modern cloth nappy mama
Living with cloth

#73: It’s not that hard

New Zealand mama, Sam, wants parents to know that it is possible to do cloth nappies, even if you have very little time. Even more importantly, she wants parents to know they aren’t alone; that there’s a community out there ready to support you through the times when parenting can be as hard as being in a crisis. These messages and more she shares on social media, where she hopes the truth will reign over “Instagram reality”. We love her hope for the world of the future – one that is kinder, more accepting and more sustainable. A world where there is no war, love is love and all people are equals.
Welcome, Sam @mamaandnellie
Tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live?

Kia Ora. My name is Sam and we live in Wellington, New Zealand, with my partner of 6 years, Kris, and our 16-month-old daughter, Nellie. We have been full-time cloth for around ten months, and I love sharing my cloth and motherhood journey on my Instagram.

Did you always know you wanted to be a mama?

Yes, absolutely. I have always wanted to have my own children. I used to think I wanted four or five, but now that I’ve had one, I think we’ll probably just have one more!

Where is the joy for you in parenthood?

The joy in motherhood for me is just watching Nellie grow and learn, seeing the world through her eyes, and just the unconditional love I feel for her and can see she returns. I never knew I could feel a love like this before being a parent.

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

Baby sleep! It’s like this super complicated formula that is constantly changing with sleep regressions, teething, and dropping naps. Just when you think you’ve gotten something right, it changes! We’ve just dropped to one nap and I’m finding it really hard to navigate.

Has becoming a mother changed who you are? 

Definitely, it has made me strive to be a better person and a better parent for Nellie. I’ve attended parenting courses and done so much research into how I can be the best parent I can be for her, supporting her in every way she needs. I see the world differently too. I try to see things through Nellie’s eyes and put aside any bias or preconceived ideas I have about things.

What would you say is your parenting philosophy?

I strive for gentle, attachment, and respectful parenting. I’ve been learning a lot about the model of Circle of Security and how a securely attached child is a happy, and emotionally well-rounded child. It’s also what comes most naturally for me as well, I want to respond to her needs, and support her emotions. My parenting style is definitely against the grain – I’m a cloth nappying, extended breastfeeding, baby wearing mama.

You have recently written about the crisis of parenting today – can you tell us a little about that?

So this was based on the idea that parenting can be as hard as being in a crisis. We are overwhelmed with information today and it is so hard to know that you’re doing the right thing, and you’ve made the right choices for your family. Choice between purees and baby led weaning, sleep training or co sleeping. Everywhere you turn, there are opinions and judgement. This is where this age of social media isn’t necessarily the most helpful, as constant comparison and access to information can be all consuming. We often try to have it all these days, a lot of us are working because we have to, and have to balance being a parent and running a household. It’s a lot, and I wanted parents to know they weren’t alone. The community has been so helpful to me, and I’m so passionate about writing the hard truths, and helping people come together and tell their stories.

Self care can be a foreign phrase when you become a mum. Tell me something you do for you.

It’s honestly so hard for me to find time for self care, especially as I’m working full time too. Most nights this looks like me zoning out and watching my favourite TV show. I also do make sure to keep up with my hairdressers appointments, and have recently started a new skincare regime. I used to cross stitch and embroider a lot and I’m really hoping to get the time and motivation to get back into that soon. I am a real creator and artist at heart, and it makes my soul happy.

Your Instagram account is all about sharing your love for cloth nappies, and you touch on the many other aspect of mamahood too – what does it mean to you to share in this way?

I am so incredibly grateful for the space that I have to talk about things that I’m passionate about. As I mentioned earlier, I want to share the truth. I’m not buying into “Instagram reality”. My house is not always clean, my child eats food out of a packet sometimes, and I am not perfect. I want other parents to see my content and relate to it. I want them to know it’s okay if they haven’t showered in four days, and the mum bun has been in for a week. I also love to show that it is possible to do cloth nappies, even with as little time as I have!

Why do you love cloth nappies?

