Sustainably Diapering Your Baby or Small Child in a Long-Term Emergency
In an emergency situation, one has to consider how you are going to diaper your child for the duration. If you choose to store disposable diapers and wipes, you must have an action plan for how you will dispose of them properly. Obviously, this is not a sustainable option for an emergency with an undefined length of time, but many prefer this method.
Most people would call me a “crunchy” mom. I gave birth at home in our bedroom, I avoid big pharma, and I am a huge proponent of the sustainable nature of cloth diapering. After much research, I excitedly stocked up our cloth diaper stash with various options before our daughter was born. My goal was to try as many methods as possible and determine the most suitable solution for our family.
Pocket Diapers Weren’t Ideal, Wool Diapers Were
It didn’t take us long to determine that the popular Pocket Diaper was not ideal. The amount of laundry required, the pieces and inserts that had to match each one, the time spent air-drying each item, and the time spent stuffing was just not going to work for me long term. I did enjoy bamboo terry flat diapers with Thirsties covers for the newborn period because they held in the explosive newborn poop quite well and they air dried quickly, but I have since found that wool is my favorite method of cloth diapering.
My daughter was three months old when I discovered diapering with wool. What started with a desperation to figure out a night-time solution for her heavy wetting, turned into complete and utter wool diaper love! At first the whole idea was scary. I wondered, can you really go for months without washing? Isn’t it gross? What if they shrink? Doesn’t it stink? I’ve tried a few different types of wool, and I’ve landed on interlock as the best long-term choice, because of how ridiculously forgiving and durable it is. You can even machine wash it if you need to!
The supplies needed for cloth diapering with wool and flour sack towels are as follows:
- 30 flour sack towels (Wal-Mart has the best prices I’ve found at five for $4.34, and the quality is pretty standard) or there are flats
- Two Snappi’s
- 48 baby washcloths for wipes (You can usually find a 24-pack of soft polyester ones for about $5 online)
- Two peri bottles (for wipe solution)
- Two 32 oz. bottles of Dr. Bronner’s unscented soap
- 12 hemp boosters (I use Thirsties)
- Two interlock wool soakers, and
- Two pairs of interlock wool longies (I love Bumby and Truly Charis brands)
- Pure Lanolin
- Pint jar with lid for lanolizing
- 5-gallon bucket for washing
- One large box of Gain detergent for each month of preparation
- Drying rack for clothing
Variable Size Considations
It is possible to diaper your child from birth to potty training with just these items, the only variable here is the size of the wool soakers and pants. If you don’t mind a baggy look when they are small, it is possible for them to wear the same ones throughout their entire diapering journey, but I like to purchase enough to fit each size. For the past four months, depending on the brand, my 23 lb. baby has been in size medium, and there is enough stretchiness and space for her to fit in these for up to another year, depending on how she grows. Many babies and children never move past a medium sized wool soaker or pant.
Best Part of Diapering With Wool
The best part of diapering with wool is that the soaker or pants themselves seldom need washed. Naturally anti-microbial, the lanolin in the wool converts the urine into water and salt, and it also becomes a “wet barrier”, remaining dry to the touch from the outside. Wool is also the most absorbent material. It can soak up 1/3 of its weight in liquid before feeling wet and always remains completely breathable, causing fluids to evaporate on the go.
Wool pants or soakers are both my baby’s clothing (they are adorable) as well as her diaper cover. Interlock wool can be pricey, but it is possible to pick up a few quality items from a Facebook swap at very affordable prices. Considering the quality, durability, the stretchy fit for a longer duration, the fact that you only need a couple, that they double as clothing and the cost savings with minimal washing. With all of this, it’s totally worth it to buy the better interlock rather than an up-cycled wool, although both work great.
Because of the anti-microbial nature, wool can go a long time between washes. One only needs to air dry in between changes, and depending on the amount of absorbency underneath and the frequency of the diaper change, oftentimes, you don’t even need to do that. I love this because in a case where water needs to be preserved, minimal washing is required. When the lanolin begins to wear off, it will be evident. This is because the waterproofing nature will begin to fail, and this is an indicator that you need to wash and re-lanoliize.
