By Naomi Broderick, prepper author with Protect Your Home, who provides ADT in Phoenix, Arizona.
When you’re miles out on the road on a long road trip or out on a family trip, the realization that you’ve forgotten diapers or a pacifier can be an irritating but resolvable setback. However, when it comes to emergency situations, forgetting the supplies necessary to create a healthy and safe environment for your young ones can be more than an annoying mistake. When preparing your bug-out bag, what can you do to make sure that infants and toddlers in your group are accounted for?
Understand the needs of babies and young children
Nursing and water needs
One of the most difficult aspects of preparing your bug-out bags is providing an adequate amount of water for everyone in your party, along with some purification methods to employ later on. For breast-fed infants, preppers have the benefit of not worrying too much about additional drinking water. The water provided in breast milk is often sufficient for hydration purposes, even in particularly hot and arid climates.
Keep in mind that most nutritionists recommend breastfeeding as the most healthy food source for children, especially for the first six months and leading into their second year. Stress and malnourishment do not significantly affect milk production, so consider this in your plan if it is in an option. When infants are fed with formula or human milk substitutes, it’s crucial to pack in a little extra water in order to keep their bodies hydrated and their kidneys healthy, since substitutes contain more minerals and salt.
Avoid giving them more than 2-4 ounces depending on their body weight, since they’re prone to water intoxication. That being said, never consider replacing formula with water if it is accidentally left behind or runs out. While drinking one’s fill now and then to stave off hunger can work for adults, it should never be done with children. Evaporated milk is the much better substitute for emergency situations, since regular milk can also easily make them ill.
If your child is capable of eating solid foods, water poses much less of a risk, though excessive water intake to compensate for hunger pangs isn’t advisable. Try to provide them with milder foods, such as unsalted trail mixes, dried cereal, and dehydrated fruits / fruit leather. Peanut butter is a favorite among children, and it comes loaded with protein and is dense enough to provide staying power to make sure that your resources last as long as necessary. Avoid anything with unnecessary salts to avoid wasting water. If survival bars are part of your rations, look into lower-calorie, more palatable items for children.
The general rule of thumb for clothing is that it should remain fine for up to three days without washing, and this applies for children as well; unless, of course, your child still requires diapers. Packing disposable diapers is absolutely implausible when conserving space in your bug-out bag for other resources, so re-washable cloth diapers are a necessity in your planning.
Keeping three cloth diapers per child (with sealable baggies and extra detergent to hand wash them when a water source is available) is a recommendable minimum. Other than clothing and diapers, remember to bring some kind of light water-resistant covering and a warm blanket. It might benefit your party to bring along a collapsible hands-free baby carrier that you can either wear or carry along.
Considering the affects that the stress of an emergency can give to pregnant women, it is very important to plan for emergency child delivery when pregnant members are part of your group. Intense levels of stress can significant increase the likelihood of a premature birth. For the best practices on delivering children when medical professionals or midwives aren’t available to help you, refer to this guide.
Finally, in addition to planning for the resources and contingencies that are necessary in caring for a child during crises, it might help to provide young ones ways to reduce their stress and distract themselves if they are incapable of resource-gathering or aiding your group in other ways. In terms of packing, try to include something compact and of sentimental worth from their parents or caregivers for them to lean on when they need comfort, such as a keepsake or a piece of clothing.
During particularly stressful moments, ear muffs or earphones can help in keeping them calm. Coloring books, small games, or anything else that they might be fond of can be a good help in reducing their stress levels. Finally, provide a social support system with communicative toddlers as much as possible for them to vent their anxieties. It can be difficult to maintain a sense of normalcy and security when an emergency strikes, but maintaining a feeling of routine can go a long way in providing the stability that very young children desperately need.
What other ideas would you suggest in keeping young children healthy and happy during extended emergencies? What would you pack in your bug-out bag for your little ones?