For Annie, motherhood has brought with it an appreciation for the simple things in life. While this often looks like family time exploring the fields around their home, Annie’s gratitude has also begun a determination to make eco choices she hopes will lead to a greater future for her daughter.
Cloth nappies were the catalyst for Annie’s more eco-conscious approach to life. Fast forward to now and she says the most satisfying part of becoming a cloth mum has been supporting other families to forge their own positive cloth nappy journeys, which she has been able to do as a brand representative and in her support role for a local cloth nappy library. The key to cloth nappies, she says, is to not expect it to be perfect straight away.
Since Annie’s interview some months ago now, she has announced another bub will be joining her family come the end of the year. We wish her all the best in achieving her aim of cloth from birth the second time around.
Welcome, Annie @annieh_mumlife
Tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live, and what you love about where you live?
I’m a wife, mum and doggy mum. I work for the NHS and live in Surrey, UK. My daughter is 18 months and is the light of our lives. We love our little house and where we live; we’re just opposite some large fields that are perfect for walking our Cavapoo and the grandparents are all within an hour of where we live.
What would you say you are most grateful for in life?
I’m grateful for a lot of things in life of course, but the love and happiness my little family bring me makes me grateful every day. I feel so lucky and grateful that we were able to become parents; there is no feeling like it. We love family time and simple things like a picnic outdoors, dog walks in the woods and exploring new areas together. I can’t wait to take P to farms as she loves animals.
What does a typical weekday in your life look like right now?
A typical day either consists of walking the dog, taking P to the childminders and going to work, or, a day off, is a bit more leisurely. We go for a dog walk with P in the carrier, we play and read books, go to softplay or toddler groups. Meet up with friends and I have a relax during the midday nap. Dinner is around 5pm at the moment, then bed by 7pm.
Describe a typical weekend …
At the weekends we always go somewhere nice for a walk; we love getting a coffee and enjoying the outdoors. I go to a pole fitness class Saturday morning, which really picked me up during my post baby blues and I’ve now done for almost a year. We also love to see family so that’s at least a weekly thing.
You are now more than a year into this parenting gig – what have you learnt about life?
Before being a mother, I didn’t feel complete and I knew something was missing. I felt a hole and, while life was lovely, I knew I wouldn’t feel truly happy until I was a mother. However, the reality has been so much better and harder than I ever imagined. I’ve lent a lot on my husband who has had to support me so many times during my mental struggles along the way. I’m probably not as strong mentally as I thought I was. I have learnt to appreciate the little things in life now, and my priorities have changed dramatically. Being a mother forces you to think more openly, selflessly, and with less judgement. It demands resilience and unwavering love when facing some of life’s greatest challenges.
How did you find the early days of parenthood?
I found the first few days of parenthood fantastic – I’d got what I longed for for so long and loved everything it brought: co-sleeping, night feeds, skin to skin and nappy changes. I felt well equipped mentally and physically. I didn’t notice the usual dip from the baby blues initially but certainly have had many wobbles since.
Parenting is full of contradictions. What are some of the contradictions with which you often grapple?
I feel so lucky that I’ve always been able to parent how I’ve wanted. I’ve never felt judgement or pressure from family members, peers or society to do or be different. I’ve just always trusted my instincts and what suits us best.
Would you say that having a baby has affected your mental health?
Yes, having a baby has definitely affected my mental health. I would have said I was a sensitive soul before but coped and managed really well, I didn’t doubt myself or my abilities. Since becoming a mum, I’ve often found my mood low, my resilience crushed and my coping abilities tested. Things that have caused this are issues we’ve faced, whether that be poor sleep, clingy-ness, grumpy-ness, teething or whatever else. I know she’s not doing it to make me feel angry or upset, but it can seem like it. I’ve only managed to get through the hard times with the support of my amazing husband and the best daddy. He is so calm and level headed, always lifts me up when I need it and deals with the situations I’ve struggled with. I honestly couldn’t have done this (or do it) without him.
Can you describe how being a midwife has impacted your parenting journey?
Being a midwife helped me in the early days – I was confident feeding my baby, holding her, bathing her. I didn’t worry when she had wind, was being sick or hadn’t poo’d in a couple of days. After the first month or so, I felt like I was learning new things every day and didn’t know anything about sleep patterns, teething, weaning etc. It has given me so much of an insight to help women deal with situations having been through them myself now.
