Today we have another guest on the show, a doctor this time! Alexis is a cloth mum who started with terry flats because that’s what her mum used. With 3 weeks to go before her second arrives Alexis reflects on why she loves reusable nappies, the effect they’ve had on her life and the time she almost gave up. Listen to hear the whole story.
Vicki Simpson is the current President of the Australian Nappy Association and has been advocating for and selling cloth nappies in Australia for over a decade. She is the owner, creator and chief Nappy Nerd here at Bubblebubs. Vashti Wadwell is the Member Secretary of the Australian Nappy Association and is the owner of Australia’s first bricks and mortar nappy store, Nest Nappies, in Brisbane, Australia. She has been using cloth nappies for 12 years, and currently has one child still in nappies.
Transcription: Doctor is in the Podcast.
Andrew: How are you, Vashti?
Vashti: I’m good thanks, Andrew, how are you?
Andrew: [laughs] Excellent. And how are you doing, Vicki?
Vicki: I’m doing really well.
Andrew: And today we have a special guest. We have Alexis, who’s actually a doctor. How are you, Alexis?
Alexis: I am good, I’m good thanks. I’m happy to be here.
Andrew: Nice. Well, we’ve got you in because we’re curious to find out about your nappy journey. So the first thing I’m going to ask is, how many children do you have?
Alexis: I have a two and a half-year-old, just under two and a half years at the moment, a little boy. And I’m due for my second in three weeks.
Andrew: OK, exactly three weeks?
Alexis: Uh huh, I’m getting induced [laughter].
Andrew: Oh, you’re getting induced.
Alexis: Unless something happens before, which I hope it doesn’t.
Vicki: Hang on, can I interrupt you?
Vicki: Hayley, we have got chocolate chip cookie. Actually, they’re double chocolate chip cookies.
Vashti: Yeah, we’ve got to do a disclaimer, and…
Vicki: What are these?
Vashti: Coconut Macaroons.
Vicki: Coconut Macaroons. So if you’re hungry, off you go.
Andrew: So in other words, yummy foods will be mentioned in the podcast.
Andrew: This podcast is actually going to publish after you’ve had the baby, so is there something you want to say to future Mum?
Alexis: Let’s hope that I’m rested, and everything goes according to plan.
Vashti: It will, it always will.
Andrew: Everybody says that. It never does. And how did you get into cloth nappies? Because obviously, we talk about cloth nappies on the podcast. What was your journey, and how did you discover cloth nappies and get into cloth?
Alexis: Mostly my Mum. So my Mum had four kids and used terries on all of us. Never purchased a disposable at all, actually. And I really wanted to adopt my Mum’s, I’m not sure if you’d say natural, but simple, simplified natural approach to parenting that she used in the early ‘80s. So I wanted to try and channel that a bit. And something just, I’ve got younger brothers who were babies when I was early teens. All I remember was them being in little cloth terries and something adorable about babies in cloth. It just feels right.
Vicki: So what you’re saying is, your Mum didn’t screw you up? Because you know, it either goes one of two ways. Either you do, you parent the same way as your parents, or you’re like, I’m never going to do that to my children.
Vashti: The opposite.
Alexis: I’ve done everything my Mum’s done, and through the whole, I just said what did you so? I want to keep everything simple. I sleep my baby on a sheepskin and use terries. I just wanted to keep it simple because I think…
Vicki: …we overcomplicate it.
Alexis: And particularly now in this generation, all the social media things get really over complicated with parenting. So I really wanted to ignore all of that and go back to basics. That was the main…
Vashti: I think it stresses mums out too. Very much so.
Alexis: It does, and that was the main focus for me at the beginning. And then now it has turned into us becoming an utterly plastic-free home…
Alexis: …and completely changing our lifestyle.
Vashti: Isn’t that awesome?
Alexis: Because we thought, we’re saving this part of the planet, and we’re doing this cloth business. Why then do we need to use plastics and disposable items? It just kind of flowed on.
Vicki: So is it entirely plastic free?
Alexis: Completely, yep.
Alexis: I finalised it with a breadmaker a few months ago, and that was our last step.
Vicki: Wow, so how do you go with food? OK, so food from the supermarket, let’s say…
Vashti: Rice and pasta and stuff?
Vicki: Yeah, yeah, how do you…
Alexis: I go to wholefoods scoop place, and I fill up my containers of all the pantry food, and we buy from the markets, or from the fruit markets where you can actually take your own bags. We don’t buy any foods wrapped in plastic or anything.
Vicki: What about ice cream?
Alexis: I don’t buy ice cream, because I will eat the tub in one sitting.
Vicki: Well, of course.
Alexis: I don’t buy ice cream. We got like, my husband was buying sparkling water, so we got a soda stream, so we don’t use those bottles. And we use cornstarch bin liners for the necessary waste. We have chooks and compost, and dogs. So food scraps, meat scraps and everything in between go in the compost.
Vashti: See, I love that, absolutely love that.
Alexis: And chooks will eat anything.
Vicki: Chooks eat absolutely everything. You don’t even have to take the wrappers off cupcakes, not that I would ever feed my chickens paper.
Andrew: Vicki’s got our dog to eat vegetables.
Vicki: Yeah, I got him to eat pear core yesterday. All I have to do is call the other dog up. And made him eat the tomato. Because our dog, our puppy, has got major FOMO. So all you have to do is make him think that he’s going to miss out. It doesn’t matter what it is, and he’ll eat it. At least it’s not going in the landfill.
Vashti: You were saying you were doing this completely plastic-free thing, and I’ve brought biscuits in plastic boxes.
Alexis: Yeah, shame on you, I was judging you for that.
Vashti: Yes, you should. That’s OK, and I will recycle them, I promise.
Alexis: Most of our recycling goes to landfill now, because China’s not buying it.
