When you’re in the newborn trenches and so used to a routine that involves feed, sleep, eat and repeat, considering there might be an alternative to something as simple as baby wipes seems completely impractical. The ease and convenience of a wipe surely can never be underestimated, but when you actually delve a little deeper, it’s clear that there’s more to this nappy bag staple than meets the eye. That’s what drew French-native and Bondi-based mum Canelle Leforestier to create her own ointment that cleans, moisturises and protects little bottoms without any harsh chemicals or negative impact on the environment...
The Baby Bum Cleanser by Petit Kiddo is a liniment-oleo calcaire product which pays homage to the French way of traditionally changing nappies and cleaning babies’ bottoms. The olive oil-based cleanser is a no-rinse product that replaces the need for often chemical-filled wipes that could be doing more harm than good to delicate skin. Canelle’s “aha” moment sounds all too familiar – “When a friend handed me a wet wipe to remove a stubborn chocolate stain on a t-shirt and it worked, I freaked out. Do people really use this on the delicate skin of their kids?” After searching for a way to use less cosmetic products on her own kids, Canelle started creating the all-in-one natural cleanser in her kitchen as a way of replacing store-bought wipes and nappy cream, and the rest, as they say… We caught up with Canelle to talk about her French way of living in Bondi, how she juggles three kids with a new business and why we all need to be more aware of the environmental impact something as simple as baby wipes has on our future. Words: Marisa Remond |Photography: Francoise Holtzmacher | Go to www.petitkiddo.com.au
What has motherhood taught you?
Unconditional love. My heart and fascination for my kids have no limit. Dealing with young kids requires a lot of patience, like A LOT, and creativity and imagination.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To dream big and be patient (not my forte). Take one step at a time and try to be consistent in the long run. But it’s ok to make mistakes and change routes. And travel, travel, travel.
What brought you to Australia and what do you love about the Australian way of living?
Both my partner and I come from the same little village in South Eastern France. We wanted to go as far as possible to experience a real change… Jonathan ended up with a job offer in Sydney. We decided to give it a go and packed two backpacks each. This was 13 years ago. I find people here are happy and optimistic. This feeling that anything is possible with hard work and passion. I love it. I also know we have decided to live in a little pocket of happiness when we chose Bondi. There is something about letting go here, you guys know how to unwind. The outdoor lifestyle with young kids is priceless. I’m a country girl, I grew up on sunny hills, outside most the time and I am very grateful for it. Being in Sydney is very exotic for us. A different outdoor scene as well as a good-sized city.
So far, what has been the most challenging part of motherhood and how have you overcome any challenges?
There are few. One is to realise that children, despite coming from the same parents, with the same upbringings, same lives, same school, can be very different. My three look alike a lot but their temper and their personality is so so so different. It’s not always easy to please everyone, and nearly impossible at the same time! We make sure they are treated equally. Another big challenge we have to face is not only from being a mum and dad, but being so far away from our relatives. Skype is the best compromise and making sure our kids have an extended support network here. It takes a village. Teenage years are around the corner – I might finally open one of these parenting books we have.
How have you handled any sleep deprivation/getting up in the night?
Ha! That’s a good one. None of my kids “slept through” the night until they were approximately three! Marcel was even closer to four. Breastfeeding and co-sleeping saved me. I can fall asleep very quickly and anywhere. Early risers are the more challenging. Marcel used to start his day at 4:30/5am. 6am is a sleep-in!
How do you juggle the needs of three children?
The answer is in the question: I juggle. Our social agenda works around theirs. In-school activities are great: music, dance, sports. At the moment, the eldest enjoys doing the same extracurricular activities: surfing, capoeira, even netball (for a bit). Marcel is still tagging along. Oh and childcare/family daycare. They all started going three days a week around their first birthday. It’s our way to extend their “family-like” circle…
Tell us about your nighttime routine?
It depends on the day and on activities after school, but in a nutshell: shower, pyjamas, dinner, games. At some point, in the mix, we squeeze in some screen time. We only have ABC iview on our smart-tv screen and the kids have some favourites. Screentime is a massive dilemma, I feel guilty as kids get addicted very quickly; however as Jonathan, my partner, arrives home quite late, it’s the easy option for me to get a few things done – such as finishing meal prep. That said, we are phasing it out!
