Simple and meaningful are the principles by which Sunshine Coast mum, Naomi, lives her life. She believes in owning less, making things with her own hands and being thoughtful about where her time and money goes. Of course, this approach extends to the way in which she is choosing to raise her 18-month-old son. Naomi says using cloth nappies for her son was a given – especially considering her ongoing attempts to minimise plastic waste, and she credits elimination communication for him being out of both day and night-time nappies by 10 months of age. But, don’t go calling her a “super mum” just yet; you’ll have to read on to find out why this term brings her displeasure.
Welcome, Naomi @wastenot_want
Tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live?
I have a little family of my own with my husband, Lucas, and baby, Wiley (18 months), but I come from a big family with six siblings. We live on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. We love our life here and are very fortunate to live in this beautiful place.
Can you share what you love about life where you live?
I love living so close to the beach – we walk there in just our togs. The Sunshine Coast is a laidback kind of a place with so much nature to explore. It has everything you need. Not too big, not too small, with endless coast lines and gorgeous hinterlands to the west. The weather is what I think really draws people here.
Can you share what makes your heart happy?
Gardening and getting my hands dirty in nature – I get a real kick out of making a space look better and be more useful. I also love just watching my son interact with the world around him.
What is your favourite thing to do together as a family?
Being silly and snuggling in bed, nature walks and visiting cafes and close family.
What’s one thing you try not to take for granted?
The fact that I live in a beautiful place and that I have the freedom to explore it.
What does simple living mean to you? What are your 3 favourite simple ways of living you incorporate into your life?
Simple living is putting life into perspective of what’s important to you and what is worth your time, money and effort. It’s really about coming back to basics and stripping off all that’s unnecessary. Owning less (and being okay with owning less), making or creating things with my hands and thoughtful process before spending (time and money) is how I implement simplicity into my life. Simplicity can come at a cost of convenience – but it serves you a greater appreciation and respect of others.
In what ways do you try to minimise your impact on the world as a mother?
My advice is to remember that children have simple needs and crave connection, always. Enjoy exploration of your natural environment with your child. Allow them to connect with it and fall in love with the natural world for themselves as they grow. Get grubby and go barefoot. When it comes to toys, search for open-ended toys that last. Use nature as much as possible – it’s magic is endless. Look for pre-loved first and use what you already have around the home.
What do you think are 3 of the easiest eco conscious choices every family can make?
Make simple and meaningful choices, such as light a candle for dinner or story time, take a flask of tea to the park, sign up to your local library, make something you use on a regular basis from scratch.
What’s one thing we can all do daily to contribute to a better future for our children?
Live your life honestly and intentionally.
Describe the difference you hope to make for future generations by using eco-friendly options?
I hope to widen the market for more small businesses to get started, with more incentive to use eco conscious initiatives.
What is your response to the attitude that as one person you cannot make a difference to the world?
I feel like we all think like this at times, and it’s okay, because the problems in the world are greater than what we can control as an individual. There must be a balance in individual attitude to be okay with doing what you can within your means and realising that the fact that you exist is enough.
What advice do you have for people feeling overwhelmed at the number of changes they could be making to better protect the planet?
It’s so easy to be overwhelmed. The more you become aware, the more overwhelmed you become! It’s a learning process that is not easy; for many people, it’s a totally new way of seeing the world around them, and it’s a brave move to open yourself up to the environmental responsibility that we’ve been shut off from. There’s a lot of guilt and frustration that comes with it. The best thing to do is become educated about today’s issues. Listen to stories and read. In time, you’ll find what sparks an interest in you, and it will naturally manifest in your life in ways that create change within and around you both practically and emotionally. Like the cohesive complexities in nature, your understanding will flow as you continue to learn and learn openly. Will this make things less overwhelming? Probably not, but it will make you more caring.
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?
It’s an interesting way of looking at the human life and it’s very surface level. Yes, we have the means of destruction of our environment, but we also have the capability of repair and to make amends. We process the ability to give back, at least some, of what we take. Humans don’t need much to survive and enjoy life – but we do a good job at inventing stuff that we think we need, and in the way society functions today, it’s hard sometimes to distinguish want and need. Who’s to know that one family living a low impact lifestyle can’t live more sustainably than a single person who isn’t?
