Today’s interviewee, Hanna, has followed a path to cloth nappies with which many will be familiar. She didn’t start straight away in place of mastering breastfeeding and becoming a mother, but soon realised reusable nappies were no more difficult than the many other eco swaps she’d been making for years.
As a stay-at-home dad, Hanna’s partner, Josh, does the bulk of the nappy changing in this family’s life, but it is Hanna who claims the washing as her favourite chore. This is a family that is doing its best to share the load of parenthood.
Welcome, Hanna @engineermumma
Tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live, and what you love about where you live.
My name is Hanna and I’m a 25-year-old mechanical engineer and mum to my daughter, Megan, who’s 11 months old. I’ve been with my partner, Josh, for four years and he is a stay-at-home dad since I went back to work a month ago. We live in the western suburbs of Adelaide (Australia), between the beach and the city. We love how Adelaide isn’t too busy, so is a lovely place to raise a family, and our house is almost central between our parents’ so our daughter gets to spend lots of time with her grandparents as none of them are too far away.
Describe a typical weekend for your family.
When not in lockdown, we are often out watching some sort of sport as my partner loves cricket and SANFL. I’ll often take our daughter to the shops as I just love wandering while my partner is playing cricket in the summer and we also love spending time with family and friends. During this whole COVID-19 situation, we are staying at home other than walking to the local park where my partner will practice cricket skills and I’ll play with my daughter on the picnic rug while she’s kind of learning to crawl but currently prefers rolling.
Describe your greatest passions in life.
I love working in my career as an engineer. Outside of that I strive to be a good mother and teach my daughter how to be a good person and care for the world we live in.
How do you ensure you look after yourself? What kinds of activities help you feel like you?
Working is the biggest thing that helps me feel like myself. It means I’m refreshed to be the best mother after work and on the weekends and be most present with Megan. I also love doing my nails with gel polish at home.
Can you explain what it means to you to be doing your bit for the planet?
I’ve been actively replacing single use items since 2017 when I found an eco store, Biome, whilst living in Brisbane for a short time and have slowly been changing the way I live. My partner jokes that I’m a bit of a hippy, a title which I’m proud to have. I want my daughter to have a world to live in, so I feel it’s my responsibility to help the planet.
What are your thoughts on sustainability and how parents as a whole can make a difference?
I think it is easy to be sustainable as a parent if you have the right education and, as parents, we can set the best example for our children. They watch our every move and learn more than we realise.
What is the most important lesson you want your children to learn?
That every little thing we do matters. “It’s only one straw, said 5 million people” is such an important quote.
Can you tell us about your motherhood journey – how you got here, the best, the worst, the most surprising?
I have always wanted to be a mother and am very fortunate to have my daughter reasonably young. The best part is watching a human I created develop her own little personality and the worst is losing me time. The most surprising thing for me has been how much I can love her and how I can’t imagine my life without her.
How has parenting changed you?
I have to think about how my actions are viewed by my daughter so I’m more aware of what I’m doing. I’m conscious of the fact I’m raising part of the next generation.
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 parents and my partner’s parents have been so amazing in helping us to raise Megan. Both our parents are split and remarried/partnered so she has 8 grandparents and multiple great grandparents too, as well as many biological and honorary aunts and uncles. Having so much emotional and physical help has been amazing and I’m so glad Megan has so many people who love her so much.
Do you feel mother guilt? If so, you do you manage it?
Yes, definitely. A friend of mine lost her son at 22 weeks gestation when Megan was 5 months old and I struggled so badly with guilt that my little girl is here safely and her little boy isn’t. Talking to others has helped me the most.
Can you tell us a little about your working life, and how you found the return to work after spending 8 months at home with your bub?
I work 9 days a fortnight as an engineer for the government which is an office-based job, but with the current situation I’m currently working half my time at home which has made my transition back to work smoother. I love my job so it’s my time to just be me and I thrive there, so it means I come home a better mother. I’m feeling a lot more patient with Megan since returning to work.
What are some of your challenges with finding a work life balance?
