reusable nappy on a baby
Living with cloth

#17: Flexibility is king

Reading today’s interview from Chrissie (or Bakes, as she is also known) is a reminder that cloth doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Bakes lauds the benefits of part time cloth for making life easier, yet still building a better future for our planet. She is passionate about making the world a happier place by reducing the stigma around mental health and advocating self-care for all, but also through sharing lots of pretty nappy stacks on Instagram.

Welcome, Chrissie @bakesandbungle

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

Of course. I’m Chrissie, married to Joe and mummy to Olivia (Bungle). We live in South East London, UK, and have been living in our current flat for around 3 years. Joe works as a paintball marshall (he loves it!) and I work for the NHS. We love the outdoors and we’re looking forward to taking Olivia to the Lake District when she’s a little bigger as it’s our favourite place.

Can you share your favourite part about living where you do?

I love how quiet it is. We live in London but it doesn’t feel like it. There’s a few pieces of woodland nearby that we can explore and it just feels so calm compared to the rest of London.

If you had to live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

Honestly? I’d love to live in the Lake District. It’s so beautiful and there is a kind of peace there. It’s our happy place.

What’s your life motto?

Umm … I’m not really sure I have one. I say “It’ll be fine” a lot, even when I’m not sure it will be.

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

It would have to be moving to London from Bournemouth to be with Joe. We were 19 and obviously it could have not worked out. But here we are, nearly 9 years together, married with a beautiful daughter.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I wish I could care a little less about what people think of me. My anxiety often manifests in a social anxiety kind of way. I wish I could just do something without worrying what others are thinking about it.

Can you share what makes your heart happy?

When Bungle smiles or just comes and gives me a cuddle; that makes my heart SO happy. I also absolutely love watching Joe and Bungle play together; it’s so fun and lovely to watch.

What is your greatest hope for your daughter?

I think my greatest hope for her is for her to be happy. I want her to be happy in what she does. I’d also like her to be kind. I think it’s so important.

How do you like to relax and unwind?

A good book, a hot chocolate and some music – relaxation central!

You are a huge advocate for mental health. Can you share a little about your mental health journey and what has led to your advocacy efforts?

Oh, wow. Where do I start? I’ve always struggled with my mental health but I don’t think I really started to recognise it until my early 20s. Since then, I’ve actively sought help by therapy and I’d managed to use those techniques well for a while. When I was pregnant, my mental health deteriorated so I ended up with more therapy, anti-depressants and was under a consultant for the last bit of my pregnancy. Since then, I’ve been relatively stable with a few hiccups here and there. I think what led me to want to advocate for mental health is that there is still such a HUGE stigma around mental health when there shouldn’t be. We all have mental health, some of us better than others, just like physical health. I think if we took the time to talk and understand a little more, the world would be a happier place.

Would you say that having children has affected your mental health? If so, how, and how have you worked to overcome this?

I think, if anything, having Olivia helped my mental health. She’s given me a real purpose and I want her to know that it’s okay to have periods of time when you might not feel like yourself, but that that’s not permanent.

What is your approach to health and wellbeing?

My approach? Do what you can. When you have a baby it’s not always possible to get back to the health and wellbeing routine you had before, so you need to adapt. Try and do little things – walk a little more, do some meditation. My main wellbeing tip is to just look after you, in whatever form that comes in. If you look after yourself by having a really long, bubbly bath, do it! If you look after yourself by going for a run, do it! There is no right way to look after yourself, so do whatever you need to.

Can you tell us a little about your motherhood journey to date?

I absolutely LOVE being Mummy to Olivia. She’s hilarious. Our start was a little tricky as she was back to back so I needed an assisted birth in the end, then breastfeeding didn’t work out so we went to formula. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy battling with both of those things in my head, but ultimately, I have a healthy, beautiful little girl and that’s what’s most important. I was lucky enough to take over a year of maternity leave when I included my holidays, so we had a lot of time to snuggle and play. It is tough, though. Especially when you’re battling with well-meaning comments that actually just make you feel really rubbish about what you’re doing. Slowly, I’m learning to ignore those comments and do what works for us. That’s taken a LOT of time though.

I think the worst thing has probably been when she’s been poorly and I haven’t known what to do – it’s so scary. Thankfully, the worst we’ve had is a fever that wouldn’t budge. The best thing was when she smiled. I saw her smile for the first time and it just made all of the negative feelings of anxiety melt away for those few seconds. Now she smiles all the time. She’s so happy.