Can you tell us a little about your motherhood journey to date? What has been the most challenging, and the most rewarding stage?
Here come the tricky questions … It could be that it’s too soon into motherhood for me to articulate it just yet … it’s always when you look back that you realise the real struggles and see the personal growth. It could be my adaptability and mentality or that I didn’t set expectations for myself and my baby, which released a lot of unnecessary challenges, however, the early stages of child rearing is demanding of the mother’s body. I do find it challenging to keep up my personal fitness (as I have for a few years now, eek), but I have been rewarded with more body positivity than I ever have in my life and undoing hurtful thoughts about my body image.
What would you say is your parenting philosophy?
Oh, not sure if I have one, or if I have too many thoughts! But I always like to think of my child from his perspective and not my own, and understand daily that I’m to help him meet his needs. Your mindset has great potential to make things easier or harder for yourself.
How do you handle the more stressful parts of motherhood?
I give time to myself throughout our day by incorporating things that I enjoy doing. I also reach out for help from my husband if I feel like I need some time to myself. I’m glad to know that I have support around me if ever I need. I find that taking care of myself daily in small ways can help deal with stress better should it arise. Asking myself, ‘Is this worth it?’ ‘Am I overeating?’ ‘Can I approach this differently?’ helps me to identify and manage stress.
What clichés of motherhood do you think are unfair?
So many! However, I think society expectations are what’s really unfair on both parent and child.
What do you think is the best part about having children?
The simple delight in watching your child discover the beauty in the world, and that sweet, sweet connection you share.
What is something you would like your children to remember about you?
That I love them, entirely as they are.
What is the most important lesson you want your children to learn?
To be themselves wholeheartedly.
Can you explain what made you want to start using cloth with your children? Did you always know you wanted to cloth?
I had been minimising my plastic waste years prior to pregnancy – so I think it was more of a given to use cloth; I’m not sure if I actually decided, but it’s a choice I’m glad I made.
Your cloth journey began at 6 weeks of age. Can you share what the early days of cloth were like for you?
The early days of cloth, once we started at 6-7 weeks, were more simple than I thought, and I was a little disappointed we didn’t start sooner. We felt confident in using cloth very quickly. We began cloth the same time we started elimination communication (EC) full time, and I think the two really complement each other. We continued using disposables during the night until we ran out of what we had.
Can you describe the research process you undertook before deciding to use cloth?
I knew that cloth nappies were going to be a huge part of my life soon, so I wanted it to be done right, and just like anything that I want to invest in and know that I will use all the time, and for a long time, I was prepared to put in the effort and research. I think people’s lack of research and understanding is what can make cloth seem too hard and make troubleshooting difficult. I became familiar with all the different materials on the market, all the different styles and functions and weighed up the pros and cons of what I thought mattered to me. I compared time and time again to narrow down my options. I was determined to find the best of the best. There were a lot of unfamiliar words at first that eventually became familiar after reading more and listening to people’s stories and comparison and review videos.
What advice do you have for families currently in the research stage?
Keep going! Education is key to getting the best nappy set up for your family and needs. Be informed and feel confident! You can buy as your baby grows.
What hurdles have you faced using cloth nappies and how have you overcome them?
The environmental guilt of using disposables. I brought a couple packets of backup disposables to give myself a couple weeks to settle into my new way of life. I also didn’t want to put pressure on myself to start straight away, especially if things didn’t go smoothly postpartum, which they didn’t. I was very ill two weeks following birth and had a really tough time breastfeeding (which we have pushed through and are still happily breastfeeding). Using disposables went on a lot longer than I had imagined and it felt really silly to dispose of a nappy with just a bit of baby pee in it. I overcame the guilt (somewhat) by putting my needs and my health above all else, and recognising that that’s what’s most important.
Have you ever thought there was a time you might give up on using cloth? Explain.
No, I really enjoy using cloth. We had a moment of a few months (around 7 months old) when we used night time disposable inserts while we searched for a better night time set up, but were very happy to continue using cloth full time.
