For self-confessed ‘bad-ass’ mum, Shelby, cloth nappies are priceless. Environmental benefits aside, they mean she doesn’t have to ‘wrangle a baby covered head to toe in poo’, and she doesn’t have to see the ‘poop sag’, for which disposable nappies are known.
She isn’t trying to be perfect by using cloth nappies. She is trying to reduce her waste and make life easier. “Being environmentally conscious isn’t about being perfect; it’s about trying,” she says.
Living in north central Victoria, it’s often assumed Shelby would find it hard to continue with cloth for her son given the water shortages. However, at 25, she knows experience reigns supreme. Even with three adults and two children in her household, she says they have only had to pump water once this season. She attributes her success to the efficiency of modern washing machines and research based washing methods.
Read on to find out how Shelby overcame her ‘slackness’ in the laundry department, and why her father-in-law loves the look of cloth nappies.
Welcome, Shelby @spencersecobum
Tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live.
I am 25! I have two children – Dylan is 5, and Spencer nearly 6 months. I married Luke in July of last year after a whole 9 years together. We live in north central Victoria and have for all our lives. We love living in the country, especially the quiet and the distance from people. My family brings me the most happiness in life – for obvious reasons!
What is your parenting motto and how do you try to live by it or incorporate it into your life?
I’m chill. As long as the boys are happy and my husband and I are happy, that’s all that matters. We love anything – driving around – seeing places and walking around towns and walking tracks and bakeries and four-wheel-driving. I want my children to learn empathy – I don’t want them to not know how to feel for others, and I want them to be able to put themselves in others’ shoes.
What has motherhood taught you about yourself?
I’m a badass. I get to grow two whole entire people and work and manage my family. Sure, sometimes I can only do one at a time, but I manage it! I’m finding it harder now with two kids, but I work for my in-laws and am very lucky that, if I am needed at home, they don’t hold it against me. I’m always torn between wanting to stay home more since I am working full time and needing to provide for our family; it’s not just my husband’s job and working does add value to my life. Keeping skills and getting that social aspect out of it too. I don’t think there is a balance yet but I’m only 6 weeks into being back at work after my parental leave so we can only hope it gets easier.
Talk us through what led you to using cloth with your son.
A friend I had made while working at my in-law’s shop introduced me. She used them part time but she really helped open my eyes to the saving and environmental impacts. She also helped me with my wash routine and terminology. We didn’t start until Spencer was 3 weeks old but we found it pretty simple; it was just taking the jump to begin with.
What do you love most about cloth?
I love the look and how it’s reducing my rubbish in the bin. Both were the first things I noticed when I changed from disposables. Cloth nappies don’t sag when worn! The prints you can get are just divine and you can’t tell your baby has pooped by looking at him. This is something I hated about disposables. I also love the community and I’ve even made new friends from all over the country and world.
What do you find the most challenging about cloth?
The ridicule. So many people like to make fun of us for using them but don’t understand or care to listen. We find people think we are ‘eco warriors’ like it’s a bad thing. I just tell people to give them a try or to watch me! Some people are interested; others think you’re elbow deep in poo all the time and just can’t shake that. I don’t judge.
Looking back at your cloth journey so far, of what are you most proud?
I am so proud of the laundry. I’ve always been very slack in the laundry department, but with the nappies, I have managed to stick to a wash routine with no real hiccups since starting. Every morning before I leave for work, I put the prewash load on and that’s it. On day four of my wash, I do a second load after my prewash with all my soiled nappies and I’m done. If I do need help, my husband is easily able to put either load on for us.
Any challenges you have overcome?
We haven’t had too many problems really. We had a small issue with blow flies but our house is old and the fly screens are no good, so I set up an auto sprayer in the bathroom and haven’t had an issue since. We are on tank water, but I haven’t found it’s using any extra! Which was great news for the past summer. I think we don’t use any extra water because I’m using my machine effectively. Before cloth, I was a quick 15-minute wash kinda person but now all my clothes are washed in warm water. They come out cleaner and I’m not rewashing, and without stains. I’m glad I learnt this now at 25 rather than in another 15 years. The facts are the best way! Even people on town water say the difference in water usage a quarter is in the cents, not even worth counting. Modern machines are much more efficient than they used to be! Last summer we had to pump water and buy water to get through. This year we have pumped once around mid-summer and we haven’t had to since, and we have three adults and two kids living here. Make sure you check out cleanclothnappies.com for science based washing tips. None of that soaking or vinegar or cold washing – 100% proven nappy cleaning advice.
