cloth nappies for the environment
Living with cloth

#26: Drive to preserve the future

Protecting the environment is key to living a good life for Emily, but not to the detriment of one’s own health. Emily offers very sensible advice to worry first about one’s self – especially in the early days of motherhood when figuring out how to keep a tiny human alive is tantamount, then consider ways of reducing your impact on the planet, including through the use of cloth nappies.

The key to success with cloth nappies, she says, is the right absorbency and a good wash routine. Both will take some research and persistence but, like Emily, you’ll undoubtedly make it out the other end with a newfound expertise in washing and a love for cloth.

Welcome, Emily @nature.dawns

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

I am Emily, I’m 26 years old, and I have been married to my husband, Evan, for 6 years. We are first-time parents to Aubrey, our 12-month-old daughter. I am a midwife, and my husband is a firefighter. Hubby used to be an environmental officer and has always had a huge love for the Australian bush and animals. This passion has definitely rubbed off onto me and we both see so much beauty in the landscape and creatures that surround us. This has inspired so many different aspects of our lives, including our drive to preserve the beautiful environment f­or the future generations. We are from Perth initially, but currently living in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. It is a small mining town 600km east of Perth.

What’s your favourite part about living where you do?

This is a hard question to answer because I have been struggling with our move here. My favourite part though would have to be the sunny winter days, and the contrast of the red dirt against the silver/green bushland. 

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

The thing people don’t know about me is … I am super quiet and shy … but somehow also a serious over-sharer. I don’t think I ever leave any small detail of my life out.

How do you like to relax and unwind?

Strolls in the bush with our little fam and meals with friends.

Can you tell us about your motherhood journey?

I have really struggled with motherhood. The hardest part has been the isolation. Moving away from home and loved ones wasn’t ideal just before having a baby. Motherhood has been a slow and painful process of letting go of my own preconceived ideas and plans, and opening myself up to another human. Slowing down, being present and really trusting that she knows best are all things that I have slowly been learning. It is hard work making and growing a new human, and then becoming a new person at the same time! I found the newborn stage the most challenging. Being a midwife, it was the stage that I was most prepared for technically … but I was definitely not prepared for how intense it would be. And I don’t think you can really prepare for the huge shift in your identity. The best stage is the current stage! And I say that every stage. It’s so wonderful seeing her grow and develop.

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

Our favourite thing to do as a family is going for walks out in the bush.

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

This week our sweet little Aubrey has started trying to say “bird” whenever she hears them or sees them. She quickly turns to me with pouted lips and exclaims “Dirb!” Makes me smile every time. 

What motivated you to use cloth with your child?

My best friend had a baby a couple of years before me, and she used cloth nappies. Seeing her baby in them just made it seem super normal to me so I just assumed that is what I would do. We are on the same page when it comes to reducing waste around the home so I guess I figured I would also do the more environmentally friendly option too (positive peer pressure? Ha ha). 

Did you start clothing part or full time?

I was kindly gifted 6 cloth nappies when bub was born (they were just cheap ones off Scoopon) and some newborn nappies that my friend loaned me. These were my introduction to cloth nappies. I was really overwhelmed with newborn life so did not want to start until I had some headspace, which was about 3 months in. When I began, I had no idea about washing (so was getting major stains!) and the inserts were so thin and useless. I knew nothing about inserts and absorbency either, so I probably would have given up if I wasn’t super keen to do my bit for the environment. I used these just on days when I was at home (because they always leaked), and then slowly with more research, purchased some Super Cheap Auto terries to boost my cheapies, found the Clean Cloth Nappies website, so fixed the staining issue, then I started to enjoy using them more so looked to increase my stash for full time use. I started researching like crazy all the different brands and then purchased some trial packs. As my nappy stash grew, I extended my use to everyday, out and about, and then after a couple of months I started nights. I was always nervous about starting nights. I think because I just did not want to do anything to potentially disturb bub’s sleep (not that it was great anyways). Also, I read that you should wait until they stop pooping at night and that just wasn’t happening consistently. I visited a stockist and was able to get the information and confidence I needed to start nights. We also use cloth when travelling when practical because we really dislike using disposables now for many reasons. 

What has the response to using cloth been like from your family and friends?

We have had really positive responses to using cloth. Our friends are all pretty similar to us in their value for the environment so agree that cloth is the best way to go, so many use cloth as well which is great. I have had some friends who had considered cloth but never started reach out for some information after seeing my posts on social media which is awesome. We often stay with my in-laws when visiting home, and they have also been super supportive and happy for me to take over their laundry with dry pails and cloth nappies. The only not so serious “negative” comments have been around the fact that our baby never wears pants (ha ha) which I just find funny. Why would you cover them?

What brings you the greatest joy with using cloth?

I get the greatest joy whenever I throw the used nappy into the dry pail, rather than the rubbish bin. I also get joy from using handmade nappies, knowing the great work and skill that goes into creating them. I love knowing who the local artist was that designed the prints, the small businesses that printed the fabric, and then the WAHMs that put it all together into a wearable piece of art. I get a lot of joy from knowing that we are supporting all these Australian families by purchasing these nappies. 