Being able to put my all into both and not having the same flexibility with time at work. I need to get home to get Megan ready for bed and can’t leave until I’ve given her a breastfeed in the morning so getting ready takes longer. I have to pump milk on the days I’m in the office so making sure I have the time to do that around meetings and other work requirements.
Best advice you’ve ever been given about motherhood.
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you should do something but take on suggestions of things that people say you could do and make them work for you. My mum told me that.
What clichés of motherhood do you think are unfair?
That the mother is the main parent. I had people ask if I’d set out a routine for Josh and Megan for when I went back to work. He’s perfectly capable of parenting our daughter just as much as me. I also have people thinking that it must be harder for me to be at work than for a father to be away from their child at work.
Can you explain what motivated you to start using cloth nappies?
I always wanted to before Megan was born but never got around to getting any and then just used disposables because that’s what people had bought me. After the bushfires in Australia, I couldn’t keep throwing away all these nappies and so I properly looked into cloth. As soon as I started, I’ve never looked back.
Are you able to articulate why you didn’t use cloth from birth?
I don’t know anyone in person who uses cloth and so they seemed really daunting. Also, the idea of learning how to breastfeed, which I really wanted to do and struggled with initially, and learning how to cloth just seemed too much.
Describe the difference you hope to make for future generations by using cloth and other eco friendly options?
Knowing that I’m no longer contributing to landfill with my daughter’s nappies is such a good feeling, and teaching my daughter how we can help the planet is important to me.
Can you describe your early days in cloth?
The first cloth nappy I bought was a swim nappy and then we started part time with a trial pack when my daughter was 6 months old. Then I quickly bought some second hand nappies that I was able to pick up and we prioritised those ahead of disposables. I then bought a bunch of nappies in a new release and the addiction began there as I added another brand in a similar style so that we could get to full time. To ease the pressure on washing and drying time I bought a bunch more second hand nappies and now I just add to our stash when I find a really cute pattern. I was very quickly reaching for cloth nappies first and found washing them way easier than I thought it would be with the help from the online cloth community. It’s been much easier using cloth than I ever thought it would be and I’m so glad that we made the switch.
Can you share your research process before starting with cloth?
I bought some wet bags to use with disposables so then went back to the same company to purchase a swim nappy before we started swimming lessons. I went back to this same company and checked out their online resources as well as a bit of general research on different nappy types. I decided side snapping seemed easiest for me and my partner to use as he’s a stay-at-home dad and I needed them to be easy enough for him to use otherwise they wouldn’t be worth using.
Can you describe what has surprised you most about using cloth?
How addictive it is and how much I love them. Also, how easy using and washing cloth is.
Looking back at your cloth journey so far, of what are you most proud?
Starting even though I don’t know anyone who does cloth.
Would you describe yourself as addicted to cloth nappies? If so, why?
Definitely! I want to buy all the patterns and have been banned from buying nappies by my partner.
What has been your biggest challenge as a cloth family and how have you overcome it?
We’ve been fortunate to not really have any challenges. We found a style of nappy that we like that fits our daughter well and both my partner and I learnt to fit them well quickly.
What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you started out in cloth?
I can’t think of anything when we started but I wish I’d known before we started how easy it is because then we would’ve started sooner.
Can you share a little about your daughter’s experiences with eczema and how it has or has not affected your cloth journey?
My daughter’s eczema started when she was around 6 weeks old and has been very up and down with the use of various creams, ointments and antibiotics when it’s been infected, as well as us having to give her bleach baths (random fact – I didn’t even flinch when the doctor told me to give my daughter a bleach bath because I’d recently done an S&S on some second hand nappies). The only thing in relation to cloth that has been affected by her eczema is that we use eco detergents on her clothes and nappies so our cloth nappies get washed in 60 degree water. When we went on holiday and used a friend’s mainstream detergent, she got nappy rash so I rewashed everything.
What style of nappy do you use & why do you like it?
We use side snapping all in twos because there are no rise snaps to worry about so they’re super easy for my partner and Megan’s grandparents to fit. I find all in twos easy to put together so the nappies are ready folded for change time.
