Our interview with book and coffee-loving stay-at-home mama Emma has me dreaming of the day cloth nappies are the norm again. From making her decision to cloth because it keeps chemicals from young skin and assists with toilet training to being prepared and buying secondhand or in bulk, Emma is so full of practical and sensible advise that if you were to meet her, you’d never give disposables a chance. Here’s hoping Emma’s dreams – not only of more awareness of cloth nappies, but also a world in which women are more respected, heard and taken seriously – come to fruition.
Welcome, Emma @emmaamaayy
Tell us a little about yourself and your family?
I’m Emma, a stay-at-home mama to Isla who will be 2 in June. I’ve just started a digital marketing business and my husband, Rhett, is a high school teacher.
In which part of the world do you live and what do you love about living there?
We live on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland, Australia. I love that within a 30-minute drive you could be in the mountains or at the beach; it’s the best of both worlds. Most of our family and friends also live really close which is great!
What does a dream day look like for you and your family?
A dream day for me is definitely different from my husband. His dream would be a sleep-in, haha. My dream day would be waking up around 7am, reading before Isla wakes up, then grabbing a coffee and some breakfast and sitting in a park or running around with Isla. We’re lucky to live near Australia Zoo and SeaLife, which are two places that Isla loves, so we would probably head to one of those after. Then back home for nap time, which is usually 12pm-3pm. And then back out to the beach for fish and chips. Definitely home and in my pjs by 7pm.
You describe yourself as coffee obsessed. What does this look like for you?
I used to be A LOT more coffee obsessed than I am now. I have a pretty boring coffee order – large flat white, but I definitely have a couple throughout the day. Also, the smell of coffee just makes me so happy!! I love covering my body with a coffee scrub in the shower. Once my husband and I retire, I’d love to own a coffee shop somewhere.
Would you say coffee has gotten you through motherhood thus far, or something else?
I’m still breastfeeding so I’ve definitely limited my caffeine intake, but if I’m stressed out or finding Isla difficult, I find having a big cup of coffee and sitting down for a moment helps me relax. Aside from coffee, I’ve found that taking a few moments to myself to breathe can help me get through even the toughest moments of motherhood; it just helps to ground myself.
What has motherhood taught you about yourself?
Wow, what a tough question. I’ve learnt that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. Especially having a toddler now, you’re constantly faced with battles and tantrums that somehow you just learn how to manage. It’s like once you become a mother, you just learn a stack of new strategies to cope. Isla’s also taught me how to love myself. I am not a very confident person, but knowing that my body was able to home and birth a baby is just wild. And even now nearly 2 years on, I am still breastfeeding her. The female body is strong and powerful and I am so proud of myself for being able to do that.
What kind of mum are you?
The mum who always has an overflowing baby bag. Since Isla was born, I have carried around a huge backpack. It’s full of everything you could possibly need, and more. I always thought I would be the “mean” parent, but since dealing with toddler tantrums, we’ve come to realise that is my husband. Isla comes to me for cuddles. I guess I’m not really sure what kind of mum I am yet, that will develop as Isla does.
I also know you are a mum who loves books. What is it that draws you to books?
The relaxation. There is nothing better than at the end of a day hopping into bed and reading. In saying that, I also love to wake up early and read in the morning with a coffee. There is something about getting lost in the story. I have also been looking for ways to get off my phone and reading is a good one.
What’s your best recommendation from your recent reads?
I recently read Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld which I loved; a definite five-star book, in my opinion. It’s a fiction novel about Hilary Clinton and what her life would be like if she never married Bill. Rodham is her maiden name.
What else is on your never-ending “to read” pile?
That is such a tough question! I have such an extensive list of books I want to read. At the top of the list is Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie and Milk Fed by Melissa Broder.
What do you look for in the books you share with your daughter?
At this age, I just look for engaging books. Isla would read all day if I let her; she’s always bringing us books to read to her and, if ever she’s gone quiet, it’s because she’s sitting in the corner reading a book. She loves lift-the-flap books and anything colourful. Isla really likes Spot, Bluey and Wiggles books. I really love the Little People, Big Dreams books for her.
I’m going to use that question as a segway to jump right into our conversation about cloth nappies. What do you look for in the cloth nappies you purchase for your daughter?
Firstly, the designs draw me to a company and then I just make sure they are super adjustable so I can customise them to fit her properly. It’s really important to not have any leaks, and I want to make sure I can achieve that; we’ve definitely come across some not so great ones.
What drew you to choose reusable nappies for your daughter?
It’s important to me to know what was going on her skin. From research, there are many harsh chemicals in disposable nappies and I wasn’t comfortable with that being on Isla’s skin. I had also read that using cloth nappies made toilet training easier, which was a big plus for me.
What do you think has led to a successful cloth journey for you?
Being prepared is definitely important to success. At home, that means having a soak bucket ready every morning and washing every night. When out, it’s having a stash in the nappy bag and always having a wet bag so the dirty ones can be sealed until you get back home. It can be really easy to give up because it’s a tough job. But being prepared ahead of time makes it 100 times easier.