Vashti: That’s unfortunate.
Alexis: Does that make you feel worse?
Vashti: Yeah, it does, thanks. Hang my head in shame.
Vicki: That is why, we actually had something in the V.I.P. group where one of our satchels, we’re actually looking to move over to biodegradable satchels and stuff like that, from the plastic satchels. I didn’t know that they were available actually. So anyway, now I need to get through the couple of thousand that I had literally just bought. But we had a parcel just absolutely annihilated by Australia Post.
Vashti: Shredded, it looked like it had been through a shredder.
Andrew: It had been dragged along the back of a truck.
Vicki: And then run over. But anyway, even though that happens, we still don’t double bag. We try to reduce. We have bugger all… can I say that? Bugger all packaging.
Alexis: So mine will come in the plastic sleeve for each item.
Vicki: See, I have to ask, they know now specifically, don’t package our stuff. Otherwise, they will. They will just put it in the single-use plastic. The little tins that we make our body balm in, they put the lightest, flimsiest little plastic bag over them, and I said why bother? I’d rather a few dinted or scratched tins than these tiny little, flyaway pieces of plastic. And they’re like, oh but we want to protect… I don’t care. I will say completely…
Vashti: Absolve you…
Vicki: …thank you, of any issues that come with it. And you know what? They arrived perfectly. No different. These tiny little pieces of plastic, as if they’re going to do anything.
Alexis: The only thing we haven’t tackled yet is the milk cartons. We’re still getting them.
Vashti: My local deli has just told me that Barambah Milk is bringing out a glass bottle, and they will be recycling those bottles. My deli is going to be a recycling station for Barambah.
Alexis: We’ll talk about that later because that is the only thing we’re still bringing home.
Vicki: But do you know what sucks? Are your lifestyle and your food bill would be 30, 40% more than mine, which I think that, the fact that you’re cutting out the plastic is the sucky part. That’s the sucky part. Why should you, it doesn’t make sense.
Andrew: So you don’t have enough room in your backyard for a cow?
Alexis: Not yet.
Vashti: Goats? Goats!
Vicki: Baby goats are so cute.
Andrew: OK, let’s bring this back to nappies.
Alexis: Sorry. Focus.
Andrew: How many nappies do you have in your stash?
Alexis: Oh, now are we talking pre-folds, flat, fitted, one size fits all, pockets, or…
Vashti: Do you know what? I remember when you first started, and you were like, no, no, we’re going to do this with a minimal stash, and we’re just going to do the basics.
Alexis: No, I’m joking, I have kept quite minimal. But I actually know my husband would argue that. I, look because my toddler is in fulltime daycare, we have enough to be able to supply daycare and be able to do two to three daily washes. Sorry, every two to three days we do a wash, so we need quite a few. I think I’ve got currently, not including a couple, 48 ready to go. And then I’ve got all my flats and pre-folds, of which I’ve got lots and lots of…
Vashti: You’re about to have two in cloth.
Alexis: …because they’re fabulous for anything. They go in the pram, as spew rags, I use them so much for more than just nappies as well. I think I’ve got 30; I think I’ve got about 40 pocket ones.
Andrew: So you managed to get daycare to use them. How did you do that?
Alexis: Yeah. Actually, they just said yeah, that’s fine. I can’t say they use them very well. So I got the Australian Nappy Association’s downloadable daycare pack. And my husband diligently resized the instructions on how to fit a cloth nappy and laminated it, popped it on a keyring and put it on the wet bag.
Vicki: I like that idea.
Andrew: This is giving you the idea for a new product?
Vashti: So Jenna, that’s a new thing.
Andrew: Start designing that now, Jenna.
Alexis: That was really handy. The thing is, we ended up moving from a great daycare because by sending cloth we could they actually weren’t changing his nappy enough. So he’d come back with not clean, which means he wore two nappies for the day. So he’s now in family daycare, and our fantastic lady that runs that has got two of the four kids in cloth, and she absolutely loves it. So it wasn’t an issue. But it wasn’t an issue with the big daycare, other than I guess it gave us evidence to say hey, you’re not changing his nappy as much as you’re recording in the book. So we knew they were lying about it, which was actually really handy.
Vashti: That’s a bit disappointing though, that they’ve actually said they’ve changed it when you know they haven’t.
Alexis: I just felt like saying, you know you’re handing us back the evidence. But we have left that daycare.
Andrew: They could have at least run it under the tap.
Alexis: But when certain people were on, it wouldn’t happen, and they were used. We just sent them with; we’d put a little sticker on, just a bit of masking tape on each bag with the text that says clean and dirty, just because they’ve got so many people going through when we were in the big daycare. Sometimes we would still get nappies in a plastic nappy bag, in the wet bag. And then when the clothes were dirty, they’d put the clothes in a plastic bag, and usually double bagged if it was wet.
Vicki: Which they can’t actually do anymore. Or they don’t do anymore.
Alexis: That’s good, I didn’t know that.
Vashti: There’s still a few daycare centres that are doing it because they’re winding through the plastic that they’ve got, but most daycare centres have eliminated the plastic bags.
Vicki: They’re going for wet bags, actually.
Alexis: That’s great, and they were right. I think it’s just, and they turn over so many staff that there’s not a lot of consistency. So I’d get some pictures, look, he has such a great day today. And I’m like, that’s really interesting, his nappy is on back to front, with only one snap done up. It’s not actually doing, and he could just be naked.
Andrew: It’s not as bad as when my Mum puts them on.
Vicki: She put an all in one on, inside out and back to front. And I’m like, it’s almost like people think cloth nappies have to be difficult, so I’m going to find…
Vashti: It’s the same concept, isn’t it?
Vicki: Exactly the same, but we’ve had the booster hanging out. So it was like hanging off. It’s not a tail.
