#39: You are my people

modern cloth nappy family
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Courtney is a passionate Australian mama of one (soon to be two) who chooses to contribute to a greener world in a myriad of ways, not the least of which is with reusable nappies. It means a lot to her, she says, and she hopes it will mean a lot to her kids. While Courtney has faced many disgusted and defensive reactions from others about her cloth nappy use, she shares a story of the time a nurse noticed her son wearing cloth and she knew she had found her people. As a nurse herself, Courtney is less than phased by poo, and she shares here many witty morsels about life with a baby in cloth nappies.

Welcome, Courtney @queencorky

how to use modern cloth nappies as a family

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

My name is Courtney, first time mum to Archer. Also a psych nurse in a major public hospital. I used to work in a bookshop so I love to read very much. We have 2 cats, Poe and Lil; they despise each other much to my severe disappointment. My husband and I and our little fella live in North Brisbane.

I love going on our morning walk through the suburb, walking among the pine trees searching for the occasional koala. I’m an ice queen sadly so I wish it was cold all year round, instead its mostly steamy.

How would you describe your family?

Small and cozy, devoted to each other and we love taking it slow.

What do you do for fun?

Drive up to the hinterland to visit my best friend. Pottering around in our little garden. Baking. We love taking Archer to see animals, local petting zoos and even just nearby beaches to see the crabs. Visiting the library, playing and reading together.

What do you like to do on rainy days?

My absolute favourite type of weather! We typically put on some Studio Ghibli and drink lots of tea and just be lazy – or I bake! It’s glorious.

When you’re in the shower, what do you think about?

Chores (boring) or food, haha.

What have you read or watched recently that is worth sharing?

I’m currently reading The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan. It’s pretty bizarre (kinda gothic fiction) but compelling and intriguing.

What’s your favourite childhood memory?

What a question! Playing outside in the rain with my little brother and our dogs. Nothing stopped us from going into the yard with all our toys and imagining up a storm.

What personal trait has gotten you in the most trouble?

I speak my mind way too much before even thinking about it and also can’t keep a secret to save myself.

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?

Oh, I’d just go back to being me again in my early 20s and do a lot more travelling! I spent so much time in uni, like my entire 20s. I definitely have a lot more to see and experience out there.

When do you feel your best self?

After a really long, luxurious shower!

One thing you try not to take for granted?

Our health! We have been so lucky.

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

Mental illness.

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

Respect animals, revere nature.

What has motherhood taught you about yourself?

To embrace gratitude. Things will seem rough but it’s a blip in time, in the scheme of things. So just sit in it. I guess it’s forced me to finally start living mindfully.

What kind of mum would you say you are?

Devoted, gentle, researches all the things, into open-ended play and learning, focused on instilling a deep love of books, encourages outdoor play and exploration, social.

Baby in Designer Bums modern cloth nappy at the beach

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

Impossible question! It wasn’t really a moment but a phase that suddenly crept in – he finally, finally, after nearly a year, started to take naps longer than 29-31 minutes! And finally slept more than 2hrs at night, longer and longer until he slept through consistently. Ohhhh, the relief. SLEEP!!

What clichés of motherhood do you think are unfair?

Sleep when the baby sleeps HAHAHA, yeah right.

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?

Hmm. Social media came to the rescue for me. Those exhausting nights when you feel like you’re up breastfeeding all night, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, you wonder if there’s something wrong with you, something wrong with the baby, whether you’ve made a big mistake and you’re not cut out for this. Social media in all its forms was so reassuring for me and also enabled me to connect with friends I couldn’t see in person. Then, there was the shining warm guiding beacon that is MY MUM! She truly saved me from a very dark, very low place. She just swooped in and fixed it all over and over again. And as a reward, she has an extremely special relationship with Archer.

How do you handle the more stressful parts of motherhood?

My husband. I talk him to death when things are hard, especially because my paid job as a psych nurse is so heavy. I also probably drive him mad when things are really difficult, but he’s solid. He knows it will pass. I also have finally learned to delegate and ask for help.

Do you feel mother guilt?

