29 October, 2011: Parentcollective relocation!

Dear visitor,

I’m so excited to tell you that parentcollective has relocated to its own site: www.parentcollective.com

Come check it out along with all the posts and comments since parentcollective began.


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Cloth nappies

Newborn Jimmy in his best brighties

Most parents I know use disposable nappies, but there are some hard-liners/hippies/devotees/environmental saints that don’t. In fact, from a poll conducted on the Parent Collective Facebook page, 8 out of 28 (almost one third of) respondents use cloth nappies of one type or another.

One of them is my friend Sarah, who I followed around one morning as she used and cleaned nappies for her gorgeous wriggly baby Jimmy. In this video, “motivation“, Sarah talks about why she chooses to use cloth nappies.

As cloth nappies can be bulkier than disposable nappies, some pants just won’t fit. The easy solution is to get pants that are a size bigger and have an expandable/contractible waist band. But because cloth nappies are cuter, they can be worn as clothing when it’s hot: no need for pants!

Different types of nappy

There are more types of cloth nappy than brand of disposable nappy!

1. Cloth square

The traditional ones are plain terry-towelling squares, which are easy to dry but have to be folded into shape. Check out Sarah showing some of her favourite folds:

Cloth squares also require a safety pin or clip to fasten, and a pilcher.

Pilchers are a waterproof pant that goes on over the nappy. In this video, “Pilchers,” Sarah talks about how they work. Cloth squares will generally fit your baby from birth to toilet-training.

2. Shaped

Shaped cloth nappies look like padded underpants: they don’t need folding and come with their own fasteners: snaps, velcro, buckles, pins etc. Shaped nappies usually require pilchers.

Shaped nappies either come with reusable liners, or require liners, which can be resuable, disposable or biodegradable. The liner is designed to give added absorbency and draw moisture away from the baby’s bottom.

3. All-in-one

All-in-one nappies are shaped nappies that have an outer water-proof layer so you don’t need pilchers. They are much like a disposable however they still need a liner and can take longer to dry than a cloth square.

In this video, “Using shaped cloth nappies,” Sarah talks about her favourite shaped cloth nappies. Some shaped nappies are designed to fit babies through a wide range of sizes, others can only be used for a shorter time, requiring a few sets of nappies over your child’s nappy-bound years.


The disadvantage of cloth nappies is that they require cleaning! Check out this video, “Cleaning” of Sarah giving a tour of how she cleans her nappies.

The process can be broken down into these steps:

  1. scrape “solid” materials into the toilet (some parents don’t bother with this step)
  2. soak in bucket of soapy water (hot preferrably)–some people say you need to have two buckets, one for each type of waste but I don’t know anyone who does that
  3. Wash
  4. Dry
There’s also a technique called dry-pailing which is putting them in a bucket without water to let them dry out before washing them in the machine as usual. 

Environmental impact

Changing a cloth nappy

As reported by the UK Environment Agency, the way you clean your cloth nappies is the main factor in whether or not they are more or less environmentally friendly than disposables. The most environmentally friendly way to clean nappies is using machines with a high energy efficiency rating, washing in water 60 degrees or less, and line-drying.

My post “Lifecycle analysis of cloth and disposable nappies” included a summary of the environmental impacts of the two types of nappies. It showed that cloth nappies could potentially be more than twice as “bad” for the environment than disposable nappies.

However, most cloth nappies get handed down to siblings or to friends’ children, and in Australia we enjoy a lot of sunshine. These two factors mean that cloth nappies can have less than half the environmental impact of cloth nappies.


A baby will use between 6 and 12 cloth nappies per day, depending on age and type of nappy used.

The Diaper Decisions website has an interesting cost comparison that includes different types of cloth nappies and budget disposables.

According to Diaper Decisions, the most expensive cloth nappies cost around 23c per change, and the cheapest cloth nappies can cost as little as 6c per change.

