Apr 15, 2010

Dealing with babies on the ships.

Can any warbride tell me about how you all managed your babies on board ships, please? I'm writing a book about women on the wartime seas and would love to know how did you cleanse the bottles, launder the diapers, cope with nursing a baby if you yourself were seasick, and make up the formula in hygienic conditions?

In talking about the Argentina's January 1946 voyage from the UK to the US, The Argentina ‘s Lt. Col. Lyle commented that laundry was one of the trip’s problems. Practically all of the 18,000 disposable diapers were used up-on the 170 babies.

This statistic enables us to do some interesting speculation. If there were indeed 170 babies rather than babies and potty-trained children on board then actually each one used 105 nappies on the nine-day trip or eleven a day. Babies are usually changed 6-10 times a day. So maybe some mothers salted away the nappies for future use.

As for laundering terry toweling nappies a ship full of 100 babies would need to process 1200-400 nappies (two day’s supply to allow for drying time). It was surely a logistical nightmare. Not every ship had a laundry; few had endless supplies of fresh rather than salt-water and none were used to supplying such a quantity.

There were three problems soaking to get rid of stains and any remaining faecal matter; boiling to get them, Enviably white as well as reduce bacteria; and a drying time of at lest two hours. Most nappies were 24inches square (61cms)-so 400 would have required 4-800 feet of clothes line, almost a mile. Perhaps one good thing about sailing on a troop ships was that they had massive cooking pots which could now boil nappies instead of potatoes?

Thank you. Dr Jo Stanley , j_v_stanley@hotmail.com.

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