Baby in reusable nappy Australia
Living with cloth

#21: A few is never enough

Today’s post features Shelby, a mum whose philosophy is to take it one day at a time. Shelby faced many challenges in the first year of her son’s life, but she has come out the other side appreciative of the simple things in life, cloth nappies notwithstanding.

Shelby’s affection for cloth nappies will be a story familiar to many. She started out primarily for the economic benefits, but declares that to have gone out the window some 20 nappies ago. Now, she can’t get past the enticement of a new release, nor being part of the online cloth community.

Welcome, Shelby @shelbyexplores

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

My partner and I live in a rural town in Western Australia. We’d known each other since I was 17 and had similar friends but only started dating a couple of years ago when I was 25. We have one son, Austin, and we’re very lucky that most of our family is nearby. We love to spend weekends either catching up with friends or exploring when we can. We either head to the city or take trips out to all the bushland near us for some walks.

Can you share what you love about living where you do?

I love that so many of our friends and family are here. My best friend just had a baby and she lives five minutes from us. I also love walking and we have so much amazing bushland near us to do that in.

What is your favourite thing to do together as a family?

We love a simple walk. It’s something that’s free and easy.

Describe a typical weekend …

It’s always so different. Most weekends we get to have cuddles in bed with Austin because it’s the only time we’re not rushing to get up for work. We take a lot of day trips to the city or we try to find somewhere to go more locally for a walk or picnic. Evenings usually consist of a movie or catch up with friends.

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

I’m super competitive.

Can you share what makes your heart happy?

Family time for sure.

What would you say is your parenting philosophy?

Take it one day at a time.

What has been your biggest parenting success?

Coming out the other side of Austin’s health issues. It was a really hard few months, but we managed.

What new skills have you learnt since becoming a mum?

I’m way more patient I think. He’s not changed me, but he has added to who I am.

What clichés of motherhood do you think are unfair?

This idea that you are suddenly “Mumma” and not much else. There can be this loss of identity that comes with the title of Mum and it’s not fair that we can become so one dimensional to others. I’m still me, but that can get lost sometimes.

What are your thoughts on sustainability and how parents as a whole can make a difference?

Babies can make so much waste. I think it’s important to try to tackle that as much as possible. Even if it’s just a couple of nappies a day or switching to reusable wipes, every little bit counts.

What is your greatest hope for your children?

That he’ll find his passion in life and not fear it.

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?

I could not have done this without my mum and my partner. They have been amazing. Parent group has also been such a huge help. It’s comforting to be able to talk to parents who are going through the same thing as you or may have tips and tricks.

Can you talk us through your son’s experiences with eczema and allergies?

When Austin was ten weeks old he got a rash that within a week was all over his face, body and head. He was so itchy and uncomfortable; it was super hard to see. He was diagnosed with eczema and sent to a specialist, but it took us nearly two months to get in to see him and we tried EVERYTHING in that time. When we finally saw the dermatologist we were prescribed a steroid cream but it was while seeing another doctor for an ear infection that she linked his eczema and the low weight gain that we’d been having regular weigh-ins for with possible cow’s milk allergy. I eliminated dairy, soy and eggs from my diet and combined with the cream from the dermatologist he cleared up completely. We were still having issues with his weight gain though and he was eventually diagnosed as failure to thrive. We were referred to Perth children hospital where after MANY appointments, and multiple reactions to different foods that we were introducing, he finally had allergy testing. He came back positive for wheat, chicken, egg whites, cow’s milk and soy. We we’re prescribed prescription formula and an EpiPen.

It is really hard to see Austin have to miss out on foods and finding interesting food for him can be tough. One of the hardest things was that our breastfeeding journey got cut short due to Austin needing regular top ups with prescription formula to get his weight up. Thankfully Austin has been putting on weight and his skin is almost always clear. He only flares up now when he’s teething or unwell. I’m so proud of him, that even when his eczema was at its absolute worst, or he was in the middle of an anaphylactic reaction, he always had a smile on his face. He’s honestly the happiest babe.

Can you share a little more of your breastfeeding story?

We really struggled with breast feeding at the beginning. I had this idea of giving birth then instantly having this long bonding nursing session, but it just really didn’t happen like that. Austin wasn’t latching properly; it was incredibly painful and at about three weeks we were struggling with nipple thrush. It was an amazing child health nurse who helped us through. She gave us a heap of different positions to try and eventually it became how I’d envisioned it. When Austin was diagnosed with cow’s milk protein allergy, I eliminated a heap – all dairy, eggs and soy from my diet – as it was suspected that passing through and causing eczema flare ups. We did so well until about 9 months when Austin just started refusing the breast. I was working four days a week and because of Austin’s failure to thrive we’d been instructed to give him regular top ups with concentrated allergy prescription formula. I continued to regularly offer him the breast but eventually we dropped down to a single feed in the morning and even that feed he was hungry after. We decided at ten months to stop breastfeeding. It was a really hard decision and I struggled with it a lot. Seeing Austin thrive and putting on weight made it all worth it though.

Can you talk us through what motivated you to use cloth with your son? Did you always know you wanted to use cloth?

Six years ago a girlfriend used cloth with her son and I’ve known ever since then that I wanted to use cloth. I didn’t really understand the environmental impact of disposables back then, but I loved the prints and it seemed far more economical. I did wonder about how I would go dealing with poop but it turns out you barely even think about it!

Can you describe your early days in cloth?

I started part time and that was partly due to having a smaller stash and just trying to get the hang of parenting. I always knew I wanted to transition to full time so as our stash grew we just started adding more cloth nappies to our day. The change was pretty easy and actually made wash day easier because I wasn’t having to bulk our main wash as much. Nights took us a little longer to attempt. I think Austin was about 4-5 months. I was super nervous about leaks and nappy rash but once I started it was just as easy as day time.   

