I am probably your less than common prepper. I’m a working mom who lives in the suburbs of a mid-sized city and has a husband who just barely tolerates my prepping. Luckily for me, a lot of the prepping skills and lifestyle choices just come naturally for him; we just don’t call it prepping! I don’t know where exactly my prepping started, but I remember at nine years of age packing a bag with clothes and food for both my brother and me “just in case” Mom decided to finally take off from the abusive boyfriend. At the age of 12, that bag finally came in handy as we fled the house never to look back with only the contents of MY bag in hand.
I continued to quietly prep as a teenager and young adult, getting more serious as I started my career and fiercely as I had my first child. Today, I have a three year old son and another one due in just a couple of months. Let me tell you, I fully understand where the momma bear syndrome name comes from! There is nothing that will get in the way of me protecting my little family.
The how-to of Beans, Bullets, and Band-aids has been done over many times. I wanted to give some basic, practical advice from what I’ve learned so far on how to prep with little children. It was something I searched for as a first time mom and struggled to find. I couldn’t relate to a lot of the information I found, while still living in the constraints of suburban life and working full time. The little I could find was often very simple or focused on food preparation, storage, and cooking. I wasn’t the stay at home and home schooling mom. I learned a ton over the past few years as a new mom, and I am continuously evolving and building up the uniqueness of my preps to make them fit my young family and me. The things I’ve included are by no means the right answer for everyone, but they work for us. I hope that what I’ll share might give a new family a jumpstart on some ideas of where to start.
We have a pretty typical food storage set up for a prepper. We have about a year’s worth put away for the three of us, a growing garden, and are working on building up the stores with the fourth addition to the crew joining us soon. The thing is, none of my fancy dried food or raw veggies are going to do my littlest one any good. I breastfed my first and plan to with this one. This is the most important part of prepping with an infant, but it isn’t a fail safe. You never know if something were to happen to you, or if you might have unexpected issues with supply due to poor health/nutrition. I always keep several months worth of formula on hand for my little one (LO). Similac for Supplementation is what I have in my cupboard, as it is has the best record for breastfed kids tolerating it, but there are lots of options here. You may want to buy only a small amount at first, until you know for sure your infant will tolerate what you’ve purchased, especially if money is an issue. I chose to stock up and then would have changed brands if I needed. I didn’t give my son any formula until my supply and our routines were well established. At about two months we started giving him two or three bottles per week of formula. I would pump during those times, and my husband would feed him. It reassured me that we had a bottle system that worked for him and that he would tolerate the formula we had chosen just in case it was ever needed it. We keep mostly powdered formula on hand, but I do have a few cases of the liquid formula in individual bottles. If we ever have water issues for a few days or are on the move, it is super easy to use. You can also buy a few disposable, individually wrapped nipples that fit straight on those bottles. The makers of Similac (Abbott Nutrition) sell those in large boxes on their website, or you can purchase a few of the NUK brand at Walgreens. They both fit the premixed liquid bottles. I always have two formula bottles and disposable nipples in my diaper bag, just in case! We ended up not using most of the formula we had stored, but I made sure I donated it all prior to expiration to a local women and children’s shelter, so it didn’t go to waste. I’m working on rebuilding my stores now, but between now and when my son was off formula we always had one or two cans on hand just in case. It is something that could always come in handy for a needy family or be bartered later.
We also stock up a good amount of commercial baby food. I wish I had the time and energy to always make my kid’s baby food, but honestly as a commuting, working mom there just isn’t enough time! We make baby food on the weekends and freeze some especially in the summer as produce is abundant. We do, however, also use and stock up a good amount of commercial baby food. We buy both the traditional baby jars and the newer style pouches. The pouches are great for travel. They don’t break or pop open, and no spoon is required. I can feed them right from it. Another cool product we keep in our emergency car bag is dried baby food in single serve pouches. It’s super light and literally just needs added water. NurturMe is the brand we’ve used and keep stashed in our various bags.
