#29: Let’s convert everyone

Modern cloth nappies in Australia
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Read Time:14 Minute, 56 Second

Kate’s tally for converting others to cloth nappies stands at 10. This includes her sister-in-law and all but one of the families in her mothers group. It’s an admirable total that comes from Kate’s desire to make others more aware of opportunities to not only reduce landfill but also the amount of chemicals they put into themselves every day.

Kate and her husband began reducing their exposure to chemicals and introducing more sustainable ways of living when they started having issues conceiving and staying pregnant. Then when their son, Charlie, was born in September 2019, cloth nappies were a natural next step. Now, Kate considers the washing chore to be therapeutic and she says she loves nothing more than seeing a load of clean washing on the line.

Welcome, Kate @katecook_

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

I am a first-time mum to my little man, Charlie James (September 2019), working part time as a registered nurse on a busy surgical ward. I am blissfully married to my husband, Daniel. We live on a small property in south west Victoria, Australia, with our furry children – Rio the horse; Milli and George, our dogs; and, Cat, well you guessed it, our cat. We live out of town on small acreage. The area is quiet, it’s peaceful and tranquil. Our closest neighbours are cows, and those who aren’t have a beautiful sense of community that make living here the best decision we have made. 

What’s the best part of being a part of your family?

We love each other ferociously, we always have each other’s backs and are one another’s biggest supporters. We have the most incredible extended family consisting of blood and those who aren’t who are just as much family as those who are. 

What activities do your family like to do together?

The three Cs – camping, coffees and cruising in the car. If we can do all three at once, we are very happy people.

What does an average day look like for you?

There is no such things as an average day on a farm or for a nurse. But for those days I am not working, we wake early, walk the farm, feed the animals, check the fences and waters. We walk the dogs, grab a coffee and have a play. Mum does the chores whilst bub has his morning nap. After lunch, we are normally outside playing, pottering in the garden, riding the horse and seeing our friends. Dad arrives home and we all have dinner together before we do the last check of the land before bed. 

What do you like to do on rainy days?

Rainy days are for couch snuggles, coffee, drives into the Otways (Great Otway National Park) and sitting in front of the fire. 

Describe your greatest passions in life.

Family – my immediate and extended family, and my wonderful career as a nurse. 

How do you make the most of everyday?

Walking, enjoying time outside and getting close with Mother Nature.

What’s your favourite time of the year and why?

Autumn. The weather is still warm, but cooling. The mornings and evenings are crisp. It is still light into the night and you can enjoy more time outside. 

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

Besides giving birth – because we all know mummas are super heroes, it would be standing up and advocating for my patients at work and saving lives.

What have you read or watched recently that is worth sharing?

Books – my last favourite is Going Under by Sonia Henry. I don’t watch much TV so I’m going to go with listen – my favourite listen is Shameless, the podcast.

What is your approach to social media?

Social media is a brilliant haven for creativity and inspiration. It is up to each individual to make sure that they use it and only follow things that are positive and fulfilling.

How do you ensure you look after yourself? What kinds of activities help you feel like you?

Even if I don’t feel like I need it, taking time every single day for myself to check in and do one thing is important for me. Whether that is reading my book in peace, gardening, sitting down to a coffee, seeing a friend, riding my horse or doing a face mask, it is important to check in and do the things that make you happy every single day. 

What’s your favourite childhood memory?

Camping with my family every Christmas and Easter.

What is something you would like your children to remember about you?

How deeply I love them and have done my best to give them everything they need.

What is your greatest hope for your children?

That they are truly happy.

If you could fix one thing in the world what would it be?

Right now it would be to eradicate COVID-19! 

Can you tell us a little about your motherhood journey?

My journey to motherhood was definitely not what I expected. My husband and I thought falling pregnant would be easy but we couldn’t have been more wrong. We suffered our first miscarriage in 2016 before subsequently following on with three consecutive miscarriages before falling pregnant in January 2019 and welcoming the safe early arrival of our little rainbow man, Charlie James, in September 2019. Since then, motherhood has been the best dream come true. I didn’t realise you could be this happy and our lives are so full of love since Charlie’s arrival. 

