This topic really has two facets. There is the pregnancy and delivery of babies and then there is caring for them afterward. I’ve given birth to 6 babies almost entirely without drugs or medical intervention, so on the one hand, I have a little experience. On the other hand, I’ve never delivered anyone else’s baby. I may tackle pregnancy and birth in a future posting, but I will limit the scope of this one to considerations for baby after delivery.
Getting Off to the Right Start
One of the most important things for both mother and baby is to encourage breastfeeding. Babies usually begin “rooting” (turning their heads toward anything that brushes their cheeks and trying to suckle) within minutes after birth. Try to get the baby to “latch on” to a nipple as soon as possible by offering it when the baby’s mouth is wide open. Sucking on just the tip of the nipple will cause pain for mom and frustration for baby.
The vital nutrients provided in mom’s first milk (colostrum) build the baby’s immune system and nursing helps mom’s body recover faster. Initially, it may cause her some pain, but that usually passes within a few days.
Breastfeeding is especially critical in a “grid-down” (when electric power has been disrupted and will remain off for an indefinite period of time) situation. In that case, formula may be unavailable and water to sterilize bottles may be too hard to come by. I think we will see a return of “wet nurses” for babies whose mothers do not make enough milk to sustain them or who pass away. I myself have pumped my surplus milk and given it to a friend who was adopting a baby because she felt so strongly about his need for this nourishing “liquid gold.”
It is common for a mother’s milk to be a bit limited for a day or two and then suddenly “come in.” If baby seems hungry, nurse as often as he is interested. This will help stimulate the milk supply. Other helps can come in the form of diet. Some women notice an increased milk supply after eating oats (oatmeal, Cheerios, etc.) or taking the herbal supplements fenugreek, blessed thistle, brewer’s yeast, fennel, or raspberry leaf tea. Do your own research on those.
Breastmilk is the perfect food for babies. It changes as they grow to continue meeting the baby’s needs on up until at least the first birthday. For this reason, it is critical that the mother get adequate nutrition. About 500 calories of her intake a day will go toward making milk. If she is not getting enough nutrients, she cannot pass them along to her baby without taking them from her own body’s stores. A good vitamin (I take more than just a prenatal vitamin) will help with this.
If breastmilk is unavailable for whatever reason, it would be good to have a back-up plan. There are recipes online for substitute homemade formula. I have never used any, so I am not providing the recipes or recommendations here. Ideally, if you are expecting, you will stock up on formula in advance, just in case. If you do not need it, you will be in the position of possibly saving another baby’s life. At the very least, you can donate it to a women’s shelter or other charity.
Another consideration is how you will diaper the new baby. It is safest to lay in a supply of good cloth diapers. They have come a long way from what they were 30 years ago. The plain tri-fold ones that you cover with plastic pants can still be purchased, but there are lots of kinds of neater ones also. My own favorites are the “all-in-ones” that have a waterproof exterior and pocket in which you insert “soaker” layers. No pins are required. These are the least amount of fuss in my opinion and they seem to leak the least also. I prefer the ones with snaps to the ones with Velcro just because they seem to hold up better for us. Drying in the sun and fresh air (or by the fireplace on skirt hangers in winter) works well.
Alternate “Baby Wipes”
As for wipes, another disposable item that may not be available, I’ve used dark colored soft wash cloths instead. A solution of water with a bit of baby bath soap mixed in seems to work well to clean. Be sure to let the skin dry completely before putting a new diaper on to reduce the incidence of diaper rash. Change baby promptly when wet or soiled to help with this also. Count on a newborn going through at least a dozen diapers in a day. Some cloth diaper styles can be folded or snapped so that one set of diapers can be used on a baby up until he reaches 20 + pounds. This kind makes laying a supply much more cost effective. In a future piece, I may review the different types and brands of cloth diapers I have tried.
In summary, things to stock are
- Cloth diapers (check online for options)
- Dark soft washcloths
- Liquid baby wash
- Waterproof diaper covers and diaper pins (if not using “all-in-ones”)
- Foods or herbal supplements to increase milk supply if you choose
- Prenatal vitamins (women should take these through pregnancy and nursing)
- “Onesies,”pajamas, blankets, and other clothing
One Last Consideration- This Means YOU
Another thing to mention is that just because you don’t PLAN to have anyone in your household that is a pregnant or has a baby does not mean one won’t come along. Babies have a way of showing up unless calculated measures are taken to insure they don’t. That is a topic unto itself and one that I will let you pray about for guidance.
Additionally, even if no one in your household does need baby items, inevitably, someone you know will. They will be a much sought after commodity you can use for barter or charity.