We keep about three months worth of baby food on hand, figuring between that, formula, and breastfeeding we can get a little one to the point that they can eat what we are eating. Again, buying extra is a great chance to be prepared and eventually provide some charitable support if it is not used.
Cloth diapers are going to be the way to go for a long-term SHTF scenario, but disposables have their place! My kid’s daycare doesn’t support cloth diapers, so we use disposable during the week. We use cloth on the weekends, or when home during vacations. It saves waste and gets us all used to using them. My husband thinks my diaper supply is possible the most insane of all of the stockpiles I have! I always had a few boxes of every size stocked up and even before we were expecting this one we had one of each of the smaller sizes around. I stock up when my Target has a great sale, so I am also saving money by only buying at the best prices. I also have a good supply of cloth diapers and inserts around as well. I’ve got some cloth pocket diapers with inserts and some all in ones. They both work, and are truly a matter of preference. You can find a ton of used cloth diapers online, at local cloth diaper stores, or at thrift shops if you start looking. That is a great way to beef up your supply without spending a fortune, especially if you don’t use them all the time like me.
While some might disagree I find disposables to be a great short-term solution for when the SHTF. I might not want to be doing wash every day right away or be hanging things out to dry in the middle of winter. I would recommend having both options available, depending on what your needs are or stress level is at the moment. Disposables will be key, if you are ever on the move or traveling. I also think diapers of either kind could be a great bartering item. I know so many families that literally run out of diapers before they make another run! I know if I had to figure out what to do 6+ times per day with my little one’s bottom, I would give anything to find something that would work.
Small children grow sooo fast! You need so many sizes to stay head of them. We were lucky enough to get hand-me-downs from cousins, so we took all of the sizes that they had from the start. That got us a good base of clothes to start with up to size 5T. We live pretty far north, so winter clothes were a gap in our supplies. I always keep a sharp eye on the clearance sections at the end of each winter to stock up on future sizes. I try to stay at least 4-5 sizes ahead of my son. He is in 3T now, so we have up to boys sizes 6-8 in bins. My daughter isn’t here yet, but we have a few things in each size up to 4T for her, in addition to her brother’s old clothes. When we stock pile those larger sizes, I go for variety and quality versus quantity. I could have 15 cheap t-shirts for $2 a piece, but that isn’t going to do my son as much good as the $30 2-piece fleece underwear to keep him warm in the winter. For the more expensive items, don’t worry about having something in every size! I tend to buy them in every other size. We have a nice warm (clearance!) coat for him in sizes 2T, 4T, 6, and 8. You don’t want them drowning in things, but a coat one size too big isn’t going to kill him. Sometimes we end up buying the actual size he is in when the time comes, but if I didn’t have that chance he would be ok with what we have. We use this philosophy for coats, snow pants, thermals, and more expensive wool pants or clothes. For shoes and boots, I usually will stock up whole sizes versus having every single half size on hand. I do buy half sizes when the time comes if needed, but again whole sizes save space and work for us. For the rest of their clothes we buy each size and work to have the following in every size four short sleeve t-shirts, four long sleeve t-shirts, four pairs of pants (two jeans or other strong material and two pair of comfy, warm sweat pants), two pairs of shorts, two or three hooded sweatshirts or light coats, six to eight pairs of socks, two pairs of footed pajamas, eight to ten onesies or underwear/undershirts, depending on his age. These are key, because they can add warmth if needed or be worn alone in the heat. They can also protect your outer clothes at times from the fun diaper malfunctions that can pop up.