Watching our little man learn, grow and develop his own little personality every single day and how close we have become as a family unit has been the best part. Going back to work and leaving my boy at home has been the hardest part.

What would you say is your parenting philosophy?

Every day is a new and exciting challenge – embrace the good and bad but remember to always love.

If you could go back before being a mother, what would you tell yourself?

One day you are going to be the happiest woman alive, surrounded by your kids – don’t give up on this dream.

How would you describe your identity change since becoming a mum? Have you struggled with defining who you are and how have you dealt with this?

I don’t think my identity has changed much since becoming a mum at all. I have been lucky enough to embrace the changes and absolutely love every part of it. I am very very lucky, though, to have wonderful friends and family who are very supportive of having a bub in my life with my precious hobbies and work.

What clichés of motherhood do you think are unfair?

That because I didn’t have a natural birth, I don’t understand what birth really is. 

Best advice you’ve ever been given about motherhood.

You are the best mum for your baby and no one can take that away from you. You do what is right for you and your children.

Can you explain what made you want to start using cloth with your children? 

Knowing that it takes between 200-500 years for some nappies to fully breakdown and decompose didn’t sit right with me environmentally, plus all of the chemicals in disposal nappies that come in contact with bubs made me feel uncomfortable. We had some issues conceiving and staying pregnant, which is originally what got my mind set on starting to change in regards to products with chemicals, waste and becoming more sustainable. When I was 6 months pregnant, I began my stash.

Did you start clothing part or full time?

We started part time as bubs was born early and I ended up having to have a c-section so was unable to do washing. He was also so tiny that he didn’t fit into a lot of my stash yet. Once I passed my 6-week check-up and my little man had chunked up, I begun converting to cloth full time. Now, we are full time cloth. Washing, to me, is therapeutic, so managing it is absolutely no worries at all. I love nothing more than seeing a load of clean washing on the line. 

Can you share the research process you undertook in choosing to use cloth nappies?

Thank you to modern technology and social media. I started my search on Facebook and Google and was lucky enough to stumble onto some great Facebook groups and websites. These really helped me learn the correct way to wash and care for my MCNs, as well as allowed me to find some great MCN options. The Clean Cloth Nappies website and Facebook page have been an absolute godsend. 

I was actually lucky enough to be put in contact as well with two local nappy makers and distributors, so I was able to sit down and have a great chat with them and pick their brains about MCN. 

How did you feel when you first started using cloth nappies compared to now?

The first week or two I felt overwhelmed and frustrated as I couldn’t get the fit right and I wasn’t sure about the washing. Now I’ve worked out the wash routine and watched lots of YouTube videos, asked people for advice and looked up templates on fitting correctly and it’s a breeze. Even my VERY reluctant husband is on board.

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

My favourite thing about using cloth is actually converting my sister-in-law to cloth. Her bub is 7 months older and she didn’t begin her cloth journey until her little one was 1, but watching me do it for months and her seeing how easy it is, she made the change and is loving it.

I was also the first mum in our mothers group to start using cloth and now every single mumma in our group except one is on the cloth bandwagon and loving it, so that’s 9 first-time mums converted to cloth. As I was changing my son’s nappy one day, one of the mums noticed I had reusable nappies and starting asking questions – this really opened up a great topic of conversation for everyone and away we went.

Have you experienced an act of kindness in the cloth community?

Having the beautiful ladies from Earthy Bums and EVIA Nappies message me on weekends and at night giving me fit advice and dropping off new nappies directly to my front door saving me the postage costs.

Which aspects of using cloth nappies are your favourite?

Oh my, how do you pick? The amazing fluffy bums with beautiful prints, knowing that I’m doing something wonderful for my son’s health and our environment are my top three picks. 

What is your favourite memory relating to cloth nappies?

Buying my first ever MCN with its beautiful print and feeling excited when my son finally fit into it (I had bought AIO to start with and he was just shy of 6 pounds at birth so a little bit too small for them).

What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you started out in cloth?

I wish I knew more about trial packs and companies that did different brand trial packs so I could have tried a few different brands before settling on ones that I liked more.

What has been the biggest learning on your cloth journey so far?

Definitely nailing my wash routine and working out a good balance with night time cloth nappies once my son started sleeping through.