I love the fact that modern cloth nappies really are so easy to use and help save so much waste from going into landfill! The gorgeous prints and designs are just a bonus! I also love that, to me, cloth nappies are a symbol of a more eco-friendly and sustainable future. They’re evidence of a changing mindset to help save our planet and secure our children’s futures.

What do you wish all people knew about cloth nappies?

It’s not that hard! You’re doing lots of washing anyway, you will touch poo even if you’re not using cloth. It’s also not all or nothing, even one nappy a day is saving one from landfill. Every disposable nappy ever used still exists in landfill. You don’t have to have a perfect wash routine, and it’s okay to take a break. If you’re on the fence about trying cloth nappies, just buy one, put it on, and then wash it. It doesn’t need to be complicated!

What’s your number one tip for cloth newbies?

I have a whole cloth tip series on my page and my number one tip is: Don’t invest all in one brand before starting. Not every brand works for everyone. I did this and ended up having to sell a lot of my nappies. It’s best to get one or two from some highly recommended brands and see what works best. You could even try a hire service, or borrow from a friend if you are able to.

What are your thoughts on the time it takes to use cloth nappies?

That they’re not as time consuming as you would think. It’s one extra load of washing every day-2 days, then 5-10 mins to prep and stuff them every few days, unless you’re a stuff as you go person. I work full time, have a part time job doing content and social media for one of the brands I rep for, I create content for my Instagram, and I’m a full time Mama. If I can find the time, so can you!

What do you consider a good wash routine?

I follow Clean Cloth Nappies (CCN) wash routine. I do a prewash at 60 degrees daily, as I use night nappies, and a main wash on 40 degrees every 2-3 days, with a good quality detergent. I think a hot/warm wash is the only way to make sure your nappies are truly clean. If you have any stains, a bit of sard soap and scrubbing will help get that out. Sunlight does not remove bacteria. In saying this, you do not have to have a perfect wash routine to use cloth. It’s important to have clean nappies so they don’t get ammonia build up and cause rashes for your baby, but there are workarounds. I know someone with a top loader that isn’t able to do the hottest wash and so once a month or so, they take their nappies to their in-laws to do an extra hot long wash. You can also do a sanitise if you need to. 

What do you love about being a brand rep?

I love being able to support small local businesses, and promote products that I am truly passionate about. I love getting sneak peeks, and helping have input on future products. I’m so thankful to work with two amazing brands whose products and ethos I truly stand behind. It’s such a privilege to receive products to try, and review. I hope to make completely transparent content that helps parents make decisions about what products may be right for them. I also just love engaging with the community.

What does supporting small business mean to you?

To me, supporting small businesses means making a tangible difference to a family and helping support someone’s dream. I love the personalised customer service and extra touches you get from supporting small. I’m also big on supporting local small businesses as this reduces carbon footprint and puts money directly back into the local economy.

What do you recommend anyone do if they are struggling with any aspect of cloth nappies?

Reach out to the community! There are Facebook groups, forums, Instagram communities, no matter where you are. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. From my experience, everyone who can is so willing to offer help and advice. If that aspect is financial, as I understand that being able to buy cloth nappies is a luxury, some councils have grants, or there may be other projects in your area. Here in NZ we have one called “Gift-a-Bum PIF Cloth Nappy Community Aotearoa”.

If getting more bums into cloth is what’s most important, what is the best way we can go about this?

Doing exactly what we are doing and promoting cloth in such a big way. Making it more mainstream. Here in NZ we even sell some brands in supermarkets! It’s putting the product in front of people, and in their feeds, educating, and inviting people to learn more. Some people don’t even know there is another way. It’s also important to show how easy it really is. Creating content around the cloth routine and how tos, so people have guides and feel supported. I think that making cloth more accessible is going to play a huge part in getting more bums into cloth. So making sure there are affordable options that work, and getting more councils involved. My hope for the future is that all antenatal groups, and well child programs promote cloth as an option.

How did you get started on your cloth journey?

