#72: From novice to pro

cloth nappies
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What’s it like being a stay-at-home mother to three children under four years old? Alexandra will let you know. She opens up about her busy and crazy life, the closest she comes to a parenting philosophy, and her passions outside of her family. After a frustrated start on her own cloth nappy journey, Alexandra became a cloth nappy consultant, and today she helps parents with their own start into the world of cloth nappies. She has many insights into common concerns and misconceptions faced by those new to cloth, including differing formulas for success depending on whether parents are deadest on cloth or on the fence.
Welcome, Alexandra @zauber_windel81
Tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live?

Hi! My name is Alexandra, I’m a mama of 3 little children (almost 4 years old, 2.5 years old and 8 months). My husband and I met in 2014, got together in 2015 and had our first child in 2017, getting married some months later. I am lucky that I can be a stay-at-home mum and see our children growing and meeting each milestone. I was already 36 when I became a mum and I enjoy this time as much as possible. Obviously having 3 such small children is a challenge every single day, but it is one that I love as it’s payment is infinite love.

While we are all German citizens, I have lived in England and Denmark for a big part of my life. Prior to becoming a mother, I travelled within Europe and have seen many different towns. It has made me very open to new ideas and other lifestyles. It has helped me to learn being a mother.

What do you love about raising children in Tostedt?

This town is very much interested to welcome children. They have several daycare centers, schools and a youth center. They welcome each child born with a package for the parents with a blanket and cake as well as assistance that may be needed with childcare etc.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be and why?

I would love to live in one of the Scandinavian countries as I consider them the most family friendly  countries in the world.

What does a day in the life of a mum with 3 children under 4 look like?

Busy and a little crazy! My day usually starts around 6am when my younger son decides to get up. From then until they hit the mattress at night its action time. They help me clean up the house by emptying the dishwasher, putting the laundry in the machine, hanging laundry or vacuum cleaning.

When I first became a mum, I tried to do this in the minutes my child was napping or even playing. I didn’t try to include him. As more children became involved, I realized I had to change my routines and involve the children. While it may seem faster for me to do it by myself, they have a lot of fun and in the end I get more done than if I had to keep them busy while I clean.

Whenever the clock hits 11am, I stop doing housework, even if its not all done. We play for like 30 to 45 minutes. Some days I finish earlier and we go outside.

Then we make lunch together and eat. The “older” boys then go to daycare for 4 hours. I bring them and my husband picks them up. When I come back I tend to pick up any loose ends and then get busy with the little one or work from home.

What kind of mum are you? Do you have a particular parenting philosophy you follow?

When I was pregnant with our eldest I heard about Montessori and read up on it. I think it is the closest in terms of a parenting philosophy which my husband and I follow. I must say though that I don’t look up how its done, but rather just use the parts that come naturally to us.

For example – I don’t have their toys arranged strictly Montessori but similar. I don’t make trays for their toys or activities. We do keep their rooms arranged following Montessori, such as having cupboards they can reach all of, having their toys seperated on what they use it for, etc.

I’m a mum that parents by instinct. My view is that our instincts tell us how to “be good parents” and it is up to us to follow those. I try to meet my children at eye level. It‘s not always easy and there are moments when I feel I’ve failed them. Then they come to me, hug me and make me feel so loved and I know that I’m not failing them.

And that makes me happy for every milestone my children hit – they are yet one more step to becoming independent. It makes my day when my oldest announces “no mama, I can do this by myself”. Yes, it takes more time and patience. It is worth it.

Any advice for families considering a third baby but yet to make the commitment?

For us, having our little girl made the family complete. It wasn’t exactly planned, but she really wanted to be a part of our family. And I’ve found you can’t plan children. They are meant to be. There is no “right” time. If you want to have more than 2 children, just do it. The rest will sort itself.

What are your passions outside of your family and cloth nappies?

I love reading books. I’m known in the family for missing my stop on the bus or even missing a train because I was so into a book I liked!

And I love to create and sew. I make cards for the family or sew new outfits. I’ve even started to design my own nappy.

My other passion is helping others. This can be with information, building them up, having an ear or just being there for them.

You have written that you are known within your family as a “herbal witch”. Can you tell us more about that?