What have you discovered recently you wish you had discovered earlier in your cloth journey?
I have discovered at least two brands of handmade wool cloth nappy covers that I know would have been perfect for us. We have transitioned out of the wrap cover style and are now in cloth trainers and undies, but I have been tempted to buy some anyway! I also discovered Marketplace on Facebook, which could have been helpful!
If you could go back to the beginning of your cloth journey, how would you start and how would you build your stash?
If I could start over, I would opt for prefold flats for the newborn to sort of 5/6 months age – depending from which direction you fold them, they can grow with your baby. They also can be used to clean up other messes, which is very handy in the newborn stage. There tends to be more folding involved, but they are more diverse that way and can be used as they are without a cover. This is good for around the home if you use a nappy belt. I would also have loved to have gone entirely wool covers too. I think at the time I doubted their protectiveness so brought a mix of PUL covers as well, but I was very pleased with how the wool performed, and mostly used my wool covers.
You use both wool and PUL covers. Do you have a preference for one type of cover, and can you explain what you believe to be the benefits of each?
I definitely prefer wool over PUL – the properties of wool far outweigh plastic, for environmental reasons of course, but mostly because wool is softer on babies skin, breathable, holds lots of moisture and insulates even when wet, resistant to odour (and fire), it’s antibacterial and antimicrobial, minimal washing, dries fast … seriously the list goes on! Yes, they are more expensive, however, you do not need very many, perhaps three at most at any one time.
What does your wash routine look like? Including for your wool products.
Yet again, we keep things pretty simple at our home. We chuck everything in the same wash cycle (except wool items). Anything poopy is hand rinsed prior (keeping in mind we have very few poopy nappies), as well as anything that smells strong of ammonia (usually a forgotten used insert in a wet bag). I use regular laundry powder and white vinegar. We hang to dry in the sun. For wool – I wash very rarely, perhaps once or twice a month (if not soiled with poo); it’s a simple hand wash in warm water with a little castile soap, squeeze out excess water and lay to dry inside. I keep them water resistant by lanolising them after every second or third wash.
How do you store/ display your nappies? Do you have any practical tips you can share around organising your cloth supplies?
I store my nappies here, there and everywhere I might need them! The bulk of them are on top of the washing machine in baskets. It makes storing them away very fast and easy. When we were using them on a more regular basis, I would also store a pile next to the bed for night time, 3-4 inserts in the nappy bag with a spare cover, and a couple inserts in the car as backup. Did I mention we don’t have a change table?
How do you manage cloth while out and about? Any tips?
Doing cloth out and about was never a trouble for us. Sometimes finding a clean, dry place to change our son was the hardest part, though it is at times for all parents, cloth or not. We are really fortunate that our son doesn’t poop in public spaces – so changing and clean up has always been breezy. We also practiced EC on the go. Carrying the bare essentials and only what you need for the time you’ll be away from home will help lighten your load.
Can you tell us how you choose which nappy prints to buy?
I decided on separate covers and inserts early on. For me, it’s the cheapest and easiest option. I also like the ease of less bulk in the nappy bag when out of the house and faster drying. I also had elimination communication in mind, and knew that we would be changing the nappy a little bit more frequently to offer potty. So, I was looking for minimal snaps. The more I looked and researched and compared, the more I knew what I wanted and therefore dreamed up the perfect nappy that I couldn’t find! Gahh! I’m extremely particular, and so I made it really hard on myself, and found it difficult to make a decision on which nappy to buy. What made it more complicated is that some brands were not easily accessible or were sold out in what I wanted. Some nappy covers that I like had horrendous patterns on them that I just couldn’t bring myself to buy. What one brand did well in covers, didn’t do well (for me) in inserts, so that made it more difficult for me. I have multiple brands in my stash, not because I wanted to, as I like uniformity, but more because of the reasons stated above. I looked for gender neutral patterns and colours as well, which made the search longer. I did enjoy the searching though, even though it felt like I was going in circles sometimes; I felt like I got to know the ins and outs of cloth and now have a really good understanding about them, the fabrics and the brands and styles that are available.