All I have to say here is get used to baby wearing!!! The only things you need to think about differently is that if you are ever on the move, you need a way to keep your baby safe and close. We have several strollers and wagons at the house, but if I ever had to walk through a crowd or area I was uncertain about I would want my baby right up next to me with my hands free. We currently own four different baby carriers that all serve a different purpose; three are must-haves for me. We have the k’tan, which is a soft wrap-style carrier great for newborns. Even if I don’t plan to use it on a given day, mine will always be in my diaper bag just in case. It is pretty light and rolls up relatively small. The second is the Ergo carrier. This one will probably get the most use and longevity for families. It works well starting at about six months through two years, depending on the size of your child. It is very comfortable for the parent and baby/child, and it also has a small pocket. My son was a pretty big kid all along, so we ended up also purchasing the BOBA carrier 4G. It is much better suited for toddlers. We used this for him from around the time he was 18 months until almost 3. We only used it, as he got older, at the airport or would attach it to our daypack while hiking, in case he got really tired. It distributes weight shockingly well. I found it worked at the older ages better than my Ergo. I am a very petite female, but I could carry my 36 lb two year old on my back, with another pack on my front during a whole day of travel. Even though we haven’t used it in awhile, it is always in our trunk. If we ever got stuck somewhere and had to walk a long way, I would use it in a heartbeat. My husband was a fan of both the Ergo and the Boba carrier. They were able to fit both of us well, even though we are about a foot apart in height. The k’tan is less adjustable, and he felt a little too “girly”, so I just used that the first few months myself. I did mention we owned a fourth carrier– the Deuter Kid Comfort III. This one is truly a backpacking carrier. It provides great structure for kids about 9 months-4 years old, but it is pretty big. My husband used it a few times each summer on long day hikes and liked that it felt very secure. It can carry a TON of weight and by far has the most storage pocket room of any carrier. I like having it, but it is too big to always have near me or in the car, so I consider it the most expendable of the four carriers. I also found my son, plus the weight of the pack, became too heavy pretty quickly.
Your typical First Aid Kit recommendations won’t touch on all of your needs as a parent. My husband and I are both pharmacists, so we have a pretty extensive medical supply stocked up. I made a list below of some things you’ll want to make sure you have on hand. Again, children’s medications could have huge barter potential! As a side note, buy the generic forms of medications when you can. There is NO reason to buy the brand names, and you will save so much money you can reallocate to other things. We also buy both liquid and chewable options when available. The chewable options are much easier to keep packed in our “get home” bags and in the car. You could crush the right dose for a small child, if needed. Being an expectant mom also has a few things of its own to consider. I plan to give birth at a center with a midwife, but if that can’t happen my husband and I are prepared. I included a few notes on major topics below.
- Children’s Pain Medications: Keep children’s ibuprofen and Tylenol on hand. Don’t worry about having both infant and children’s formulations on hand; just stick to the children’s strength and adjust the doses as needed. This is great for stocking up and also better for medication safety as well. You are less likely to mix up dosages with only one form in the house. Check with your doctor to get exact dosages and a copy of those great dosing cheat sheets. A good rule of thumb to remember for both ibuprofen and Tylenol is to give your child 10mg per kg of weight. That falls in the middle of both dosing ranges. You’ll have to convert your child’s weight from pounds to kg by dividing by 2.2 and then use this to get to your mg dosage. At this point you will have to check the packaging you have to ensure you covert that to the right liquid amount, based on the strength of the product. I recommend practicing this math now, especially if you aren’t familiar, and comparing to the recommended dose given by your doctor or pharmacist. You can also walk into any pharmacy and ask the pharmacist to walk you through the dosage equation.
- Allergy medications: We keep a few different types on hand including Benadryl (diphenhydramine) for severe allergy reactions and Zyrtec (cetirizine) for more routine seasonal allergies. Both can be used in kids six months of age and older with direction from your doctor. Claritin (loratadine) is a fine choice as well, I just seem to find cetirizine works better for my son.
- Digestive aids: Keep gas drops (simethicone) and Tums around for your kids. These are about the only things you can regularly use in young kids. They should not take Pepto Bismol unless it is the kid’s version, which is just calcium carbonate (like Tums) anyways.