I personally think that by eating healthy and having a fairly balanced diet, one doesn’t end up sick. And when one is sick, there are many ways that one can aid the immune system without using synthetic drugs or medication. For me, medicine is a last resort and not the first item that I use.

For example, if I feel a sore throat coming on I make a drink of lemon, honey and cayenne pepper. It is quite spicy but after about 2 or 3 of those, the sore throat is gone.

During cold season, I usually take more vitamin C and have hardly ever a cold. And even if I catch one, it tends to be gone within a couple days.

Can you share one of your favourite recipes?

A refreshing drink full of potassium for the hot weather is a spoonful of apple cider vinegar and 2 spoons of honey. Add cold water (about 1 liter) and stir. I like it so much, just don’t use too much vinegar!

Of course, we know you are passionate about cloth nappies. So much so that you are paid as a cloth nappy consultant. This is not something I am aware of in Australia – can you tell us what a cloth nappy consultant does?

As a cloth nappy consultant, I help parents with their start into the world of cloth nappies. This start can often be quite daunting and before they get overwhelmed by the choice of nappies and materials, they can call me.

I will either go to their home or they visit me. I walk them through the basics of why cloth nappies are a good choice, the different types of nappies as well as the materials. I will show them how to fold a flat in different ways, how to avoid leaks, how to deal with stains, how to use wool covers, how to wash and dry nappies. I am also their to go-to person if they run into trouble while cloth diapering or have questions.

I also do my best to spread the word about the cool alternative to disposable nappies!

Why did you decide to become a cloth consultant? What do you love about it?

When I started with cloth diapers, I had to find my own way. I did not know that there is a lovely community that helps nor that one can book a consultation. I made mistakes, was frustrated and gave up several times. As my son was reacting to disposables, I picked up again and again until I found my way. I then found out one can help others and I couldn’t resist but train as a consultant. I love being able to help families find their way and get started without the unnecessary overwhelm.

The switch in lifestyle then gradually took place by reducing other areas of waste.

Is there any special training you need to undertake in order to become a consultant?

There is no trademark on being a cloth nappy consultant so theoretically you don’t have to train. However, there are several places offering training and I have found it very useful. You don’t just learn the basics, but also how to deal with the unusual situations that you may not have encountered as a parent, such as stinky nappies or constant leaks that make no sense.

Further you are trained on how to consult another person and deal with people and most training also consists of business basics and how to get customers, what you need to make sure of to be on the legal side, etc.

Do you have any data on whether families who use consulting services are more likely to continue to use cloth nappies? It sounds like an efficient way of combatting the overwhelm many experience when beginning with cloth nappies?

There are always some that stop using cloth nappies, but those are usually the ones that were on the fence to begin with and maybe encountered too much counter effort from family and friends.

Those are few though and from what I have observed, those that have a proper consultation are more likely to use cloth full time and until the child is ready to come out of diapers. They are often also the parents that make other big changes in their lifestyle towards more sustainable choices.

What is the key piece of information about cloth nappies you try to share in all consultations?

It depends a bit on the parents. There are those that are deadset on using cloth and will feel guilty if they don’t go all cloth. I tell them: “Do what makes you comfortable. You don’t have to only cloth diaper. Don’t stress yourself. There are going to be days when you can’t be bothered to fill the washing machine. It’s ok. Spend the time cuddling your littles and use a disposable. Don’t feel bad but know you are saving many nappies going into landfill.”

Parents that are a little on the fence I tell: “It is simple. Don’t listen to those making it complicated. We would never dream about throwing away our cutlery and plates when we are done or to use disposables on a daily basis. Why are we doing it in other areas of life? Because it has been PR campaigned hard for the last 50 years and made to look normal. It is a mindset. And others around you will get used to your new mindset. Having said that, it’s ok to have days you use disposable diapers. Don’t feel guilty. Feel pleased on how many you are saving from landfill.”

Consulting aside, in what other ways do you support families to use cloth nappies?

I lend out packages in newborn sizes. They usually fit the first 6 to 8 weeks. They are rented. Like this parents can try out the different systems, get to know how to cloth diaper and see if it is for them, for relatively little investment. They can then keep going with one size and only buy what they like.