Man, who doesn’t. I’ve eased off on myself a lot more these days but initially I didn’t really manage it at all. My mental health was a wreck for quite a while. Social supports have been everything. Mostly my mum!

Best advice you’ve ever been given about motherhood.

“It gets better.” I absolutely refused to believe it for so long but, as time went on, I realised hey … it really does get better! It’s so hard. I suffered so much with depression, sleep deprivation, guilt, extreme anxiety … but I stayed true to my own mama style and, sure enough, not only did it get better, but it all paid off. It’s all so fun and so beautiful now.

What family traditions do you follow?

I can’t really think of any, except for using humour. Humour can get you through a crappy time with a smile on your face and help you feel light hearted and positive.

What is something you would like your children to remember about you?

Fun, big fun! And big love.

Designer Bums modern cloth anppy

Can you talk us through what led you to using cloth with your son?

I have been trying to cut down on plastic in our household for a long time now, and when we learned of my pregnancy I dove into the excessive amount of info out there about what you need for a baby. I discovered how many nappies babies go through and I truly couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night knowing I was contributing to quite that much landfill just from one tiny little baby’s bum! Also, I won’t use disposable sanitary pads on my own skin, so I definitely wouldn’t be putting that stuff on my baby. Also, cloth nappies look so much nicer. Also, money! Also, I mean let’s face it I could go on and on. For us, it just made sense.

Can you tell us a little about your early days in cloth?

We just took it easy and slowly went from part-time to full time as I learned which nappies worked for us and which needed to be sold on, and how to clean them effectively. Fitting nappies to avoid leaks was the biggest challenge we had to overcome.

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

Oh, it was extensive. I listened to Nappy Leaks podcast at first, then spent hours and hours and I mean HOURS trawling Facebook groups. I’m big on researching the life out of something before committing to it. I spoke to other mums I knew, but there weren’t many. I spoke to my mum a lot but she used terry cloths which are great, however things have changed so much these days in terms of the most effective wash routine. I also visited Nest Nappies in Paddington (Brisbane), which was very helpful.

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

I wouldn’t even be here writing this if it weren’t for Clean Cloth Nappies. Those ladies are one of the main reasons I don’t delete my Facebook account!

Describe what you love most about cloth?

The look, the green factor, the fact you can buy second hand and sell them on so they end up costing next to nothing, the fact that my son has never had skin issues in cloth, the community you can find.

What has been the hardest part about using cloth nappies?

Other people’s reactions. They are either disgusted (eww, poo in the machine!) or strangely defensive about their own choices.

Was your partner on board with using cloth?

Yes! He’s fabulous. He’s on board with all my plastic-reduction efforts. He, unlike me, is not a nurse though so he does struggle with the really gross poos!

Have others supported your decision to do cloth?

Yes, my family are into it. I’ve had a few snide remarks back when I was pregnant about like “oh, that’ll never work, it won’t last, you’ll see”.

Can you tell us about a time when someone questioned you using cloth nappies?

I’ve had a few friends ask for help learning more so they can switch to cloth too.

Best advice you’ve ever been given about cloth.

Strip and sanitise so you can buy second hand = even less waste/more sustainable.

Many parents express feelings of overwhelm when considering cloth – what advice do you have for them?

Buy a few different types, try them out when you’re hanging around at home. See what works and what doesn’t. It’s a lot of trial and error. Be open minded and go easy on yourself!

Many people believe that using cloth nappies is too hard to the point they don’t even try. Why do you think people think that?

Convenience. There’s an easier option, so why not just do that? This is the mindset of our society.

What are your time management tips for cloth?

It’s just automatic now. I do a pre-wash at night, and I would say get an energy efficient washing machine that has a delay option so you can let your nappies go through their main wash while you’re asleep or out and about. Then just peg or chuck them in the dryer. No extra work really.

Can you share your experiences with cloth wipes?

If you have a solid wash routine, you can use your cloth wipes for everything. Food splatters, poo, wee, spew, snot, sticky hands, wiping up ants, what else have I used them for … myself in those postpartum bleeding days. They’re great, they actually clean the bums a zillion times better than a disposable wipe. They’re grabbier! Take it from me, professional bum wiper before I even had a child, hahaha.

