Modern cloth nappies at the beach
Living with cloth

#33: Take care of that which takes care of you

You’re going to love hearing from Emelia today. Because both her and her husband’s most treasured childhood memories were by the ocean, coastal living was non-negotiable when they became a family. They recently moved to the Gold Coast where they hope to raise their son in the same way they were: to take care of that which takes care of them.

The family’s choice to use cloth nappies is part of their goal to choose options that better serve the longevity of the Earth. Emelia freely admits she doesn’t always get it right, nor can she always afford it financially, but she tries to take small steps every day to consider the health of the planet so there will still be one in many years to come.

Welcome, Emelia @itsemlucas

Modern cloth nappies at the beach

Tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live, and why you love living where you do?

My name is Emelia, but not many people use my full name. I’m Canadian, living with my Australian husband on the Gold Coast. When my husband and I got engaged, we agreed when it came time to start a family we wanted to be back by the ocean – that conversation turned into a whirlwind of international phone calls, selling every thing we owned, exporting our dog and cat, and landing us six months later at the Brisbane airport with seven pieces of luggage! For both of us, our most treasured childhood memories were sun-kissed and salty, so living coastal as we started our own family was a non-negotiable. The ocean to us is humbling, exciting, and sparks many conversations of conservation and wonder – we hope that living coastal can spark the same feelings in our son.

What would people be most surprised to know about you?

I’m an absolutely horrific gift giver… I’d like to think I’m a thoughtful person, but the realm of gifts is just not my strong suit. This is probably because I personally don’t get very attached to or excited about, “stuff.” I would always take preference to spending time or enjoying a meal instead of receiving a gift, and I suspect this lack of interest in receiving gifts transforms into a lack of interest in giving them. It’s definitely an area I can dedicate some more love and attention – so if anyone reading this has received a terrible gift from me … I do love you, and I’m working on it!

What would you say you are most grateful for in life?

Now, more than ever: I am so grateful for my family. There will always be hard days or days of bad energy – but we are healthy, happy, and together: and that is truly all I could hope for.

Your family has chosen to live an eco-conscious life. Can you describe what this means to you and how it has played out in your life?

This is something I could speak to for ages, but I’ll try to keep it simple for the sake of conversation. A big part of this choice comes from how I was raised: take care of that which takes care of you. In our household and during our day to day, our goal is to choose options that better serves the longevity of our earth. Every purchase is a vote – and we certainly don’t always get it right, nor can we always afford it financially. But if everyone took a few “baby steps” to consider the health of the earth, then hey, the human species might still have a home a few hundred years from now!

Describe the kind of world for which you wish for your son.

I was incredibly spoiled to live in two of the most stunning settings Canada has to offer. Half of my childhood was spent watching creatures in tidal rock pools and exchanging curious looks with the local seals as we fished off the docks; the other encompassed by old growth trees and mountains so tall that the only way to peek the sun in winter time was at the tops of the ski hills. Such beauty in the world is becoming far too scarce as it is bulldozed, developed and polluted to the brink of extinction. All I can wish for, is that we as a global community can prioritise preserving these stunning pockets of untouched nature – so that my son and his peers can experience some of the breathtaking moments just as I had the privilege to when I was young.

What is your approach to health and wellbeing, and how do you make time for it?

The approach to health in our household is fairly simple: eat well, adhere to honesty, and take time out to rest. We grocery shop with a list, hit the farmers markets for seasonal goods (and currently getting an organic produce delivery box – FeelGoodFoodBoxes), eat treats, and embrace a state of balance. My husband and I have regular check-ins with one another, and usually debrief in the evening during our dog walk: communicating about certain topics seem to be more fluid while moving instead of stationary in our living room. And certainly since the birth of our son, we appreciate the need to just slow down sometimes: lazy weekend naps to catch up on some sleep are a pretty regular scene in our house these days.

Family who uses modern cloth nappies

What’s the best part of motherhood so far?

Watching unbridled joy and excitement as our little person discovers the world around him. You can almost hear the gears in his little brain turning as he learns something new. I absolutely love witnessing that childlike state of awe, and I think many of us as adults have misplaced that unapologetic excitement for life. Becoming a mother and watching my son experience things for the first time has reminded me the vast importance of curiosity and presence.

What has been the most surprising part of motherhood for you?