Vashti: So he was playing dress up.
Alexis: I haven’t had, all the daycares when I first was looking into them, all the ones I asked said yeah, that’s fine, as long as you provide it. So we did have bamboo liners, because it just made it easier for them to put the poos in the bin and send them home, and we just would put them on for a rinse straight away, and do a big wash every second or third day, and it worked really well, and it’s still working really well.
Vicki: And if anyone is actually having issues with their daycare, three words. Continuity of care. That’s all you have to tell them, and they can’t refuse. It’s actually against the law for them to refuse. But three words kind of sends shivers down their spine.
Alexis: Yeah, and I actually really loved the fact that I could actually know how many times my child’s getting their nappy changed. I couldn’t tell that with… but yeah, other than that, I didn’t really have any issues. They were all…
Vicki: Fine if you provide…
Vashti: That’s interesting, because when we went hunting for daycare for Mikayla, who’s just turned 11, so she started daycare when she was 17 months old. And hunting for daycares back then who would accept cloth, I would say there was probably, out of the, oh gosh, I can’t even remember how many daycare centres I rang, but I would say probably less than 30% of them were open to the idea of using this.
Alexis: It’s getting more popular now, definitely in Paddington. I can’t remember the name, it just slipped my mind, but I think that had a lot to do with advocating for cloth in Brisbane, particularly on the North side.
Vicki: See, my girls went to family daycare, so I never had an issue, it was always just…
Alexis: We love family daycare.
Vicki: If you find the right daycare Mum, it’s like it’s family.
Alexis: What were those nappies you sent? They were amazing, and they’re so soft and lovely. And you wouldn’t come home with them so tight that they’re cutting in, she’d just fit them perfectly, no, I love it.
Vashti: That’s good.
Andrew: I was going to ask, what are your early memories of deciding to use cloth nappies, but you said you got it from your Mum, so you kind of inherited it, didn’t you?
Alexis: Yeah, yep.
Andrew: They never had the modern cloth nappies back then. What did you think of the modern cloth nappies when you first saw those?
Alexis: I was a bit hesitant at first, but that’s because my Mum was. She was like, I don’t know about those. She goes, just do terries, you can use them for everything. So in the initial stage, I did get terries, didn’t I?
Vashti: I’m pretty sure.
Alexis: Because of the multiuse, I can just whip one out of the nappy bag, and it can go on the bassinet or the pram, or over my shoulder, or clean up anything. And so in that regard, they’re really, really useful when you’re changing so many times. And then Vashti was like, try this, try these.
Vashti: You moved into Seedlings.
Alexis: And I think I moved into pocket Seedlings, because I liked the idea that you could put the terry inside the nappy, and so that was really handy because I’ve heard a lot of people say that they don’t use cloth when they’re out. And I thought, well why not? We’ve got wet bags, and if I could just make it a bit easier. So the terries, obviously you need to fold, whereas [indistinct word, 14:15] into a pocket. Yeah, so then that started, and the rest is history. I couldn’t stop purchasing nappies.
Vashti: I think Rob likes the Seedlings as well, doesn’t he?
Alexis: Yes, he likes the pockets. And he likes because you can just use them as an ugly cover, so you can just stick the terry in it.
Vicki: We’re just going to have to cut this whole entire thing. [laughter]
Vashti: But you’ve also used other brands, not just Seedling babies.
Vicki: Seedling are fantastic. They are. It was sarcasm in case anyone didn’t pick that up.
Alexis: So I used Bubblebubs, lots and lots of Bubblebubs, and Seedlings, Baby Beehinds, and…
Vicki: You mentioned pop-ins too.
Vashti: No, pop-ins as in all in twos.
Alexis: I’ve got Gro-Via as well. I’ve got Gro-Via, they were the big shell.
Vashti: That was the Gro-Via hybrids. But she said, when you mentioned pop-ins, Close Parent do a nappy called pop in, so that’s
Alexis: And I’ve got, I had some Tots Bots Bamboozles for the newborn.
Vashti: I love bamboozles. So hard to get these days.
Alexis: Yeah, actually I’ve got quite a, but my staples would be the…
Vicki: And they dry so quick, too.
Alexis: Exactly, that’s the bonus, is that the bamboo inserts and pockets are not so…
Andrew: You mentioned before you husband changes them. What is his favourite nappy to change? Is there one that he always reaches for first?
Alexis: He does love the Seedlings, but my toddler doesn’t fit them at the moment, because he has enormous thighs.
Vashti: He’s got gorgeous thighs.
Alexis: We’ve had to go to a soft fit with a cover, so we’re actually on Baby Beehind
Alexis: …fitteds at the moment, because they’re stretchy enough to accommodate his rugby thighs, my husband calls them.
Vicki: Did you try the Big?
Alexis: Yes, yep, but it doesn’t, I can get it around enough to get the nappy on, but it’s a bit of a…
Vashti: He’s such a wide boy, isn’t he?
Vashti: Childbearing hips.
Alexis: He looks pretty normal, but he’s, it’s interesting…
Vashti: He’s such a strange shape.
Alexis: But my husband loves the Seedlings. But he absolutely loves terry. Loves…
Andrew: Can he do flats? Does he fold the terry flats?
Alexis: Oh my goodness, like so he thought it was just fabulous that he could fold some of the fancy origami folds with one hand. So he was like, check this out, holding the baby, folds it up and goes, look what I just made.
Andrew: We might have to go and see that.
Alexis: Got a pretty amazing husband. So he would fold it, and he would, when Mum was showing us some of the folds, and we were looking them all up, and Vashti, you gave us a hand out as well. And he just thought, this is awesome, it’s like a challenge, it’s like folding origami, and then he learned all the folds, and would show them off, and practice them with one hand.