What’s your approach to health and wellbeing?
I’m French so food plays a big part of my wellbeing. My dad and step-mum had a restaurant for more than 30 years. I’m not a chef but I’ve got the basics of cooking healthy meals covered. My kids always ate like us… until now, they are getting difficult and picky and no two of them like the same thing! It’s a phase/age thing. I like cooking and working from home helps with prepping. I go organic where I can but I’m not 100%. We eat mainly fresh food, made from scratch, but not too fancy. And then, the occasional frozen dumplings = lifesavers! A balanced diet, veggies, fruits, meat, dairy as well as sweets. Big chocolate addict here! The kids are involved in cooking and they play outside a lot. I’d love to say that I exercise daily but I don’t. However, I’ve joined a netball team earlier this year. We are all mums with girls playing in school teams, we have weekly games, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and we recently won our comp! Netball doesn’t exist in France, so this is a big accomplishment. I started surfing last year, too. There is still “room for improvement” but I have a lot of fun and deeply cleansed sinuses from all the salty water! Oh and yoga; this is new to me, I was probably the only person not doing yoga in the Bondi bubble, but I found the perfect small class I needed. Team sport, nature and breathing are a good combination.
Petit Kiddo Baby Bum Cleanser is inspired by a time-honoured French recipe – can you tell us more about this? Where did the idea to launch Petit Kiddo come from?
The Baby Bum Cleanser is Petit Kiddo’s first product. It is our Australian version of the traditional and natural “liniment oleo-calcaire”. It is a thorough cleanser, a gorgeous moisturiser and an efficient barrier. It is the French parents’ best secret. A 3 in 1 product, natural, loaded with olive oil, easy to use on a cotton pad, washcloth or toilet paper and rinse free. The more you use it, the better your baby’s skin gets. And it is now made in Australia. I’ve always wanted to minimise the amount of cosmetic products on my kids. The less the better. Their skin is far too sensitive to be in contact with chemicals. I have been using this product for years with my own kids. I was making my own in my kitchen. I’ve been thinking about a way of sharing it with Australian parents for years, but life, young kids, city moves etc… it didn’t happen. Then with the kids getting older and out of nappies, I realised the only offer was still the wipes! Lots of brands but still wipes only. Three big moments helped with Petit Kiddo’s creation. When a friend handed me a wet wipe to remove a stubborn chocolate stain on a T-shirt. It worked. I freaked out. Do people really use this on the delicate skin of their kids? Then when I was sharing my “vague idea” of starting my own business, this other friend told me “you either do it now, work on it at least 20 minutes a day, kids in tow or not, or you forget about this for good.” I jumped. The last one is when Morgan accepted to join me on this adventure as I soon realised that the project was massive and challenging. We are a great team. We met 10 years + ago, on the first day of our antenatal classes for our eldest. She had been using this product for her three kids too. She loved it, she understood how good it was for babies’ skin and how better it is for the environment. She is another French country girl – from the South-West though, in the lovely wine region of Bordeaux – who moved to Australia and loves it. We have different backgrounds and we complete each other. We bounce ideas, share options, find solutions a lot quicker! We are in sync. It’s often surreal. Together, we are in the process of creating our second product for Petit Kiddo: a Face Painting Remover. A natural makeup remover specifically formulated for kids. Our kids inspire us, they get to test and endorse each product. Petit Kiddo is definitely a family business.
We are trained to go out and bulk buy baby wipes - talk us through your goal of encouraging people to embrace a healthy, natural and eco-friendly way of cleaning their baby’s bum?