There are two things I run in to a lot that I did not expect. The first being immense guilt and self-doubt. I am constantly second guessing myself or questioning whether what I am doing in any given situation is “enough.” We all want what is best for our kids, and with so much influence from social media these days, I think it’s easy to get sucked into comparisons. Secondly, I am completely blown away on how functional a mum can be on such little sleep!

What has motherhood taught you about yourself?

I am resilient as heck. No matter what chaos may unfold in twenty-four hours, I am incredibly proud of my ability to start (mostly) fresh each day. The other part is as a Canadian I am approximately 12,000 kilometres from my parents. Their support is something I completely took for granted until having my son. I am extremely lucky to be surrounded by the most amazing in-laws, but there is truly no support, love and care in the world that compares to that of your own parents. Being so far away has felt isolating and lonely in ways I could not have imagined, but we make it work, seem to pull through the hard parts, and our little man seems to be flourishing nonetheless.

What activities do your family like to do together?

We are always outside. Bush walks, beach days, lots of time in our garden, and adventuring with our first baby, Quinn the beagle. We have towels and a change of clothes that live in the boot of our car, just in case! My husband and I met working outside – playing in nature is a big part of our relationship, so we do much of the same these days, just as three instead of two.

You aim for child-led, and play based learning. Why do you choose this parenting philosophy and what does it mean to you?

I’ve gone down this route (loosely) based on memories of my own childhood. I can recall in detail gardening in the backyard, family hiking trips, long afternoons exploring the intertidal zones, and making houses out of cardboard boxes. All of these experiences were simple, often in nature, and play based: but they are also the same moments where I feel the most impactful learning took place. I hope to replicate that style of play, discovery and learning with my own son.

What family traditions do you follow? Which do you cherish the most?

We’re a fairly non-traditional family, but we have continued on a few small rituals from our childhoods: family breakfast every Sunday, and Santa always makes a huge mess in the house when he comes to visit (talking white footprints everywhere, leftover carrots from reindeer). We’re not huge on holidays and gift giving … choosing to spend such times immersed in delicious healthy food and quality time with family rather than the more material aspects that come with traditional holidays. We believe in Karma, in a sense: how you treat and care for your immediate space in the world will always reflect back upon you in some way.

How to care for moderm cloth nappies

Can you talk us through what led you to using cloth with your child? Did you always know you wanted to cloth?

I was a bit horrified to learn just how many disposable nappies ended up in landfill from just one child, and I was equally shocked when I discovered the cost! It felt a bit like we would literally be throwing money away and producing too much waste, so cloth always felt like our only option. Plus, the amount of mysterious chemicals used in so many disposable nappy brands really concerned me. I am so wary about what I ingest or put on my skin: I couldn’t in good conscious use something on my baby’s sensitive lil’ bottom that I wouldn’t use myself.

Can you describe your early days in cloth?

To be completely honest, I did very little (if any) research before we started. Our cloth journey started with a second-hand bundle of unbranded nappies I bought on Gumtree for fifty bucks! It wasn’t until quite some time after regularly using cloth that I sort of stumbled on to some great resources and community groups. But I don’t think I’d change the way we started out, I truly didn’t know “any better,” so I didn’t get the chance to be overwhelmed by all the information there is out there.

Can you share any funny cloth stories, or have you had any great nappy fails you can share?

I did share an awkward moment of silence once with our post man as we both watched in horror while my son wee’d out the side of his nappy on to the floor between us as I went to sign a package. That poor postie also caught me with a boob out on a different occasion. The newborn days were exciting times at our household!

Describe what you love most about cloth.

I absolutely love how cloth bums are such a conversation starter. Every comment or query has been an amazing opportunity to share tips and tricks, or spread awareness to the environmental reasons for choosing cloth.

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

Just dive in! Even a couple reusable nappies a day will divert so many disposable nappies from landfill and eases the strain on your wallet. It’s a win-win! There are SO many resources out there when it comes to cloth which certainly does feel overwhelming, but that also means: there is cloth for every budget, washing routines for any machine, and there is usually a local group where you can find what is working in your community. There are lots of “right” ways to cloth bum, just find what works for you, and don’t worry about the rest.

How do you believe you are contributing to bettering the environment by using cloth nappies?

Any way we can reduce waste piling up in our landfills is a win. Disposable nappies are one of the largest sources of waste in the first few years of a child’s life. By choosing cloth, we have prevented using thousands of disposables, and that’s just one child. That’s a huge impact!