What has surprised you most about using cloth?

The most surprising thing about using cloth nappies has been how much I have learnt about washing. Turns out I didn’t know how to wash clothes up until now! Washing is actually so easy when you know how to do it properly. 

Looking back at your cloth journey so far, of what are you most proud?

I am proud that somehow, with my fatigued and confused baby brain, I managed to get through the problems I was having at the start, and with research and persistence, made it out the other end now in full time cloth, and loving it!

What do you consider to be the key to success with cloth?

The key to success with cloth is the right absorbency and a good wash routine.

Best advice you’ve ever been given about cloth.

The best advice I read was that using cloth wipes was way easier than using disposable wipes because you just chuck everything into the dry pail together after a nappy change. Also installing a bidet to the toilet. Game-changer. 

How would you explain the benefits to using cloth?

The main benefits we have found with cloth nappies are: environmental, cost, health and community. The biggest benefit to us is the environmental benefits of reducing single use products ending up in landfill. The figures are outstanding and alarming. The other benefits are just a bonus in my opinion. Plus, nothing is cuter than a chunky cloth bum. 

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

I would tell a pregnant woman to not even worry about it until she has figured out how to keep the tiny human (and herself!) alive first. Then to let me know when this has happened … and I will tell her all the things. Or to visit a stockist so you can get hands-on with the different types of MCNs, fitting and washing advice all in one.

Finish this sentence … The thing people wrongly assume about cloth is …

The thing people wrongly assume about cloth is that it is too hard. Yes, it requires more thought, but no, it’s not too hard. 

Was your partner on board with using cloth?

My hubby used to be an environment scientist so has always been on board with cloth nappies for the same reasons as me. He happily puts on the nappies, cleans as much poo as me and sits down with me to help stuff and fold them. I always take into consideration his opinion on prints/type/style of nappies as well; I think that helps. Turns out he will also accept any new nappies into the house that contain lollies in the package, so this is a win. He finds it a lot easier to deal with the poo since he installed a toilet sprayer, so would definitely recommend one of those. 

As a midwife have you had many conversations with new parents about using cloth with their babies?

When I was working as a midwife, I don’t remember talking to any mums about cloth nappies, or even seeing any mum using them. I guess it is because I usually only see them for the first couple of weeks postnatally … and using cloth with newborns is not super common. Cloth nappies seem to be in higher demand since the shop shortages so maybe/hopefully it’ll be a more mainstream conversation once I return to work.

What is your favourite nappy print style?

I love Australian native plants and animals when it comes to prints. 

What is your favourite cloth nappy accessory and why?

The Bunnings toilet sprayer has to win the prize for best cloth nappy accessory in this house.

Have you had to be more conscious of your water usage since using cloth nappies?

We don’t have low water supply where we are, but our water is suuuuper expensive where we live (after having some issues with our rental). This has only been of recent, so I have gone from a daily prewash (because I use night nappies) to every 1.5 days prewash (so I have dropped one prewash in my 3-day cycle and do a handwash of my night nappy instead). So far this has been working well, so fingers crossed we don’t run into any issues.

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

I do think that each individual has a responsibility to do what they can to live more sustainably. I find it hard to watch people ignoring our climate crisis, but I do see a lot of hope with our generation, and the younger generation. We don’t all need to do everything perfectly. But I do think we can all make a few positive changes for our planet according to our different capacities. 

What other eco products do you use?

Nappies, wipes, wetbags. Cloth pads. Keep Cups. Stainless steel straws. Reusable shopping bags. Beeswax wraps. Unpaper-towel. Soap and shampoo bars. Deodorant paste … My favourite eco product at the moment are cloth pads. I have found these so easy to use since learning how to do laundry. I just dry pail them and wash them with nappies. No stains. No worries.

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?

I agree that having children is added strain on our planet. I think it would be a very noble thing to make that decision based on the environmental impacts alone. Just like all choices we make, there is a more than just the environment that influences them. I think considering the state of the environment will affect how many children we have though. 

In brief

Number of bums in cloth. 1.

Time in cloth. I started when Aubrey was 3 months old … so 9 months now! 

Number of nappies. I own about 35 nappies.

Full or part time. Full time cloth. 

Stuff or snap. I have mostly front-snapping pocket/AI2 style. I have a few side-snapping WAHMs too. I stuff some (the fuller fitting ones… hubby likes these ones stuffed!), I like the fit of the trimmer nappies when the inserts are just laid in.

Pre-stuff or lay as you go. Pre-stuff.

Line or tumble dry. Line dry all the way! I use cloth for environmental reasons so in my current situation I really have no reason to use a dryer. I am lucky enough to have enough nappies to use with extended dry times if needed … and also plenty of time to hang them out 🙂 I also live in the desert so its great weather for drying nappies.

Favourite cloth related product. Nappies for sure! 

Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Fun.

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