using modern cloth nappies
Living with cloth

#43: A beautiful chaos

Tasmanian mother of five, Luca, describes her life as a beautiful chaos. A chaos that is hard some days but, even through the fatigue and tears, has an endless joy. She strives to do better by knowing better and, after researching the impact that disposables have on the environment, found it difficult not to use cloth nappies. Luca doesn’t promise ease in introducing cloth nappies, but she does promise cuteness and reward, and hopes for a shift to a more sustainable lifestyle with the next generation. Read on for Luca’s take on parenthood, including why she sees gratitude as a shield from negativity.

Welcome Luca, @lifebylucaphotography

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

Myself, my husband and our 5 children live semi rurally on our little hobby farm in Tasmania, having moved here from Sydney 4 years ago. We craved more space, more freedom and a greener more quiet lifestyle and we couldn’t be happier with our move.

What do you love about life where you live?

The space, the fresh air, the relaxed lifestyle. Such a privilege to be able to raise our family in such a wonderful place surrounded by nature and beauty. 

Describe your greatest passions in life.

Motherhood, it’s everything to me. These little humans complete me in ways I never thought possible. They also push me to the very edges of my sanity some days, but what an incredible blessing it is to be their mother. 

What would people be most surprised to know about you?

That I had a 16-year long career in corporate banking, so far removed from my lifestyle now.

How do you like to relax and unwind?

With a warm cup of tea and a good book.

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

When our second child was a baby and I became a stay-at-home mum, I discovered cloth nappies. Baby Beehinds was the first brand we used and the brand we still love the most. Becoming a stay-at-home mother gave me more time to discover and learn about the benefits of cloth nappies for babies and for the environment. 

How have you managed cloth with twins? What are your greatest tips for managing the stuffing nappies and washing load? Do you think clothing twins is more difficult?

Just keeping on top of the laundering has been the biggest challenge. We try to avoid using the tumble drier as its old and not energy efficient, so the most time-consuming aspect is hanging and then folding. In saying that though, I have actually been able to use the workload to my advantage by ‘forcing’ myself to sit down and fold nappies during the evening whilst watching some TV or listening to a podcast. So I get to do something for me, whilst also getting the nappies done. Definitely more time consuming with twins, not because of the nappy load, but more so as I am more time poor with having the twins (plus 3 other children).

How is your cloth set up organised?

They sit on the shelves of the change table organised by style and brand. 

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

Just the time constraints and the workload of laundering, but I overcome it by reminding myself of how overwhelmingly better it is for them to be in cloth, and of course for the environment too. But also, being realistic and just accepting that sometimes I do need to just grab a disposable if I am incredibly pressed for time is ok as well. When I think of all the chemicals I am not exposing my children to by using cloth nappies it really incentivises me to keep going. 

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

Definitely getting to 12 months with twins! I doubted whether I could do it, but we did it. 

What advice do you have for parents considering the move to cloth?

To take their time and to try a few different brands. I’ve had 4 babies in cloth now and each child has had a slightly different nappy set up that has worked best for them. Brands that worked for 1 child, did not work well at all for another. Be prepared to do a bit of trial and error and don’t be upset if at first you don’t succeed. Even if you only swap out 1 nappy a day you are making a big difference!

Also, my biggest tip would be to make sure you join the Clean Cloth Nappies Facebook group and read up on the proper washing routines on their webpage. I find that most cloth nappy fails are due to incorrect laundering. Even after have 2 kids in cloth, when the twins came along I was having some issues and it turns out I needed a few adjustments to my routine.

And lastly, I honestly believe that success comes down to mindset, if you truly want to do it, and believe you can do it, then you will. 

Any tips for encouraging partners or other family members to come along the cloth journey?

The statistics on the landfill created by nappies are staggering, that plus the chemicals we expose babies to through disposable nappies. And cloth nappies are just the cutest! They have a great resell value, and in the long run work out much cheaper than disposables.  

What has the response to using cloth been like from your family and friends? Can you share any positive or negative stories?

Mostly positive, especially from like-minded friends who are conscious about low tox clean living. Some negative comments here and there about what a waste of time it is, but to be honest negativity is just noise to me so I usually tune out and don’t even give it a second thought or remember it. 

How would you describe to non-cloth families the benefits of reusable nappies?

The biggest driving factor for me is how much better it is for babies’ skin. When you know better, you do better, and having researched the impact that disposables have on the environment it’s incredibly difficult to turn a blind eye. The amount of waste that we as a society are producing is just not sustainable, so for the sake of my children, and my grandchildren and great grandchildren I really hope to see a shift in our generation. It can’t promise you that it will be easy all the time, but I can promise you that its very rewarding (and cute, did I mention how cute cloth nappies are!).

One of the first questions non-cloth users often ask is ‘What do you do with the poo.’ How would you respond to this question? Explain your processes for dealing with poo.

Well, technically, you are actually supposed to flush the poo out of a disposable nappy too, except that very few people know this, and nobody seems to do it. But if you read the box of any disposable nappy it does say that solids must be flushed because human waste should not go into landfill. So there’s that … but back to cloth, its honestly not an issue, I have always found that poo generally slides of fairly easily and straight into the toilet, or rinses off really easily in the laundry sink. Using a silicone brush helps to get off any bits that are stuck. You can also use liners to make it even easier to rinse the poo.