What other eco choice does your family make?

We do our best to reduce our environmental impact in as many ways as we can: refusing single use packaging of any form, growing our own veg and herbs, buying second hand, and really considering the ethical origin of our purchases. Shopping local and seasonal is a big one for us: if our groceries and products travel less then their carbon footprint is lessened. Local also means supporting farms and small business owners in your own community, and who doesn’t love that!

For parents hesitant to begin cloth, what other eco changes would you suggest instead?

One of the easiest ways to cut down on your environmental footprint for parents I’d say is to buy second hand where you can. Babies and children grow so fast, you can find some amazing items (at an even more amazing price) second hand. That closes our consumer loop, and creates less demand for baby items to be produced in such large volumes.

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?

That’s a tough one, and something we considered heavily before deciding to have a child. I think, as with anything, it truly comes down to how you take responsibility for that choice. You can choose to pass on to the best of your ability: lessons of love and care for the earth and her creatures … or not. That’s completely up to you.

Bare and Boho modern cloth nappy

How do you manage the laundry with cloth? Any hot tips?

I do a rinse every other day, and main washes twice a week. I also keep a smaller dry pail next to my main dry pail for any inserts or shells that may need a bit of extra attention or a pre-soak prior to my main wash. That saves me having to sift through the entire load as they go into the washing machine.

As far as making time to wash: I know approximately how long it takes me to create a main wash worth of nappies and have made a loose routine around that timeframe. I also don’t beat myself up if I’m late by a day or so, we’re not perfect!

How do you approach dressing with cloth?

The beauty of living in Queensland is it’s rarely cold enough to need clothes! That’s a Canadian’s opinion at least … but I’ve found a few brands that are pretty forgiving on the bottom end, and I am not afraid to size up. And the saggy bum look seems to be pretty trendy these days so finding pants and leggings that accommodate a cloth bum hasn’t been too hard. Plus, some cloth patterns are so amazing; half the time it seems a shame to cover them up.

Any tips for changing cloth nappies on a squirming baby?

Putting a nappy on my son is like wrestling with a crocodile. We combat this by pre stuffing, and giving the little man something to play with while we change him. I’ve also found some brands that use either only a two snap option (Bare and Boho) or three snaps in a row (Baby Bare), instead of the traditional three snap triangle shape, which really helps speed things up.

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

I have a large size wet bag with a couple compartments so I don’t have to worry about leaks or storage. And disposable bamboo liners can be nice too, it keeps your inserts really clean and you can remove any solids right away so you aren’t carrying them around with you.

Was your partner on board with using cloth?

He was super keen, and probably more consistent at the start than I was! He has always been my biggest supporter, no matter what unusual things I may be getting him to try. Plus, doing the math on how much money we would save certainly piqued his interest!

Have others supported your decision to do cloth?

I’ve had nothing but support from everyone I’ve shared my cloth bum journey with, it’s so encouraging!

Do you have any other tips to share?

All I can say is: don’t overthink it. There are so many different approaches to cloth nappies – it really is about taking a little bit of time, experimenting, getting your hands dirty (literally), and just discovering what works for you and yours. You won’t regret it!

Anything else at all you would like to add?

I know the initial cost of cloth can be a bit off-putting to some, so I’ll put a little reminder out in to the world to consider looking second hand. Over half of my nappy collection was bought used. You often see collections of nappies being sold that have only been used once, if at all. With a thorough sanitise, you’ve scored yourself some amazing nappies at a fraction of the cost, and all of a sudden you’re saving the Earth in more ways than one. You also don’t have to buy the designer brands, there are plenty of smaller companies, or unbranded that work just as well … heck, some of my mysterious unbranded nappies are my favourites.

Modern cloth nappies at the beach

In brief

Number of bums in cloth. One cheeky bum.

Time in cloth. My son just turned 1 and we’ve been cloth bumming it since he was about 10 weeks old!

Number of nappies. 28 ish.

Full or part time. Full time except night nappies.

Nappy style. Mostly AI2.

Stuff or snap. I own a 50/50 mix of both, but I think I prefer the snap in.

Pre-stuff or lay as you go. Pre stuff- I have a wiggler so time is precious!

Line or tumble dry. Line dry.

Favourite cloth related product. Stainless laundry pegs!

Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Evolving.

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