Vashti: I still remember one day, he came in…
Alexis: He loves them.
Vashti: …and we were looking at the Seedlings, and he’s just turned around, just get the flats.
Alexis: Actually yes, I should just say, his go-to is the flats, until with daycare, we couldn’t do the flats. So he’s still in flats at home and gets the modern cloth. Actually, that was probably the main, and I had to put him into daycare at about five months, and just part-time. And that was what prompted our move to modern cloth. Which then we found really easy for travel, and going out. And I travel. Whenever I go interstate, I take them.
Andrew: Was he resistant to cloth nappies at first? Or was he like, yeah, whatever?
Alexis: No, he was on board.
Andrew: Onboard straight away.
Alexis: As soon as I showed him the two benefits, so the financial benefit and the environmental benefit, he just went, well that’s so logical, why would you do anything else?
Andrew: Do you know what nappies he was in?
Alexis: I think he was in disposables, I’m not sure, actually.
Vicki: See, the ‘80s were that changeover.
Alexis: I remember some of my early ‘80s…
Vicki: Yeah, my younger nieces and nephews were in flats, and back then, I could fold a flat. Not now.
Vashti: Unless they’re beautiful and soft and stretchy like the Bubblebubs bamboo flats.
Vicki: Yeah, just a couple of them.
Alexis: I found them much more comfortable than the big cotton ones.
Vicki: But yeah, I know that as it went on, there was just more and more disposables. I think my nieces, my youngest niece is 21, that would have made her born in, oh my God. That’s not the ‘80s at all, holy Dooley? But anyway actually, I know my first niece was born in like ’86 or something.
Vashti: I know when my little brother was born in the ‘90s…
Vicki: It was all pretty much disposables.
Vashti: …it was all pretty much disposables by then, but Mum used terry flats for him. Because she couldn’t afford disposables. She was a single Mum, at uni, she had my sister and me, and then a new baby. And there’s no way she could afford flats, and I mean disposables.
Alexis: That makes me think, I think it’s fabulous that there are these charities that are donating nappies to mothers in need, and there are lots of nappy drives that happen, and I think it’s a really great initiative. But Mum was the one that pointed it out if they can’t afford disposables, why don’t we set them up with a full stash of cloth? And then it’s not going to keep costs, and it’s not a temporary fix. But I’m sure there are other barriers to that as well.
Vashti: There is, and this is one of the things that we’ve talked about with a few of the charities ourselves, is that a lot of the charities don’t have the time to show parents how to use a cloth nappy, and so, therefore, they’re not willing to learn themselves either. And they think it’s hard. We can’t have contact with these families that are in crisis, because of…
Vashti: …privacy issues. And some of these families don’t have access to washing machines, because they are in crisis, so they’re in temporary accommodation, and they’re getting things to go to the laundromat to wash.
Alexis: And it just adds another dimension.
Vashti: It’s another level of stress on these families. My Mum works in community housing, and I’ve tried to get in with her because we get lots of donations at Nest Nappies of second hand, finished with stashes and stuff, and even my Mum can’t get the families that she works closely with to take them on. Because it’s too much of a battle for them. It’s just one extra thing that they really don’t want to think about, unfortunately.
Alexis: But now the Council is on board with…
Vashti: The Council is on board.
Vicki: Having said that, I think that’s where disposables actually have a place. You know, like anything, I actually advocate, especially for the mother. The mental health and all of this. And whilst I’d love to see every baby breastfed and…
Vashti: It’s extra work. It’s extra work to wash and fold.
Vicki: …cloth nappied and all of that sort of stuff, I advocate for the mum first. If cloth nappies are going to send you over the edge, oh my God, it’s just a nappy. If breastfeeding is going to send you over the edge…
Alexis: It’s not worth it.
Vicki: …they’re still getting fed, you know. It’s taken many years of seeing lots of different situations to come to that point, and I just advocate for the mum. You’ve got to do what ’s right for you…
Vashti: Not just the mum, but the family…
Vicki: You’re right, but for the family. You’ve got to do what’s right.
Vashti: The family has to be able to be able to get through the day, and know that at the end of the day, there’s not a basket of nappies that have to be folded.
Alexis: I have an incredibly helpful husband.
Vashti: You do.
Alexis: I’m grateful, I think it would be very different, if…
Vicki: And everyone’s situation is also different. It took a long time to get Andrew on board. Now, what we were talking about, the whole plastic free thing, that really is just the by-product of using cloth nappies, because we’re actually finding it ourselves, with the amount of recycling…
Andrew: Actually I made a comment the other day, I was actually putting rubbish in the bin, and I said to Vicki, oh Vicki, our recycle bin is fuller than our rubbish bin.
Vashti: Which is, as Alexis said, now goes to landfill because China’s not taking our recycling.
Alexis: Bit of an issue, yeah.
Vashti: They are working on that though.
Andrew: That’s funny, I always thought it was recycled locally. I didn’t realise it went overseas. Because we get carpets and all sorts of things are made from…
Alexis: Some of it is recycled locally, but a lot of it goes overseas, and China’s stopped accepting it because people don’t put the correct things in the recycling. They put rubbish in the recycling.
Vashti: I had my eyes opened to that on the War on the Waste.
Alexis: Well there’s entire loads of recycling that gets dumped because one person has put a bag of rubbish in there. Or one person has put a plastic bag filled with the recycling in there, instead of emptying the plastic bag out. So yeah, you can contaminate an entire load, just by one piece. Which is really [indistinct word, 22:45] And that’s why China’s said no, because they’re now ending up with all our landfill, because there’s…
Andrew: Let’s get this back.