The most surprising thing I think I’ve found is how I’ve changed. I always thought I’d be able to essentially do what I’d planned – waterbirth, breastfeed, not co-sleep, do lots of groups. But the truth is, I learn something new every day and I’ve learned to adapt to what SHE needs. We co-sleep, not by choice but by necessity really. It’s the only way anyone gets any sleep. I’m not the routined mum I kind of thought I’d be. I’m a loose routine mum who prefers to make her laugh.

What has been your most memorable moment of motherhood to date?

Ooh … my most memorable moment of motherhood so far would probably be when she took her first step. It was the day I was going back to work and she did it before I left. It was totally worth being late for.

What is your parenting philosophy and how do you try to live by it or incorporate it into your life?

Listen to your child, they are telling you something. I try to make sure I listen to Olivia – when she’s showing me trees or something on the TV, when she wants to read a book and when she’s upset. I make sure she knows that I’m there for her whenever she needs me.

What new skills have you learnt since becoming a mum?

Doing EVERYTHING one handed. I can push a buggy or trolley, or cook, or tidy up one handed. It’s very handy.

How do you handle the more stressful parts of motherhood?

I try to remind myself it’s all a phase. But I also make myself a cuppa and try to take 5 minutes for me. Either by leaving her playing or asking Joe to watch her while I get myself together.

How would you describe your identity change since becoming a mum? Have you struggled with defining who you are and how have you dealt with this?

I find this one tricky. I do feel as though I’ve lost part of who I used to be before becoming a mum, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. I used to get really upset at feeling as though I was just mum now, and Chrissie had disappeared. I used to love the gym and now I can’t do that because I can’t bear to be away from Olivia for too long. I used to love to read and now I don’t have the energy or concentration levels for it. BUT, I love being her mum. I feel like being a mum completed me in some way, and I’m finding ways to rediscover the bits that made me, me. I try to make the effort to get a workout in once a week, or read a few pages of a book when I can.

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

Asking for help is okay, and sometimes necessary. You don’t have to do it all on your own.

What does a typical day in your life look like right now?

A typical day? Is there such a thing? I guess a typical day for us at the moment is to wake up around 6-7am, nappy change, breakfast and getting dressed. It’s then a mishmash of whatever she fancies doing really. Reading takes up a large chunk of the day. At the moment I’m fairly sure we’re reading every single book she owns at least twice every day. I’ll be an expert soon. We end the day with dinner, bath (if it’s bath night), PJs and bed. Once she’s in bed, I usually just have a little time to myself or husband and I will watch a film together. At the moment, our typical day doesn’t exist because usually we would be working, but husband isn’t at the moment and I’m having to work from home as we’re isolating.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Can you describe your village and how it has impacted on your motherhood journey to date?

My village is amazing. My mum is always only a phone call away, with Joe’s parents living nearby. But I would say a HUGE part of my village is my mum friends. I’ve got some through work who were a massive support for me through pregnancy and who continue to be now, and I have another group of mum friends who I met online. They’re amazing. Day or night someone is usually around and it’s just nice to have a group of mums who just get it. We talk about when it’s hard and someone usually has an idea of how to help – even if the answer is gin. It’s just nice to have a space where I don’t feel judged.

It’s impacted on my motherhood journey because I don’t feel alone. I feel like there is always someone I can go to for advice or just to vent.

What compelled you to become a cloth family?

I joined a Due in December group when I was pregnant and there were a few cloth cheerleaders in there who got me thinking. So I did a little research, managed to get some freebies and the rest, as they say, is history.

What does your family’s cloth nappy use look like?

We are mainly part time. So that looks different depending on the day. Sometimes it means cloth in the day and disposable at night time – this usually happens if I’m not feeling great or our night time nappies aren’t dry. Sometimes it means that she’s in cloth when I’m home and disposable if she’s with my husband or mother-in-law as they’re not quite as keen. If there is a period of time when I’m home, we’re pretty much full time cloth.

What are your thoughts on the benefits of part time cloth?

I think there are a whole heap of benefits to part time cloth. For us, part time means that Joe doesn’t get stressed out by them. It also means that I have no underlying anxiety or worry about using disposables as I know that’s what we do to make cloth work for us. It’s also good to ease yourself in. There’s nothing worse than becoming overwhelmed and then giving up because you can’t cope. Flexibility is key in anything, and I think that really does include cloth.