- Diaper Rash: Keep a large supply of a barrier ointment, such as Aquaphor or any brand rash cream on hand. They are all similar and work as a matter of preference. This will be important to use proactively in situations where you might not be able to change your infant’s diaper as often or they could have loose stools as a result of diet changes. Also keep a few tubes of clotrimazole and lots of baking soda around. Many diapers rashes are due to acidic stool that comes with diarrhea. A bath in baking soda and water does wonders to off-set that. Just add about ½-1 cup baking soda to a whole bath. Clotrimazole can be found in the foot care aisle of any pharmacy; it is the same stuff you can use on athletes foot. Fungal infections can set in quickly with diaper rashes and this stuff works quickly when that happens. There is high likelihood it is fungal problem, if the rash isn’t responding to your treatment and you see a clearly-defined circular areas of a red raised rash with smaller lesions separated from the main area of rash.
- Asthma Medications: If you are lucky enough to have a young child with asthma, like me, make sure you don’t rely only on your nebulizer. If you don’t have power, you’ll be out of luck! In addition to our nebulizer, we keep several albuterol and steroid inhalers in the house to be used with a spacer and facemask. The facemasks come as small as infant sized. While the nebulizer is easier to use when they are young, we’ve had good success using the metered dose inhalers with spacers/masks when traveling and had no issues. Our doctor was always great about helping us have both on hand just in case. Luckily my son’s case is pretty mild, but we also have a bottle of an oral steroid (prednisolone) just in case things get out of control.
- Prenatal/Postnatal Care Vitamins: I keep at least a year supply of prenatal vitamins on hand, as well as extra iron and vitamin D. These are key both during and after pregnancy, especially if you are breastfeeding and don’t have the best diet. The iron will be key if you have more bleeding post partum than normal and don’t have medical care available. Extra vitamin D and iron are also important for breastfeed babies. Talk with your doctor now about if you should supplement your own dosage or keep newborn drops on hand.
- Emergency Birth Kits: Even before we were expecting this baby, we had one of these on hand. You can find lots of great midwife supply sites online that have these prepackaged. I purchased a decent one for about $45. It is no replacement for trained medical care, but in an emergency it has everything needed to help with the very basics of a home birth. Just a few of the things included are large sterile pads to cover the birthing area, gloves, cord clamps, and scalpel. We also added a dose of vitamin K and erythromycin eye drops, for immediately after birth, that we got from our current midwife.
- Pads: I’m not great about always using reusable pads each month, but I have a large stock of them with plenty of post partum sized pads. I also keep at least about six months ahead on disposable female monthly supplies. I have all varieties. I consider these great barter items. You’ll want a good stock of all types of these!
- Labor/Birthing Books: Make sure you have a few different references on hand. These are great to read before labor, in general, to be more prepared, but they will be essential if you end up having to go it alone or are ever with someone else in that situation. I read all of these primarily myself and then pick out specific sections for my husband to read that are most helpful. We also talk about what I’ve read and learned to help put it to memory. A couple of books I recommend having on hand are “Spiritual Midwifery” by Ina May Gaskin, and “Varney’s Midwifery”.
- Entertainment: While it is important we all have things to occupy our minds and spirit in a long-term grid down situation, it is even more important for little ones. I keep a box hidden in the basement with lots of small toys and treats for them. A few things my son loves that are relatively inexpensive include matchbox cars, the small coloring packs found in the dollar spot at Target (crayons, stickers, and book all in one), temporary tattoos, and small Lego guys and vehicles. It is amazing how much fun he gets out of a new car that costs me 89 cents! I also keep a large stock of arts and craft supplies. Most can be obtained pretty cheap from Walmart or Michael’s. Keep and eye out for sales around and right after the “back to school” season. You can get crayons, markers, and such for almost pennies. Don’t forget things to celebrate birthdays and other holidays. We keep a few rolls of streamers, birthday candles, balloons, and gift bags stashed away. A $1 bag of balloons blown up without helium provided four toddlers more entertainment at my son’s birthday party than any fancy toy did! Having a little fun with your kids in a stressful situation will go along way for everyone’s mental well-being.