how to use modern cloth nappies
Living with cloth

#57: Go hard, go early

For Perth mama Krystal, a 10-year career in accounting was not enough to stop her pursuing her passion for food. With her husband and 21-month-old son by her side, she is studying a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics, and one day dreams of running her own health retreat for people with chronic disease. Until then, she will continue to teach her son to enjoy the science and magic of cooking, and to make sustainable choices where possible when in the kitchen.
Krystal is a wealth of knowledge and ideas when it comes to approaching mealtimes with kids, making food choices for kids and minimising waste in the kitchen, but also when it comes to making the choice to use cloth nappies. Her advice for families considering reusable is “go hard, go early”. She is a fan of keeping it simple and second-hand buys. She is also currently feeding cotton nappies to her worms. Why? You’ll have to read on to find out.
Welcome, Krystal @journeytonutritionau
Christmas cloth nappies
Tell us a little about yourself, your family, and where you live?

My husband and I have been together in Perth for the last 10 years. I moved in next door, met him and the rest is history. We welcomed our little man Lucas to the world on 20 May 2019, the same day as me and my mum (all three of us have the same birthday!)

What’s the best part about being a mum?

I made a friggin human!! Like woah!!

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

I made a friggin human!! Hahaha. Now that he’s starting to talk and really develop a personality it’s frightening but amazing the personality traits he already shares with us.

Alongside mumming, you are also studying for your Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics. Can you tell us a little about your career goals?

Sure. A few years ago now I reached that invisible ceiling in my career progression where I had to go and study, get a piece of paper to progress. I already had half a business degree and had worked in accounting for nearly 10 years. I also really loved cooking but didn’t want to do an apprenticeship where I would get stuck next to a deep fryer. I also had a few friends who were suffering from chronic diseases that required specific nutrition interventions. I had always enjoyed science so here I am …

My absolute dream is to run my own health retreat for people with chronic disease where they can essentially come on holiday and have all their required annual medical check ups, as well as learn about the latest scientific break throughs relevant to their disease. That might be my retirement plan though. I would also love to work as a regional/remote dietitian especially while Lucas isn’t at school. Until I reach that I’ve got a vision board that just keeps getting more and more full! Short term, I want to get back into being a Food Trainer, sharing my love of cooking.

So, full-time study and parenting – how do you do it? What advice do you have for others considering the same?

Sleep is optional. But seriously, it’s all about priorities and support. I’m lucky to have a husband that co-parents and we’re both on the same page when it comes to his care, education, food etc. Full time study wasn’t actually on the cards this early. I had intended to do part time until next year, however, my university changed the delivery mode from semesters to trimesters, which meant I could essentially finish a year early or I would have 8 months off. Once I finish my placement (mandatory full time), I’m hoping that I can work part time so I can actually enjoy raising my son! I still haven’t taken him to the zoo (someone else has though).

What kind of food legacy do you want to leave for your son?

I want him to know that food is food, there is no moral judgement around it. I want him to enjoy the science and magic of cooking, and of course the joy of eating!

As part of your studies, you have spent time researching ultra-processed foods. Can you tell us a little bit about what you have found with regards to additives and pre-packaged foods, and what we should be looking out for when it comes to choosing supermarkets foods for our littles?

You have done your research! Essentially, ultra-processed foods are things we can’t make at home, they need a factory. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of definitive research linking additives to any particular health outcome. All we know if these techniques and ingredients began being mass produced in the 1980s and at the same time rates of all types of chronic disease are rising. Let me stress, there are a lot of factors at play here. The key take-away is that we don’t know whether they’re good or bad for us.

If the choice is to spend half an hour scouring supermarket shelves for snacks without additives, or spend half an hour baking at home, you will recommend the bake-at-home option. What are your go-to snack recipes for parents who don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen?

It will take more than half an hour looking for snacks without additives if you don’t know exactly what you want! Definitely the back at home. First off, silicone muffin trays/cupcake moulds are essential. They make baking so easy! My current favourite is the LiveLighter Chocini muffins, they’re a hit for everyone. I like them even more with a smear of cream cheese and they freeze well too.

How do you approach mealtimes with your son?

My mantra is ‘it’s just food’. He’s eaten the same as us, texture modified where appropriate, since he started on the solids train. I tell all my friends to follow dr_kyla and family.snack.nutritionist on Instagram. I also think it’s important to remember we’re born intuitive eaters and somewhere along the lines we’ve had that trained out of us. Ellyn Satter has done a lot of work on this in particular for the family/children dynamic, and Evelyn Tribole is the guru for anyone sick of dieting!