Describe the kind of world for which you wish for your daughter.
I hope for a simple, non-selfish and safe world. I’d love if she could live without fear and fill her days doing things she loves, with adventure and passion.
Describe the difference you hope to make for future generations by using cloth and other eco-friendly options?
I really hope my small changes will have a domino effect, my little girl will follow my lead and use cloth sanitary products, cloth nappies and eco swaps as she grows up as it will be the norm. She’ll continue to spread it far and wide, as I hope to, and more and more people will make small changes, leading to one massive change.
Can you describe how using cloth has changed the way you approach life?
Using cloth nappies and wipes has certainly brought about many other changes for me and us as a family. I started to consider eco-swaps after using nappies/ wipes, and started with kitchen scourers and coconut brushes. I then tried cloth sanitary pads for myself when my cycles started again, which I love. Bathroom swaps have followed – soap bars, shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes etc. Our most recent swap is to family cloth – my husband is hugely open minded so was more than happy to try. A few weeks later we’re loving the swap. It’s easy when a wash is on anyway, to just keep adding to it. I’d love to get to a point where I’m not buying tissues, kitchen roll or toilet paper. I’d love to adopt a minimalist lifestyle too, but that would be a challenge for me.
No one and no family is perfect. What is your advice to families concerned about the growing environmental crisis?
While it can all feel hugely overwhelming, you can’t change everything on your own; but, if we all stand together and change one thing, it’ll have a huge impact.
Can you talk us through what led you to using cloth with your daughter?
I considered cloth in the pregnancy as I knew other friends/ colleagues who used them and it seemed a great thing to do, saving money and helping the environment.
Can you describe your early days with cloth?
We started using them when P was around 6 weeks and, within a few days, I was using them full time. I got a few pre-loved after buying around 6-8 from the supermarkets. I wasn’t very clued up at the start and was often disappointed when we had leaks – a lot to begin with! I think it was probably due to not enough prewashes or fit at the beginning but it led me to buying lots of brands to try out until I found a few that worked really well. Initially, this was Close Parent Pop Ins and Motherease Wizard Unos.
Looking back at your cloth journey so far, of what are you most proud?
I’m so proud that I’ve not sent any nappies to landfill for over 16 months now.
Can you explain what you believe to be the greatest benefit of using cloth nappies?
I’ve noticed so many benefits, I couldn’t just say one; but, the most noticeable thing on a day-to-day basis is how comfortable and gentle they are on my baby’s skin.
What do you love about cloth nappies?
Oh, what do I love, everything! The patterns and prints, the cloth community and bonds I’ve made. The environmental benefits as well as financial. It’s honestly had a domino effect in my life, encouraging a more eco-conscious lifestyle going forward.
What do you find the most satisfying part of cloth nappying, and why?
The most satisfying part for me now is helping, supporting and guiding others into their own positive cloth nappy journeys and becoming part of The Nappy Guru team has allowed me to do this even more.
Was your partner on board with using cloth?
Luckily my husband is really open minded and was happy with my choice to use cloth from day 1. He often rolls his eyes at the addiction it’s become but he’s so supportive. He loves seeing our little girl in a cloth bum just as much as I do.
Have you found a new community since starting cloth?
I’ve found a community of cloth mums, both local and further afield through social media. It all started from cloth nappy Facebook groups, then led onto Instagram. I’ve met up with local cloth mums and call many online cloth mums, friends. We all support each other in our journeys.
Part of your cloth journey has been helping to start a local cloth nappy library – can you tell us more about that?
One of the local mums I met through Instagram mentioned she was planning to start up a library and I was so keen to be involved and help; it’s a massive thing to do and needs support from others. We’ve started hiring the kits out in the last couple of months and have supported lots of mums online and at our meet up. We really hope to get more birth to potty kits in future as it’s so popular and support more families to try cloth.
Many parents express feelings of overwhelm when considering cloth – what advice do you have for them?
I agree it can seem overwhelming initially; I definitely didn’t know it all at the beginning but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. There is a great advice questionnaire on The Nappy Gurus that can be handy for advice. The key is to not expect it to be perfect straight away; I can’t tell you how many leaks or stains we’ve had but, as you learn and find what works, troubleshooting becomes easier. And if anyone needs advice along the way, there are people to ask.