Vicki: But landfill is such a stop gap. We should be even, and I do believe even burning it is actually more environmentally, long-term environmentally friendly. I’ve seen, I haven’t actually looked right into it, but somewhere in Scandinavia…
Alexis: Yeah, there is one of the European nations actually burns. They don’t have any landfill whatsoever. They’ve got such a great recycling system set up, and families are so on board with it, that all their recycling is done correctly, and the small amount of actual waste they have is being burned, and it’s being turned into energy. So the emissions, they’ve managed to get the emissions so low that it’s got almost a zero impact on the environment, and the power that’s produced from burning it actually goes into producing energy for the country to run on.
Vicki: Because there’s a misconception that once it’s in the landfill, bye-bye, we don’t see it again. But it’s not, as it breaks down, not that it really breaks down, but it releases methane gases and greenhouse gases and stuff like that, so landfill is actually a significant issue that we’re now putting up with.
Vashti: I posted something recently at Nest, not recently, a while ago now. They did an archaeological dig on a landfill site in the U.S. where they pulled out, they actually date tested, or carbon tested for dating and stuff like that. Hot dogs, so you know the hot dog sausages, they pulled those out that were 40 years old.
Vicki: Yeah, but I’ve seen McDonald’s burgers that weren’t in the landfill that still looked perfect. But they pulled out newspapers.
Vashti: They pulled out carrots. Now, a carrot is a completely natural thing. These carrots looked in perfect condition. They were dark in colour, so they looked like a purple carrot or something like that.
Andrew: Wait a minute, wait a minute. They do know that carrots grow underground, don’t they? [laughter].
Alexis: So when they were going through the landfill, there were carrots growing.
Vashti: But they snapped them in half, and they were orange on the inside, and they dated them, and…
Alexis: Carrots are usually orange.
Vashti: …but they dated them, they were ten years old. They were able to come, and they were ten years old.
Alexis: I don’t know what just happened there. Laughing too much.
Andrew: A spill shirt.
Alexis: Laughing too much.
Andrew: So silly question, top load or front load washing machine?
Alexis: Front loader.
Andrew: You’ve had a top load before?
Alexis: I don’t like them…
Alexis: Things get wrapped around it.
Andrew: She’s making spinning signals.
Alexis: No, no, front loader all the way.
Andrew: OK, so you had a top loader and didn’t…
Alexis: No, I haven’t had one. I’ve used them before, but not in my home.
Andrew: Just got a front one.
Vicki: Front loaders have been, gosh this might show my age, you won’t remember this. They actually used to have a rebate, getting everybody off the top loaders onto the front loaders. This was about 15 years ago. Because we had it when Abbi…
Andrew: Was that like a plasma bonus?
Vicki: Yeah, actually, around the same time, because Abbi’s 14, and that was, I remember swapping washing machines, because we had a top loader, and you got a rebate if you bought a front loader because they were super expensive back then. Because they were better for water consumption.
Andrew: For those people listening outside of Australia and don’t know what the plasma bonus is, when you have a child in Australia, you get a cash bonus from the Government.
Vashti: Not any more.
Vicki: You did.
Vashti: You did.
Vicki: For a period, because John Howard, our Prime Minister at the time, said everyone had two kids. So one for Mum, one for Dad, and one of the country. And so he paid you to have that third child.
Vashti: At one point it was up to $5,000 per child.
Vicki: It was, Bella, she was five grand.
Vashti: I got five grand for Mikayla. I think I only got three grand for Braith. And I got nothing for Kylan.
Vicki: Didn’t you get paid maternity leave?
Vashti: Yeah, but they stuffed me around that much that I didn’t actually get paid until I went back to work. I went back to work at seven weeks with Kylan, and I actually dropped my hours right back to one day a week. And they said no, that wouldn’t affect your paid maternity leave, and you’ll still be entitled to maternity leave to build it up to what you were on before. And I went back to work, and they finally sorted out my paid maternity leave and said oh no, you’re back at work now, you’re obviously fully fit and capable, so no, you don’t get paid maternity leave. So that’s seven weeks, instead of…
Andrew: And did you buy a plasma T.V. with your baby bonus?
Vashti: No. No, we didn’t, we were sensible and bought baby things with it.
Vicki: We paid our obstetrician.
Vashti: Yeah, that was the other thing.
Alexis: A baby bonus. My goodness. It’s over. It’s something to debate in public, isn’t it?
Vashti: So you missed out on the baby bonus.
Alexis: Yeah, no bonus.
Andrew: Do you dry on the line, or do you put them in a drier?
Andrew: Line? All the time?
Alexis: Yeah, just because I know that driers are expensive.
Vicki: Heat pump dryers.
Vicki: Heat pump dryers are awesome. Because Andrew refuses to use the line, and he does all our washing. And you know what? I stopped whining about it, and so I just bought a heat pump dryer, which was ridiculously expensive, but they work on air conditioner technology. So they’re better environmentally, and they’re quiet, and they don’t end up with fluff all through. But you know what? And this is what I said because I’m a Mum of three now, this is advocating for the family, you’ve got to do what works for you. And that was…
Alexis: We do, I have an inside line as well, but when it’s wet we’ll put in the inserts, but the shells dry so quickly. But…
Andrew: If you’ve got a good spin cycle, the shells almost come out dry.
Alexis: Exactly, but we do use it in rainy weather.
Vicki: Which, ironically, is summer.
Alexis: And especially when we need, and that’s why I like the theory.
Vashti: And having a big stash, I advocate for a big stash.
Alexis: That’s the other thing.
Vashti: Having enough to get you through. So you don’t have to stress.
Alexis: You can never have enough nappies.
Andrew: Well now you’re going to have two kids in nappies, that’s right.
Alexis: Trying to toilet train him, and just before this baby comes, it’s just not happening.
Vicki: And he’ll likely regress anyway.
Alexis: Thanks, thanks.
Vicki: Well it’s better than setting you up to fail. Realistic.
