Mama Koala cloth nappies
Behind the brand Living with cloth

#55: Hooked from first snap

From that first snap, Trisha was hooked. Five months later, she was retailing Mama Koala cloth nappies and, later on, heavily invested in the Cloth Community Fund, sorting and washing thousands of nappies for families affected by the Australian bushfires in early 2020. Two years into her journey, Trisha is looking to the end and being able to take only a handbag to the shops again. If she could do her time in nappies again, she says she’d buy more absorbent inserts, along with a nice scraper. Her story of attending a baby shower during which the mother-to-be was gifted a vintage butter knife as a ‘pooper scooper’ is incredible.
Join us as we discuss what has made Trisha’s journey with cloth a positive one, and the steps she is taking to live a more ecofriendly life.
Welcome, Trisha @trishamakes
Tell us a little about yourself, your family, and where you live?

My name is Trish and I am the owner of TrishaMakes. I have 2 daughters with my husband Ian (Peighton 4.5yrs & Mia 2yrs). Ian a I have just celebrated 15 years together!

What matters most when it comes to your family?

Health and happiness. I try and keep our home negativity free!

What do you find to be the best and most challenging parts of raising children?

Watching them grow! It’s so rewarding to see them grow and achieve new things. Whether it be crawling, walking or even being tall enough to open a door they couldn’t before. It’s also heart break moments because it seems to happen before my eyes!

Is there anything you did as a child you now like to share with your children?

I’d love there to be a time where my kids will actually sit down and watch a movie and have family movie nights.

Your eldest has just started her first year of full-time school. How does this make you feel?

It is so emotional. Peighton has been so excited to go, and honestly I’m happy for her to learn new things and be with new people. But I feel like it’s 5/7 days without her home is A LOT! It will be something we all need to get used to.

What are some of the biggest lessons you’re hoping to impart on your daughters?

The sky is the limit. They can achieve anything they put their minds to. Be kind to others and our environment.

What hopes and dreams do you have for your children?

I just want them to be happy, healthy and kind humans. I don’t have any ‘I hope she’ll be a doctor’ type dreams for them.

Can you tell us about the beginnings of your cloth journey?

I didn’t cloth my first as my husband and I both came to the conclusion ‘we don’t wanna touch poop’.

When I fell pregnant the second time, I realised how much went in the bin the first time and that I wanted to change it. So I bought my first five-pack of MCNs. From that first SNAP, I was hooked.

We started cloth when she was 3 weeks old and haven’t looked back since! Mia turned 2 in November and we are midway through toilet training and I still have the same stash!

I loved not having to count out nappies to see how long they’ll last before a last-minute ditch to the shops. Not having a bin full of nappies. It was so easy!

Five months after making the switch, you started retailing Mama Koala cloth nappies. Tell us about the transition from zero to, in your own words, addict?

It all happened so quickly. I saw the amazing prints that Mama Koala had to offer and how affordable they we’re. At the time there was only one lady selling them in Australia and it was a preorder only type purchase. Except I needed the nappies NOW. I started looking into making them more readily available for the Australian public and got in touch with Mama Koala.

You also handmake and sell bibs, bloomers, scrunchies, peg dolls and more. Can you tell us about your passion for handmade?

I’ve always had a creative side. My aunties also have a big part of that and they’re also ones I still ask their help on occasion.

How do you balance the needs of your business and family?

I honestly struggle with this so much. 2021 is the year I am going to try and have a more ‘ready-made’ store than every order be customs so I can work this balance better as I also work a part-time job 3 days a week.

Another passion of yours is educating new parents about cloth nappies, including through #TheClothMovement, which you started for ‘real’ people to share their experiences. Can you tell us more about your goals for the hashtag?

I started the hashtag so real families can share their stories/ journeys as they’re not all the same. My experience is only one story and it doesn’t mean what I do or say is correct for all families.

In early 2020, thousands of Australian families were displaced or lost their homes when bushfires burned more than 46 million acres of land. Can you tell us about the role you played in helping to distribute essentials to families affected by the fires?

I started working with the Cloth Community Fund from the very beginning and help set up admin teams and representatives over Australia. I’m in Queensland so more so focused on the call out and collection of goods around the Brisbane area. I also had meeting points in Townsville, Mackay and the Gold Coast for people to drop off. Hundreds of nappies came through my door and many families were more than happy to help donate to the fire affected families.

I also used my contact with Mama Koala and asked them to help towards getting cloth nappies to Australian families. I was absolutely blown away when they shipped 200 brand new nappies with inserts to the fund to help!!

Can you tell us how you felt as the Cloth Community Fund went viral and donations for the fire affected families started pouring in?

I can tell you how my husband felt HAHA. It was honestly overwhelming!! I was sorting and washing nappies and sending direct to families where I could at every moment I had spare. I do not have the know how to mend nappy elastics so was sending bundles at a time to people within the fund who could, before passing them on to families in need.

I had more nappies in our home than anything else. THOUSANDS of nappies came through my door to go towards the bushfires, not to mention the other collection points and states that were also accepting donations.

While you are no longer an administrator of the Cloth Community Fund, one year on from its beginning, can you share some of the most positive outcomes to come out of its foundation?

I still talk with the ladies who helped set it all up. It’s also fun to see some names pop up that I donated to in the early days of the cloth fund pop up in my orders list to buy new nappies. The Cloth Community Fund will help families in need. Sometimes finances are hard and being given cloth nappies to use for several months to save some money to be able to afford your own is honestly a blessing. The only thing The Cloth Community Fund asks is that you return them to the fund when you’re done.