My best friend used cloth for her daughter, and I am quite environmentally minded so for me it was a no brainer. We have planned to do full time cloth from birth, and had all our nappies prepped and ready to go. My daughter was born at 31 weeks so we weren’t able to straight away, but we started after she had been home a couple of weeks, and weighed only 2.5kg! We started part time, just at home and during the day. We then eventually started using cloth while out and about, and finally ventured into night nappies. A few months later, we also switched to cloth wipes, and I’ll never look back.

What has been the highlight of using cloth nappies for you?

The satisfaction I get out of knowing how many nappies I have saved from landfill. Also finding the cloth community on Instagram. I have forged some amazing friendships, and it has helped me feel less alone and isolated in navigating cloth and motherhood.

What hurdles have you faced, and how have you overcome them?

In the beginning, we got lots of leaks. I wasn’t getting a good fit, and the inserts and nappies we were using weren’t particularly good quality. I had joined my local cloth nappy Facebook groups and posted asking for advice on fit and such. I had so many lovely people reach out to me, support me, and even recommend some better brands.

What have you got out of being a part of the cloth community?

A sense of belonging. I have found so many like-minded first time and more experienced mamas who have welcomed me into the community. I know that it is a safe place where we can have all sorts of discussions and help support each other. Especially if you are a first-time mum, the journey is so new and overwhelming. Being able to ask questions, or just share what you are currently going through and have someone else say they feel the same, is so special.

Have you encountered any negativity through your cloth journey to date and, if so, what has been your response?

Yes, I’ve had people tell me that I’m just making work for myself, and “they could never be bothered”. I even had someone tell me that all of the washing and power negates the sustainability of cloth nappies (which just isn’t true) and my response has always just been that while cloth may not be for them, I ask that they respect my decision. I am confident and happy in my choice to use cloth. I try to educate where I can, but I see no point in having a conversation with someone who truly doesn’t want to listen.

What features do you look for in a cloth nappy?

Insert quality is a huge one for me, I love natural fibres as they are more absorbent and also more sustainable. I prefer to have a tummy leak guard, but honestly if a brand works for me, I’m more about being able to get a good fit and prints that I like. If a nappy is hard to fit, it doesn’t matter what features it has, I won’t reach for it.

What prints or colours dominate your stash?

Florals. I’m a huge floral person and these definitely dominate my stash. In pinks and purples mostly.

What’s your favourite cloth nappy accessory and why?

A wetbag because it’s so versatile. A dual pocket one can hold both clean and dirty nappies when you’re out, a smaller one can hold your cloth wipes, but beyond that they can be used for toiletries, swimming, and a million other things!

How do you get your daughter to lay still while changing her nappy?

I actually get this question a lot! We use sign language, so I say and sign “nappy” to her a minute or so before I do it so she has an idea of what is coming. I put myself in her shoes and imagine how upset I would be if I was happily playing and then out of the blue someone came up and grabbed me. I then get her to choose the nappy she wants out of two choices so she feels involved in the process. I talk to her about what I’m doing while I’m doing it. Nappy changing is such a great opportunity to fill your baby with language. If that fails and she’s having a particularly wriggly day – distraction! We have this annoying mobile phone toy that only comes out during nappy changes or times where distraction is needed, and that usually works.

What’s your favourite eco swap or change made for sustainability besides cloth nappies?

I recently just changed to a safety razor which will stop me contributing a plastic razor to landfill every fortnight! I’m thrilled about that change.

What hopes and dreams do you have for your daughter?

I hope that she grows up to be kind, open minded, but strong. I want her to know that she can do whatever she wants to do, and that I will support her no matter what. I want her voice to be heard, her dreams to become reality, and her to have strong and lasting friendships and relationships with people. That’s why I’m putting so much work into my relationship and parenting with her, so she knows what that looks like.

What kind of world do you hope is ahead for her?

I hope that the world ahead is kinder, more accepting, and definitely more sustainable. I am seeing a huge shift in the way we parent – for the better – and also a huge shift for sustainability, as we realise just how much damage we have done to the planet. I want a world where there is no war, where love is love, and all people are equals.

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