We need to change our mindset, phase out of using and accumulating too many unnecessary chemicals, and adopt fewer but better products. You know, less is best. Our Baby Bum Cleanser Liniment replaces the combo wipes + bum cream + powder that so many parents need to use because their babies end up with a red and sore bum. It’s one product instead of three. Used regularly our liniment starts a virtuous circle: not only does it remove the smell, stain, bacteria of faeces and wees, it also keeps the skin moisturised, soft and protected. The more you use it, the better the skin gets. Babies sit in their nappies for hours each day for a good three-year period of time. They need to be comfy. Wipes have sneaked into our lives and are everywhere… like literally EVERYWHERE. Nursery, bathroom, bench top, bbq, cars etc…. so much so that we can’t get rid of them fast enough. Here are some freaky facts provided by Sydney Waters of Choice: More than 1000 tonnes of wet wipe materials have been removed from its wastewater system in the past two years. If laid end-to-end, that’s enough wet wipes to reach LA and back again. Wet wipes increase the risk of pipe blockages and overflow to local creeks and rivers. About 75% of all sewer blockages involve wet wipes. We also had to create a new word #fatberg to describe the congealed lump of fat with sanitary items, wet wipes and similar. Au secours! When not flushed, they end up in landfill where it takes a very long time to break down or creates nasty fumes when incinerated. Non non non, too many wipes too often is not a good solution. I’m not ruling them out completely but they should be a “last minute/ emergency kit”. There is no “planet B”. We need to look after this one. Something that takes so much time and effort to breakdown can’t be good for your skin… it is a simple as that. When you realise our skin is our biggest organ, you want to make sure you only put safe products on it, especially as bubs’ skin absorb everything faster. Changing habits comes slowly… one step at a time.
What are some vivid memories of your childhood?
Living amongst olive trees, watching the fruits ripening on the trees, collecting them, bringing them to the “moulin”, waiting to see how many bottles we were getting. The “Roses de Mai” blooming in May, filling the air with their strong fragrance and vibrant pink. The wintery Wednesdays spent skiing – we had a day off school- and the ski club would drive us by bus on the mini, tiny, winding roads. The happy summery months, the village and its surroundings were all about soaking in the nice weather, afternoons and weekends by the rivers or at the beach on the French Riviera. Very early I got to help out in the family restaurant during school holidays. Very happy days, and a good way to start earning my own money. These little villages, where Christian Dior had his Chateau de La Colle Noire, are magnificent and share the perfect location between the sea and the mountains.
Did your career change after you became a mother? Were you more or less ambitious/determined?
I have always worked – starting with helping out in the family restaurant- but have never been career driven. Becoming a mum made it very clear that my kids and the time I would spend with them would come first. There have been some choices to be made, mainly in term of career and finances, but it was a no-brainer. My partner is fully supportive of my choice. The kids are only little once and I want to be there for them and with them. I’m the kind of mum who thinks she is getting crazy when her kids are around but keeps looking at their photos when they are not. They are getting older and very independent. I had time to think about what I wanted to do after, and starting this business, sharing beautiful, French-inspired, “back to roots” recipes is now a reality.
What makes you laugh?
My kids, my friends, a good French movie and stand up comedians.
What makes you feel stressed?
At different levels – the world we are living in with poverty, wars, extremisms raising from all parts. Kids suffering, the amount of chemicals and nasties we constantly come in contact with. They are sneaky! Our bodies accumulate them until they can’t tolerate anymore. We need to find low-tox options. Easy ones. We don’t have to turn into full-on hippies; When I have too much to do in too little time. Travelling to Europe on my own with my kidlets. When Marcel bolts… with no intention to stop.
What about birth – can you tell us about your experience with home birthing?
I had three natural, drug-free, amazing deliveries. Not home births, three times in birth centres in Sydney and Melbourne. In a home-like room but with the safety net of being at the hospital… just in case. Lucette was a waterbirth with only very little help from anyone. Except for the last 15 minutes, it was only Jonathan, Bob Marley and Dionysos (a French band) on the playlist and me, in the bathtub. I tried to repeat the waterbirth experience with the boys but it slowed down the processes. They were big boys (4.6 and 4.3kg) so I would have preferred the feeling of the water. I am the biggest midwives/birth centre fan. They knew how to guide me, to motivate me, they were like a sports coach. Oh my! I loved those moments.
What do you love about living in Bondi and where do you love to go with your children?
Bondi is like a village. Getting bigger and fancier, but we spend days without leaving the bubble. We can raise our kids here, in a relaxed atmosphere but also we can go out at night without going too far! My kids love the beach, it’s only a bike ride away, they always bump into schoolmates. They can spend hours on the rocks at the north end, they teach me the names of the sea creatures we see. Skatepark and Icebergs are other good places for us.