What is your favourite nappy print style and why?
Rainbow or Australian animals seem to be the ones that grab me and we have quite a few in our stash.
Can you share your experiences with cloth wipes?
We started using cloth wipes not too long after cloth nappies because Coles had some cloth wipes and I decided I wanted to support cloth in the supermarket and I didn’t like the style of cloth nappies they sold. I started off using them for wees and then tried using them for poos and realised how much easier they were. I now hate disposable wipes so much so I’m giving the rest of mine away. For parents who are hesitant, just try them, particularly if you are already using cloth nappies. You just wash them with your nappies and you only need 1-2 wipes per nappy change, 3 for a really messy nappy. I didn’t believe that until I tried.
What are your time management tips for cloth?
I haven’t found it too challenging to fit cloth into our lives because it doesn’t involve much more time than disposables. The only thing that takes longer is the washing and the washing machine does that part for me. A lot less time is involved than I expected. Hanging out the nappies is the longest manual task and even that doesn’t take too long.
How do you approach dressing with cloth?
In warmer weather, we put less clothes on my daughter so we could show off her cute nappy designs. In cooler weather, she usually wears leggings and they fit fine over all the nappies we use. I haven’t found any particular issues with dressing her with cloth compared to disposables.
Was your partner on board with using cloth?
Yeah, he was happy with us starting cloth and I checked with him when choosing which nappies as we knew he’d be doing most of the changes. He agreed that it is better for the environment and he loved the idea of us saving money. He just didn’t want to do origami (using terry towels).
Have there been any changes to your cloth routine since you returned to work?
My partner does more nappy changes than me now and he puts the washing on sometimes which before I always did and he helps me hang the nappies out. I enjoy folding the nappies so I still do that. The washing is my favourite chore so it’s always been my job by choice. We split the chores between Josh and me.
What has the response to using cloth been like from your family and friends?
My family think it’s great that we use cloth. Some of my family are vegan and low waste so they think it’s awesome and the rest of our families just think it’s really good that we’re using them plus they think the patterns are adorable. Both my mum and my partner’s mum have babysat Megan and successfully changed her multiple times and put the nappies in the dry pail for me to sort. Our grandparents think that us using cloth is awesome and they’re impressed by how much they’ve changed since they used cloth on our parents. We haven’t had any negative response from anyone.
What is the most encouraging comment you have received from someone supporting your cloth journey, and how did it make you feel?
We’ve had lots of really encouraging comments, mostly from family saying they’re proud of us or impressed that we use cloth. It’s always nice having people make positive comments about our choice to use cloth.
What advice do you have for parents considering the move to cloth?
Just give it a go! Go on Facebook and ask questions in the cloth groups, the community there is amazing and so helpful. Remember that every cloth nappy used is a disposable not in the bin.
How would you describe to non-cloth families all the benefits of reusable nappies?
There’s no chemicals sitting against your baby’s skin. Cloth nappies contain most poo explosions so you don’t have to clean a baby covered in poo. They’re way cuter than disposables. You never run out so there’s no rushing to the shops to get nappies or watching for specials so they don’t cost so much.
You’ve got one minute to convince a pregnant mother to use cloth – go.
Have you seen how cute they are? Would you like to know exactly what it sitting against your baby’s skin? Would you like to know that you will have little to no poo explosions? Would you like to have access to an amazing community of parents online who will be able to help you with any questions you may have?
How do you manage a wriggly baby?
My daughter is super wriggly and I’m so glad we use side snaps because we can still do her nappy up properly even when she’s half twisted trying to reach thing on the change table.
Number of bums in cloth. 1 daughter.
Time in cloth. 3 months, since she was 6 months old.
Number of nappies. 30 day nappies and 4 night nappies so far.
Full or part time. Full time since 8.5 months.
Nappy style. Side snapping all in twos.
Stuff or snap. Snap.
Pre-stuff or lay as you go. Pre snapped.
Line or tumble dry. Line.
Favourite cloth related product. Wet bags.
Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Satisfying.