SHTF Cloth Diapers

Come on, you knew it was coming, SHTF the fan brings on a new writer, and she’s FEMALE. Soon it won’t be anything but babies and kittens on here. :-D

Seriously though, sanitation is an important consideration, and if you’ve got fertile young people in your crew, or babies already embedded in the unit, diapers are going to come up.

Disposables – A certain well known survival site recently had a post, or a letter or whatever the heck it is he posts over there, claiming that disposables were the way to go, because, “who wants to do laundry during TEOTWAWKI.”  Two things I’ll point out with that train of thought; one, not having cloth diapers does NOT make the laundry problem go away.  If you don’ t know how to boil water and clean clothing during a SHTF situation, you are lacking as a serious prepper.  Two, wrapping the problem in a plastic diaper doesn’t really deal with the situation. So, you have poop wrapped in plastic, but now what do you do with that bundle of joy?  It’s all fine and dandy when the garbage service is running and those plastic wrapped fecal bombs get trucked off to some safely remote dump.  But, what if it’s not?  You can’t compost or otherwise break down that “disposable” diaper, in fact I don’t think they should legally be allowed to call something “disposable” if it takes longer than 10 years to break down.  Since the estimates I’ve seen online put the break down of disposables into the hundreds of years,  I’ll put forward the opinion that it’s not the best option as a strategy for managing waste on a doomstead.

Cloth – Some of you may have memories of gauzy rectangles,  big pins and plastic pants. Those are still around, as are the easier to use prefolds.  Diapers have continued to evolve and there are now whole categories of them that mimic disposables with their fit and ease of use.  (Look up “fitted diapers” and “All in one diapers.” )  I’ll focus here on prefolds, since that’s what I use and make.  Yes, make. THE best point in favor of cloth diapers is that you can make them yourself.  Prefolds are nothing more than a rectangle of a certain size with absorbant padding in a strip down the middle.

11 X 14 inches for newborn
13 X 19 inches for regular diapers
17 X19 inches for toddler diapers.

Materials that can be used include flannel, t-shirt material, towels and anything made of cotton or bamboo.  Keep your climate and diapering needs in mind as you make them, if you live in hot places, keep them breathable. Keep them thin if you line dry where sunlight and heat can be scarce.  Covers are still used to keep the wet contained. You can buy the laminated fabric (often called PUL, poly-urethane laminate) and with free/cheap patterns online you can make your own covers. Wool is also used to contain the wet, if you have a knitter in the family, my knitting skills aren’t to that point yet, so I haven’t used wool much, but it gets rave reviews.  If you make extra, you can sell or trade them; well made original diapers and covers often fetch high prices.

Planning – If the baby-poop issue is still a hazy maybe, your best bet is to pick an amount of time you want to be able to diaper a little one in an emergency, (ie. 48 hours) plan for 1 diaper every 2 hours and at least 2 covers a day.  4 pins would be the minimum, but they are handy to have around in general, and I think you could make 12 pins worth the storage space.  I would just go with a medium sized diaper for storage, since they’ll fold up for a smaller baby and fit a good span of youngsters.  If the youngster is a definite, you can plan the stash around different time spans, (ie. how long you want to go between diaper washing.)  Diapers can be useful for more than baby-care.  If you’ve got anyone ill or injured enough that they can’t leave bed, having a stack of clean absorbent cloths around could be essential.

Thoughts? Any specific cloth questions I can help with?

– Calamity Jane

16 comments… add one
  • KYprepper September 13, 2011, 8:19 am

    just a thought…. could the used disposable diapers somehow be weaponized? Picture a catapult or large slingshot…… think of the fun you could have!

    • Michael September 13, 2011, 6:22 pm

      KYprepper, ftw.

      Get yourself a catapult.

      I used a nice clean diaper as a trauma pad once (my brother had a little accident with an axe) it worked great.

    • Odd Questioner September 14, 2011, 10:21 am

      I wonder if you could use them, with the plastic stripped off, as something you bury in a particularly troublesome garden patch for fertilizer…

  • sam September 13, 2011, 9:35 am

    we bought diapers for our first and cloth diapered our second. cloth is far easier. there are fewer trips to the store, so there are fewer associated costs of buying something else while you’re there.

    our second son has never had a diaper rash with cloth. we change him far more frequently because there’s no costs associated with it. we make our own detergent (borax, washing soda, ivory equivalent). it’s incredibly easy.

    on another point, our 3.5 y.o. is still in diapers. he doesn’t see the point because the diapers wick away the moisture and he’d not discomforted by the equivalent wet cotton. there’s no biofeedback and we’re struggling with potty training. our other cloth diapering friends have said that their kids all potty trained earlier with cloth. there are some serious advantages!!!

    the best part about cloth is that they are reusable!!! a set could be passed all over a family and it’s not some crappy rubber pants systems, these are plush diapers and covers usually.

    the diapers have a myriad of other uses (wound treatment, cleaning, on, and on…). it’s an excellent investment for any baby. besides the supplies that can be bought off craigslist or ebay or other mom2mom sales, we’ve only bought a few items new (about $150 worth). maybe another $100 from second-hand sources and we’re well supplied!

    i cannot possibly imagine being able to adequately diaper your child in shtf with disposables. the amount of waste is avoidable. the space for adequately stockpiling disposable diapers is considerable, AS IS THE EXPENSE!!!

    storebrand disposables are about $40 per month, at least. multiply that by the 36+ months and you get the idea. you can spend thousands of dollars per kid on disposables. for several hundred you can outfit your entire clan.

