Thankyou so much to Charlotte for being our first guest blogger!
Charlotte is a breastfeeding mother with 2 adorable little boys, and also has just started her own slow sustainable ethical clothing brand for children. She so kindly answered 10 Questions for us regarding her passion for breastfeeding, parenting, slow fashion, sustainability, and the need for change. Read on to be truly inspired by her!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself
Hey! My name is Charlotte and I live in the UK with my Husband Nathan and my two little boys Salem and Theodore. I grew up in the North of New Zealand. We left NZ to go to the UK as my hubby is studying a PHD at Cambridge University.
2. Have you breastfed your children?
When I was thinking about having children, I always wanted to breastfeed. It was really important to me. I was extremely lucky that I found breastfeeding very easy with my first son. Salem had no problems latching on or anything like that, and I enjoyed it from the get go. I feel very fortunate in that sense, as I know that some women find it more difficult.
One problem that I did have during feeding my first born, is that my boobs would often get blocked and would become really painful. At one point I developed mastitis and needed antibiotics, when this happened I was tempted to give up breastfeeding, but I preserved with it and kept going and was really glad that I did! I planned to breastfeed Salem until he was two years old as that is what the world health organization recommends, but to my surprise my son weaned himself at around 13-14 months.
After that I quickly fell pregnant with my second son Theo. (Much to my surprise as it took us 6 years to conceive Salem!) I also breast feed Theo, it was slightly more difficult with Theo as he had a tongue tie. Because I had such an easy experience with Salem I knew that something wasn’t quite right. I had to push for him to be seen by a specialist (always go with your mum intuition!), and when he was seen, he had quite a tongue tie that they snipped right there and then! After that it was easy. Something I noticed about breastfeeding Theo (he is 9 months old and I am still breastfeeding him), is that I have never had blocked boobs with him! I put it down to the fact that I changed my nursing bras with Theo and have different ones that fit a little looser. So just a handy hint if you are having blocked boob problems girls! Make sure your nursing bra is the correct fit without any wires!
3. How would you describe your parenting style?
My parenting style has changed a lot and is a constant evolution. I thought that I would be the most laid back easy going mum in the world who would only feed her kids organic food and never let them watch any T.V and, oh yeah, my kids would never ever have tantrums!...hahaha! But really what I have learned in the very short time that I have been a mum, is that children have their own beautiful and unique personality from the get go! I try to do what is best to meet the needs of my boys according to their personality. I also have dropped trying to be the perfect mum and do everything perfectly! As soon as I did that, things became easier. If I had to say what my style is, it would be the LOVE style. In every situation, I just try and bring as much understanding, caring and love to my boys as possible.
4. Tell us a bit about your new business.
Thanks for asking! I run a small online baby clothing line called Little Willow. I had the idea for Little Willow clothing after I had our first son, Salem. I really wanted to be able to dress him in organic ethically-made clothing. But the reality is that these products were always too expensive for me and everything that I did buy, he grew out of rapidly! I had an idea about designing my own affordable ethical clothing. Clothing that could be passed on through many hands. Clothing that was thoughtfully crafted to be durable and environmentally friendly, all in a classic design that wouldn’t go out of fashion. I could sell new clothing at fair prices and also resell pre-loved items to those who want to buy ethically but are unable to afford to buy new.
The idea of launching my own clothing brand was daunting, but I thought there must be more parents out there like me, and I could help them. And with that, Little Willow was born!
**You can check out their range HERE.
5. What does a typical week day look like for you?
That is a difficult question because in the UK we have been in lockdown for what feels like a lifetime! During lockdown, I have been looking after the kids full time, and trying to do my Little Willow work in the evening time. The boys and I on a typical lockdown day usually hang about the house and play most of the day, with one trip out for a walk somewhere, sometimes two trips out if they are really stir crazy! Salem’s favourite thing to do at the moment is counting, so he has been very happy walking around the neighbourhood shouting out the numbers on every house door we go past! All the parks have been closed and we haven’t been able to see anyone! But thankfully lockdown lifted this weekend just gone, and we took the boys to the playground and the beach and they had the best time ever! Salem has been saying “Salem, beach, big slide, REALLY HAPPY”.
