Caring for Babies in TEOTWAWKI by A. & C. K.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

You’ve seen it in the movies: the very pregnant woman gets stuck in traffic, or an elevator, or wherever on the way to the delivery room. (Although, a very pregnant woman was recently rescued by Sheriff’s helicopter on I-40 during the recent floods here in Middle Tennessee!) On the screen she usually makes it to the hospital with some stunt driving from a frantic father or some Samaritan will deliver the baby in the back seat. The whole affair ends with smiling patients and doctors happily mewling over a freshly swaddled newborn. Then everyone heads home in their nice family car and new baby in a properly approved, rear-facing car seat.

But what would scene look like after TEOTWAWKI? "And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!" - Matthew 24:19 (ESV)

This article is not about child birthing, though finding a local midwife or doula isn’t a bad idea. Instead I’m writing about some important aspects about taking care of infants and toddlers post SHTF that new or hopeful parents may not have considered.

Know that child rearing advice is always a delicate matter, both in the giving and the taking. Also know that I accept that each family has its own best way and if what I say offends, please forgive and extend the benefit of the doubt. Regardless of what I have to say, I humbly mean offense to none. Experienced parents know how little they actually know!

The main points of this article will be to discuss, literally, the ins and outs of babies after TEOTWAWKI. By that I mean nursing and diapers, with a bit of talk about carrying your little bundle of post-apocalyptic joy.

Breastfeeding

Obviously feeding your baby is of utmost importance, balloon up or down. Aside from being God’s best plan, nursing offers very common sense prepper advantages over bottle feeding. For full disclosure, my wife is a member of La Leche League and became so after our own frustrating experiences. Now she helps frustrated mothers (and fathers!). This isn’t a plug for LLL, but they do have wonderful book, on-line, and human resources and many places have local meetings to help mothers.

Health- This article is not about offering medical advice. It is enough to state that breast milk has known anti-bacterial properties suited perfectly for the baby. Staving off illness and hunger after the loss of services we have all taken for granted will be very important. Following is a very short list of benefits:

-Water used to mix formula might not be trustworthy after the collapse.
-Breastfeeding reduces risk of future weight problems. (1)
-It can also decrease heart troubles later in life by controlling cholesterol and blood pressure. (2)
-Breast fed babies are far more resilient to infections, allergies, diarrhea, and dental problems. (3)
-Babies who are breast fed have more advanced neurological development. (4)
-Mother’s are shown to have reduced risks of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer. (5)

These are some of the few reasons the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends breastfeeding for child and mother. You wouldn’t know it considering that America has the lowest percentage of breast fed babies of all the industrialized nations, but I digress. The official policy statement is chock full of benefits, research studies, and supporting data. You can see it here…

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/115/2/496

(1) 1. Harder, T. et al. Duration of Breastfeeding and Risk of Overweight: A Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Epidemiology 2005 162:397-403.
(2) Current Paediatrics 04;14;97-103; Circulation 04; 109 (10):1259-66
(3) Goldman AS. The immune system of human milk: antimicrobial, antiinflammatory and immunomodulating properties. Pediatr Infect Dis J 1993 Aug;12(8):664-71.
(4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7968027?dopt=Abstract
(5) Obstetrics and Gynaecology , May issue 2009; Ing, K, Ho, J., Petrakis, N. Unilateral breastfeeding and breast cancer. Lancet 1977; 2: 124.

From personal experience in the circle of friends we adopted as new parents (you know, the ones you hang out with when all of your childless friends stop returning calls,) our children seemed to spit up less, had less stinky diapers, and far fewer illnesses on average than those we knew who used formula. Before any collapse, health care—actual caring for one’s health—saves a family on stress and money. Still not convinced, read the ingredients on a can of formula!

Supply- Will you drive down to Wal-Mart or the local FEMA camp for baby formula after the mobs start torching things? How much can you fit in your B.O.B. and what about stopping to mix it up? Talk about expensive powdered food, formula is it!

On the other hand a nursing mother is a self-mobile, heavily armed food factory for your baby—a real mobile canteen. A nursing woman’s supply of milk will increase with the demand for milk. Lactation can be greatly reduced however without sufficient food, rest, and water for mommy. Take care of your troops and they’ll take care of your baby.

But wait! With those two enormous tactical advantages, why doesn’t everyone nurse?

From my own conversations with mothers around places (I like to brag on the missus you know) it basically seems to boil down to convenience and lack of support. It takes effort and commitment, both of which are hard to maintain in the face of the grocery store convenience of “better” living through chemistry. It is hard for working mothers and recent generations have not been brought up with nursing as the norm. They know only the “ba-ba.”

