Cloth nappy Australia on a baby
Living with cloth

#13: Actions speak loudly

Come say hello to Josie from Deniliquin. Josie sounds like so many mums I have interviewed for this blog – she started out with little knowledge of cloth nappies, just a drive to do better for the planet, then a short time later became a staunch cloth nappy addict. Only Josie has done something about it – she has started a local advocacy group as a place to encourage local parents to make the switch to cloth or share anything cloth related.

Josie speaks passionately about saving nappies from landfill and the joys it can bring to raising children. She speaks wisely about some of the most common modern cloth nappy misconceptions, including the extra work, the smell and the water wasted. And she also shares some of her favourite eco changes she recommends for all families.

Welcome, Josie @josie_a_lloyd

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

I grew up on a farm in North West Victoria (Australia). I met my husband Trav and moved to Deniliquin in Southern New South Wales. We have one baby, 14 month old Brett. I love living in the country. Deni is a lot like Hopetoun, where I’m from, only bigger. I love the friendly people, wide open space, the quiet pace of life and being close to nature.

What activities do your family like to do together?

We play in the backyard, go to the pool or go to the park. But the most special moments don’t have to be planned. Even jobs like groceries or errands up the street, we go as a family if we can. Or I love watching Trav and Brett play chasey around the house. Brett thinks it’s hilarious. They’re both so cute.

Can you share what makes your heart happy?

I’m a home body. My little family and home are my happy place.

You have to switch bodies and lives with someone for six months. Whose life will you inhabit and why? And what will you do in those 6 months?

I’m not sure who exactly I would swap with but I think I’d go back in time and swap with someone from the ’50s or ’60s. I’d love to meet my grandparents when they were young.

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

That’s a hard one. There’s lots I’d like to fix. I’d probably wish that every child in the world was safe from harm, had a full tummy and love in their homes.

Describe your motherhood journey to date.

I love being a mum. I think that’s my purpose in life. I’d say I’m pretty traditional. I don’t have any extreme opinions with anything and I’m not super strict or super lenient. I definitely pick my battles though. The most important thing to me is that my son is kind and respectful. I just want him to play and enjoy being a kid. He’s still little though and I know my parenting will have to change as he gets older.

The most rewarding thing is seeing him grow, learn new things and develop his own little personality. Probably the most challenging thing is when he pushes the boundaries. He’s at just the right age for that now and has perfected the art of the tantrum. I know it’s him just learning about the world and dealing with his own emotions so I try to keep calm.

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

I would prepare myself more for how emotionally and physically hard the first few weeks are. What I experienced wasn’t in any baby books. I would say stick up for yourself, trust your instincts, be strong, take lots of photos and cuddle your baby even tighter and for even longer. They’re not little for long!

What is the most important lesson you want your children to learn?

This is easy for me… that he is loved.

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

I’m an early childhood educator so I’ve changed a lot of nappies in my time. The smell of the nappy bin and the amount of nappies piled up at the end of the day were probably what prompted me to think about cloth when I fell pregnant myself. I didn’t like the feel of disposables, the smell of them, the look of them, the environmental impact or the price. My mum got me some flannelette flat nappies and they were so beautifully soft compared to disposables so I made the decision early on that I didn’t want disposables on my baby if I could avoid it. Or at least I wanted to do cloth at home. At that stage I didn’t even know modern cloth nappies (MCN) existed. I did some research, discovered MCN and the Clean Cloth Nappy website and never looked back. I was hooked from the beginning.

Can you describe your early days using cloth?

I started when we got home from hospital. I had my nappies and a routine organised and ready to go. We did part time for a start while I got used to them. I had a big baby (over 4 kgs) and started off with newborn sized all in ones which he just wet through all the time. If I had my time again, I would just go straight to one size fits most (OSFM). Once I changed to OSFM, we were off and running.

I started off just using them at home. As I got more confident, I started using cloth wipes, then began using them out and about, then used them overnight. Gradually I dropped disposables all together except for “emergency” ones in the car and nappy bag. I don’t know what emergency I was preparing for but they never got used and once he out-grew them I never bought disposables again. Around the 2 to 3 month age I was using a few disposables because life was pretty tumultuous. My mum was sick, I was doing a lot of travelling by myself with the baby to and from Melbourne and was here, there and everywhere. Everything at the time was unpredictable. Mum passed away and her funeral was in Tasmania. Which meant more travelling. Even though I was very confident with cloth and had my routine down-pat by then, I was staying at other people’s houses and there was so much going on that I didn’t want others to feel obliged to have nappies in their washing machines if they weren’t comfortable with it. I think that’s what disposables should be for – travelling, illness, tough circumstances or hospital stays. To me, disposable nappies should be the exception not the rule and be used as a last resort. I imagine that’s why they were invented in the first place.

