happily travels with cloth, and some of her most important mama friends, she says, were found online in cloth support groups. Here, she has much to share, and also encourages everyone to reach out to her or TCCF if they need further support.

Welcome, Shoshannah @mumoftheclothbum

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

I’m Shoshannah. I live in New Zealand (NZ) (was in Western Australia for a couple years, but came back to escape the flies and heat). It’s just me and my boy, Timothy, who is 16 months old. We love adventurous activities that get us out and about, especially hiking, tramping and beach days. We live a mostly healthy lifestyle and have been slowly transitioning to a more sustainable and reusable lifestyle.

Can you share your favourite part about living where you do?

We live right next to the sea; it’s amazing. I could stare at it all day and I love the smell of salt water. Getting outdoors brings me the most happiness; it helps to ease the anxieties of life and refresh my soul. 

Finish this sentence … The thing people don’t know about me is …

The thing people don’t know about me is that when I was growing up, I was homeschooled in a remote part of New Zealand, with 9 other siblings. We hunted, gathered and grew most of our food, and our mail was delivered by boat once a week.

What’s your biggest indulgence?

Ice cream. I go through a lot!

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

He fell over and then said “uh oh” before running off.

Can you tell us about your motherhood journey? What has been the most challenging, and the most rewarding stage?

The most challenging part has been how relentless it is. The toddler stage has been by far the hardest. The most rewarding stage has also been the toddler stage when they are learning so much – especially when my baby learned to cuddle me back, that just melted my heart away.

What do you consider is the biggest challenge of being a SAHM?

Never getting enough support. I wished so often for someone to just come in and clean my house just so I could rest. The most challenging part is just being alone so much by yourself with a small child, getting no adult conversation, which is why I think I loved my cloth nappies so much – they are all so pretty that it brings a bit of joy into what is normally such a mundane task.

What clichés of motherhood do you think are unfair?

That all we do is sit around and do nothing all day. We actually do a lot and, if we stopped doing a lot, the family would fall apart because the mother holds everything together.

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?

My village has been mostly online support from like-minded mamas who are also alone and isolated at home. But when I’ve been with my village, aka my family and close friends, it’s just been so refreshing having another set of eyes to watch the baby or to hold him when I’m trying to cook dinner etc.

How do you approach the morning rush in your family?

We take it one step at a time – start with a shower and then breakfast, dressed and out the doo. Hopefully baby is happy to play while I get ready; I’m always a bit unorganised.

No one and no family is perfect. What is your advice to families concerned about the growing environmental crisis?

Just do your best. If you use one cloth nappy every day for a year, you are saving 365 disposables from going into landfill. Every small step counts 100%. 

What is the most important lesson you want your children to learn?

To respect everybody even if they don’t agree with you, and to treat every animal and our planet with love and respect.

Can you talk us through what led you to using cloth with your child?

I was thinking about using cloth while I was pregnant but, because I hadn’t had a lot of support, I was quite anxious about doing it; it seemed so overwhelming. A really good friend gifted me two cloth nappies as a baby shower present and, after staring at them for 8 weeks, I put them on and I was pretty much sold.

Can you describe how you managed with cloth in the early days?

We started cloth when bubs was 8 weeks old. I had been doing elimination communication from earlier on, so it made sense to use cloth nappies because the baby only did wees in the nappy as we caught his poos in the potty – I could read his cues quite well. I managed quite well starting out – it felt overwhelming at first but, as we got further into our journey, I gained more confidence in using cloth when we went out and when we travelled. My feelings towards cloth have changed a lot since I first started – it’s not as scary and it’s become a part of our lifestyle. It doesn’t feel like any extra effort to do it as to not use cloth.

Can you detail the many other reasons you also use cloth nappies, or continue to use cloth nappies?

My greatest reason is cost. But there are so many reasons! I love not having to worry about running out of nappies. I don’t have to run to the shops because you wash them and they’re ready to use again. It’s also great to have less rubbish to go into landfill – caring for our planet is the biggest plus.