Vashti: So this isn’t brag in any way, but…
Vicki: When you say but… but my child was toilet trained at five months says Vashti.
Vashti: No. Braith was day trained at 18 months. He had next to no accidents or anything like that. However, as soon as Mikayla was born, three months later, bang, we were back in fulltime nappies. So it took me another almost six months to get him out of day nappies.
Alexis: Lucky you own a nappy shop.
Vashti: Well, not back then I didn’t.
Alexis: Of course.
Vashti: I was in central Victoria back then, so two under two in full-time cloth, in the middle of winter in central Victoria. My house was a Chinese laundry.
Vicki: Did we actually see any… oh yeah, we did, in Hong Kong. Because I was actually looking for that when we were in China. Because that is the saying, that it’s like a Chinese laundry when you’ve got clothes hanging.
Vashti: Yeah, it was out the windows.
Vicki: It was out the windows, but I didn’t see it in China though. That was just in Hong Kong.
Vashti: No, we did see it in China as well.
Vicki: I didn’t take any notice at all.
Vashti: No, because we’d already seen it that much in Hong Kong. Driving down the streets, we went on a bus tour.
Vicki: Not in Hong Kong. Not in Hong Kong city. In Kangaloon (Kowloon?) or wherever it is that the people actually live. In Hong Kong City, they have got cleaners every 30 metres, cleaning things up. And then as soon as you go out, it’s the cleanest city you’ll ever see. And then as soon as you go out to where people actually live, completely different story. I found that really interesting.
Vashti: Because Hong Kong is a tourist place. But no, we did a bus tour in Hong Kong because we had several hours to spare between connecting flights.
Vicki: And she didn’t want to go to Disneyland. Come on, let’s go to Hong Kong Disney.
Vashti: By the time we get there and get in, it will be time to turn around and go back.
Vicki: This is her argument, we had a 12-hour layover.
Vashti: But driving down the streets, and you would look up at all the apartment complexes, and every single window had clotheslines stuck out the window. Bras and undies were flapping in the breeze, out on the main street. Not too many nappies though. Didn’t see a lot of nappies.
Vicki: No, China does have a high, they do a lot of E.C. stuff.
Vashti: Yeah. And that was the other thing we saw, was lots of kids, lots of poor little boys with their bits out, in the cold. And I’m like, oh you poor little thing.
Vicki: Like, seriously, sitting in trolleys and it’s really, it’s the whole cultural thing. It’s really confronting to see that. And like, you know, cover them up. The little babies, or little toddlers. But it was just like, oh.
Andrew: In the early stages, did you find it easy to get your questions answered online? Or did you cheat and just go and ask Vashti?
Vicki: Or do you mean trying to get questions answered here?
Alexis: You mean with the cloth? My Mum and Vashti were the main sources. And I did get, and I was about the, I had a bit of a crisis, a cloth nappy crisis, remember? I think he was about six weeks or something. And I came in, and I think one of the things that I, because I’ve got quite a few friends onto cloth, and I’ve sent them a little trial package, and I’ve written out some instructions on how to wash, and what to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed. And the main thing I said was if you set up, this is from Vashti as well, if you set up your set up and your laundry well, then you just, it will simplify it. And I didn’t, so I was a bit overwhelmed. And I wasn’t sure, I wasn’t sure whether I was washing them properly, and when to wash them. Then I was using disposables initially when I went out because I didn’t know what to do. And then every time, every time I used disposables, with newborn breastfeed poo, I remember standing in front of, waiting for a coffee, and my baby just pooed all down my clothes, onto my feet. Always had an explosion, but never had a leak, with the cloth. And so I came into Vashti almost in tears, going it’s not working. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. And now it seems odd saying that because I feel like it’s so simple now. But at that time, everything was new. My first baby.
Vashti: You had a six-week-old baby.
Alexis: Trying to juggle a new baby, and breastfeeding, and just the whole new parenting experience. And then also a unique experience of how…
Vicki: And you’re tired. You’re not getting any sleep, and you don’t understand…
Alexis: I was lucky there, my son slept through at like four weeks.
Vicki: Oh, so now…
Alexis: That was luck, that was luck.
Vicki: Your brain does switch off when you don’t get enough sleep, your brain switches off unimportant functions. So it does, it makes you really, it’s so easy to become overwhelmed when you’re tired.
Alexis: Absolutely, and I find on Gumtree, a lot of people advertising their nappy stashes, because they buy them with such good intentions, but get to that point where I got, get really overwhelmed, don’t really know what to do, and give up. And I totally understand because I was there. I was like, this is just not working. And I went in, and I think I stayed in your shop for like hours.
Vashti: That’s OK, it was a comfy chair.
Alexis: And Vashti just said, what’s your set up at home? How are you doing it? What are you doing? And the crucial thing out of that was to simplify. And I have some O.C.D. personality traits. So I…
Vicki: Kids are a good fix for that.
Alexis: Well, I went home, and I reorganised my laundry. And I labelled everything, and I had cloth wipes, covers, pre-folds, flats. At that time it was just pre-folds and flats.
Vicki: Her and Jenna would be best friends, wouldn’t they?
Vashti: They would.
Alexis: And once I set up, we’ve got a very small laundry as you walk into the house, but once I set that up, you’ve seen the photos of it…
Vashti: It’s gorgeous.
Alexis: It’s so easy because you’d put the baby down, I had the trough there, and then, or the sink, and then the change mat. And then above me, my husband put up a shelf for the nappies, and they were all labelled. And then below, hanging was the little buckets with them…
Vicki: So a Pinterest picture?
Alexis: It was, yeah.
Vashti: It was stunning.
Alexis: Very small though…
Vicki: But it worked.