Most surprisingly for me wasn’t even how easy it is to use cloth. I’d read in all the online cloth communities how it’s easy (and it is). What was most surprising for me was the smell – or lack thereof. They just didn’t smell like the chemical/ammonia smell that disposables had. Especially with early newborn poo, my beautiful cloth nappies just smelt like laundry detergent. It was a pleasant surprise.

Can you detail the research process you undertook before getting started with cloth?

I started off with a simple Google search. I was expecting to learn about how to soak, bleach, boil, fold and pin flat nappies and cover them up with a plastic pilcher like everyone told me I would have to do if I chose cloth. Little did I know there was a whole world of modern cloth nappies out there, hundreds of brands and a very extensive resource with all the information you could need (Clean Cloth Nappies). I’d read some info which lead me to more info which lead me to Facebook groups which lead me to brands and on and on it went and I couldn’t get enough. I was given some second hand ones and then bought my first pocket OSFM nappies. I couldn’t believe I’d never even heard of them and how much things had changed since my mum used cloth nappies on me. I’d never seen them in shops or been made aware about just how bad disposable nappies are for the environment. I found it all so interesting.

What has been your biggest challenge as a cloth family and how have you overcome it?

I honestly can’t think of a challenge as a family. Maybe the biggest challenge for me was how overwhelming it can be when you first begin researching. There’s a lot of terms, styles and brands. Once you get your head around it, it’s easy. 

Was your partner on board with using cloth?

My husband has been great and on the cloth bandwagon just as much as me from the very beginning. He can do every stage of washing, stuffing, etc but I like to do it because I’m a control freak with my nappies. I’ve even overheard him telling his friends how much he loves cloth. He likes saving money and he can’t stand the smell of disposables. I don’t think you need to persuade the naysayers too much. Actions speak louder than words and they’ll soon fall in love. It’s hard not to.

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

When I was pregnant I got a bit of negative commentary on my decision to use cloth – “you’ll last a week”, “you’ll get sick of soaking nappies” and all the rest of it. It was all from people who had never laid eyes on a cloth nappy let alone used one. I ignored it all and I’m so glad I did. Now I just focus on the many positive comments I get and I’m so confident with my knowledge of cloth that if someone tried to denigrate me about my choice now I’d happily have it out with them … respectfully of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I find grandmas and the older generation love my nappies. The ones I have spoken to all wished they had MCN when their kids were in nappies. They don’t view it as hard work and are glad cloth is making a comeback.

You describe yourself as a nappy addict. Tell us more.

Cloth nappies are definitely addictive. I’ve been banned from buying any more though. I do have more than enough and I’m trying not to buy into the whole consumerism side of it but it takes a lot of will-power. There’s always one more print which you want or one more brand to try.

Environmentally speaking, every day I’m saving disposable nappies from going to sit in landfill for 500 years and a huge amount of non-renewable resources going into the manufacture of something so temporary. I’m far from zero waste but I feel good about doing my bit.

There’s so many unknown chemicals in disposable nappies. I wouldn’t know what’s safe and what’s not so it’s peace of mind knowing it’s just cloth against my bub’s skin. They look so comfortable too. The porous PUL outer paired with natural inserts allows for breathability which helps prevent nappy rash.

And importantly, they’re just super pretty. I think if looking at a beautiful print and a cute little cloth bum makes something as mundane as catching wee and poo exciting then that’s something to be celebrated.

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

As parents, everything we do is for our children. I don’t want them to inherit an earth full of pooey nappies. Every disposable nappy and wipe is still on the earth and won’t go anywhere for generations to come. They’re in our oceans, in our rivers, in landfill and precious non-renewable resources are being used in their manufacture. Switching to cloth nappies and wipes might seem like a drop in the ocean in the war against waste but it’s not, it’s quite a substantial difference you can make. Cloth nappying full time for just one child will save 6000 or 20 green bins of nappies from landfill. If you have three kids that’s 18,000 nappies or 60 green bins! You could just use the same 25 cloth nappies for all three kids. As a society we are moving away from single use products, there is no reason why our nappies shouldn’t follow suit. My hope is that one day soon MCN become the new normal.