Best advice you’ve ever been given about cloth?

Hmm, hard one. Getting the fit right is definitely important but, once you get it, it’s easy.

Many parents express feelings of overwhelm when considering cloth for the first time – what advice do you have for them?

Just do it. Buy a nappy (second hand may be more affordable). Get a nappy and use it. Learn as you go. Ask lots of questions (I’m happy to answer anything you may want to know).

You’ve got one minute to convince a pregnant mother to use cloth – go.

You will save so much money. It is not hard. You can even do it part time. You have absolutely nothing to lose.

What have you discovered recently you wish you had discovered earlier in your cloth journey?

Biozet. I was using other washing powders for ages until I found out that Biozet is amazing and washes the best, which is only in Australia, sadly. In NZ, now I use Eco Store powder.

How do you feel about the washing side of cloth nappies? What is your routine with regards to fitting washing and stuffing nappies into your life?

Our wash routine has easily fitted into our lifestyle; it has become a part of our every day. Generally, every couple of days I do a nappy wash (pre-washing night nappies, especially every morning) and hang them out, rotating around so each day I have some to use for the day, some dirty and some washed and drying.

One of the first questions non-cloth users often ask is ‘What do you do with the poo.’ How would you respond to this question? Explain your processes for dealing with poo.

If the baby is exclusively breastfed, the poops are water soluble, so you can chuck them through the machine easily or I would hand pre-wash those nappies in the laundry sink and scrub with Sard soap any possible stains. If baby is on solids or not breastfed, you can flick solid poos into the toilet and rinse in the laundry sink before pre-washing/washing with the other nappies.  

It’s commonly shared that using cloth wastes so much water. How would you respond to this statement?

I believe the amount of water etc that goes into making disposables counteracts the water to wash cloth. I also think people have done experiments and found using cloth didn’t affect their water usage enough to be concerned unless you’re under strict water restrictions. 

How have you overcome any negativity toward choosing reusable nappies?

A few people found it gross and disgusting but they were actually quickly converted when they saw that it wasn’t as gross as they thought. 

Any tips for encouraging partners or other family members to come along the cloth journey?

I had a partner who was against using cloth but that was due to not knowing how it worked. After I started using cloth, he got to understand and even changed the cloth nappies. He got better at fitting them than I was. I would say the best way to encourage others to use cloth or not be scared of it, is to just use and speak openly about it. A lot of people remember cloth being terry flats which were boiled and bleached, and parents would have had a terrible time getting them on and, of course, would have had leaks. Modern cloth nappies are so easy to use and are pretty much like using a disposable if you use a pocket style nappy, so just educate those people.

Have you found a new community since starting cloth? If so, what has it brought you?

I have found a gorgeous community of like-minded parents through Facebook groups, some of which have become great friends.  I have also come across some not so nice ones – the  sadder side of cloth that is extremely judgemental, the brand snobs etc. We are all on our own journey and I think it is so important to not judge and, if someone isn’t using cloth, don’t be harsh on them, don’t make them feel bad about their decisions. As mothers, we can be so nasty to each other when it comes to the right way to care for our children; love and respect is the most important part. 

Design your dream nappy …

Quick to dry, extra absorbent and easy to stuff.

Describe your cloth nappy set up. Where do you store your nappies? Do you pre-stuff or stuff as you go? Have you had to alter your set up as your son has grown?

My cloth nappy set up has been anywhere and everywhere. I put clean ones into a box and some clean ones in my nappy bag. Often they’re sitting clean and waiting to be put together. I prefer to pre-stuff but often, if I’m busy, I’ll stuff as I go. We are a very laid back cloth family.

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

I’m not sure what my biggest challenge has been so far – maybe when travelling, because it was difficult asking people to let me wash my son’s dirty nappies in their machine. That was annoying at times – and telling people ‘no’ to fabric softener.

Can you share some details about where and for how you have travelled with cloth?