What do you consider to be the key to success with cloth?
The key would be keeping it simple and ask for advice if you need it.
If you could go back in time before beginning cloth, what tips would you give yourself?
If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to start cloth from birth. Other than that, I’m really pleased with my journey and have no regrets. I’ve enjoyed every day of it.
Best advice you’ve ever been given about cloth.
Best advice I’ve been given is to try lots of styles of nappy, not every nappy will suit every baby.
First nappy you ever used?
First nappy I used was a Tickle Tots AI2 I bought from a supermarket; it was easy to get hold of so I bought a few to use. At this time, I didn’t know the differences/ benefits of an AI2 system but I soon went on to buy many others and started experimenting.
Style of nappy you use and why you like it?
I pretty much use, or have used, every style of nappy available. I have a mixture of pockets, AIO and AI2s. I love them all for different reasons, whether that be ease of use, speed of drying, slimness etc. There’s a place and purpose for them all.
Favourite nappy print style and why?
It’s so tough but I’d say my favourite print style is florals to suit my little lady.
Favourite use for wetbags?
I love hanging wetbags for storing dirty nappies, medium wetbags for out and about use.
What does your cloth nappy change station look like?
I don’t have a nappy change station, I (sometimes) put down a Totsbots happy mat on the floor, grab a nappy and wipe and go for it.
How do you manage cloth while out and about? Any tips?
Cloth out and about is so straight forward. In my double wetbag, I have a couple of nappies and dry wipes. I wet as I need and put the dirty ones in the other compartment of the wet bag. They take up a bit more space in the change bag but otherwise no different to disposables.
Can you share your experiences with cloth wipes?
Cloth wipes we actually used from birth. I knew plain water was best for babies’ bums so went straight into using them. They are so easy and fantastic; they provide a much better clean.
Can you share your experiences with using family cloth?
We started family cloth a few weeks ago and it’s so good, honestly. It’s strange not flushing them, but just pop them straight into the wet bag then, when the nappy wash goes on, I pop all the used wipes in with them. They provide a much better clean!
Have you encountered and solved any issues with wriggly babies, nappy rash, washing or something else and, if so, how have you overcome them?
I haven’t encountered too many issues luckily, but there are many occasions I’ve had a wriggly baby. The best thing is distraction: keys, toy whatever works! Nappy rash has been more prevalent recently due to teething. I use Weleda, a great cloth nappy safe cream, which clears up any problem within a day. While washing, prepping and stuffing the nappies takes a while; it’s strangely enjoyable and therapeutic. It’s an excuse to take 10 minutes to myself and think of nothing important so I’m always happy to do that job whenever it’s needed.
Do you have any other tips to share?
Top tips: Don’t be put off by leaks or mild staining; explore your local nappy library or do an advice questionnaire when starting out; join a cloth support group on Facebook if you need support; don’t stress about the wash routine (but it is important to get it right so ask someone if you need help); try out different brands and styles; don’t be put off by scraping poo (it’s really not that bad); and, prepare for the addiction!
Number of bums in cloth. I have one baby at the moment who I cloth bum.
Time in cloth. We started using cloth when P was 6 weeks old so we went straight into using birth to potty nappies.
Number of nappies. I own around 100 nappies that consist of many different brands and types. I have bought and sold many nappies as well during the past year or so to get to where I am now. As I’m sure many of you know, buying nappies is very addictive, and I actually had more than I thought I did when counting them.
Full or part time. I bought 6 new nappies firstly and quickly got a few pre-loved in different brands and ever since I have clothed full time.
Nappy style. I have every style of nappy and use them all for different things but I’d say my favourite (just) is an AI2 nappy; we can use these day and night now. They’re so adaptable and easy to use.
Stuff or snap. I guess this means I like to snap my nappies, but I do have lots of pocket nappies and all-in-ones that I love.
Pre-stuff or lay as you go. I always prestuff/ snap and make up all the nappies once they’re dry to make things easy when it’s change time.
Line or tumble dry. I line dry 99.9% of the time. My little cottage is very warm and, even in winter, the nappies dry reasonably quickly so I don’t need to tumble them.
Favourite cloth related product. My favourite cloth related product is the nappy safe cream Weleda. It’s amazing.
Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Addictive!