Why do you love cloth? Give us your 5 greatest reasons.

EASY! 1 – They’re super cute and are another way of dressing her.

2 – They’re so much better for the environment.

3 – We are saving so much money in the long run!

4 – They’re a lot softer than disposables.

5 – They contain the poo so much better. Honestly, I think I’ve had one poo leak since starting and that was right at the start.

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

I hope that the future generations will have more respect for the planet than we did growing up. I hope the world is healthier, with more green areas and less pollution in the world.

Can you share the research process you undertook in choosing to use cloth nappies?

I’m not really sure I had a research process. I managed to talk to a few people who were using them and they pointed me in the direction of some good starter ones to try. I won’t lie, I went for the cheapest ones to begin with as I didn’t want to spend lots of money if they didn’t work for us. The main bit of research I did was about absorbency and which boosters were better.

Have others supported your decision to do cloth?

Friends, yes. Family, not so much. They tend to focus on the dirtier side of it – washing. When I try to explain to them that it is NO different to putting a soiled vest or baby grow into the washing machine, they’re not really quite sure what to say. My husband just said “whatever makes you happy.” Haha!

What or who has been most influential to your cloth journey?

The girls I’ve met since switching to cloth. They keep me going when I have questions and seeing the other babies in cloth definitely reignites my love for it.

Are there any resources that have really helped you on your cloth nappy journey?

Mainly Instagram. There are so many cloth bum mums on there that you can ALWAYS find the advice you need.

What makes cloth work for you?

I think knowing it’s not an all or nothing switch. Like I’ve said, our cloth usage can differ from day to day. If I forced it on Joe, I’m not sure we would still be going with it. Near the start I was probably thinking about giving up just because I hadn’t gotten into a routine so didn’t feel as though we had it together. Another time was when Bungle started being wrigglier, as it sometimes meant I wasn’t getting a good fit. I genuinely think the only reason we are still going is because we’re flexible with it.

Can you compare how using cloth differs to what you thought it would be like?

I thought it would be much harder than it is, and I was worried about smells. Now I know different. They’re just as easy as disposables and, once in the wet bag, I get NO smells.

What is your favourite memory relating to cloth nappies?

My favourite memory is the excitement I felt when I used cloth overnight for the first time and it worked.

What has been the hardest part about using cloth nappies?

The hardest part was definitely getting into a routine with the washes. I found it really hard to begin with, and especially when it’s not that warm outside. We also went through a period of getting leaks in EVERY nappy. It was so frustrating!

How do you keep order in your life with cloth nappies?

Okay, well, we wash every 3 or 4 days. When the wet bag is full, as this is generally enough for a full wash. We do a cold rinse and then the longest wash cycle the machine will do with non-bio powder detergent. I then hang outside on the line OR put them on the inside airer depending on the weather. When dry, I organise the nappies into different brands, organise the boosters by material then stuff. Oh, and storage? I have a nappy drawer that is my absolute favourite part of the flat.

How do manage cloth nappies with cooler weather?

Cool weather really bugs me with nappies. It takes an AGE to dry them – especially our night nappies and bamboo boosters. My main tip is to get a radiator airer and put boosters on those. The shells dry quickly whatever the weather. Oh, and an extra spin in the machine helps get rid of a little extra moisture.

How did you build your cloth stash?

I started off with a Bambino Miosolo that I purchased from the supermarket, but got a really good stash on a freecycle website. I then found that my local council gave £50 vouchers for reusable nappies so I built up a few more that way. I then just bought a few here and there.

If you had an unlimited budget to build a cloth stash, what would it look like?

OOOOOOOH. Dream stash? Okay, so a LOT of Close Pop-ins because they are SO reliable. I then love the Little Lamb night nappies and Petit Lulu wraps so I would probably double my current stash (this is useful for in the colder months when they don’t dry as quickly). I also love how versatile the Seedling Multi-fit pocket nappies are.

If you had only $500 to build a cloth stash, how would you do it?

I’d probably just stick to the budget brands, buy more boosters than nappies because, then, if the shell is dry but the boosters aren’t, you have some spare so you can keep going. I’d also look at preloved nappies. They’re usually still really good quality at a fraction of the price.

How do you approach dressing with cloth?