What do you think you will do with your cloth nappies when you no longer have a need for them?
I’ve already given a few covers away, so I’ll probably eventually give the rest of the covers away too. The inserts however, I will look into selling.
What has the response to using cloth been like from your family and friends?
I was a little disappointed as most responses were all negative. No one was excited or enthusiastic (or cared, really). My mother was pessimistic – but I feel as though she had her own struggles with cloth … flats and pins with no washing machine or dryer with six children! Or I had friends that found cloth didn’t work for them. People who have asked me about cloth would ask how I like them, with the notion that they’re hard work. To me, it’s really not hard work. We have cloth nappies very easy these days – washing machines, dryers, velcro, AIO (all in ones). There’s very much a stigma around cloth, and if you do cloth you’re considered a “super mum” by some.
What advice do you have for parents considering the move to cloth?
You don’t need to buy everything all at once before baby arrives. Start small and focus on using cloth at home if you don’t feel confident using cloth in public yet.
What is your favourite tip you like to share with families new to cloth?
When choosing your nappies, be mindful that babies pee and poo more frequently but in smaller amounts in the newborn stage, and slowly progress to less frequently but larger amounts as they age.
Can you explain what you believe to be the greatest benefit of using cloth nappies?
It’s hard to pinpoint one in particular, but being that we just went through a global shortage of toiletry items, having a pile of ready to use, reusable nappies goes to show that not worrying about running out or needing to buy more is a pretty great benefit to using cloth.
What do you think needs to happen to make cloth mainstream?
They need to be more available and visible to the public. They need to be available in large grocery stores. ALDI Australia recently teamed up with Bare and Boho, and I think people went nuts over them. I was reading comments of people about the cute prints, and I thought to myself, there’s so many more amazing prints and styles out there but, sadly, people just don’t know they exist.
What does elimination communication look like for you and your bub?
It’s a part of our daily life. Just like when we remember to it’s time to eat, we remember to potty.
Can you explain what motivated you to choose EC for your family?
I somehow came across it on YouTube, well before I was pregnant (or even thinking about it), and it just felt right and normal to me, even though I’d never heard or seen it practiced. Ultimately, the idea that babies deserve the dignity to not soil themselves won me over. I’d never thought about it like that.
What do you consider to be the greatest benefit of EC?
The connection and greater understanding of your child’s needs through communication.
At 10 months old, your bub will often wake up dry thanks to EC. Is this something you would have imagined at the beginning of your EC journey? Would you say this has been your greatest success with EC to date?
I didn’t really imagine it because I didn’t have any expectations, or really know what to expect being my first child! The whole journey has been great at surprising us with what my baby is capable of doing – if we’re there to support him. But I was most surprised that he took fast to eliminating in the potty. From the first time we tried, we caught every poop for 3 weeks straight at 6 weeks of age. This was the same time that we started cloth nappy also – so it was a seamless transition really. He also hasn’t worn nappies during naps since 3 months. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it, but I think it’s kind of a big deal. I was pretty chuffed that we were out of daytime AND night-time nappies at 10 months, mostly just because of the ease of not having to change. The lack of washing was the real highlight. But I feel like our greatest success (even though I don’t see it based as successful or not) is that he does not poo out in public. As a newborn, we would offer potty before leaving the car and a few times he pooped, but I have never had to clean a poopy baby in public, and this I give credit to EC.
What advice do you have for parents considering EC?
Just try it. Watch some videos on YouTube or read some blogs, and join an EC group on Facebook. You might actually enjoy it.
Where can our readers go to learn more about EC?
Andrea Olsen of Go Diaper Free has some great resources, and lots of free videos on YouTube.
Number of bums in cloth. 1.
Time in cloth. 1 year, 5 months.
Number of nappies. 4 covers (at any one time), 30 (prefolded/ stiched) inserts.
Full or part time. Full time EC/ full time nappy back up.
Nappy style. Cover and insert.
Pre-stuff or lay as you go. As I go.
Line or tumble dry. Line.
Favourite cloth related product. Portable clothesline and washing machine!
Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Easy!