What style of nappy do you use & why do you like it?

Both the twins are really heavy wetters so our favourite nappy is the Baby Beehinds hemp fitted with a cover. Its super absorbent, we get no leaks, and it’s very easy to boost. We also love the Baby Beehinds AI2 nappies with Velcro, literally as quick and easy as a disposable. 

How do you dry your nappies in wet/ cool weather?

I put the clothes horse by the fireplace. We are looking to invest in a more economical dryer though. 

What is your favourite use for wetbags?

Nappies and soiled clothes. I also love little ones for keeping things like dummies in. And the extra large ones for taking to the beach and putting wet sandy clothes into to minimise mess in the car. 

Have you encountered any challenges such as wriggly babies or nappy rash?  

I usually hand a contraband item like a pot of cream or my phone! But honestly it’s no different to a disposable, once you have the knack it doesn’t take any longer to fit. Nappy rash we actually get less with cloth then we do disposables. 

How do you manage cloth while out and about? Any tips?

Just make sure you have a wetbag. I have never had any issues with leaks or smells. And unlike disposables that seem to pressure leak when babies are in car seats, I have never had a nappy explosion out of a cloth nappy! So that’s a big win. 

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

A cleaner and healthier world for all. When I learnt that we dump millions of tons of rubbish offshore to third world countries, I was mortified. There’s people literally living in our filth that we have thrown out. That is not ok. This has to stop. 

No one and no family is perfect. What is your advice to families concerned about the growing environmental crisis?

Every tiny bit counts. We are very far from perfect and still would have a very long way to go to be totally eco friendly, but every little bit makes a massive difference, even if it’s just one nappy or one wipe a day. 

Tell us about life with 5 children.

It’s a beautiful chaos. A busy blur, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. As hard as some days can be, even through the fatigue and the tears I hold onto an endless joy. A joy that I always find when I stop and lean into gratitude. Gratitude changes my perspective; it is a shield from negativity. It (literally) rewires the brain and changes the posture of our hearts.  I know all too well that this phase of my life will end, that the house will be quiet and clean, I will sleep through every night, have more ‘me time’ then I will know what to do with. And that when that time comes, I will yearn so much to relive these days. So even through the hardest and most tiring days I am grateful, and content and remind myself how beautiful this (relatively) brief time in life is.  

What has motherhood taught you about yourself?

That no matter how much you plan or prepare, life can and does surprise you. It’s taught me to be humble and to accept that I am often wrong and have plenty to learn. That I have strengths that I never thought possible and determination and will I never thought I could muster. 

What would you say is your parenting philosophy?

Probably to never stop learning, growing and striving to do better. Even after 5 kids I am still learning new things and changing my mindset and the way I parent based on new things that I have read and learned. When you know better you do better, and I aim to do better every day that I can. 

What have you found to be the hardest part of motherhood?

The sleep deprivation and how utterly all consuming it is. But at the same time, it’s the single most hardest, yet most rewarding and amazing experience ever. Its unspeakable joy and overwhelming love and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

What do you find to be the best and worst parts of your children growing up?

The worst part is that I can’t slow down or pause time! The best part is the unconditional, all forgiving love that they give me even when I think that I have completely failed them. 

You are an advocate for babywearing. Explain what babywearing means to you.

Its everything, its cuddles, its closeness, its security, its practical. I am such a big believer in the fourth trimester and in the benefits of keeping babies close, so much research and science behind it! And its survival. Aside from it being so amazing to have them close to you and comforted by you it is infinitely practical and the only way that I manage to get things done half the time. It leaves my hands free to cook, launder, help the other kids, all whilst baby is happy and content. 

Sensory play is something you like to share with your children. Can you share some of the best sensory play activities you have come across?

The best sensory activities and information are from Emma @play_at_home_mummy. Honestly the simpler the better. A tub of water with some slices of orange, some cornflour gloop. Using painters tape to tape things onto the wall for them to pull off. Duplo blocks in jelly. Play dough, cloud dough! 

What are mealtimes like in your home?

Pretty much a rush at the moment – it’s the end of the day, everyone is tired, but most evening we try to each share something we are grateful for and something that we have learnt that day.

Do you feel mother guilt? If so, you do you manage it?

Oh gosh yes. All the time. Constantly feeling like I am not doing anywhere near enough for all the children, like I could be doing better, could be doing more, wishing I had more time to give each of them quality 1:1 time. I’m not sure that I am managing it to be honest. I work hard on pushing those thoughts away and reminding myself how happy they are. But I think that’s just who I am, because I always want to do better and improve and grow, like with everything in life it’s about balance, I try not to let the mum guilt take over, but I think just accepting it rather than trying to eradicate it is a more successful way of managing it (for me anyways).

Quick questions

Number of bums in cloth. 2 x 18-month-old twins.

Time in cloth. Started cloth with our now 7-year-old son.

Number of nappies. 50.

Full or part time. Pretty much full time except for the occasional disposable.

Nappy style. Fitteds are a favourite at the moment because both babies are heavy wetters, but we also love AI2 designs.

Stuff or snap. Snap.

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

Line or tumble dry. Line when I have time, tumble dry if I’m super busy (more often than not).

Favourite cloth related product. Cheeky Wipes reusable wipe system.

Your cloth journey in one word. Rewarding.

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