Tagged parenting

Welcome to the world of cloth nappies

Buying cloth nappies is a complicated business. There are many different styles, different materials and brands. Prices vary from dirt cheap ($2 a nappy) through to insane ($50+ for a custom nappy. Yes, there are such things as custom nappies.).

The first time I bought cloth nappies, I spent around $14 a nappy. Unfortunately, these nappies started leaking regularly and falling apart. Within a few months, the retailer had sent some replacements that failed again. I’d say by the time Mia was a toddler, she was in cloth nappies half the time, disposables the other half, and we were doing a lot of laundry.

A pile of cloth nappies on a blue sofa. The nappies are brand new and in solid colours.

These are the cloth nappies that Mia used for 2 years.

I have since found out that these nappies have a reputation. They are identical to the dirt cheap generic nappies, but someone has rebadged them and inflated the price. Really, I got the worst of all worlds. Cheap product, high price.

The experience undermined my ability to recommend cloth nappies to anyone. However, in my nappy research for Lana, I have learned that good quality nappies:

  • Do not leak
  • Last overnight
  • Last beyond one child and can be resold to recover much of the upfront cost
  • Look completely different to the ones I had first bought

So here is the new nappy stash. These are handcrafted in Australia, made of bamboo and come in ‘everyday’ and ‘night’ versions. I paid around $25 per nappy, which is a very good price for a handcrafted nappy.

A pile of colourful and black cloth nappies on a white couch. The nappies are new. Some are smooth and some are furry.

These nappies fit both Lana (newborn) and Mia (toddler). Mia uses them only for nights now, as she is day toilet trained, YES!

I hope to write more about the environmental and cost implications of using cloth nappies. The benefits of cloth over disposable are not clear cut (unless you buy renewable energy and use your nappies for more than one child). There is also a lot to be said about the cloth nappy community (yes, there is such a thing) and the clash of cloth nappy cultures (yes!! There is an ongoing war at the heart of the cloth nappy community).

Bottom line: Budget for around $18-30 a nappy. That’s how much a good quality nappy costs. It will save you a lot of heartache and laundry to buy nappies that don’t leak.

If that sounds too costly to you, have a think about the cost of disposables over the 2+ years that your children will be in nappies. Think about doing cloth nappies part time. Also, seriously consider buying second hand. The second hand cloth nappy market is huge on Facebook. If you want help linking up to the right groups in Australia, get in touch.

Mia learns empathy

On Mia’s tablet screen, Ben and Holly are inside a sandcastle.
They have lost track of time.
The tide is rising.
The castle is surrounded by water.
Ben and Holly are trapped without a magic wand or a flying friend.
The soundtrack becomes frantic and Mia looks at me with stricken eyes.
‘Mummy!’ she cries, ‘I want to watch Peppa Pig!’

A large sand castle on the beach. It is dusk. There are many birds on the horizon.

Sandcastle fit for a fairy princess and her best elf friend. Image by Michael Baird (Sandcastle at Sunset on Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay, CA)

P.S. For those of you who aren’t parents, Peppa Pig and Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom come from the same British producer. Peppa Pig episodes are 5 minutes and Peppa is 4 years old. Ben & Holly episodes are 10 minutes and the title characters are 8 years old.

Who Gives a Crap delivers toys

I used to be sad that the recycled toilet paper in the shops is terrible. I now buy Who Gives a Crap toilet paper (recycled paper) and tissues (bamboo / sugarcane). These are both strong and soft. Price-wise, they’re similar to other sustainable options in the shops.

I don’t usually give free advertising to companies but these people seriously solved my internal conflict between ethics and comfort.

Here’s Mia with our latest tissue delivery.

There is a colourful stack of tissue boxes. Behind the stack, there are two cardboard boxes. A toddler is sitting in one of them. Her face is not visible.

Mia carefully empties the box then announces, ‘Now I have a bath.’

A range of colourful toys sit on top of a row of colourful tissue boxes. There are two boxes in the background. A toddler's legs and feet are sticking out of one of the boxes.

Mia’s tissue box tower collapses and she says, ‘Hmm, better make a train.’

A toddler has a large box over her head. Only her legs and feet are visible. She is indoors.

Mia: ‘I have a costume.’
Me: ‘What are you dressed as?’
Mia: ‘A ghost.’

Let’s nip those biases in the bud

We were at a restaurant and Mia was distracted by a flickering light on the ceiling.

‘Light flashing!’ she said.

‘Yes, Mia.’

‘Light still flashing!’ insisted Mia. She thought for a second. ‘Man fix?’

‘Good idea, Mia,’ I said. ‘Maybe a woman might fix it?’

‘Oh, yes.’ Mia nodded sagely. ‘Woman. Woman with ladder.’

A massive bite for Mother’s Day

I was struggling to get pyjamas on an overexcited Mia when she took a massive bite of my arm. I screeched and slapped her.

Damjan came running into the room holding Lana, who he was trying to put to bed.

Consequences were swift. Damjan took over Mia’s bed time routine and I took Lana.

Mia cried as her beloved mummy disappeared. ‘Mummy! Mummy! Mummy…’

Later that night, Damjan said that he asked Mia, ‘Do you know what happened? Why did mummy go away?’ Mia didn’t say anything for a while but eventually admitted, ‘Mia ate mummy.’

Damjan said Mia will apologise to me tomorrow.

