Monday, January 19, 2009

Baby Care Back-up Plans

What to do when you’re down to the last diaper, forgot a bib, run out of milk

by Melissa Stanton

Once you get the basics down (feed the baby, burp the baby, change the baby, rock the baby to sleep) you'll be faced with the inevitable curveballs, the problems you have to solve in the moment. With some field-tested solutions, and your innate smarts, you'll be prepared for anything!

1. The Last Diaper

A time may come, if it hasn’t already, when you are down to one diaper—or no diapers!—either at home or while on the go. You have options:

• Advanced Warning: The following isn’t as gross as it sounds. If you have only one diaper left, chances are you have some sanitary pads in the house or, if you’re in a mall or restaurant, you can buy one from a ladies room vending machine. Stick a highly absorbent pad into that last diaper. The pad will absorb all or most of the mess and enable you to just change the pads until you can get your hands on more diapers.

• Keep first aid adhesive tape on hand—at home and in your diaper bag—for when a closing tab is accidentally ripped off of a diaper. While many types of tape will work (duct tape, masking tape, packing tape, though not so much cellophane tape), I prefer first aid paper tape, which has the gentlest adhesive if it touches the skin.

• For when you’re totally out of disposable diapers, be sure to keep a few cloth diapers on hand (which you can put to use as burp cloths while they await their time at bat). You can also craft a diaper out of a towel or dishcloth. Here are some basic diaper folding instructions from which you can improvise as needed:

1) Fold the cloth into a rectangle. (Depending on the size of the child, your finished rectangle will be approximately 6” x 10”; a larger cloth can be folded over by sections in order to provide you with extra layers for absorbency.)

2) Place and center the baby vertically on the length of the cloth.

3) Bring the bottom part of the fabric up between the baby’s legs. Flip the left and right sides over to lay on the baby’s belly, and then secure all three sections together.

If you don’t have diaper pins in reserve, use the aforementioned tape. If you don’t have rubber pants to put over the diaper, consider fashioning a very temporary pair out of a gallon-size plastic bag or even a plastic grocery bag. (See caveat below.)

2) Create a bib on-the-go

Speaking of plastic bags, let’s venture into another practical use for plastic grocery bags—with the caveat that this method is to be used correctly under constant adult supervision because, as all plastic bags tell us themselves, they must be kept out of reach of babies and children.

When you’re out and about and have no bib, but desperately need a bib, you likely have or have access to a plastic shopping bag. If so, size up the bag and your child. Depending on which will be the better fit, choose from these tailoring methods:
Option A: Tear open the bottom of the bag. Use the bag’s pre-existing opening for your child’s head and the handle openings as arm holes. Adorn your child in, essentially, a plastic tank top.

Option B: For a top with less “cleavage,” tear a hole in the bottom of the bag. Put the child’s head through that new hole. Pop openings in each side of the bag and guide your child’s hands and arms through those new holes.

Ta-da! You now have a full-torso covering for impromptu restaurant meals, ice cream cones and even finger-painting. Yes, the bib will be bizarre looking, and you and your bag-wearing baby might get some odd looks. But I have used this technique in public on many occasions and have been praised by restaurant servers and diners for my ingenuity.

3. Always have fresh milk on hand

Yes, a mother can breastfeed her child, which makes having milk in the fridge a non-issue. Short of that, all parents with young milk drinkers should acquaint themselves with ultra-pasteurized UHT shelf-stable milk. Packaged in box-like aseptic cartons, the milk needs no refrigeration until it’s opened. UHT milk tastes like regular milk, only a bit sweeter, and is widely used in countries that don’t have consistent refrigeration. I always keep several of the one-quart cartons in my pantry as back-up for when we run out of fresh milk.

Because the milk, which comes in whole, 2-percent, skim and chocolate varieties, is also sold in a six-pack of individual serving sizes (like a juice box), you can keep milk handy in your car, stroller or diaper bag without having to worry about cool packs or spoiling. (The cartons do have expiration dates, which are usually several months out based on storage at room temperature.) Hint: At the supermarket, look for UHT milk in the baking rather than daily aisle. Similar shelf-stable packaging exists for milk products made from soy and rice.

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