If you could go back in time before beginning cloth, what tips would you give yourself?

Jump right in – it is nowhere near as hard as what you thought it would be.

What is your favourite tip you like to share with families new to cloth?

Check out https://cleanclothnappies.com to nail your wash routine and you will never look back.

Also buy a large indoor washing rack if you live in southern Victoria like me – you’ll need it! 

If people want to get started with cloth today, how do they do it?

Jump online, join some Facebook groups and check the second hand marketplace for some nappies, then go to Clean Cloth Nappies to work out how to wash them correctly You will never look back. 

What do you think is the most common reason people give up on using cloth?

I think a couple of the most common reasons people give up cloth is being time poor with life leaving an inability to get washing done and poor wash routines which can lead to ammonia build up causing nappy rash, and it is all put in the too hard basket and people return to disposables.

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?

I worked out that we were spending $35-$40 week on nappies and wipes which, over 3 years, is $5,500 per child! I have looked at my extra costs of water, power and washing powder and it is only costing me and extra $15 a month which is $540 over 3 years. My stash has cost me $400 all up and will last me through all of our future children. This means a whopping saving of $10,000 -$12,000 on nappies if we have 2-3 children. I look at this as less time I have to work and more time as home with my babes.

Design your dream nappy …

Ideal nappy – pocket style with a double gusset, a nice thick hemp insert for my little heavy wetter, front snapping with a beautiful mix of ocean blues covered in anchors.

Can you tell us how you came to decide which nappy style best suited your family?

We prefer the pocket nappies as we are able to interchange and add extra inserts for our heavy wetter.

If you had an unlimited budget to build a cloth stash, what would it look like?

Oh my! I would have over a 100 different nappies. I love using different brands and different inserts. There’s nothing better than snapping, stuffing or folding them. Although, I would make sure I had lots of different prints and designs for my little one’s fluff bum.

What does your cloth nappy change station look like?

I have a drawer stuffed full of nappies in my son’s room, but otherwise I have a basket full of 5 prepared nappies, wipes and creams ready for each day! 

How do you approach dressing with cloth? 

I have found buying extenders for my onesies a great help as MCN can fill out clothes a bit more, otherwise I honestly haven’t really noticed any issues with dressing my bub. MCN are quite slim line these days.

Describe the difference you hope to make for future generations by using cloth and other eco friendly options?

I am hoping that by mainstreaming cloth nappies again by encouraging my mum friends and showing them how easy it really is, we can reduce the amount of nappies going into landfill. I also hope that by talking about using cloth, it opens up other doors and avenues to talk about and teach others of different options we can embrace to help not only reduce landfill but also reduce the amount of chemicals we put into ourselves every day. 

Cloth nappies aside, what other actions do you take to reduce your environmental impact? 

Before I begun cloth nappies, I actually had a friend get me onto shampoo and conditioner bars with biodegradable packaging and no hidden nasties. This was the start of my transformation and lead to myself changing little things in our house, including upping our recycling, starting to compost, using green bags and produce bags, changing to bamboo toothbrushes, and shopping in stores where I can fill my produce from my own containers. I also started looking into buying recycled products and making more ethical choices. 

What do you think needs to happen to make cloth mainstream? 

For multiple options to be stocked on supermarket shelves would be a great start. Also, the government/ local councils helping families to build a stash as it can be quite expensive, and more social media influence, especially from those in ‘influencer positions’ who can promote the change to cloth.

If you could do anything to encourage more families to use cloth nappies, what would it be?

Just show them how easy and cost effective it really is! Not to mention great for bubs’ skin and health.

What is the best thing you think parents can do to ensure a better future for everyone?

By making eco friendly and sustainable choices today, our children will have a better future, the future they deserve. 

Do you have any other words of advice or tips to share?

Start today and tomorrow will be easier.

In brief

Number of bums in cloth. 1 in cloth, first time mum. 

Time in cloth. 10 months.

Number of nappies. 33 I think.

Full or part time. Full time.

Stuff or snap. Stuff.

Pre-stuff or lay as you go. Pre-stuff (if I have time!). 

Line or tumble dry. Line dry always.

Favourite cloth related product. Cloth wipes and my spray bottle.

Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Addictive! 

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