Have you noticed a mindset change since beginning cloth?

YES! Everything in our home has changed. I avoid single use items as much as I can. Taking our own drink bottles out and about. Using bar soap instead of body wash. Redcycling all our soft plastics. We use bamboo ‘Who Gives A Crap’ products. It’s all the small things we do that really add up.

Is there anything you think could have convinced you to start using cloth nappies sooner?

Knowing someone in person who did them and was able to help out. I had a friend using cloth and asked her to come over for fit checks and advice. Perhaps I would never of made the switch full time without that.

What research did you undertake to prepare for using cloth?

Honestly, not a lot HAHA. I read a blog from an online friend and she mentioned using cloth nappies and that ‘part time is better than no time’ and she used them after her daughters morning poop, so it was only ever wee nappies she had in cloth. So I went in thinking I was going to do the same. Once I got a feel for how easy it was, it was full time pretty quickly.

What do you now know about cloth nappies that you wish you knew when you started out?

That you don’t have to touch poop! Also, if I could do my time again I’d buy more bamboo and hemp inserts. Mia is a heavy wetter so we’ve always had to boost our nappies.

What has been the greatest hurdle on your cloth journey and how have you overcome it?

Mia growing and changing her wetting patterns was always a hurdle. I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s all been smooth sailing and I’ve got things under control 24/7. We would have her inserts and night-time nappies sorted. Then all of a sudden she had a growth spurt and she’d wake up wet. After trial and error, I’d get it sorted again. 3-4 months later we’d go through the same thing.

What has been your experience with cloth and daycare?

The daycare has been supportive of cloth, however our centre has been going through staff rather quickly the last 12 months or so, so there’s so always new people trying to put the nappies on Mia. Some days she comes home and I honestly don’t know what’s happened HAHA.

You will soon be approaching the end of your cloth journey with your second daughter. How does that make you feel?

I am happy that we will soon be out of nappies and that going to the shops I can just grab my handbag again, rather than needing to pack a bag of nappies and wipes etc. BUT I am also really sad that all of these beautiful nappies will continue to come through my doors and none of them be for me. The Mama Koala prints are really some of the most beautiful prints I’ve seen and the excitement I’d get about new fluff arriving for me will be gone. Mama Koala have started doing wetbags though so I’ll be buying those for my girls swimming lessons, daycare and school bags. They come in handy for so many things.

What has been your favourite memory of being involved in the MCN world?

Meeting other like-minded mums. Learning new ways to improve our eco-friendly journey at home and teaching my step mum that you actually need to clean your washing machine regularly LOL.

Can you give us 3 of the best tips and tricks you’ve learnt since becoming a cloth mum?

I can change my daughter’s nappy quicker than any disposable mum I’ve ever met. Strangers in change rooms or people I know personally. Cloth nappies are so easy!

I really like to pre stuff all the nappies and have them ready to go. 2 years in and my husband has not stuffed a single nappy. There’s something satisfying about stuffing a fresh load and that’s something I’m going to miss.

Take wetbags with you everywhere!

Sorry, I’m not sure they’re really tips. Just facts I’ve learned.

Do you have any advice for families hoping to cloth from birth?

DO IT! If you don’t start early, then you may never will. Pending the size of your babies, I probably would suggest a small newborn stash too. I’d also be buying 6-10 nappies per month before having your baby so that it isn’t such a big financial commitment at once.

There’s a large upfront cost to get started with cloth nappies. How can families minimise cost?

Oh, I just answered that above. Buying in bulk/ packs is a great way to save money. Buying 6 or more from my store automatically saves you 10%.

Similar to your own experience, many parents express a lack of desire for having to deal with poo when considering cloth – what advice do you have for them?

If I could do my time over again I’d buy a nice scraper. I went to a baby shower not long ago and they were gifted a vintage butter knife that was the ‘pooper scooper’ passed down through the generations. I thought that was incredible!

Also, you can use single use or reusable liners to help with clean up too.

It’s often argued that cloth nappies aren’t as environmentally friendly as many suggest due to the power and water required to launder them. How would you respond to such an argument?

This is something many people bring up. However the amount of water used to make disposables far outweighs the daily pre-wash load. We also made the switch to solar a few months ago so I do my laundry when the sun is out only.

What role do you think disposable nappies should play in raising children?

None – minimal. I’m not going to lie. Disposables are easy and convenient for most people. But sometimes they’re the more ‘sensible’ option. We went to Fiji for a week-long holiday in 2019 and I didn’t know that washing facilities were available on the island or how long we were going to be flying and using public transport for during our stay. So I opted to buy some bamboo disposables to use while we were away. My daughter ended up with a bad rash and I couldn’t wait to get home to put her in cloth again. But I was also grateful that we had the option for disposables because there was no washing facilities available and it rained most of the time we were away so nothing would have dried!

What is the one message you like to share with all families who cloth or are considering cloth?

GIVE IT A GO! Even if you want to try a few secondhand nappies to see if it’s something you could get used to doing.

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

I wish I could give out cloth nappies for free – but I can’t. I’d recommend getting in touch with The Cloth Community Fund to see if they could help you out.

If you could encourage everyone to make one change for the planet, what would it be?

Learn one new way to be ecofriendly, then share that knowledge. Repeat regularly.

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

I work 2 jobs, run my business, have 2 kids, attend gym each week and still manage to have ‘time to cloth’. I’d like to think if I can do it, so can you!

Describe your journey with cloth in one word.

Satisfying.

Any final words of wisdom to live by?

Don’t let ones negativity bring you down. Let your positivity shine stronger.

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