What does your cloth nappy change station and storage system look like?

I just have them pre-stuffed and stored in a couple of wicker baskets under the change table. My son now likes to choose which nappy he wears so this makes it nice and easy to let him have that independence and also I can take a quick glance and think “oh whoops lazy me, I’d better get that main wash happening cuz we are running low.”

What are your rituals for/ is your favourite way to stuff nappies?

My son watches Play School and eats his snack while I sit there and stuff the nappies and daydream!

Can you tell us how you came to decide which nappy style best suited your family?

I bought heaps of different brands and styles and then it was just a process of elimination (ha, pun not intended). I taught my husband how to fit them (Designer Bums can be a bit of a tricky one at first) and that was that.

If you could have any pattern on a cloth nappy what would it be?

Hmm, what are our favourites … mushrooms, Harry Potter, cats. Oh, I’d love a book nappy!

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

Much the same as it does now, I think, maybe nicer storage like something up on the wall. That’s less about budget and more about getting myself into gear!

What is your favourite use for wetbags?

Taking all my stuff to work, including lunch, in case of lunchbox leaks! Also, for swimwear.

How to use modern cloth nappies at home

Why does using cloth nappies matter to you?

I want to be able to say to my kids, “I tried, I did everything I could to make this planet cleaner. I supported Aussie business. I supported other mums. I bought second hand. I lived consciously. I cared about your precious soft skin. I was devoted!”

How do you believe you are contributing to bettering the environment by using cloth nappies?

It’s so easy to think, “Oh my god, so many people do nothing to reduce waste, to reduce their footprint, what’s the point of me trying?” But if I think that way, I get so low and just feel total despair. So, I choose to contribute to a greener world in a teensy tiny way and even if it’s inconsequential, it means a lot to me and I hope it will mean a lot to my kids.

Can you share an example of how cloth has made your life easier?

The great COVID toilet paper shortage! It’s just not even an issue when the supermarket shelves are bare and you have reusables at home. It’s so nice.

Besides cloth, in what other ways do you support a better planet?

Cloth pads and period undies, all the reusable stuff that’s out there at the moment like steel straws and bamboo toothbrushes and plastic-free dental floss, making sure I recycle as best I can, buying from businesses who are committed to less waste, buying second hand, selling or giving away my stuff when I’m done with it, buying consciously and ethically. It’s a work in progress but something I’m very passionate about these days.

What do you think needs to happen to make cloth mainstream?

Oh man. A lot! I honestly don’t even know. It’s just such an attitude thing. People are so scared of poo, I don’t know, maybe because I’m a nurse I just think “really? I mean at least it’s my own baby’s poo, not a patient!”

If you could do anything to encourage more families to use cloth nappies, what would it be?

I think the council rebates that are gaining traction are a fantastic thing. And just talking more about it, being open and non judgemental when asked.

What is your favourite memory relating to cloth nappies?

When the nurse who was giving my son his vaccinations mentioned it! I was like, yes sister, you are my people!

What is something I should know about you I haven’t thought to ask?

Before having Archer, I had never put a nappy on a baby EVER. So I practised by putting them on my Baby Born doll! Then when I laughed about this with a friend who had a baby she said, “you’d be better off trying to put them on your cat, that’s more realistic” and I was like, oh dear. But now I know she was right!

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

Let’s see. A wise nurse once told me, “Don’t be scared of poo. It washes out”. This is my mantra. And bleach is not the enemy! Bleach will save you. And finally … do a sniff test before you stick your finger down the back.

Designer Bums modern cloth nappy

In brief

Number of bums in cloth. 1.

Time in cloth. From birth.

How many nappies do you own? No idea actually … maybe about 30.

Full or part time. Full time at home, part time when he’s staying with his granny.

Nappy style. AI2.

Stuff or snap. Lay inserts on top.

Pre-stuff or lay as you go. Pre-stuff, super therapeutic for some reason.

Line or tumble dry. Don’t own a dryer – live in Brisbane, no need!

Favourite cloth related product. Designer Bums regular wetbag, we use them for everything.

Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Satisfying.

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