Baby in an Australian modern cloth nappy
Guest post

#10: Every effort is perfectly enough

Our first guest post comes from Abi who highlights the importance of balancing expectations and pressure around using cloth. She says there are enough worries in parenthood that we should be celebrating any efforts we make.

Welcome, Abi @abigail_gately

Kia Ora. I’m Abi, mum to Willa, who is almost 3, and 9 month old Rosie. We have been using cloth nappies since our second babe was 3 months old.

I tried cloth nappies with our first daughter and didn’t feel enamoured by them, if I’m completely honest! Looking back, I simply lacked knowledge and, with that, came a lack of confidence. I remember looking through cloth nappy groups on Facebook and feeling quite overwhelmed – nappy types, wash routines, the lingo! With enough newness in our life adjusting to motherhood, we defaulted back to disposables and that was acceptable to us at the time.

Baby number two came along two years later, by which time my environmental conscience was whirring into action. I knew cloth nappies were a significant way to reduce our waste and the decision was made.  We gave ourselves the grace to get through the early weeks with our new addition and find our rhythm prior to diving into using cloth. I still felt a little overwhelmed about the different options and routines, but this time I was confident in other areas of motherhood and knew we could make space to learn the ropes.

One of the most helpful things I did was visit a dedicated nappy store in Brisbane and get the lowdown in person. We left with everything we needed to use cloth nappies full time by day and eagerly got underway. We also repurposed some of the unused napkins I had made for our wedding as cloth wipes, which I find easier than using disposable wipes and separating them into the waste.

First time around, I found the laundering daunting (so much terminology). With a bit of understanding and much less overwhelm, the second time around I was able to break it down to a very achievable starting point. I found the Clean Cloth Nappies website a goldmine of information and could establish and troubleshoot my wash routine from their online resources. The rest we tweaked as needed and have found it pleasingly easy to have clean nappies – and much cleaner general household laundry as well. Yes, there are nights I would rather crawl into bed than scrub a poop away. But in all, the effort required to dramatically cut down our waste has been very manageable and, more so, hugely satisfying.

Even though our firstborn was pretty much out of nappies by the time we started using cloth, she loved the pretty designs and would often ask to have one on as well. We have one night nappy which she will reach for by preference if it’s on the clean pile. Our stash is enough to last three days which currently suits us perfectly, though it is hard to say no to some of the gorgeous prints.

The thing that has surprised me the most in using cloth is how much our waste bin smells if there are disposable nappies in it. Even with soiled nappies, the pail we have for used cloth in our baby’s room is not at all offensive in comparison.

I wouldn’t say I have reached cloth nappy utopia, but that is exactly the reason I wanted to contribute here. We are a run-of-the-mill cloth using family. Cloth nappies fit into lives with relative ease and suit our values. Many incredible mums start cloth even before they bring their new babes home from hospital. Many incredible mums use cloth part time, others day and night, or with multiple children at the same time. Every effort is perfectly enough.

One of the reasons I returned to disposables with our first baby was the guilt that I manifest about not fitting the mould of a round-the-clock cloth nappy devotee. In hindsight, I wasn’t confident enough to own and value the efforts I was making at the time even though they may have seemed small. I say this because, if I felt it, chances are I’m not alone. Even now, some days go pear shaped even before I failed to butter my toddler’s toast right to the corners, and I know to get through the day something has to give. And some days, that means using disposables. Some days, wrestling our baby into the multi component nappies we have as she flip flops like a fish out of water is more than my sleep deprived tolerance will allow and I reach for pull ups. We are now trying to capture the right moments to sit her on the toilet throughout the day in the hope that she can be nappy free at home as she is much too busy to stay still for a nappy change.

Unlike my first attempt at cloth, I know better now than to stigmatise myself for what I am not doing. I enjoy using cloth when I can, which is almost every nappy by day. There is enough else to worry about in this mothering gig and I know that the contributions we are making to reduce our consumption and landfill are perfectly enough for now.

Happy clothing!

About the author

Abi and her family moved from Wellington to Brisbane, Australia, two years ago with the intention of heading back home after a year or so. Having just bought their first home in Brisbane, however, they are now set to stay. During this time of isolation, the family’s usual way of life with kids’ activities and meeting friends has been replaced with a slower and much more connected rhythm at home and they are generally relishing this time together. Abi says they love visiting local creeks and green spaces to burn energy and explore much of the haven of curiosity they have in their own back yard. Abi’s husband is a doctor and, pre-babies, she was nursing, but she currently plans to stay home for as long as it works for the family. She says she is lucky she has extended family nearby, and thankful her girls are growing strong family bonds with cousins, aunties and uncles. The family’s favourite destination for now is most definitely home.

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