Possibly more important are the social aspects of nursing. When we decided to try to nurse our first baby, there was little to no support from the medical staff. We had one nurse (“Big Red” as I dubbed her, though she was quite thin) who just flat-out ignored our directions not to give our baby a bottle. We would also find that what little advice we got on breast feeding was outdated and / or incorrect. It was an uphill slog all the way.

Despite the fact that the majority of the world feeds their babies from the breast, nursing doesn’t always come natural or easy. I think in part as it is no longer—at least generally speaking—a skill that is passed down and certainly not seen in the corporate media. As my mother-in-law said, in her day nursing was for “poor, white-trash mothers.” Our first nursing experience was a complete nightmare with many sleepless, worried, tear filled nights. For what ever reason we, especially my wife, were fully committed to nursing our babies. We couldn’t do it. We had to hire a lactation consultant and every penny was worth it. For the sake of you and baby TEOTWAWKI, please make the effort. Even nursing for a short time is better than nothing.

Help is out there if you need it. Aside from professional lactation consultants there are volunteer groups (such as the La Leche League) and the American Association of Pediatrics with resources for helping nursing mothers. Check your local area. You might want to ask beloved Granny too—she may have just the answer you need. She often does, you know?

Final Tactical Breastfeeding Breakdown-
After TEOTWAWKI, wet nurses might find themselves in high demand. When other, less prepared families go through their typically small supply of food reserves, supplying milk for babies could be useful for charity or barter. Teaching young mothers to nurse themselves when all the Wal-Mart’s are burned-out, or formula costs $4,200, will be a marketable skill. Remember the pictures of mothers screaming out for formula and diapers in the wake of Katrina? There are real world examples of just such nursing aid, here’s one real world example concerning the Chinese earthquake in 2008…
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2008/05/22/riminton.china.breastfeed.hero.cnn

And let’s not forget one last thing about survival nursing—mother’s milk is good for the whole family. With decent food, rest, and water a lactating woman can produce a good bit of milk. If expressed by hand or pump, mother’s milk is a good source of protein and other nutrients along with the aforementioned health benefits. Think that’s gross? Have you ever taken a close look at the non-human beasts whose milk you don’t think twice about drinking? Gross? You be the judge.

Again, the caveat: I DO fully support, condone, and believe breastfeeding is far superior to baby formula. I do also know that nursing will not work for everyone, even some who try very diligently and do “all the right things.” My only goal is to point out the tactical advantages thereof.

Cloth Diapers

Well now that you’ve got all that good mama’s milk in baby TEOTWAWKI, where does it go? It will eventually come out (though some nursing babies poop far less and that poop is less stinky, two more tactical points!) and you’ve got to decide what to do with it. Did you pick up diapers when you ran to the Wal-Mart or the FEMA camp? Drat. Maybe you can trade some .223 for a box of Pampers the next time the local brigands ride by?

Health and Wealth- One of the most compelling reasons to switch to cloth diapers even before the zombie hordes attack is their chemical makeup. Like the unnatural foods offered us and the plastics we use; disposable diapers are filled with dangerous and unhealthy chemicals that you may not even realize. Do a web-search on the health risks of Sodium Polyacrylate, Tribulytin, and Dioxin.

These are just some of the chemicals that have been found in disposable diapers. Also remember where those chemicals are in contact with your baby and perhaps those studies linking disposable diapers with male infertility and increased urinary tract infections in baby girls will make sense. These same chemicals go into the land fills and trash burners.

From personal experience, two of our three babies have had reactions to disposable diapers when we’ve used certain brands (yes, we have used them and on occasion and still do.) None have had reactions to any cloth diaper liners but one does seem to break out when we put a wool cover on her. Obviously, we don’t use those on her any more.

As to wealth, cloth diapers represent a larger initial investment (way less than that third Armalite you just bought!) versus more money spent on disposable diapers over the long run. Disposable diapers are expensive and from our own budget analysis (YMMV) we saved about $1,000 the first year we started using cloth diapers. We also used our cloth diapers on subsequent children which increases savings greatly. Larger cloth diapers can also be used for “night-time undies” for the older kids who may still wet the bed. Cloth diapers are inflation proof!

But wait! With those two enormous tactical advantages, why doesn’t everyone use cloth diapers?