Using the nappy usage figures from the UK Environment Agency’s report and the cost per change from Diaper Decisions, a summary of the cost of nappies over 2.5 years is tabulated below.

type of nappy cost per change Av. no. changes per day cost over 2.5 years
cloth square




Home Brand disposable




shaped cloth




all in one




Huggies disposable




Moltex disposable




Cloth nappies can be much cheaper than disposables, however the cost is concentrated at the beginning when you have to buy a few day’s supply of nappies in one go (and then possibly again if your baby needs a bigger set of nappies.) This can be minimised by buying second-hand nappies or receiving “hand-me-down” nappies from friends.

Health and Safety

Cloth nappies must be soaked (or dried out) before washing, which means having buckets of smelly nappies in the house. If you soak your nappies then the bucket of water can pose a drowning threat (seriously!) Make sure you keep your nappy bucket out of your child’s reach or buy a bucket with a tightly fitting lid and keep the lid on.

Many cloth nappies are not very good at keeping baby’s skin dry and urine and faeces are rather acidic so babies in cloth nappies can be more prone to nappy rash. Some babies are more susceptible to nappy rash than others.

A barrier cream applied to the bottom can help protect baby’s skin. If the skin break, blisters or bleeds it can become infected so its best to get a doctor to check it out.

Links and further reading

“Lifecycle analysis of cloth and disposable nappies” article on this blog

Choice Magazine’s “Disposable and cloth nappies buying guide

UK Environment Agendy report “An updated lifecycle assessment study for disposable and reusable nappies

Diaper Decisions website

Nappy Bucket website

My Green Nappy website

Bambinos and Rugrats Cloth vs Disposable article

Screaming Green website with an article about washing nappies

Do you use cloth nappies? What’s your favourite?

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Lifecycle analysis of cloth and disposable nappies

Landfill in South Australia, from http://www.zerowaste.sa.gov.au

Sometimes I feel really guilty for not using cloth nappies:

  • they cost less
  • put less strain on the environment; and
  • don’t contribute as much to landfill

I try to justify my decision to use disposable nappies:

  • there’s less risk of nappy rash
  • they’re not necessarily worse for the environment
  • the money is well spent to leave me more time to be with my kids and less time in the laundry

Nappies drying on the line, by Greene/Ellis (Flickr)

Are my assumptions correct?

This blog post looks at environmental comparisons between the two types of nappies. Upcoming posts will cover cloth, and disposable nappies on their own.

There have been oodles of studies–both formal and informal–comparing cloth and disposable nappies.

The most recent formal study was carried out in 2008 by the UK’s Environment Agency, who performed a lifecycle assessment of the impacts of cloth and disposable nappies.

The study encompassed nappy production, use, and disposal of disposable and prefold cloth nappies (cloth that is shaped into a nappy but has no lining, requires pins or clips to fasten, and has no in-built waterproofing.)

Here’s a summary of the findings:

Nappy type Use type Carbon dioxide equivalents produced (kg)
Cloth Hot water wash and machine dry, one child 990
Cloth Average washer/dryer, one child 570
Disposable (from 2006) per child 550
Cloth Warm water wash, line dry, one child 479
Cloth Warm water wash, line dry, two children 200
  • The way you wash and dry cloth nappies, and whether you reuse them on subsequent children, has a massive impact on the environmental friendliness of this option.
  • The biggest environmental burden of disposable nappies is not in contribution to landfill (nappies account for 0.1% of landfill waste, or 2.4% of household waste), but in production.
  • Improvements in disposable nappy technology between 2003 and 2006 led to a reduced impact on global warming. Ongoing improvements could see the environmental impact of disposable nappies reduce even further.

Chinese nappies, from Chinese Traditions and Culture

In China, many children don’t wear any sort of nappy–their clothing has a big gap at the crotch. When the child needs to go to the toilet, the parent holds their legs apart and points their bottom outwards so the child’s clothes don’t get soiled. Older children can be encouraged to squat.

Apparently with an open crotch, a parent carrying the child recognises when the child needs to go to the toilet because the crotch becomes extra warm. I guess you’d learn to notice the signs pretty quickly if you risked being covered in poo!

This is the first of a 3 part series on nappies. The next blog post will look at using cloth nappies and the third post will look at disposable nappies.