Cloth has never really impacted our dressing of Bungle. Luckily, the clothes we have seem to accommodate cloth really well. We don’t use specific brands either. Mainly supermarket and high street brands. We had a lot handed down to us too.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you started out in cloth?

That there are a lot of cute prints and I can’t have them all! Haha! But also, that routine with them is KEY to making sure they’re clean and dry.

You love giving advice about all things cloth nappies. Can you detail your 3 greatest tips or pieces of advice?

1. You don’t have to go all in. You can swap one nappy out at a time.

2. You don’t need to spend a LOT of money on the bigger brands. Get what works for you.

3. Don’t make the wash routine too complicated. A rinse, a long wash with detergent and line dry. EASY!

How often would you say you bring cloth nappies into a conversation, and what aspect of using cloth do you find yourself most frequently talking about?

Probably more than I’d like to admit. It usually starts with how cute they are, and then how easy they are to manage.

Would you say cloth nappies provide a form of therapy for you?

Yes! Not so much the washing or anything, but definitely the putting on, the stuffing and the organising. It’s nice to focus on something cute and pretty rather than the stresses of the outside world. There is just something very calming about organising, stuffing and storing nappies.

Is there a better time than now to try cloth?

In theory, no. The weather is getting nicer so drying doesn’t take so long, and disposables have been tricky to get in the supermarket so they would be a great choice to make right now. There are also lots of deals on with lots of companies to help with the cost aspect too. But, I also understand that sometimes people aren’t in the headspace for something new, so they should wait until they feel able to try it.

What do you consider to be one of the biggest reasons families do not make the switch to cloth?

I think it varies. Some people are put off by the upfront cost, others are worried about cleaning dirty nappies. What took us a while to actually make the switch was the thought of poo in my machine.

What do you think we can do to make the switch easier?

I think the more we share how easy cloth nappies are, including cleaning, the more confident people will feel. About the upfront cost, I think it would be great if there were more financial incentives to trying cloth, and having some in supermarkets that people can pick up during their weekly shop.

You have a declared love for all things eco. Besides cloth, what other eco choices does your family make?

We’ve just made small eco swaps. So, we use tea towels or dish cloths instead of kitchen roll now. I swapped from shampoo bottles to shampoo bars. I also ditched the kitchen sponge for a dishcloth and dish brush. The ones I’ve switched for myself are: reusable sanitary products and reusable make-up remover pads. The easiest switch was probably the cloth sanitary products, but that could be because I don’t use them very often.

What is your favourite eco product you use and why?

The shampoo bar! My hair doesn’t need washing as much anymore.

What eco switch do you recommend for families who must bear the cost in mind?

I’d say the cheapest ones are to ditch are make-up remover wipes for flannels. Really cost effective but they work.

What’s one thing we can all do daily to contribute to a better future for our children?

Just be more mindful of what we are doing. Stop wasting as much.

What are your thoughts on sustainability generally and how parents as a whole can make a difference?

I think sustainability has a bit of a bad rep and people just kind of associate it with “hippy” times. I actually think sustainability is a really easy way to live; it’s just different to what we’re used to. As parents, we can make a difference by doing small eco switches and building up over time. We are the ones who teach our children and I think it’s important to make sure they are able to make better choices.

Looking back at your cloth journey so far, of what are you most proud?

That we made the switch. There were times in the early days I thought I’d give up. I’m so glad we didn’t.

Do you have any other words of advice or tips to share?

Take the plunge! It’s not as tricky as it sounds and there are ways to make it even easier and cheaper. You’ll fall in love with cloth and it’ll be one of the best things you do.

In brief

Number of bums in cloth. Just the one.

Time in cloth. Just under one year, I can’t believe how fast that’s gone.

Number of nappies. Umm … 40ish? Plus a few night nappies (and a few I’ve put in the loft because Bungle has learned to pull velcro off).

Full or part time. Part time on the whole. We do have some periods of time where we are full time.

Nappy style. Pretty pockets are my favourite.

Stuff or snap. Stuffing.

Pre-stuff or lay as you go. This tends to depend how organised I am, but I try to pre-stuff once they’re dry – it makes life SO much easier.

Line or tumble dry. Line – we don’t have a tumble dryer.

Favourite cloth related product. Tricky! Maybe a wet bag? I love how easy they make cloth out and about.

Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Tough one – Interesting!

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