Alexis: …but it meant that I could have the baby there, and I could go cloth, wipe, tap. So I just used water and bamboo wipes. We don’t use wet wipes. And I had a wipe there, and I could bath the baby, we’d bath in the laundry trough, and grab a nappy, put it on, put a cover on, and then I had two wet bags hanging.
Andrew: That’s interesting, so you actually changed the baby’s nappy in the laundry.
Alexis: Correct, yes. So we have a double story house, and it’s quite small. So we had the washing machine, and then the laundry trough, and then a change mat on the bench next to the laundry.
Andrew: It’s much easier to cope with disasters when you’re actually in a laundry.
Vicki: Or in a wet room.
Alexis: And it does mean that we could use just water and bamboo wipes.
Vicki: Everything was at hand.
Alexis: And that’s what my advice to all my friends has been, who say how do we start this? And I said, keep it real, pick a nappy, or I’d send some of mine for them to try. Because some people are drawn, some people hate stuffing.
Vicki: I hate pockets, I hate pockets.
Alexis: And some people prefer folding, some people hate folding. So I say look, try some nappies. And I’d send them off some of mine because I have so many.
Andrew: You just loan them out. Do you keep a database?
Alexis: There’s about…
Vicki: What you used to do with C.D.s or D.V.D.s, you’d have…
Alexis: This nappy belongs to…
Vashti: But you’ve borrowed some of your friends as well, haven’t you?
Alexis: Yeah, I tried out some Econaps from a friend of mine before I got some. And my biggest advice, and what I would put in my little note with these packages to my friends was how to set up the laundry and how to wash, and how to make it really, really simple. These are the items you need, one, two, three. And once they looked at that, they went on, and it’s actually really simple. And I was like, you know.
Vicki: Maybe we should steal that for ANA. Jenna, steal that for the ANA.
Alexis: And I did steer them to the ANA website really. But I think it can get so overwhelming because there’s so many [indistinct word, 36:58]. There are so many. And that’s why I started off with flats, to be really simple. And then slowly tried different ones until I found what I liked. And so I said to my friends, I’ve done all that, I’ve done the research with the advocacy of Vashti, or the support of Vashti and my Mum. And so I said, I’ve already done this, I’ve already tried that. I think this will be, and it has been.
Vicki: And that’s the thing, we see it on the forums, in particular, someone says what should I get? The ironic part is, the question is generally, I’ve so overwhelmed by all of the different choices, what should I use? And then you’ll get 30 or 40 different responses, and it’s like…
Andrew: It just makes it worse.
Vicki: It’s not actually cutting through that confusion, because what works for one person doesn’t work for someone else.
Vashti: And you know, the best thing I can advise is to go and speak to somebody who’s been in the industry for a while. There’s plenty of retailers.
Andrew: Or listen to the podcast.
Vashti: Yeah, listen to the podcast.
Vicki: Actually, that’s what I constantly do, listen to podcast 1 and 2 of this, which will actually educate you and give you enough information, so we go through the style and the fabrics. And once you know those two basics, you can work out whether you love or hate pockets, or whether you want an all in one, because it’s simple, or if you wish to do the flats, because you live in the hills of Tasmania. Does Tasmania have hills? I should know.
Vashti: They’ve got mountains. Cradle Mountain is down in Tassie, isn’t it?
Vicki: And drying time is an issue and stuff like that. In those first two podcasts, you can really come to a fairly good rounded understanding of what the different styles are. And then you can start to look, once you know that OK, I want an all in one. And then you can begin to look at all in ones, and it cuts out so many different options. It’s like, that’s not an all in one, so I don’t even need to look there.
Alexis: And I personally prefer one size fits most because I don’t want to have multiple sizes. But some people love having sizes. It’s really individual, isn’t it? But I belong to them, I joined them, we have a Medical Mums and Cloth Babies group, I don’t really engage much in social media, but I am part of that group, and the Clean Cloth Nappy as well. But there’s a big community of medical mums.
Vicki: That’s exciting. I find that exciting because for so long, there has been really crap information from G.P.s. We didn’t even introduce, and you’re a G.P., aren’t you?
Alexis: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew: That’s actually the next question.
Alexis: The Medical Mums Group, so any doctors and there’s lots of trading and swapping and selling of nappies, like this isn’t working for me, do you want to try this? And there are lots of posts on there that say I’m getting leaks, what am I doing wrong?
Vicki: But actually having that from, because obviously, Mums are going to their G.P.s with their babies and so many times you see ridiculous things. You can’t use cloth because… x, y, z. Or give up breastfeeding because of x, y, z. You know, the lack of education, G.P.s have to have such a rounded knowledge. You have to know everything about everything.
Alexis: We’re also really good at saying we don’t know. Because you have to know a bit of everything, and you actually just don’t know the answer to that.
Vicki: Because it’s general, you’re not specialised.
Alexis: Especially when it comes to things like that like, I don’t want to call it old wives tales, but the myths. And you have been nice and said I don’t know. There’s no evidence that I have to support that, but I can’t actually say…
Vicki: And correlation doesn’t equal causation.
Alexis: But I’ve had quite a few patients, I see lots and lots of mums and babies, and quite a few come in, and I’m really excited, oh eco-naps, oh. And they’re going, and we’re not using them at night yet. Oh, why not? What ones do you use at night? In disposables. And I had this big conversation with them about wool covers, and how to lanolise.
Vicki: Having that support from your child health nurse, and/or your G.P. is huge. So that’s exciting to see that that is coming through. It’s like, the ANA has been picking. Like that Dr Who episode, where the doctor was, he was caged for 100 million years or what have you, and he just kept hitting. So you’d have to know…
Andrew: The end of every video, a couple of hits at this crystal wall until he eventually got right through.
Vicki: It was like Ground Hog Day. But that’s it, and it’s like chipping away at the rock, and eventually.