Links and further reading

Environment Agency UK report “An updated lifecycle assessment study for disposable and reusable nappies

UK Nappy Information Service

And here’s a novel idea: “Diaper Free! The gentle wisdom of natural infant hygiene” book by Ingrid Bauer

Article, “‘Pampering’ babies vs Chinese baby split-pants

Article, “Chinese toilet training and children with crotchless pants

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Movie review: Babies

Babies” the movie follows an endearingly simple scenario: cameras record the daily routines of four babies from Namibia, Mongolia, San Fransisco and Tokyo as they reach all the milestones of their first year of life.

French filmmaker Thomas Balmes has created a documentary of contrasts, which demonstrates that some elements of humanity are simultaneously unique and universal to us all. There is no storyline as such, no commentary and I suspect the lack of insight was deliberate, but its omission did not stop me from pondering the differences between poverty and plenty.

I don’t think it will make a dent in the box office, and I would hardly describe it as ‘essential viewing’, in fact, you could be forgiven for thinking that you just sat through 90 mins of a universal Funniest Home Videos. However, it is serene, unpretentious and has enough cute moments to justify its existence.

The reasonably amusing opening sequence demonstrates the intricate relationship between hero-worship and sibling rivalry as the little Namibian girl copies her older brother as he bangs one rock with another. The little Namibian girl spends her time drinking from dirty puddles and liking the rabid-looking dog, but I certainly didn’t get the sense that she was neglected. Her mother is a constant presence in her outdoor world of exploration.

The little Mongolian boy with a complicated name spends much of his early days inside his family’s isolated hut among the household menagerie, including the rooster that joins him in his bed and the goat that drinks from his bathwater. The little Mongolian boy appears to have an amazing sense of adventure, which is easy to understand given the incredible landscape at his doorstep. He also shows an intriguing integration with the animals that surround his world.

The little girl in San Francisco’s first year of learning is less spontaneous. She has scheduled play time with other children of the same age, but she is no less inquisitive and no less loved. In Tokyo, another little girl has a similar regime. She spends much of her time surrounded by toys. The most memorable of her scenes centres on her tantrum which results from two wooden blocks refusing to behave as she wants them to, despite her repeated efforts.

I don’t think Balmes was trying to make any great assertions outside of showing the joy of self-discovery, but Babies certainly demonstrates that certain milestones—such as the thrill of walking for the first time—are common to all cultures.

Balmes allows you to draw your own conclusions, which led me to consider that if I were to have children, I would try not to underestimate the value of those occasions when babies are allowed the time to make their own explorations.

Thanks to the author

This review was posted by my play-dough making sister-in-law, or “Ali Atin” as my daughter calls her. She graciously agreed to review the film for this blog in between writing essays on international terrorism for her Masters degree, trips to the ski fields, and baking awesome cupcakes.

Have you seen the movie, what did you think?

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Wrapping baby: the straight-jacket swaddle

Here’s a video of me wrapping (or swaddling) our son Ned. Tom and I call it The straight-jacket.

Both our babies would wake themselves up simply by waving their arms about. We found the best way to control those flailing arms and ensure a good sleep was to wrap our babies. It also helps them to feel secure so can be very calming when your baby is upset.

We designed this wrap for Amelia, who was a lot stronger than we expected a baby to be and would Houdini her way out of all the other wraps and wake herself up.

This wrap is guaranteed to stay on your baby at least until they fall asleep and maybe even the whole night!

For other wraps, try these videos:

  • Classic swaddle
  • Separate arms swaddle
  • Arms only swaddle This one is good for really hot days
  • Burrito swaddle Please note that in Australia it is recommended that baby’s head be uncovered while sleeping so this wrap should be used with caution.
  • The “Ultra swaddle” Please note that in Australia it is recommended that baby’s head be uncovered while sleeping so this wrap should be used with caution.

When wrapping the baby make sure they don’t get too hot. Use light-weight cotton wraps in summer. And always put your baby down to sleep on their back to minimise the risks of SIDS.

My favourite wraps are at least 120cm x 120cm. Essential Baby and Duck brands both make large wraps that are perfect for swaddling.

Does your baby respond well to being swaddled? Leave your comments below.

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When is it OK to hit your child?

Three out of four mothers admit to smacking their babies aged one year or less, according to a UK report. I am one of those mothers.