What’s your go-to dinner recipe when you’re short on time?

I always have frozen tortellini and ravioli on hand. Put the water on the stove, fry off an onion and garlic in another pan, add a tin of tomatoes and hey presto. Bonus points if I remember to add frozen peas to the boiling pasta a minute before they’re done.

Any tips for getting kids to eat more vegetables?

Parents need to eat their vegetables too. Kids are mini-mes, they copy you. Make eating vegetables normal, not good or bad and try not to fuss over it if they don’t eat them. It only makes it worse.

And one final question on the topic of food – what is your soul food and why?

Oh, this is a hard one because it depends on the occasion. I’ve just rediscovered self-saucing chocolate pudding …

Probably goulash with pasta, because that’s what my grandma and mother would always cook and we never got tired of it. It just tastes like home. I even had a friend walk in when I was cooking it recently and exclaim that my house smelt like her grandma’s in the best way possible.

making the choice to use cloth nappies
Alongside food, you also love the environment. What is your approach to sustainability in the kitchen?

You have to plan, whether it’s menu planning, when and where you shop, everything. Have the containers in the cupboard ready to freeze leftovers, buy in bulk to reduce packaging, have a waste station (we sort compost, worm food, Redcycle, foil and then common recyclables). But, also, don’t beat yourself up too hard. There’s only so much consumers can do; we need manufacturers to stop wrapping things in ten layers of plastic too.

What actions do you take to minimise food wastage?

I usually have a menu planned for the week, which I write after auditing the freezer and cupboards. I don’t know how I accumulate so much! Actually, I do. People give me food, it’s weird. Like at Christmas, a friend was gifted a huge ham, so she brought me around 1kg of ham. Or they buy some crazy ingredient and don’t like it, so hand it on to me.

So I guess my freezer’s my friend. I’ve also become big on doing a boned roast every week or two then making my own stock out of it. Tastes amazing and you can add milk-stimulating herbs and spices too (although the science is still out on those, it could just be good hydration that helps your milk).

Can you tell us about worm farming? What are the benefits, and is it something everyone could implement in their home, wherever they live? What is needed to get started?

Worm farming is super fun with creepy crawlies on hand for any little adventurers. To be honest, unless you’ve got a bit of a garden going, you’re probably better off just setting up a compost bin. The worms will come. If you do enjoy some gardening and want some cheap and amazing fertiliser jump on Gumtree and find a second-hand ‘farm’ and someone selling worms by the handful. Second hand is always the most sustainable option.

Then you just start filling it with suitable scraps. You can’t put citrus, onion or animal products in there, but pretty much everything else goes. I was gifted some 100% cotton, very used nappies. The only good part of them was their cotton insert which I cut out and kept. The worms have been getting a cotton nappy every month or so, which help holds the moisture in when it gets hot. There are plenty of great tips online (I like the Worm Shed, the local council has info too) and I think dirtgirlworld even did an episode about worms.

What’s your best sustainable food tip ever?

You only need about 100g of meat a day, 2 serves (200g) of red meat a week to get all the essential nutrients from meat. We don’t have to all go vegetarian or vegan to save the world, just eating less meat would make a huge difference. Use meat as a garnish.

how to use cloth nappies
Your sustainable lifestyle also extends to cloth nappies, of course. How did you come to make the choice to use cloth nappies?

There’s allergies and atopy on both sides of Lucas’ family as well as every single nappy ever used still sitting in landfill. It seemed logical to just start with cloth because if he did end up with allergies we would have to anyway. I think it’s also a little bit of cheapskate too, imagine throwing a nappy away when they pee or poo in it while you’re changing it!

What makes you feel good about using cloth nappies?

A few friends all had babies around the same time as us. When Lucas was a few months old my husband came home and said ‘Do you know how much disposable cost and how many you need? And formula? I’m so glad we’re using cloth and that you made breastfeeding work.’

I also know I’m going to be super proud to tell Lucas that his butt only contributed a few nappies to landfill when we were in hospital following birth. I loved him enough to help the environment now.

What did your research process look like before starting with cloth, and how did you come to decide what system would suit your family?

I totally thought it would be the old terry towels and pilchers I still remember from my little sister! Another much more sustainable friend gave birth a few months before me and introduced me to cloth nappies, so I found the Australian Nappy Association and Clean Cloth Nappies (CCN). What more could I need? Lots of Facebook post stalking on CCN, as well as reading every single page of their website and I figured it all out.