Like nursing, cloth diapers do require more work than their modern convenient counterpart. Not as much as you might think, but there is definitely more laundry to do. Many folk are also put off by the idea of dunking poo-poo diapers. ‘Tis yucky, ‘tis true. But is it yuckier than gutting livestock, skinning game, or composting chicken dung? You be the judge. I got used to dunking diapers pretty quick. (Secret husband note: rinsing out poopie diapers is great marriage capital! Women will want you; men will want to be you… OK, maybe that’s stretching it a bit. But it is definitely appreciated.)

But really, the added work mostly consists of an extra load of laundry. When you finish rinsing out a stinky, just drop it in the diaper pail / wet bag. If you are traveling, just think how easy it would be to strap on a diaper wet bag on that tacticool MOLLE assault vest! I would also suggest getting a clothes line—nothing takes out stains like good ol’ Sol. Clothes lines are also very useful in general for other no power situations.

There are times when using disposable diapers will be more convenient in the short run. For long road trips we have been known to occasionally get some ‘sposie’s (diaper jargon) as there is obviously not going to be any laundry stops along the way. In certain  G.O.O.D. situations disposables might well be the only reasonable answer. It will take a tactical judgment call to be sure, but I highly recommend making cloth diapers your main stay with disposables as backup.

Types of Clothe Diapers-
Every prepper’s favorite part; the gear!

Trust me when I say that the AK versus AR or 9mm versus .45 flame wars have nothing on the Fuzzy-Bunz ersus Good-Mama’s or Prefold versus Insert fights on the cloth diaper boards. You think gun-talk forums can get nasty? Go follow some diaper swapping threads. Yikes!

Anyway these are the three basic styles of cloth diapers we are familiar with. There are a couple of other types that have attributes of each of these.

Prefolds & Flats- These are your familiar, one-piece diaper closed with a diaper pin or snappy (snappies work sort of like shirt-stays) known far and wide. These have the advantages of being the cheapest with the fewest moving parts. They are also fairly easy to make for someone with a bit of sewing savvy, or in a pinch someone who just has an old blanket and a pair of scissors. The only trouble is that it can take some practice folding these correctly and learning to pin them in a way that will keep them secure. Snappies are very easy to use but not terribly durable.

Flats are just that—flat pieces of cloth that need to be folded up properly to be absorbent and stay properly. Prefolds are also flat pieces of cloth, they are just thicker (i.e. pre-folded) than flats so they are absorbent without any fancy origami.

Fitted Diapers- These cloth diapers look almost like disposables with elastic fittings around the legs and back. They are basically Prefolds with snap or Velcro fasteners attached instead of needing a diaper pin.

In order to keep everyone else dry Flats, Prefold, and Fitted diapers have to have some manner of cover. Commonly rubber or polyurethane diaper covers are used, but wool covers (also easily knitted or crocheted by someone with the skill) are also popular. The wool covers (shorties or longies) tend to be sturdier than the rubber britches, but some babies don’t react well to wool—like our youngest. There are other covers available on the market as well.

Pocket Diapers- These are made of a layer of fleece sewn to a leak-proof cover, usually polyurethane. An insert of some type is slipped into the “pocket” between them for absorbency. The diaper is secured using snaps or Velcro sewn into the diaper. Fitted and Pocket diapers are both available in “grow with your baby” models that will fit from very small to larger toddler size.

My advice about getting cloth diapers is to do your research and not to jump in all at once. Start with a supply of Prefolds and then get other brands or types one at a time. Many times diapers we thought looked good on-line did not meet our expectations. I’ve seen some go overboard—repeatedly—and spend a bunch of money on diapers they later don’t like.

My personal preference is the Pocket variety with snaps. I find them to have the best balance between ease of use (no pins!), cleanliness (pulling covers off can sometime be tricky if there’s been a blow-out, so to speak), and washing. You can also use Pocket diapers without an insert as swimming diapers.

I would definitely suggest learning to use Flats however for that full crash scenario. They can be made or cut from just about any cloth and the wool for their covers can be had from local folk with sheep or alpacas. They can also be used as rags, towels, bandages, or inserts for other types of diapers. Flats and Prefolds are also the easiest to clean.

Some Final Thoughts on Tactical Baby Booty Armor-
My experience leads me to suggest getting choosing snaps over Velcro. The Velcro is very easy to use but I find it doesn’t last as long as snaps, especially when reusing for other children.

Many cloth diapers and covers are made by work at home moms. Quality definitely varies, but if you find a good WAHM, isn’t better to support her than some big pharma or big box retail company?