When Amelia was around 9 months old and teething she chomped down on my nipple at the end of a feed and gave me such a fright I instinctively reacted by smacking her on the arm. At the time I was horrified by my reaction. I still feel terrible about it. I never ever wanted to smack my children and here I was, hitting my innocent little baby who was just exploring her world.

Amelia didn’t seem too upset by my act of violence. She didn’t cry, just looked up at me, stunned. But I cried, and the memory of that awful act will probably stay with me forever. I don’t want to hit my children, ever.

Needless to say, most of our parents were hit as children, many of us were hit as children (my brother and I were,) and we can probably all recall a recent time when we witnessed a parent hitting their child in public.

So, are we allowed to hit our children? When is it justified? Does it work, and is there an alternative?

You are legally allowed to hit your child

According to Australian Common Law, you are allowed to hit your child so long as you do so to correct behaviour and only use reasonable force. In NSW, legislators tried to be a little more specific saying parents cannot use excessive physical punishment on any part of their child’s head or neck, or any other part of their body if the harm it causes lasts more than a short period.

But, if you live in New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Israel, Iceland, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Hungary, Belgium, Greece and Costa Rica it’s illegal.

In Norway, their laws are pretty clear: “The child must not be subjected to violence, or in any other way be treated so as to harm or endanger his or her mental or physical health (The Children Act, Number 7, Section 30, April 1981).”

When are you justified to hit your child?

Hitting your child as an instinctive reaction to protect them is different to hitting your child as a disciplinary measure. If your child is reaching for a boiling pot of water and your first reaction is to reach out and smack their hand away you can feel pretty justified in hitting your child.

Hitting your child on a regular basis, without explaining why they’ve been hit is never justified.

John Morrissey from the Australian Family Association told The Australian newspaper that his organisation “defends the right of a reasonable parent to smack their child as part of a range of strategies to discipline them.”

John continues that whilst recent years have seen a decline in parents smacking their children, our society is no more peaceful or gentle. But smacking is just one factor that can influence the peacefulness of society. It’s possible that reduced rates of smacking have positively contributed to the peacefulness of today’s society.

Sydney University Associate Professor, and developmental psychologist, Judy Cashmore told the Herald Sun there is no justification for hitting a child “You shouldn’t try to change people’s behaviour by hitting them. They are smaller and more vulnerable and you are teaching them to hit others.”

Professor Cashmore’s statement echos that of Bernadette Saunders, a senior research fellow at Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia, who told the Sydney Morning Herald that in Australia, children are the only people against whom violence is sanctioned and justified as discipline.

Children are vulnerable, surely they deserve special protection from the law, not exception.

Laws around parents smacking their children walk a fine line between nanny-state interference, and sanctioning child abuse.

Australia has twice been criticised by the United Nations for failing to meet its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child by continually allowing parents to smack their children. The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission reports that “appropriate discipline should be interpreted to include only non-violent disciplinary techniques and excludes discipline inflicting physical or mental harm.”

Bernadette Saunders says the fact children are the only group in society who can legally be assaulted is unacceptable. Similarly, Professor Cashmore has called for a revision of the laws, telling The Australian that making it illegal for parents to hit their children is not about criminalising parents but making a statement that “there are more effective and less harmful ways to discipline children.”

Does hitting your child make them a better person?

Just because it has been done for a long time, or is done by a lot of people, doesn’t mean hitting your child actually improves a child’s behaviour. The strongest single predictor of involvement in violence is having experienced violence.

The Australian Psychological Society’s report “Punishment and Behaviour Change” found that hitting your child is more likely to teach them how to evade detection, and increase defiant, noncompliant behaviour, than it is to inhibit unacceptable behaviour.

The same report highlights research showing that punitive parenting, especially the use of physical punishment, is linked to higher levels of child aggression, and a failure by children to develop self-control.

A UK study even found that the more a child is hit by their parents, the lower their IQ (more info on the study). Even small amounts of smacking made a difference. The study’s author, Professor Murray Straus, says that children who are hit by their parents experience a form of post-traumatic stress and can become constantly fearful that something bad is about to happen.