What is the most common question you get asked in workshops, and what is your response?

Question – Aren’t they expensive?

Answer – no. With disposables you end up paying around 2000 Euro until your child is potty trained. With cloth nappies you spend, depending on the system, about 300-600 Euro and once you are done with them, you can often sell them again. That lets you save at least 1400 Euro in 2.5-3 years.

Are there any common misconceptions you find you have to correct? If so, what are they and how do you respond?

I’ve had parents worried that cloth diapers would leak or that they would have to boil out the nappies. I usually correct this by showing them how to properly fill a diaper for that age and showing them a good wash routine.

What have you seen to be, or what do you think is the formula for success when it comes to cloth nappies?

Get a cover and start. All those that decide to use cloth found a way to start and got going. Keep it simple and start as much as you can with what you have. That‘s why I like to get families started with a cover and they can use whatever they have at home – like a guest towel or a burp cloth.

Can you talk us through what led you to using cloth nappies in your family?

When I became a mother the second time, my son hated diapers and often had diaper rashes with thrush. I tried a lot of different disposables as my father told me that cloth nappies are a lot of work and it‘s really a last option.

A LOT of nappies, several diaper rashes and creams later I had a consultation for baby wearing. The lady then mentioned cloth diapers and I bought a starter set (a wool cover, 2 terry flats and a snappy). I tried them and my son loved it. I didn’t. It made a huge package and I had a lot of problems folding the flats in a way that I wouldn’t have leaks.

Then I started to Google and found a really good Facebook group that sells nappies second hand but also is really helpful with advice.

There I bought a package of AIOs and pockets. Here I first heard about becoming a consultant. I then got to know all the different systems. I bought all of the remaining nappies second hand and tried out what my son liked and what not. I kept everything else as I was determined to become a consultant.

Doing the switch to cloth diapers also made me drop wet wipes. And that is what actually caused the problem with my son. It wasn’t the diaper but the wet wipes. I only use store bought wet wipes now to get penmarks off from furniture.

If I were to start over I definitely would have tried a lot more materials in the wool cover that I bought and experiment with different folds.

What is the great challenge you have had to overcome and how did you do so?

Putting aside the false datum of it being complicated and a last option.

After making the switch, what surprised you most about using cloth nappies?

My biggest surprise, once I found out how it worked, was how simple it is. And that I don’t have that much more laundry than before.

What type of nappy is your favourite and why? Has it been the same favourite for all of your children?

I love covers and muslin nappies I started with AIO as it as easy. However, as I gained experience, I found covers and muslin nappies the best way for us. As I have 2 children in diapers, it also is a very economical way of cloth diapering. I have about 10 covers and 50 muslin nappies. That lasts me for about 3-4 days. I wash every 2-3 days.

What does your wash routine look like?

I wash twice a week. If I have a few too many blowouts into the covers, I rinse those and then wash them with my towels. Prior to the main wash, I rinse and then put on the main wash.

What do you advise others when it comes to washing?

Find a routine that works for you. I have wash baskets for the family laundry placed in each of our bathrooms and recently added one to each of the boys’ rooms. I have a small basket at each changing table for used nappies and a wetbag for wipes. I collect everything daily and have it in my wash room where I pre-sort into dark and lights at 40 degress celsius, as well as dark and lights at 60 degrees and dishtowels at 90 degrees. For wool, I keep a seperate bag. Whichever basket is the fullest is washed that day. If I have time, I wash another when that is done and hang the first laundry to dry. Now in the summer, I sometimes start this at 6am and get the laundry all done in one day, max. 2 days. Folding is then another story …

Any final cloth tips or hacks?
  • Buy second hand, especially inserts or flats.
  • Try to at least use one cloth diaper a day
  • With newborns, wrap a flat around the baby and then roll in the edges. This keeps poop explosions to a minimum and, like that, covers last longer.
  • Reach out for help whenever you run into trouble. Don’t give up.

Forgot your wet bag on the way out? I always have 2 more covers with me just in case. Use the used cover as a “wet bag” like you would do with a disposable diaper. Once home you can put everything in the wash – don‘t forget to open the diaper!

And, last question, can you describe your cloth nappy journey in one word.

Life changing.

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