A story about poo

Having had her nappy changed for the evening, my toddler Mia was watching as we put 5-day old Lana on the change table.

The action started when I took off the newborn nappy. Having not poo’ed for two days, the liquid brownish yellow volcano erupted. Spurt! Spurt! Spurt!

‘Oh!’ I said, as the soup poured onto the change table mat. ‘It’s poo!’

Mia looked on in horrified fascination. ‘Poo! Poo!’ Then Mia started crying.

My resourceful husband stepped in. ‘Yes, Mia, that’s where poo comes from, remember your body book? You eat the pear, it goes down your throat, into your tummy, then comes out as poo?’

He whipped out the book from the book shelf and tried to distract an increasingly hysterical toddler while I struggled to contain the mess.

‘She’s vomiting,’ I exclaimed, as yellow curds tumble out of Lana’s mouth. ‘She’s throwing up!’

Damjan managed to taken an overtired Mia away and sit her down with her bedtime books. ‘Can you manage?’ he asked. ‘Sorry that my hands are tied.’

‘I think I can,’ I mumbled. ‘AARGH! Wee! Wee!’

Lana looked oblivious as poo, wee and vomit come out every hole. At least she wasn’t crying.

Breastmilk experiments

A while back, we noticed that Mia didn’t want to drink bottles of breastmilk that I had painstakingly prepared. At first, we thought it was because she didn’t like drinking from bottles. We changed the bottle teat. We tried when she was less tired. Sometimes she would drink it, sometimes she wouldn’t.

Finally we tasted the milk ourselves. Freshly expressed breastmilk was mild and sweet. The milk that we had thawed from the freezer was horrible.

I felt awful. We had been trying to force horrible tasting milk into Mia’s mouth!

So, we ditched the ‘liquid gold’. I had no qualms about it. It’s hard work to build up a stash of breastmilk but there was no way I was going to feed it to Mia.

My stash of frozen breastmilk

My stash of frozen breastmilk

Liquid gold melting away in the sink

Liquid gold melting away in the sink

Why did this happen? Somewhere between expressing, freezing, storing and thawing, the taste of the milk changes.

I read around the topic on the internet. Some women’s breastmilk has too much lipase (an enzyme), which means that breastmilk starts changing in flavour within a few hours of storage. This is not what happens to my milk. Mia is happy to drink milk that has been refrigerated for a few days.

Another theory that sounded promising is to do with the way frozen breastmilk is stored in the freezer. The freezer has a defrost cycle, so if milk is stored on the ‘floor’ of the freezer, it might defrost and refreeze a little each time the freezer does a cycle.

To test this, we made three samples of milk. One was refrigerated. Another was stored on the floor of the freezer. The other was stored on the freezer shelf. After three days of storage, I also expressed a fresh milk sample to add to the experiment.

Four breastmilk samples stored in different ways over three days

Four breastmilk samples stored in different ways over three days

It was a single-blind taste test. I knew which sample was which and Damjan did not. Here are his notes.

Tasting notes from breastmilk trial

Tasting notes from breastmilk trial

It turned out that thawed breastmilk tastes like coconut! Also, all samples were drinkable and close to indistinguishable.

Our next theory was that it was the age of the breastmilk that mattered, rather than the storage method. So for two weeks, every second or third night, I made a breastmilk sample and froze it.

Last week, we got to do another blind taste test.

Is it the age that matters to the taste of breastmilk?

Is it the age that matters to the taste of breastmilk?

Alas (or hooray?), all samples were equally drinkable. The age of the milks did not seem to relate to how strong the flavour was. Damjan wasn’t able to rank them by age.

So we haven’t really gotten to the bottom of it.

At least we know that we can freeze milk for at least two weeks. In fact, on Monday, we sent Mia to childcare with a bottle of thawed 16-day old milk and she drank all of it.

Adult conversation

Every night, Damjan and I go through Mia’s bedtime routine: feed, bath, read a book, sing a lullaby, and into bed by 7:30pm.

Then it’s time for adult conversation, which is a real treat for me after a whole day of ‘Un gah gah’ and ‘A boo’.

Here are the demand and supply curves that Damjan and I drew one night, when we were trying to work out how is it that a regulated minimum wage does not lead to unemployment. Damjan argued that the mechanisms for this effect could probably be shown with conventional demand and supply curves. I wasn’t so sure.

Demand and supply curves for minimum wage employees

Demand and supply curves for minimum wage employees

Magic music from nowhere

We were changing a very tired baby last night and she started screaming hysterically. It’s not like her at all. Then out of nowhere we heard music.

‘What’s that?’ I thought maybe I was imagining it.

‘Is it your phone?’ said Damjan.

‘Sounds like… lullabies…’ I said, holding down flailing arms as Damjan tried to thread them through the sleeves.

‘Like the cot mobile?’

We stared at the cot mobile, which wasn’t lit up or spinning as it normally is when it’s on. I leaned in to listen.

‘It is from the mobile!’ I was astonished.

‘It must turn on when the baby cries.’

‘That’s crazy! I’m looking that up on the internet.’

Sure enough, the VTech cot mobile I bought for $20 off Gumtree, without instructions, has a sound sensor that turns on soothing music when a baby wakes up and cries.

VTech Sing and Soothe Mobile

The high tech VTech Sing and Soothe Mobile