Finally, I also suggest using cloth wet-wipes instead of—or at least along with—disposable wet-wipes. Soak the cloth wipes in water with a bit of soap, essential oil, or baby oil mixed in and keep them in a container (old wet-wipes containers are great) or zip-lock bags. There are many formulas for cloth wipe solutions on-line so finding one that works for you shouldn’t be too hard. These wipes can also be field stripped (i.e. washed) and reused without leaving any buried trash. They can also be used by adults in a pinch—so to speak.

The Carry-
Finally we discuss the age-old debate of 1 point, 2 point, or 3 point sling for carrying our new baby. No, I actually mean your “fruit of the loins” baby, not your .308 with ACOG baby. I may or may not have done some low-impact tactical movements with a baby strapped to me when no one (especially mama) was looking. But admitting to that is beyond the scope of this article. Just always make sure that baby is tightly secured and the head is supported before attempting maneuvers. Moving right along…

Tactically speaking, there is no good way to carry a baby in a fire fight. This is obviously that nightmare of nightmare situations where your baby is in the line of fire. If you get hit, baby is probably going to get hit or get fallen on and trapped beneath your body. If you shoot back you are going to run the risk of severely injuring your baby’s ears, as they are very sensitive and easily damaged when young. Running madly away you will likely trip and stumble at least once. What else is there to say, avoid all contact if possible when you have baby. Escape and evade if you can’t.

LBE (Lil’one Bearing Equipment)
While there isn’t probably quite as a large a variety in baby carriers as there are in tactical gear, a load bearing parent does have quite a few choices.  There are many, many different brands with their own takes on particular styles (and colors, colors, colors!), so I’m going to limit my discussion to two general classes: Slings and Backpacks. I’ve found both styles to be effective and comfortable so it is up to you to research your gear and find what works best for you and your baby.

Sling Carriers are simply long pieces of cloth that are used to swaddle a baby close in to the one carrying the baby. Think of it as sort of a baby bandolier (but I wouldn’t try carrying multiple babies). The type we used has two steel rings on one end and the other end is fed through them as a cinch. Wraps are similar but—as the name suggests—use various ways of wrapping parent and baby together. These take some learning to properly wrap a baby in place, but are very versatile and able to hold larger babies than other slings. Pouches are also available, which have pouches to hold the baby. Sling carriers have the advantage of being very easy to make from local resources.

Overall, slings are bit more complicated to use and the excess fabric can get bulky. They are also not as easy (for me anyway, the wife is a pro) to carry larger babies. Slings do allow the best opportunities for mothers to nurse a baby on the move and they are great at keeping the young ones warm. Conversely, they also make the person carrying warm, which may be good or bad. Slings also have the best range of carry positions (front, hip, back, tight, loose, laying, and sitting) age and size of baby depending.

Backpack Carriers are the more familiar type and have many different styles as well. Some are completely soft and only tie on. Some have frames. Many use an array of straps and buckles or snaps to keep everyone in place. Some even have D-rings to clip on your favorite combat accoutrements!

Backpack carriers have the advantage of being very easy to use and being better at distributing weight for long hikes, wearing camping backpacks, or other G.O.O.D. family fun. Some backpack carriers allow the baby to slide from a front to back carry without removing the baby or parent from the carrier. Another advantage for the tactically minded are the carriers (not all do this) that keep baby buckled in even if the parent unbuckles the carrier; very handy for passing baby back and forth. Backpack carriers are generally limited to upright carrying positions, but can do front or back carries, facing in or facing out.

I will wrap up my ever lengthening article with a few notes on the basic carry positions. Please keep in mind that men and women have different load bearing curves and each will have their preferred carry position and baby carrier.

Front and Facing Out – A good position for fidgety babies that like to see what’s going on or may be prone to spitting up or ill. Those little hands can get grabby though if you are handling anything. Also not a good place if footing is unsure.

Front and Facing In – A comfortable position for both baby and parent, and especially good for napping for both parties. Good nursing position and easiest to comfort baby.

Back and Facing In – This is in my opinion the best overall position for carrying comfort and protecting the baby. This is also the best position for keeping your hands free. Not a very helpful place to put a baby that likes to yank hair or boonie hats.

Back and Facing Out – Papoose style! Well not quite. I never tried this position, but it apparently worked well for the American Indians.

Hip / Side – The hip carry will be the only comfortable way to carry larger children in slings. This can be used as a nursing hold for slings and works pretty well when needing to use your hands.

I hope this information has been useful and I pray we will never have to use it for baby TEOTWAWKI’s sake.


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