  • Adam September 13, 2011, 10:27 am

    We have 6 kids. Our first 4 used disposable diapers, then we went to cloth for our last 2. It is more work, with a high initial learning curve(washing, stripping, different materials like hemp, wool, etc) but the cost savings are huge. And we never run out. It makes sense from a prepping standpoint, and frees up cash for other expenses.

  • Prepared N.D. September 13, 2011, 11:04 am

    We have cloth diapers but found a chemical free disposable that doesn’t cause rashes. We’d rather pay extra for the time savings and convenience *shrug*

    We still kept all the cloth though. They have several SHTF uses.
    – As a cloth diaper
    – Feminine hygiene
    – Double as spit-up cloths
    – As a shop towel (I got my ass chewed for that one, LOL)
    – Toilet paper substitute
    – Patches for clothes perhaps? Firestarting material? I could go on all day.

  • Bitsy September 13, 2011, 11:09 am

    We cloth diapered the first, and I loved it. No rashes, just as easy as disposables, and we flushed solid poop down the toilet so no stinky trash.

    Got lazy with baby #2 and switched to disposables. They are convenient, but they’re super expensive, too.

    Hm. Maybe I should return to cloth…

  • Templar September 13, 2011, 11:53 am

    Where can large, non-prefolded diapers be had these days?

  • Eric September 13, 2011, 2:44 pm

    For expecting parents or parents with younger infants, consider trying “elimination communication” or “natural infant hygiene”. Many cultures throughout history and today do not use diapers at all. Instead, from day one, they hold the baby over a receptacle, make a cue sound (something like ‘pssssssss’ for urine or ‘poooooot’ for #2) when they suspect the baby has to go. Eventually the baby learns what you want him to do when he hears the cue. Babies raised this way tend to learn bladder and bowel control much faster and with less trauma than those who get used to going in their diapers.

    We tried this approach with our daughter, but also used cloth diapers a lot of the time when we couldn’t keep a close eye on her. I’d say by 6 months, we were catching 60% of her pee’s and 90% of her poops. She has not pooped in a diaper since she was 1 year old. At 2.5 years old, she’s mostly trained now, with a few pee accidents at night and on road trips.

    We read the book linked below and found it very helpful:

    • BM September 14, 2011, 9:00 am

      I think those statistics say it all for me. 40% of the pee and 10% of the poo spilling out around the house is a lot of mess to clean up.
      I’v seen the babies documentary of the 4 babies around the world. yes, the African baby had no diaper, and the mother used an old corn husk to wipe his arse. They also lived outdoors in the dirt. A bit different from a western house environment.

  • Templar September 13, 2011, 4:34 pm

    Thanx for the info, Jane.

  • Chef Bear58 September 13, 2011, 4:55 pm

    I can honestly say as a single 29yr/old guy, with no kids, I NEVER expected to have anything to contribute to a discussion on diapers!

    Anyway, my mother used cloth with myself and my little brother. A couple of my friends were helping me move some things around the basement for my folks a few years ago, one of my clumsy-as-hell friends managed to find a random sheet-rock screw, catch it in his ankle somehow (still not sure how, but this is the same guy who hooked his own eye-lid while trying to learn how to fly-fish, so I guess if there is a way he would be the guy to find it!), when the screw went into his ankle, he twisted away from it for some reason. It went in rough, and came out just plain nasty… ripped his ankle open, nicked an artery, and he started bleeding profusely right away. It was lucky that I was picking up a box labled “baby stuff” right about the time he started screaming. I pulled a cloth diaper right out of the top of the box, wrapped it tight around his ankle, secured it with my shoelace, and kept pressure on it. We took him to the ER, called and told them we were coming and what was going on while one of my other friends drove like a bat out of hell to the hospital. When we got there, the doc took him right back and went to work. She came out about an hour later and said that the diaper, and my knot-tying skills managed to save him quite a bit of blood, and made their job a little easier.

    My point is, they have multiple uses, and now I keep at least 1 of the old cloth diapers my brother and I used to void our bowels into (yes that was for dramatic effect) in my vehicle first-aid kit for patching folks up, yes they have been cleaned several times since then! I have also used an old raggedy one for cleaning firearms (they work PERFECT for it), patches for my muzzle-loader, and a few have fallen victim to the same fate Prepared N.D. mentioned, they are great for getting axle-grease off your hands!

  • Wally September 14, 2011, 2:09 am

    Great post CJ! As mentioned, cloth diapers are great for many other things in addition to containing baby poop. Kids or not, NO reason not to have a box on hand in one’s STHF storage box…right along side a case (or two) of baby wipes. When the power goes out, baby wipes are much more useful than paper.

  • Laura September 16, 2011, 12:08 am

    I have tried lots of types of cloth diapers and have decided the best value seems to be the adjustable all-in-one kind that have rows of plastic snaps across the front. They can be folded and snapped so that the same set of diapers can be used from large newborn up until young toddler if necessary. As you mentioned, this kind is used much the same way as a disposable- no separate cover to fool with- but of course they will still be around for the next kid.

    I have well more than we need and keep them for charity and/or barter. How desperate will unprepared parents be to diaper their children?When I think of how low the supplies of most people’s basic needs are, they may find this to be one of the first problems they have to solve- right up there with food!

    I also keep a good stock of dark-colored washcloths to act as baby wipes (or for use in the outhouse if it becomes necessary).

    You are a great asset here, CJ!

  • Brittany lewis July 11, 2019, 10:10 am

    What about drying them on the go? Has anyone though of how to do that? Assuming you have to leave as soon as they are clean, and you have no choice but to walk, what would you do?


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