I travelled with cloth from Australia to NZ. We had four flights over a day, ending up in Napier where we washed the nappies as soon as we arrived. We were there for two days before flying to Nelson. We were there for a week and then we had a road trip around the top of the south Island of NZ for 10 days.

Give us all the details. How have you made cloth work while travelling?

We just washed every day when we got to our destination. Every place we stayed, we made sure had washing facilities because even just travelling with a child, you need a washing machine. A couple of places had no water so we just made sure to wash the nappies properly at the next stop with a hot and long wash. 

What is best part of travelling with cloth?

Not having to worry about disposing of yucky nappies. And getting to enjoy the cute wee cloth butt in beautiful places.

What tips can you share with others considering travelling with cloth?

Honestly, if you can do cloth at home, you can do it while travelling. You can even stuff/put them together while driving (if you’re the passenger of course). As long as you have washing machines to use, and if staying with family they are okay with you using cloth, then just do it. If it gets too hard you can always use disposables as a back-up – disposables are great when you need them, so don’t get upset if you don’t manage; you are still a super star.

Have you overcome any other issues with using cloth?

My issue was leaks, but when I learnt how to fit the nappy, that helped to solve that one. Baby also had nappy rashes when we used cloth on a holiday and, as soon as we switched back to cloth, they went. We also had an issue with one brand of nappies leaving quite bad marks on the baby. We switched the nappy brand we were using and don’t have that issue anymore. Marks could have also meant needing to assess the wash routine in case it was ammonia burns, but we found that wasn’t the issue this time.

Has cloth prompted you to make other eco parenting and lifestyle changes? If so, why, and can you detail some of the other changes you have started to make? 

Using cloth nappies has encouraged me to try other sustainable choices like mama cloth for myself. Reusable zip lock bags is the next thing I want to use.

Do you have any other cloth tips to share?

My tip is to try different styles; it’s about trial and error because one nappy won’t fit all and, depending on your baby, one may work for you and another style won’t.

Can you share the inspiration behind starting The Cloth Community Fund?

I was inspired to start TCCF when my baby was almost a year old. I’d been doing cloth for that length of time and it was something I had been thinking about for a long time because I am so passionate about using and encouraging cloth nappies that I wanted to find a way to help others. I had so many people tell me they were put off because of the cost of starting up cloth, as well as a lot of people are simply unable to do it because they are in tough financial situations. There has been some really heart-breaking stories that I feel so happy we were able to help out by taking the financial burden off buying nappies for those families or single parents. I also kept seeing so many ROAKS (Random Acts of Kindness giveaways) on Facebook groups that I thought, hmm …. So I just started the group on a whim and, very quickly, it took off. I felt very stoked about it, especially by how many people we have been able to help start cloth so far. 

What is your greatest hope for TCCF?

For it to continue thriving and encouraging #clothforall. I hope that my team will be able to start cloth works in their hometowns and to continue to grow the community of giving and receiving.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know about TCCF? Where should they go to support your efforts?

You can head to Facebook. Search The Cloth Community Fund Australia – we have a group and a public page. If you are in need of cloth or just want to give it a go, we have been gifted so many gorgeous donations. And, likewise, if you wish to donate your cloth nappies, there will be someone who will appreciate them so much. 

In brief

Number of bums in cloth.  1 

Time in cloth. We have done cloth for a year now. Since bubs was 8 weeks old.

Number of nappies. I currently own about 20-25. I have just been switching from a brand I didn’t like so I don’t have as many in my stash at the moment.

Full or part time. We have been full time since we first started bar a few times when it wasn’t convenient.

Nappy style. We love pocket styled nappies; it gives us the option.

Stuff or snap. Stuff or lay on top is my preferred. 

Pre-stuff or lay as you go. Pre stuff – it’s my favourite chill out, pre-bedtime activity. 

Line or tumble dry. Always on the line; we don’t own a dryer. 

Favourite cloth related product. My period underwear – the best and soo comfy.

Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Emotional.

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