What has the response to using cloth been like from your family and friends?
My mum was hesitant at first knowing my slackness with housekeeping but she has come around now. My in-laws are very supportive, especially my father-in-law who loves how they look. My friends support me but they aren’t keen to try just yet, but I’ve said my door is always open if they want to. People wrongly assume it’s so much poop and washing, but it’s only a couple of extra loads a week and I only deal with the poop once a day.
Any tips for encouraging partners or other family members to come along the cloth journey?
Just be positive! Let people watch you and see how wonderful it is. Don’t judge them for using disposables. Some people don’t realise how convenient cloth is. You don’t have to worry about running out of nappies. I know with Dylan there were many 9pm supermarket runs because we thought we had more or Dylan had a poopy day but, with Spencer, if my nappies are starting to run low I can just wash them and have them ready quicker. When out and about, I don’t need to worry about finding a bin or carrying around smelly disposables because I have wetbags ready which contain everything perfectly. And I haven’t had one poo leak in all the time of using cloth! I never have to try and wrangle a baby covered head to toe in poo and that’s priceless, honestly.
What advice do you have for parents considering the move to cloth?
Ask as many questions as you need. Someone knows the answers, or knows someone who does. Try lots of different kinds of nappies – snaps, velcro, double gussets, snap and wipe. Everything you can – – try it!
How has cloth changed the way you approach life?
I’m definitely more conscious about using single-use items and try to choose more reusables, such as metal straws, a menstrual cup, Tupperware to purchase our meat and keep our pantry tidy, beeswax wraps and containers for Dylan’s lunch box. All super easy exchanges from single use. I also try to drive my car a bit less. Living 30 minutes from everything means I do drive quite a bit but I’m trying to cut that down.
Design your dream nappy …
Honestly, I have them. Anything from Baby Beanz or Sub Rosa Cloth is a perfect nappy in my house.
For style, I love floral for sure. I love Spencer in florals and always reach for them first! If anyone says otherwise, I say flowers are for everyone! Who said women and girls can only enjoy flowers. Plus I’m the one changing him, so he gets to wear what I like too. Dylan loves the florals that I’ve gotten.
What does your cloth nappy change station look like?
We just have a standard change table and have three Kmart tubs underneath with wipes nappies and inserts.
How do you manage cloth while out and about?
Regular wetbag, mini wetbag in case of poop and 2-5 nappies depending how long we will be out.
What is your favourite cloth nappy accessory?
Mini wetbags! So useful anything you can think of it’s can be used for – snacks, books, metal straws and cutlery. A million and one uses.
How do you approach dressing your son given his cloth bum?
Being summer he is mostly just in a nappy but I’m finding everything else is fitting okay with the occasional compression leak due to him being a big boy.
How would you explain the saving and environmental impacts of using cloth?
I definitely mention how our wheelie bins aren’t full of nappies every week and that the house doesn’t smell at all. I don’t have to risk other kids or pets getting into them and, really, the amount we throw away is horrendous – nearly 6000 nappies a child! I couldn’t believe it when I read that! Sometimes the size of that number really shocks people. I then try to follow up that it then can take over 150 years to decompose and that every disposable ever used is still sitting in landfill! The horror on people’s faces is interesting but I don’t think they realise that being environmentally conscious isn’t about being perfect it’s about trying. I still drive my car and eat meat and buy things from large stores but I’m trying to be better – one thing at a time.
Number of bums in cloth. Just the one! Little Spencer.
Time in cloth. Since October 19th, so almost 5 months.
Number of nappies. Somewhere between 40-60. I did have 70 but I sold a few so I can get WAHMs instead of cheaper brands.
Full or part time. Full time! I love it.
Stuff or snap. I prefer to stuff or to lie in the shell.
Pre-stuff or lay as you go. Definitely pre-stuff. Makes it so much easier! Though I do fall back on stuffing sometimes and stuff as I go.
Nappy style. Definitely OSFM AI2/pocket. Not really a fan of AIO as they take a looong time to dry!
Line or tumble dry. Line dry! We don’t have a drier so everything goes on the clothes horse either outside or inside.
Favourite cloth related product. I love Tuff Stuff to help with stains or even to pre-treat so you don’t get them. The little bag thing it comes in is great.
Your journey with cloth in one word. Exciting!