You have started your own modern cloth nappy advocacy group. Can you tell us more about the group?

Another cloth mum and I started Deniliquin Modern Cloth Nappy Community after we noticed we were getting lots of interest and questions from other mums. Advocacy groups are popping up all over the country so I figured why shouldn’t Deni have one? It’s really just a place for like-minded parents or grandparents to share anything cloth related and ask questions. Lots of cloth mums and dads have come out of the woodwork. I would have loved to connect with other locals when I was figuring out all this stuff when I was pregnant.

I have noticed a real buzz around cloth nappies in our community lately and this group is an easy way to encourage local parents to make the switch. Since starting the group I have started doing talks at the local new parents group. I’m no public speaker but I’m passionate about MCN and I’m really enjoying it. We’ve also had discussions with the local sustainability group about possible upcoming collaborations. One of the local pharmacies has now started selling MCNs. Things are on the up! I would love to get some more official workshops up and running to help more mums and dads find the confidence to start. Maybe even a nappy library or borrowing system. Some more info in birthing classes and Bounty Bags would be a step in the right direction too. Bums in cloth is the end goal.

What would you say your goal is as a cloth nappy advocate?

People power. Being a parent is hard. Being a new parent is even harder. There’s already so much pressure to be a perfect parent and judgement out there that most would rather stick with what they know than risk failing something completely unknown and “uncommon”. If a parent was on the fence about using cloth and they’re hearing horror stories, none of their friends use them, or their nana has told them they will have to soak pooey nappies of course they’re not going to want to use them. As an advocate, my goal is to help make information accessible, bust common misconceptions and normalise MCN. Every time I share something on social media, they see my baby in a cloth nappy or I do a talk to parents, that’s one little seed that’s been planted. They know it can be done and I, and many other locals, am proof.

What’s the one piece of advice you would pass on to anyone considering cloth nappies?

Clean Cloth Nappies. Use their website and their Facebook group. It is run by amazingly smart and dedicated mums/nappy queens. You’ll learn so much from them.

Can you detail your top 3 tips for getting started with cloth nappies?

Join an advocacy group, look out for council workshops, visit a bricks and mortar nappy store or even put it out to your Facebook friends and ask if anyone else uses MCN. Just connect with like-minded parents however that may look for you. We’re lucky with the internet we’re more connected now than ever and knowing real life people who have had success with cloth might give you the confidence to get started. Ask friends if you can see their nappies in real life, ask for a demonstration on how they are fitted. Just ask anything. No question is silly and the cloth community is so welcoming and helpful.

Research a wash routine. A good wash routine will be the difference between failing and succeeding. It’s not hard but it’s definitely worth putting in a bit of effort researching before starting. Going in half cocked could mean you run into problems with smells and stains, blame the nappies, give up, or even worse – put others off trying cloth. The Clean Cloth Nappy routine is the only one I recommend. Wash advice varies between every brand, making it pretty confusing. I would suggest ignoring them all, treat all your nappies the same and stick to Clean Cloth Nappies.

Have a go! Start with just one nappy a day if you prefer to ease into things. Try not to overthink it. Nappies are just clothes with a specific purpose. The worst that is going to happen is you get a leak.

Can you describe how you cloth while out and about or travelling? Any tips for parents hesitate to go out with cloth?

When I’m out, I go about a nappy change like anyone would, except I put the dirty nappy into a wetbag instead of the bin and take it back home with me. Wetbags are great at containing smells. I have some dry cloth wipes and a small bottle of water in my nappy bag. I just wet them as needed.

I’ve been on the boat to Tassie twice, flown once and done lots of car trips with cloth nappies. I’ve learnt a few things about travelling with cloth along the way. I think it’s important to do what’s right for you and your situation. If that means switching to disposables or going part time then that’s ok. My number one tip would be to try to maintain your routine as much as possible if you can. I have found it easier to keep going with cloth than to switch to sposies and have to catch up to washing. I just put my dry pail in the back of the car as it is and off I go. Take wetbags with you everywhere you go and double bag the poo ones. Dump as much poo as you can if you’re changing near a toilet. Do your research and book places with washing machines and take a bit of your favourite detergent with you so you can put a load on as soon as you get there. Packing inserts and covers separately can save space in your suitcase and if you’re flying, ask if you can bring another carry on bag if you think you need more room for nappies. One thing I haven’t tried yet is camping with cloth. I’m sure someone has done it successfully. Anything is possible but if you’re going on holidays to have a break from daily chores and taking your nappies just seems to be too much, then don’t be too hard on yourself.

