If you had to bug out with the tiny tots in your family, what would you do when the disposable diapers ran out? Full disclosure: I’ve had lots of children, and I’m a big fan of disposable diapers. They’re convenient. But there may come a day when they’re not available, or when you simply can’t afford them.
The technology that goes into the design and manufacture of disposable diapers is amazing. I did a quick Internet search and found a gazillion articles and even some videos that show the manufacturing process. And the last time I walked down the diaper aisle there were about forty varieties, colors, and sizes; evidently, a lot of people buy these things. I’ve certainly bought my share during the last five kids. But being used to a convenience is not to say it’s a necessity, and if our finances took a big hit in the EOTWAWKI, disposable diapers would be one of the first things to go, so I’ve given some thought to the alternatives.
There are a lot of options in this category, and I’m just going to mention a few to get you started.
1. The basic, cheap cloth diaper is a large, thin cotton thing that you fold down to the size you need. You wrap this on the baby and pin it, then slip on a plastic diaper cover to catch the leaks. You have to change them about twice as often and disposables, babies get more rashes, and you have to wash them. You wind up with buckets full of diapers soaking in bleach water, and the whole process at least triples your workload over disposables. If you’re traveling with cloth diapers, mention it to your prayer group before you leave.
2. The pre-fold is a mild improvement in that the diaper is already folded for you, and it’s easier to fit properly to the baby. All the other inconveniences apply.
3. Bamboo diapers. No kidding, they make cloth out of bamboo, and it’s very soft and absorbent. This cloth especially appeals to the Greens because of the eco-friendly way they cultivate the bamboo — unlike cotton which results in erosion and uses a lot of chemicals. As you can imagine, bamboo diapers are expensive. At this writing, bamboo prefolds cost about 6 times as much as cotton.
4. Wool covers. This is one of the most interesting alternatives over plastic covers. The problem with plastic is that all the moisture in the diaper stays inside and causes rashes. A wool cover is breathable; it cuts down on the diaper changes and the diaper rashes. Plus, depending how you do it, a wool cover is nearly free. My sister buys wool sweaters at yard sales for peanuts, then felts them and sews them into a cover. Because they help prevent rashes, reduce the frequency of changes, and are dirt cheap, wool covers get my vote over plastic.
Downside: Wool cover enthusiasts brag that the wool somehow reduces odor, but it smells worse to me. I think what happens is the wool wicks the odor continuously into the air like an air freshener, which is what I’m smelling, and when they change the diaper it’s not as concentrated a stench as a plastic cover would be. So they think, “wow, this isn’t so bad,” but meanwhile everyone else is treated to a persistent, mild scent of urine. Have you ever visited someone who keeps dogs in the house? The first thing you notice is the dog smell. They don’t notice it — they’re used to it and it no longer registers.
How many diapers will you need? Depends how often you want to wash. You should count on about 10 or 12 changes a day. So if you want to wash only every other day, buy twice as much as you use in a day. It’s that simple.
You can expect the cloth diapers to last several years, so it’s not a recurring expense.
To most people this is inconceivable, but if you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re used to stretching your imagination a bit to prepare for the Big Crunch.
In cultures that use “swaddling cloths” instead of diapers (or nothing at all) the babies tend to get potty trained very young. How many times have you seen three-year-olds still in diapers? This problem only exists in the “civilized” diaper world.
A friend of mine from Nicaragua thought it was abnormal for babies to have a toilet strapped around their waist, and considered it downright bizarre that anyone would tolerate a toddler not to be potty trained. He described how they did without diapers in the town where he grew up. The mother kept the baby in a sling next to her body all day, and she could tell when the baby needed to do its business. She quickly took the baby out; it did its business on the ground or in a toilet, a quick cleanup, and back in the sling. The occasional accident was handled by a swaddling cloth, but it wasn’t like a diaper — the diaper is intended to be used as a toilet, whereas the swaddling cloth isn’t.
In China today young children wear pants with a hole in the bum. When they gotta go, they just drop and go.
Culture and climate have something to do with it. In tropical climates people tend to let their children go naked, and they quickly learn to do their business in specific places. In the USA we place a great emphasis on modesty, even to the point that a naked baby causes blushing and giggling. I don’t know why this is. I’m pretty conservative when it comes to dress; I know what makes men’s eyes and minds wander, and I have teenage boys. But why there’s a taboo against infant nudity I can’t explain.
Anyway, you won’t care in a survival situation. If the Big Crunch comes and you’re hunkered down in your BOL with your family, one of your options (weather permitting) will be “no diapers.”
In sum, as with many modern conveniences, the alternatives to disposable diapers are simple and sensible. If you find yourself without them, you’ll make do just fine.