For newborn we went with the Bubblebubs newborn mixed pack of 12 Bambams and 12 tri-folds. My baby ended up being a slow grower (born at 50th percentile, dropped down to and hovered around 10th percentile) which meant the newborns fit him until he was about 5 months or so. The OSFM were just too big until he hit that 5kg mark, so I’m glad I invested in the pack. I’ve already lent it on to another friend.

Then we started on the OSFM journey. Again, stalking CCN posts about brands etc. So I just started regularly checking Gumtree for second-hand packs. Alvas/Little Aussie Monsters are definitely the workhorse, I do like the Designer Bums when we go out. Now we’ve started daycare I’m sending him in with Tots Bots which do up with velcro just because they’re easier. They’re also AIO, which actually makes the laundry a little faster because I don’t have to match inserts.

Second time around I might consider Designer Bums from birth, but then I know some chunky monkeys that DBs are just too trim for before they were even 1yo.

What has surprised you most about using cloth?

How addictive they would be. Feeling good? Buy nappies. Feeling sad? Buy nappies. Feeling bored? Buy nappies. Seriously, I have to stay off Gumtree and/or start selling my stash. I could have 100.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started using cloth?

I wasted a month rinsing off EBF (exclusively breastfed) poo. That’s time I’ll never get back.

What role does your partner play in clothing your son?

All the roles. He puts the prewash on in the morning on weekends, he’s been known to do a main wash, he’ll stuff nappies if I put them in front of him on the lounge. I’ve even figured out his favourites.

How do you cloth while you’re out and about?

Keep it simple. One nappy for every 2 hours, plus a spare. My Vanchi nappy bag holds about 8, depending on what else is in there. If we’re doing a few stops I’ll break them up into tote bags and swap as we go, I don’t really like carrying around lots of dirty nappies.

I put a liner and wipe inside each clean nappy and use the Bubblebubs Foamy Wash (we call it bum spray) to wipe during every change. We do around 3 poops most days still, at 20 months, so gotta be ready.

Having a station wagon is the best because the boot is the perfect height and size to become a change table.

movement in cloth nappies
What is your best tip when it comes to washing cloth nappies?

Just get the routine and stick to it. Night nappies need to be washed first thing, so just do it. You’re not going to ruin your machine leaving washing unsupervised.

What’s the one piece of advice you would pass on to all families considering reusable nappies?

Go hard, go early. We went all in from the moment we got home from hospital. Yes, we had some disposables just in case but I put them at the top of the wardrobe to make it that little bit harder. My husband and I don’t know better, all we know is cloth. It also means you troubleshoot as you go, which is a lot easier when they’re itty bitty than when they’re crocodile rolling while you’re trying to change them.

Take a walk through any supermarket aisle, and you’ll find a mass of disposable products aimed at babies. What are your thoughts on the disposable economy when it comes to parenting?

It’s shocking. We’ve become so obsessed with sterile, clean babies that we can’t see the forest from the trees. Did I mention we’ve only had one bottle since January? And, those baby wipes, they don’t actually clean things. Not like actual cleaning products.

What is your take on the cost of reusable nappies compared to disposables?

It is hard to fathom at first. I think you really have to do the long maths to appreciate the cost savings. I calculated that our brand new Bubblebubs newborn set would break even with disposables at about 5 months, that’s not even factoring in resale or reuse. The rest of my nappies have all be second hand for $10 or less per nappy, including inserts. There’s bargains out there, just don’t buy Peapods, haha.

But then, how do you calculate the cost of disposable sitting in landfill forever?

What do you think needs to change for more families to come on board using cloth nappies?

Education. I don’t think many parents realise that poop can’t go to landfill, it should be flushed. The nurse that ran my mother’s group had no idea, so getting the child health nurses on board would help too. Along with all the midwives and everyone involved in pre-natal care. We received a baby showbag from the hospital with a sposie, what if that was a MCN?

But you know what? Now that Aldi have done the Bare and Boho release and Kmart now have a line, I think it’s definitely becoming more mainstream. It would also be nice to get some rebates from my local council (I know some do) for water and electricity, particularly when you need at least 24 nappies to start. Even second hand, that’s still $240!

Describe your journey with cloth in one word.

Rewarding.

What’s your greatest hope for your son?

Just that he’s happy. He can be or do anything he wants, I just want him to be happy.

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

I have been using a menstrual cup for 5years. Changed. My. Life. I was adamant I was not going to be putting plastic bags in my knickers after birth so I used period panties and reusable pads. I didn’t expect them to be as good as they are. 

Any final words of wisdom to live by?

If you really want something, you will work your butt off to get it. 

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