If you have children in your family, preparing for potential SHTF scenarios requires extra consideration. All children will need additional comfort and entertainment to adjust to a survival situation. Fortunately, if your kids are old enough to walk, talk and perform a few basic chores, your special preps for the young ones in your family do not need to be elaborate. Older children are capable of eating the same food as adults, they’re usually potty-trained, and they can help themselves in many situations (e.g. getting dressed, feeding themselves, etc.).
However, if a very small infant will be in your responsibility and care during a survival scenario, there are some additional things you will need to consider. You won’t be able to explain even the rudimentary aspects of your situation to your baby, who will only understand that life isn’t as comfortable as it used to be. Infants require extra soothing, extra comfort and special dietary needs. They are unable to feed themselves and they will need to have diapers changed. Babies—particularly newborns—have difficulty regulating their own body temperatures, so proper clothing is a must, especially when the weather is cold. In addition, an adult will need to carry an infant most places, since babies aren’t independently ambulatory until they grow older.
So if you’re the parent of a small baby, or if you’re planning to add more children to your family in the future, here are a few extra things to consider that an help make life more comfortable for everyone—especially your infant—during a survival situation:
Wear Your Baby In A Pack: Baby wearing is popular in many countries, although it tends to be practiced more in eastern civilizations than in western culture. Babies are “worn” in a variety of ways, depending on the culture and the preference of the parent. In some cases, the infant is wrapped in a long blanket-like piece of cloth and tied to the parent’s body. In other cases, the infant is strapped into a carrier that resembles a backpack.
In modern America, the Baby Bjorn is a commonly known infant carrier. It can be used with very young babies, and typically parents use it to carry a baby on the front of their bodies so the baby is snuggled against the parent’s chest. The infant is simply placed inside the carrier—and the parent wears the carrier on their body with shoulder straps similar to those of a backpack—and safely buckled in with straps and plastic buckles. For wearing a baby on the back (just like a backpack), the Ergo is a well-known manufacturer.
The benefits to baby wearing in a SHTF scenario are numerous. Wearing your baby close to your body provides your child with additional comfort. Many babies find this closeness to be soothing, and the comfort this gives your infant will be invaluable during a time of uncertainty and fear.
Baby wearing also allows you to hold your infant but still use both hands. In a survival situation, you may need to simultaneously comfort a baby while preparing a meal, purifying water, etc. Baby wearing lets you do both at the same time, so you’ll be able to perform chores will still keeping your child close and safe.
If any type of hiking or walking on uneven ground becomes necessary, baby wearing will allow you to easily traverse the territory. Unlike a stroller, which has limited capabilities for travel, you can wear your baby on any terrain. Simply strap your infant to your chest or your back (depending on the age of the baby and the type of carrier you have), and you can walk on any path. In addition, many baby carriers can be used for kids up to two or three years old! So even parents with older children who have to walk on rocky terrain may find baby wearing useful.
I wore my child in a baby carrier from the age of three months until she was about two years old. She loved the closeness, and would often nap while I wore her. While she was in the carrier, I’d prepare meals, clean the house, do laundry or shop in stores. It is an extremely valuable tool for holding your baby while keeping your hands free.
Feed Your Baby Breast Milk: If at all possible, mothers should try to commit to breastfeeding their infants. This is not always easy. Indeed, it can be very daunting to new moms who are already dealing with sleep deprivation and the challenge of caring for a newborn. My first few months of breastfeeding my child were painful and difficult, but I managed to make it through with support from family and friends. Breastfeeding is ideal in a survival situation for many reasons.
One of the best advantages of breast milk is that it requires no storage of formula or milk. Because the mother is the supplier of the infant’s meal, you won’t have to worry about stockpiling formula for your child. You only have to ensure that you have enough food to supply the mother with an additional 300 calories per day.
In addition, breastfeeding is portable and requires no equipment. You won’t have to carry (and clean) bottles, nipples and other assorted feeding equipment. This can save you precious space in your BOBs as well as precious water/disinfectant.
Moreover, breastfeeding has been proven to boost an infant’s immune system. The mother passes along healthy antibodies to the baby through the breast milk, thus giving the child a little extra advantage when it comes to fighting off illnesses. If the SHTF, that extra advantage could mean the difference between a healthy or a sick baby.