6. Why is choosing sustainable clothing important to you?
When I was a teenager, I started to become aware that as a consumer, all the choices that I make on a daily basis have major consequences on the environment. I started to try really hard back then to make choices that would help improve and create awareness about how the way we live and what we buy and consume and support can be really good or really bad for people and for the environment. These were just very small steps, and usually for me it was about supporting sustainability with food, eg always trying to buy seasonal, local, and organic. Later in my early twenties, I became aware of the impact that the fashion industry has on the planet as well as modern day slavery, and my conscience just couldn’t ignore it. I try my best to buy sustainable clothing (and trust me, I know it’s difficult, and I am by no means perfect!).
Little Willow is a way to make a small change towards a big problem. The biggest problem that I have found as a mum in regards to buying sustainable clothing is availability and cost. Ethical and sustainable things are just more difficult to come by due to the cost of them. And why is this? Because to have these things made truly ethically and sustainably, you have to pay the workers from farm to factory a fair wage, and the consumer has to be happy to pay the true cost of the item. I feel that consumers are becoming a lot more aware of things now, but we still have a long way to go. So my mission is to create awareness as well as create an affordable option for people, so that more people have a chance to support fair trade if they want to. I figure the more sustainable things that become available to people, the more awareness it brings, and the more opportunity there is for people to make better choices.
7. When you buy clothing for yourself or your family, what kind of values are you looking for with the brand?
Mainly transparency. I will always check out brands to make sure they are abiding by specific laws or have certain certifications. Or checking to see what country things are made in. For example, if something is made in NZ or the UK, you can be pretty certain that a modern day slave hasn’t made it. But if it’s made somewhere else- for example India, where my factory is, I would check that the factory is certified slave free. (our factory is certified by GOTS, the Global Organic Textile Standard). There are many ways you can check these things out for yourself. At the end of the day, if a big high street chain was just honest about the way they conduct themselves, even if it was in a not very good manner, I would respect them more for being honest. It’s when businesses hide what they are doing, or create an ‘organic’ range just to go with the consumer climate while still having the rest of their stock made in an inhumane factory, that’s what I find really difficult to accept and I will steer clear of those places.
8. Is it important to you to buy clothing made from natural fibres?
Yes definitely! Natural fibres are very importent to me as they let skin breathe! My son Salem suffered horrendous eczema when he was first born and continues to have sensitive skin, so I always buy natural fabrics for him and the family. I am lucky that my hubby prefers natural too. I personally gave up buying anything synthetic a few years ago as a rule, because synthetics just seem to irritate me and not feel as nice on my skin! If I see something in a shop that is irresistible and it’s not natural, I picture myself wearing it for the day and how uncomfortable I will be in it and it usually puts me off!
9. Do you ever buy or swap 2nd hand clothing?
I give away any of my clothing that I don’t want to my girlfriends. Anything else I will donate to charity. My son Theo gets all of Salem’s hand-me-downs, or I will offer them to a friend who is having a baby and needs them! I sometimes buy second hand, but not often, mainly because when I go to a charity shop I can never find the style or size I want, and also because I have really cut down on buying now anyway. If I do make a purchase, it is more special, so I treat myself to something more high quality and ethical that I know will last a long time. Me and my best friend in NZ are the same size and liked the same style of clothing, so we would always swap and share our clothes! Sadly I am now in the UK, so can’t do that with her anymore!
10. Where do you think people should buy their clothing from, if not fast fashion?
I really feel that the entire world in so many areas needs a rethink. But I will stick to the questions! People should BUY LESS, and wear more of what they already have. If you have to buy, then pay a little bit more to support something locally made or a sustainable company. The things you buy from these places I guarantee will be better made, last longer, and you will genuinely feel better about yourself for doing so! I feel that since I have become more conscience of my purchases, I buy a lot less, but what I do buy, because I have really thought about it before hand, I don’t end up feeling guilty about what I have done, and I make less ‘mistake’ purchases. I also value and cherish each piece a lot more.
Thankyou so much Charlotte for sharing with us! We are so inspired and motivated by your passion for change.
You can check out our range of Sustainable Breastfeeding Wear for Mums HERE.