At times we get babies visiting around here. They don’t stay too long but it got me to thinking, what if things went sour and we had a baby that was staying awhile? There are several great stores to spend all you money just on babies. You could probably furnish a 2000 square foot house with just baby items. Walkers, bouncers, strollers, bassinets, cribs, youth beds, high chairs, play pens, play mats, and so much more stuff, plus a million different toys. Sure you can buy this stuff used or get lots of hand me downs. How much stuff does the baby really need?
I also need to think in two different modes. First is in normal times, the other is in hard times.
Food: Formula or breast milk? Of course breast milk is best but not always an option. Powdered formula is great. Just don’t forget that just a generation or two ago there wasn’t the widespread use of powdered formula. Formulas for babies could be found in cookbooks. The formula included milk, sugar or corn syrup and baby vitamin drops. To quote the Settlement Cookbook, “His first drink is prepared by measuring 3 ounces of water into a bottle. Add one teaspoon of sugar.” “The following sample formula will be suitable for most babies, 12 ounces whole boiled milk, 4 ounces boiled water, 1 ½ tablespoons sugar or corn syrup.” Amazing that people survived on this where now babies have to be on powdered formula that costs about $100 a month.
More on food: In the olden days (baby boomer period) children started on cereal at six to eight weeks. By the time they were a year old they were eating pretty much the same as everyone else. Jarred baby food wasn’t something that was purchased for every meal, mothers ground up plain food for the baby.
Diapers: I think opposite most people on this subject. In normal times I’d use cloth diapers. If TSHTF I’d rather use disposable diapers. Why? I would rather not have to spend as much time or water cleaning cloth diapers. On the other hand, if I got solar around here then I’d still be able to use the washer and have the well going so cloth would still be fine. Right now one boy who is here all the time has nighttime wetting problems. I expect it to last another year or two. We started off using disposables but made some good absorbent underpants. We are now saving $25 a month by not buying diapers for him.
Wipes: What about diaper wipes? They are inexpensive but when we have the occasional baby around here (about twice a month for an overnight stay) I use “baby washcloths” instead and just throw them in the wash. If TSHTF I’d be using disposable wipes. Again, less laundry to deal with. Even if they dry out while in the package you can always add water to make them work.
Clothes: A couple of years ago we needed to take care of an infant grandchild for four months. He came with nothing but the clothes on his back. Nobody I knew had kids or grandkids that could give me some used clothes. I ended up buying his clothes. People forget that infants don’t need a huge wardrobe. I bought four one piece “onesie” pjs with long sleeves and feet attached and six short sleeve one piece “onesies”. I also bought a package of bibs. That was all. He wore them for the entire four months. By using the bibs the clothes didn’t get stained. They looked pretty new and could be reused for another child. When the baby went back to his parents they had a huge wardrobe for him. I think he got to wear everything once or twice. They never put a bib on him and the clothes look awful even after only one or two washings.
Stocking Up: The question is how many babies would I expect and for how long? How do you stock up on diapers and wipes when you don’t know how many kids you’d be supplying? I decided to use some of the $25 a month that I was spending on the big kid diapers to buy some little kid diapers. I figure if nothing else, they will make great barter items.
High chair: Often we have two little ones stay over who are too small for regular chairs at the table. We have two high chairs, because I believe that in the house you eat meals at the table and you take your snacks outside. The little ones use bibs when they are here. They aren’t taken out of the high chair until they are washed off. Fortunately I have three barns on the property and baby things like high chairs go on the top floor of the front barn when we don’t have babies around. They were stored for about five years at one time and about 10 years before that.
Changing table: I have always changed the babies on the counter in the laundry room. There is a cabinet above the counter and on the underside of the cabinet is an alphabet chart with the letters and pictures of animals. Every diaper change includes saying the alphabet and pointing to the letters.
Beds: Bassinets, cribs, youth beds. About 25 years ago I bought two portable cribs. They aren’t really very portable. They are made out of wood and at one point had casters on the bottom to roll the cribs around. The bed height could also be raised and lowered. In the raised form it was the perfect height for a newborn. The lowest setting will keep in a two year old until they are able to climb out of anything. The three year old would still fit if I needed a sleeping area for him. Again, these can be taken apart and kept in the barn. One is there now. Its mattress is small enough to fit in a closet or under the bed. The other crib is in the corner in my room. It’s been there for three years now. We don’t have youth beds or bassinets. The kids go from the crib to a twin bed. I do believe in twin beds. I have lots of friends with kids who wouldn't dream of putting their child into a twin bed. They insist on queen beds. For one kid! In the olden days kids slept in twin beds, or if they were in a full size bed it was because there was more than one kid in the bed. Bigger beds were unheard of for children. Perhaps that was before mega-sized bedrooms? I wouldn't travel with a portable crib. When I traveled with the infant, once he started moving around too much that I couldn't keep him on the bed I used a drawer. I just pulled it out of the dresser, put in a couple of towels and this became his bed.
Jumpers, swings, and play pens: When I had the infant here a friend of mine gave me a jumper. The baby used it for about 5 minutes a day once he grew into it. Other people use swings to keep their babies entertained. There’s the handy play pen to keep the child nearby but not into everything. Let’s see, swing, jumper, play pen, high chair…we are now taking up most of one room. How about none of the above, except high chair?
Car seat: Infants need backward facing car seats, then forward facing car seats, then booster seats. Since all different types are needed, I got one backward and one forward and two boosters. They have the padding removed and are stored in the barn. I won’t buy those used because if they were in an accident, the straps may be too stretched out to safely hold the child. Please don’t skimp here. The 3 year old grandkid is alive today because he was properly placed in his car seat as an infant!
Stroller: There are several different kinds. You can buy a cheap umbrella stroller that is lightweight and won’t last long. You need to make sure that it won’t tip over if another kid runs into it. There are also large strollers, some of which are part of a car seat set where you unsnap the seat from the car and snap it into the stroller frame. I had a Snuggie, which is a cloth baby carrier that you wear against your chest like a backward backpack. It was comfortable and easy to use. I carried the baby with me while doing my chores, shopping, etc. and never used a stroller.
When I was working in the kitchen he was in the high chair watching everything that was going on. Prior to being able to sit in the high chair he was in his car seat watching.
Getting back to babies and survival thoughts. You don’t need a bunch of junk for a baby. Get solid items that will last a long time. Don’t overbuy. We are going to use some of the money we are saving each month to invest in disposable diapers. If we don’t need them they will make good barter items.