Vashti: It’s happening, slowly. As you said, Brisbane City Council is introducing a rebate. So first major city council.
Alexis: I told my husband that last night.
Vashti: That’s exciting.
Alexis: He said the bit late, isn’t it? I don’t even want to count how much you’ve spent on nappies. And he said, can we buy some more and get the rebate? I’m like, that defeats the purpose, I think.
Andrew: Yes, you can. I think I’ve got a couple more questions here. What question, if you remember, did your husband have, but we’ve already covered that.
Alexis: He cuts it.
Andrew: He’s a bigger fan than I am. I didn’t think that was possible.
Alexis: He’s just really, it’s probably from 13 years in the army, he’s very factual and logical.
Vicki: He likes his routine.
Alexis: Total opposite to me. I’m highly strung and emotional, and he’s just straight to the point.
Vashti: It’s a good balance.
Alexis: He’s organised, I’m not. He would be like, you put the Seedlings on the wrong side of the shelf. This is why we work well together because we both like everything in order. And so if I put, everyone’s going to think we’re crazy. If the coloured nappies weren’t corresponding. So we had to have, he had to have, even numbers of patterns or colours. And then they need to be, so he’d have liked, it’s red day at daycare, Alexis, you can’t send him with two blacks and three greens. It’s just not going to work. So he would have black, red, and if I messed it up on the shelf, he’d get really frustrated and put them back.
Vicki: My best friend can only listen to the radio on even numbers. My mum will only peg things on the line if the pegs match. Everyone has their quirks.
Vashti: Well, Elizabeth, she used to peg up everything in colour coordination. So pink, blue, white, pink, blue, white.
Alexis: Yeah, I’m not allowed to hang random inserts, fitteds and covers. So Rob likes to have all the covers, then all the fittings, then all the pre-folds on the line. Anyway.
Vicki: But these quirks start early because I was watching my son get dressed the other day because he won’t do things out of order. He is so anal. And I said, why are you so anal? And he says, what does that mean? I said it’s just quirky, honey. But literally, the way he laid his uniform out to get dressed. But even the way he actually positioned his socks. He had his socks, and he had something else, and it made a square. And like, it was just so fastidious and anal. That’s where it comes from. I think it’s, have you not seen him do that? But he can’t, so the other day, we were chucking a shirt through the drier for him. He would not get half dressed. He would not just put his pants on, and his shoes and socks, and leave his pyjama top on, waiting for the shirt. No, no. He had to wait until the whole thing was laid out before he would get dressed. Even though that then, of course, made him late for school.
Andrew: That was 20 to 9, and he had to be there at 10 to 9.
Alexis: Not to digress from your question though, my husband was entirely on board once he could see the logic in the environmental and financial savings, and he just said, well why would I do disposable when the evidence is here? So that was the initial question he had, is what’s the benefit, what’s the evidence? And I told him, and he went OK, that makes sense. And that was it.
Vicki: And he doesn’t find it any harder than a disposable.
Alexis: No, no, well he says…
Vashti: He doesn’t know any different.
Alexis: …he just says, the disposables don’t make sense. You throw them away, and they’re going to be around for the next 250 years. And that’s what shaped our thinking of everything we throw away, we’ve got soft plastics, and very minimal, think we do half, probably half the size of a wastepaper basket from the office.
Vashti: It would actually be an ice cream container if you bought ice cream.
Alexis: So we have very little. But once we started thinking about, if we’re throwing away a nappy, it’s going to be there. It’s not going just to disappear. And then that converted into thinking about everything. Even when we had sushi, and they were going to give us the little soy fish things.
Vicki: I hate that.
Alexis: Rob looked at it, and he said, well, Rob looked at it, and he said, that’s going to go somewhere on our planet and not disappear. And once you start thinking, whatever you throw away is never going to be, is going to be there for a very, very long time, it makes you think twice about throwing it away. So it was just like…
Vicki: And especially nappies, that’s really the decisions that we’re making for our children. Like, they’re babies now, we’re forcing…
Vashti: Not just our children, our children’s children’s children.
Vicki: We’re forcing our choices onto them, so we’re making the choice of what nappy we use. So we’re essentially by using single-use nappies, we’re forcing that environmental decision down the track. I don’t think it’s going to be too many more years before things are really going to start getting bad.
Alexis: But luckily, environmentally friendly ways of living and eco-friendly lifestyles are becoming…
Vashti: Very much so.
Alexis: …but unfortunately with the popularity comes a price tag, but at least it’s becoming the mainstream to be eco-friendly and to be thinking about it and to be straw free.
Vashti: And the more mainstream that it becomes, the cheaper it’s going to cost. The more people who are doing bulk foods, and demanding that we use fewer plastics and stuff like that, the more companies that are going to do it, which means the cheaper it’s going to be.
Andrew: We should probably end it there before the podcast goes into, and because we’re way over time as well. So thank you, Vashti.
Vashti: Thanks, Andrew.
Andrew: Thank you, Vicki.
Vicki: Thanks, Andrew.
Andrew: Thank you very much, Alexis.
Alexis: Thank you, thanks for having me.
Vicki: Thanks, Alexis.
Andrew: Vicki Simpson is the current President of the Australian Nappy Association and has been making and selling cloth nappies for 13 years. You can contact Vicki through her website, bubblebubs.com.au or call 1300 792 232.
Vashti Wadwell is the Member Secretary of the Australian Nappy Association and is the owner of Australia’s first bricks and mortar nappy store, Nest Nappies, in Brisbane, Australia. She has been using cloth nappies for 12 years, and currently has one child still in nappies. You can contact Vashti through her website, nestnappies.com.au or phone 07 3217 5200.
If you have any comments about the podcast, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you found this podcast helpful, then the way to thank us is to leave feedback in the iTunes store. I am your host, Andrew Simpson.