Other effects that have been linked to adults who were hit as children include:

  • Higher levels of aggression;
  • Criminal and anti-social behaviour;
  • Poorer adult health (e.g. depression and alcoholism); and
  • Abuse of one’s own spouse and child.

There are ways you can encourage acceptable behaviour without hitting your child

  • Explain the other person’s perspective and feelings:
    For example “When you threw the sand it really hurt Sally’s eyes”  and “you made Andrew feel really special when you asked him to join your game.”
  • Set clear limits (using positive language is best):
    For example, “please keep the sand in the sandpit” is preferrable to “don’t throw the sand out of the sandpit.”
  • Explain reasons for rules and requests:
    For example, “if you throw the sand out of the sandpit there’ll be none left to play with”
  • Reward appropriate behaviour; and
  • Elicit ideas and reactions from your child:
    For example, “look at Sally, she’s crying because you threw sand in her eyes, can you see she’s sad? What should you say to Sally?”

There is evidence that using these “inductive” strategies helps children learn to be more empathic, altruistic, generous, considerate, self-controlled, and engage in more positive peer interactions.

Children learn to see how their actions affect other people and are more likely to link their bad feelings, when reprimanded, to their own behaviour rather than to the punishment. This can allow children to want to be better people themselves, rather than forcing them to act like better people to avoid external punishment.

For younger children, these techniques are not so appropriate. It may be necessary to recognise the signs of tiredness, hunger, frustration, excitement or sadness and help them to find a new activity that is acceptable.

Another useful technique, where appropriate, lies in redirecting a child away from attention-seeking, destructive behaviour to a more productive activity.

There is a useful video and list of techniques on the Raising Children Network website. The video helps to show that children aren’t necessarily doing the wrong thing because they’re naughty but because they don’t yet know the boundaries and are simply exploring their world.

What do children think of being hit?

A report by Save the Children, used various techniques to allow 3, 322 children from South East Asia and the Pacific in 2005 to express their views on physical and emotional punishment. Here’s what those children had to say:

  • We are dependent on you to love and teach us. Please don’t confuse us and hurt us in the name of discipline;
  • Treat us with respect and courtesy, if you want us to respect and obey you;
  • Be good role models, so that we can learn from what you do as well as what you say;
  • Manage your anger, don’t use us as easy targets for venting your frustration about your problems;
  • Remember how much punishment hurt you as children, and try to find ways of dealing with your pain by teaching us it is wrong to hurt other people, whatever the reason;
  • Sometimes we have good ideas, because we know about the realities of our lives, please make it easy for us to tell you;
  • Discipline us softly, taking time to explain what you want us to do, and to listen to what we say.

Links and further reading

Herald Sun article “Call to make smacking children illegal

Sydney Morning Herald article “Smack the child, go to jail: parents pressured

News.com.au article “Aussie parents to defy UN smacking ban

The Australian article “Experts give smacking the wooden spoon

Leaflet on smacking from the UK Children’s Legal Centre

The Australian Psychological Society, “Banning corporal punishment, should psychologists lead the way?

The Australian Psychological Society’s report “Punishment and Behaviour Change

The law for correcting a child, Armstrong Legal

Corporal Punishment of Children Bibliography, Australian Institute of Family Studies


Save the Children

The Australian Family Association

Guiding children’s behaviour in positive ways” by the National Childcare Accreditation Council (NCAC)

Encouraging good behaviour” article and video, Raising Children Network

God told me to create paddles for spanking kids, YouTube video

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Keeping track of feeds and sleeps

Keeping track of sleeps, feeds, and nappies the old-fashioned way

My friend Michelle tipped me off to this website that she’s been using to keep track of Jasper’s sleeps, feeds, nappy changes and more.

Michelle says “I’ve found it interesting and also really useful to remember which breast I last fed from, and compare how much sleep Jasper’s having each day and when. I had been trying to write feeds etc down so I could see any patterns but I kept forgetting. I’m finding it a lot easier to leave the web page open all the time and just update it each time I feed (I’m usually browsing the web at the same time).”

The website is: www.trixietracker.com and you get one month free trial before you are asked to pay $25 for a 6 month subscription.

The Trixie Tracker website helps you chart baby's sleeps, feeds, nappies and more

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