What has your experience with night nappies been?

So far so good. I just used one of my better quality, super thirsty day time nappies up until about 6 months, and that would last him all night. Now he’s older with a larger output, I use either a daytime nappy boosted with a Peapod insert or a dedicated night nappy. He doesn’t wake and we don’t get leaks.

Can you share one of the most common misconceptions you hear about cloth vs disposables. How do you respond to this misconception?

There’s a few misconceptions circulating out there. One of the biggest ones I get is that cloth nappying is so much extra work. I think this is the result of a mixture of leftover advice from the old days and just a lack of awareness in the community. If it was too inconvenient people simply wouldn’t do it and cloth is only growing in popularity. I find washing nappies just falls into line with all my other washing and keeps me on top of my laundry. Basically it’s just like any other load of laundry except you wash them twice with hot water and use a good detergent. It’s not hard.

One of the biggest misconceptions about cloth nappies is that they are dirty, smelly and gross. How would you respond to this statement?

This is one I find really interesting and has a lot to do with how society’s perception of cloth has changed in just two generations, since the introduction of disposable nappies. You can tell parents that cloth nappies barely have a smell and that a load of nappies washed properly will come out cleaner than a normal clothes wash but I find the line is having to dump poo in the toilet. This seems to be just a step too far for a lot of parents. I would argue that as a parent you have to get used to dealing with every bodily fluid pretty quickly. Also, human poo is not meant for landfill where it mummifies and leeches bacteria into the water table. Poo is meant to be dumped in the toilet even off a sposie. It’s amazing to me that it’s become “dirty” or “gross” that poo ends up in the sewage to be treated properly rather than sitting in your bin. To me the bin seems like an odd place for poo and I would much rather send it down the dunny.

It’s commonly shared that using cloth wastes so much water. How would you respond to this statement?

I don’t think it’s a waste at all. The same amount of water to produce one disposable nappy will wash a cloth nappy for two years and most areas in Australia have access to a good water supply. You will learn so much about laundry doing cloth nappies, including how to wash more efficiently. Many rural families enduring drought have had to get pretty creative with their water usage. If you’re conscious of this, you can recycle bath water or use cloth part time. Front loaders use less water than top loaders too if that’s an option for you. There’s more info on the Clean Cloth Nappy website about saving water.

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?

Initially, the cost can be quite confronting but, in the long run, you will save thousands and then you can pass them on for another family to benefit from your nappies. If buying new is out of the question for you, have a look on second hand MCN Facebook pages. You’d be surprised what you can find. There is also a group called the Cloth Community Fund Australia that makes packs of MCN from donations. Just remember to strip and sanitise second hand nappies (details on Clean Cloth Nappies).

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

There’s lots of changes you can make that are on the way to cloth nappying.

Cloth wipes are great! They’re so effective and easy to clean. I use them for hands, face and bum. Just wet with plain water.

Wetbags are good for day care, the pool and out and about for wet and dirty clothes instead of using plastic bags.

Menstrual cups and period undies are the way of the future. Get on board if you haven’t already.

Dump poo in the toilet. On a pack of disposables it states to dispose of solids. It’s actually illegal to put poo in the bin. It’s just not enforced.

Start with a reusable swimming nappy and just wash it with your clothes.

Tell your friends! This is the most important one. Even if you don’t do cloth yourself, you can still recommend them for helping with nappy rash, saving money, being super cute, smelling better, supporting small and Australian businesses and helping the environment.

In brief

Number of bums in cloth. One 14 month old.

Time in cloth. 14 months.

Number of nappies. About 40 MCNs.

Full or part time. Full time.

Nappy style. Pockets are my favourite.

Stuff or snap. Stuff.

Pre-stuff or lay as you go. Pre stuff.

Line or tumble dry. Line – I don’t own a drier.

Favourite cloth related product. Cloth wipes and wet bags.

Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Satisfying.

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