One thing to note: Even if your baby is breast fed, it always makes sense to have a small stockpile of formula. It’s possible the mother may be unavailable or unable to breastfeed in a survival situation, in which case the formula will be a necessity for your infant’s health. If you plan to have electricity when the SHTF, you can stockpile frozen breast milk. I used a battery powered pump to pump and store breast milk in freezer bags, which lasts in a deep freeze for at least six months. When thawed, frozen breast milk maintains the same nutritional value as fresh breast milk.
Diaper Your Baby With Cloth Diapers: Before the days of disposable diapers, parents used cloth diapers on their babies. Most modern parents think of cloth diapers as dirty, smelly and hard work. But they’re surprisingly simple to use and require very little extra effort when compared to disposables. I was an advocate of cloth diapers when my child was firstborn. My husband, however, was initially opposed to the idea. Then, after three weeks of using cloth diapers, he said, “Why doesn’t everyone use cloth diapers? They’re so easy!”
There are numerous styles of cloth diapers. Some are simply rectangles of absorbent cloth that can be folded into various diaper shapes and pinned to fit the baby. Others are shaped pieces of absorbent cloth and may include snaps or hook-and-loop closures, making them as easy to put on the infant as a disposable diaper. Cleaning cloth diapers—particularly for breast fed babies who produce very organic waste—is just a matter of tossing them into a washing machine with hot water and some detergent. Hanging them in the sunlight to dry helps sterilize them and sun-bleach stains.
Although it makes sense to have some disposable diapers on hand when the SHTF (because you may need the convenience), cloth diapers will serve you better in the long run, especially once you’re in your BOL.
Since cloth diapers are reusable, you won’t have to worry about stockpiling a ton of disposable diapers. You’ll always have diapers on hand for your infant when you use cloth.
Studies have also found that cloth diapered babies tend to potty train sooner, possibly because they can feel the uncomfortable wetness against their skin (whereas disposable diapers wick the moisture away from the baby’s bottom).
By using cloth diapers, you’ll never have to worry about running out of diapers if the supermarkets get cleaned out or you’re unable to get to a store. And after your baby is finished with the diapers, they can be reused as rags, towels, bedding for animals and other purposes.
Other Items That Are Useful for Babies When the SHTF: There are numerous other items that you may want to have on hand if you have an infant in a survival situation. Consider:
- Babylegs: These garments are are essentially stretchy tubes of fabric—like leg warmers for babies, or thigh-high socks with the feet cut off. They’re a flexible item of clothing because they can fit newborns up to young children. Babylegs or baby leg warmers are great for light cover on cool days, or as an extra layer of clothing beneath pants.
- Hand-operated Baby Food Mill: Commercially jarred baby food probably won’t be available in a survival situation. A hand-operated baby food mill can help you smash your survival rations (whether garden produce, freeze-dried meals or MREs) into manageable mush for an infant’s meal.
- Pacifier/Lovey: Every infant may need extra comfort in a stressful situation. Having a pacifier and/or a lovey on hand can help make your baby feel less distress in an unfamiliar setting or difficult scenario.
- Over-the-Counter Medications: Because babies have not yet been exposed to a variety of germs, they have a tendency to get sick often during the early years of their life. It makes sense to have a stockpile of over-the-counter infant medications that can be used to relieve your baby’s symptoms and reduce a fever.
- Cloth wipes: Like cloth diapers, cloth wipes are reusable and require no stockpiling to ensure you’ll have enough if the stores are closed. You can make your own from pieces of flannel or terry cloth by cutting them into squares and hemming the raw edges. Simply moisten with water (a spray bottle works great) when you need to clean the baby’s bottom.
If you’re the parent of a small baby, or if you plan to add a baby to your family, remember that infants have special needs beyond that of toddlers and children. In a SHTF scenario, a few extra preparations can help make your infant feel more secure and comfortable, as well as reduce your stress and any fears of running out of stockpiled supplies.
JWR Adds: I discuss the importance of storing powdered infant formula in the Rawles Gets Your Ready Course. The course also mentions some bulk-packed formula suppliers where you can inexpensively stock up. Like most other vacuum-packed dry milk products, it has a roughly three year shelf life. At the end of three years, it is best to donate any unopened containers to your local food bank or faith-based pregnancy crisis center.