Mine go several months between washing and lanolizing. And, no, they do not stink! In the past, when I was using pocket diapers, the urine smell drove me crazy. I was hyper aware that my sweet baby girl often smelled like pee! Since we switched to wool, that urine smell has been replaced by a “wet wool” smell that is natural and non-offensive. It puts my mind at ease to know that when she pee’s, urine isn’t trapped by an impenetrable plastic barrier against her skin until her next diaper change. We have never had a diaper rash to date!
Inner Soaker Flour Sack Towels
For the inner soaker, flour sack towels are 100% cotton, super absorbent, easy to wash and quick drying, I love them! Flour sack towels have been around for a lot of years. Typically used for kitchen use, they are simple, giant cotton squares that can be used for many household things. The best reasons to use flour sack towels for diapering is that they work well and they are very affordable. When our baby was little, they seemed a little bit bulky on her, but by four months or so, I felt like they were the perfect size and absorbency for daily use. Because they are one giant square, they are easy to wash and their thin nature allows them to dry very easily.
The flour sack towels do need to be folded in order to contain the baby mess though! To prepare the flour sack towel for diapering, I fold them into something called an origami fold (easy instructions found on Youtube) and I lay a hemp booster in the wet zone to extend the wear. Once placed on your baby, you can use a snappi to hold it together, or if your baby is small enough, a simple knot in the front will hold it in place.
Bamboo Terry Flat Diapers
Flat diapers serve the same purpose as flour sack towels and are sometimes made out of softer, more absorbent fabrics. However, they can be a very expensive. I had the privilege of using my sister’s bamboo terry flats from Sugar Sheep for our newborn diapering days, and they were luxuriously soft. My favorite part of the bamboo terry fabric is that it is very stretchy, unlike the cotton towels, which makes the fit very snug and comfortable against the baby’s bottom. If I had the resources, I probably would have opted for my whole stash to be made of bamboo or hemp flats instead of flour sack towels.
For cleaning your baby, Unscented Dr. Bronner’s castile soap is an amazing, non-comedogenic, universal soap that I use for my wipe solution, wool wash, baby wash, and it lasts a really long time. I have a bottle that I have used for just about everything since our daughter was born and have only used 1/3rd of the 32 ounce bottle in almost nine months. Two bottles should last two years in an emergency, if you are sparing with it. (I use regular Gain to wash my flour sack towels and hemp boosters.)
How To Hand-wash And Lanolize Your Wool Diapers
In addition to what I’m sharing with you, you can also consult youtube for video demonstrations.
- Gently hand-wash and rinse your wool soakers and pants in Dr. Bronner’s as you would an item of clothing.
- Fill your bucket with fresh, warm water and add the wool items inside out.
- Fill a pint jar halfway with boiling water, melt 1 tsp. of lanolin per wool article in the boiling water; add 8-10 drops of Dr. Bronner’s soap to emulsify the lanolin and make a “milky” solution.
- Add the milky solution to the wool bath, being careful not to pour directly on the wool.
- Stir the wool well and soak for 30 minutes.
- Air dry the wool items and you are all set!
How To Hand-wash Flour Sack Towels/Diaper Flats, Hemp Boosters, and Cloth Wipes
- Dispose of any solid matter from the items.
- Soak items in your bucket in very hot water until water cools, empty bucket. (In limited water situations, skip this step)
- Fill your bucket with very hot water again, adding 1/2 cup of Gain soap.
- Wash items as you would an article of clothing and air dry.
Wipe Solution Recipe
- Fill peri bottle with cold water.
- Add 4 drops of Dr. Bronner’s soap.
- Shake to mix and squirt onto cloth wipe to use.
Something to note when using this recipe is that it will cause a rash on your baby’s skin if your wipe solution is made too strong. Always start with a test on their skin to make sure that your baby doesn’t react to the amount of soap. A little goes a long way!
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part two of a two part entry for Round 73 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,090 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses, and
- Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value), and
Round 73 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.