Can you compare how using cloth differs to what you thought it would be like?

It’s SO much easier! I got quite a few comments about how it wouldn’t last. That we wouldn’t be able to keep up with the washing or that dealing with poo nappies would be too gross. Honestly washing is the chore I find easiest and we’ve not had any major hiccups.

You have said that your favourite part of parenting so far has been the nappies. Can you comment on this? What is it in particular with nappies that brings your great joy?

100% the community. I thought I would buy a few nappies and go on my merry way but the nappy community has become my favorite thing about cloth nappies. It’s nice to have this whole group of women (and men!) who understand the excitement of a new print, the frustration of your child pooping in your favorite nappy that you JUST put on or the disappointment of missing out on release night. Especially in the WAHM (work at home maker) groups where everyone knows everyone else. I love supporting small businesses and getting to know the makers behind them so having all the cloth pages to give me a platform for that is a dream.

Can you share how your nappy experiences differ amongst your parenting peer group?

I know quite a few mums who cloth and I think our journeys are all quite different. We all use different styles, different brands and out motivations are all super different. Most of the comments I receive now are pretty positive and I do get quite a lot of questions which I’m always happy to answer.

Was your partner on board with using cloth?

I mentioned to my partner early on I wanted to use cloth and he was supportive from the start. He loves a good special, so he loved the idea of saving money on disposables. He has changed nappies from the start, cleans off the poo ones and always learns how to fit a new brand when it gets added to our stash.

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

Ask all the questions you need to. The decision to use cloth seems like such an easy one but then you’re bombarded with all this new information about types, brands, fabrics etc and it can be a lot. Once you get your head around everything it’s honestly so simple.

What are your greatest cloth hacks?

Waist snaps don’t have to be even! Invest in the silicone scrubbing brush from Kmart.

How has cloth changed the way you approach life?

I try to be a lot more environmentally friendly now. We transitioned to reusable wipes and are now trying to transition in our kitchen/ bathroom.

Describe the difference you hope to make for future generations by taking a more environmentally friendly approach to life?

I hope that we have cleaner planet and that we instill the concept of less wastefulness onto the next generations.

Can you explain what you believe to be the greatest benefit of using cloth nappies?

When I first started I would have said the economic benefit but that went out the window about 20 nappies ago! I think at the moment with all the nappy and wipe shortages happening, knowing that we’re not going to run out is such a huge benefit. That and having a pretty bum.

One of the commonly stated reasons for not using cloth relates to the cost. How would you describe the economic benefits of using cloth, and allay the fears of any parents new to cloth?

Cloth nappies, if you plan to buy a usable stash and stop, are definitely the cheaper option. It does seem like a big cost up front (anywhere from $200- $1000 for a full time stash, depending on brand) but when you look at the cost of disposables it all adds up. The savings increase if your child takes longer to toilet train or you end up using them for multiple children. The best thing is that you can re-coup some money by selling them after. Some brands in good condition sell for close to retail. However, if you choose to buy all the prints, all the time (like me) it is slightly less cost effective!

What style of nappy do you use & why do you like it?

I use AI2s. I find them so much easier to set up than pockets and it’s easy to adjust the absorbency.

How do you store/ display your nappies?

Sadly, they’re just in a drawer in my son’s room. I’d like to have a peg board or other set up so I can see them but we don’t have the room at the moment.

How do you stay on top of the washing with cloth?

It’s pretty easy. Every morning we rinse out his night nappy and throw that in a pre-wash with all his nappies from the day before. Then on the third day we put all the prewashes in together. It takes barely any time at all.

What is your favourite nappy print style and why?

Ohh that’s such a hard one. We have so many amazing prints. I have a soft spot for anything with a white background (especially botanicals) and galaxy/ moon prints.

How do you approach dressing with cloth?

Austin is pretty tiny so his nappies actually help him fit into his clothes. Otherwise they just fall down. We’ve never had to size up. But while the weather is warm enough we just throw him in a nappy and t-shirt anyway.

How do you manage cloth while out and about? Any tips?

Going out and about with cloth made me so nervous when we first started cloth but my biggest tip would be to just start. You quickly get the hang of it. I make sure to pack enough wipes and wet bags and just throw them in there until you get home.

How have you overcome any challenges with cloth nappies?

Austin refusing to sit still is really the only challenge we’ve faced. Our daycare educator was super supportive. It did take a little bit for my mum to come around but she’s on board now.

Do you have any other tips to share?

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. I would also recommend getting a multipack of different brands from one of the many retailers who offer that option. Not all nappies will work for you so that’s a great way to figure out your favorite without spending a fortune on postage like I did.

There are so many amazing resources out there for beginning cloth. Check them out and you should be able to find the answers to every question you have.

In brief

Number of bums in cloth. We only have one in cloth at the moment.

Time in cloth. Nearly a year. We’ve been using cloth since Austin was born and he’s 11 months at the moment.

Number of nappies. About 60 I think, with a few more on pre-order.

Full or part time. We’re full time.

Nappy style. We love our AI2s.

Stuff or snap. Snap or lay in. I find it so much easier than stuffing.

Pre-stuff or lay as you go. Pre-stuff! So much easier and my favorite “chore”.

Line or tumble dry. We try to line dry. It’s a lot easier now we have a larger stash.

Favourite cloth related product. Mini wet bags! They’re so versatile and such a good way to still get to look at all the pretty prints when it’s too cold to be pantless. Also the three-tiered vegetable stand from Kmart is the perfect dry pail.

Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Inspiring.

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