Looking back on your cloth journey so far, what’s one thing you would change?
Our cloth journey has been pretty successful, but one thing is that we didn’t take advantage of the value packs that companies do when buying cloth nappies. Because I wanted to make sure we had the best fit for Isla, we were buying 2 or 3 from different places. But I know that most companies have a discount if you buy 5 or more. This would have saved us a bit of money, but it would have meant that I didn’t get to trial a heap of brands.
What are your essentials for cloth nappy care?
A big soak bucket, a good washing machine and a great laundry product.
How do you organise and store your cloth nappies?
Once they are washed and dried, I stuff all nappies and put liners in them before putting them in Isla’s drawers. I found that pre-stuffing and having the nappies ready to go meant that when it comes to nappy changing everything is ready. It only takes 10 or so minutes to stuff them all and have them ready, but it saves so much hassle when trying to wrangle a baby (and now toddler).
Have others supported your decision to do cloth? If so, how? If not, why not?
My husband is really supportive. I’ve heard from friends that a lot of times dads can be put off by the idea of dealing with soiled nappies, but Rhett has been really helpful in making sure ours are always clean for the next day. When it comes to friends, not many of friends do cloth nappies but it’s definitely not something that they don’t support.
What is the largest misconception about cloth you have come across and how have you responded to it?
The cost. People often tell me that the reason they aren’t doing cloth is the price of the nappies. I think people just see the initial cost and don’t think any further. A packet of disposables can be $30 for 90 nappies, while a single cloth nappy could be $30. That looks expensive. But when you consider that cloth nappies cannot only be used for years with one child but can also be used for multiple children, it just makes sense to cloth. Even when considering the cost of water and cleaning products, cloth nappies are far cheaper. I think people just find any excuse not to try something that looks difficult. But whenever I hear that someone thinks cloth nappies are too expensive, I just ask how much they’ve spent on nappies in the last month.
Are there any resources that have really helped you on your cloth nappy journey?
Honestly, my mum has been the biggest help. She used cloth nappies for me and then helped me set up my supply for Isla. Otherwise, I found a bunch of YouTube videos and Instagram accounts while I was pregnant that really taught me how to set up your cloth nappy station and laundry to be prepared.
If a new parent was to approach you today and ask whether they should use cloth nappies, what would your response to them be?
Just go for it. On the outside cloth nappies can look like a tough job, but so is parenting! Once you get into the swing of things, it just becomes second nature. As long as your child is still in nappies, I don’t think it’s too late to start. I’ve found that it is definitely helping with toilet training and Isla knowing when she has a wet nappy.
How would you advise them to get started?
Like I said before, just give it a go. We are all spending much more time at home at the moment and there is no better time to start. I would suggest getting 5 or 6 nappies and trailing them while you’re at home. That way you aren’t worried about leaks or anything and you can give it a real go. I would say that it’s not going to be something that is really easy, but the more you do cloth it just becomes routine. Get yourself the basics and just try. Worst case, you can strip them and sell them on.
What’s the one piece of advice you would pass on to all cloth families?
Make sure you have enough inserts!! Sometimes it’s raining or for whatever reason you can’t get the inserts of the nappies dry. I recommend having an extra handful of inserts just in case. If I can share another piece of advice, it’s to look for secondhand nappies. That may seem gross, but with a proper strip of the nappies they are good as new. This means cheaper for you and you’re buying second hand.
What do you think needs to change for more families to come on board using cloth nappies?
Awareness. I don’t think it’s as accessible or publicised for parents, so they just don’t think about it. But disposable nappies last in landfill for a very long time and using cloth is just a simple way that we can help our environment. I think the benefits of cloth nappies need to be advertised more. Here in Australia, they aren’t very easy to buy in store, although they are slowly coming to more.
Cloth nappies aside, what other actions do you take to reduce your environmental impact?
Always remembering my shopping bags when I do groceries. This is something that is so simple to do, but so many people don’t do it. I always keep a reusable cup in my nappy bag (it’s really a bag full of everything) so that whenever I get a coffee, I have my own cup.
What type of world do you hope to see your daughter grow up in?
Hopefully a healthy one. This is such a big question. I hope that by the time she is older, females are respected more, listened to and taken seriously. I hope that she isn’t discriminated against because of her gender. I hope that she can do whatever job she wishes. Most of all, I just hope that she is happy and healthy and the world around her is a caring one.
If you could fix one thing in the world what would it be?
The problem that men seem to currently have with women. Women make up 51% off the world’s population and still somehow we aren’t taken seriously. The current political climate in Australia is atrocious and something that I would love to be able to fix.
Do you have any other words of advice or tips to share?
I’m not sure if every country does this, but there are a few councils (areas) in Australia that offer a rebate if you use cloth nappies. So you just send in your receipts and you can get money back for using cloth nappies.