I Ran Out of Diapers! (Emergency Diaper Substitutes & Tips)


If you ran out of diapers at home and can’t get to the store today or simply can’t afford to buy diapers until later, then you are probably freaking out right now! Or, maybe you simply forgot diapers in your bag today. Either way, you are here because you need to figure out how to make an emergency diaper or find another diaper substitute to get you by so I’m going to talk about all of the ways we can get you through this situation right now!

There are many diaper substitutes that can be used in an emergency if you run out of diapers. There are DIY options that use towels, T-shirts, bedsheets, and even maxi pads to help get you by in a pinch.

While it can be stressful to find yourself without access to a diaper, it’s important to remember that there are simple solutions available to you if you are prepared to get something dirty! Let’s explore a bunch of options for creating a makeshift diaper in a hurry!

The best emergency diapers and diaper substitutes

Disposable diapers are super convenient because they do their job well and you simply throw them away after they have been used. In America, at least, parents have gotten very used to this convenience and likely don’t have any idea how to survive without these little plastic gems.

When looking for a diaper substitute, there are really only three things that are important:

  1. Is it absorbent
  2. Will it stay on my baby?
  3. Do I mind getting poop on it?

If you can answer yes to all of those questions, then you can probably use it as a diaper! With that being said, some things work better than others and some options might not last for very long or hold up well depending on the situation.

With that being said, here are the seven best emergency diaper tricks that I have found!

Cloth diapers

This might sound like a cop-out, but I want to mention it first because it’s still a good option.

Regardless of whether or not you choose to cloth diaper your baby, it’s a good idea to have one or two of these lying around for situations such as these. Since they are washable and reusable, cloth diapers can make great substitutes for times when you run out of disposable diapers for your little one.

Even though this won’t help you RIGHT NOW in your time of need, I would recommend picking up a couple of simple all-in-one cloth diapers like this one (read the great reviews on Amazon) for next time you find yourself in this situation. It is surprisingly cheap to get one of these and, since it has everything bundled together, you won’t have to worry about buying extra inserts or anything else – it’s ready to go from the beginning! The great thing about having this at home or stuffed in your diaper bag is that you’ll have a ready solution if you happen to run out of disposable diapers.

Here’s a quick tutorial about how to fasten an all-in-one diaper:

Making a diaper out of a receiving blanket

One of the first things to try if you are scrambling for a DIY diaper is a receiving blanket.

Most parents should have at least a few of these lying around because the hospital usually sends a few home with you when your baby leaves. These are super useful in a variety of situations but come in extra handy if you need a quick diaper replacement.

What you need:

  1. A receiving blanket
  2. Safety pins

The trick behind using a receiving blanket as a diaper is in the fold. You want to get things just right so that when you put the diaper on your baby there is a relatively snug fit and it will stay on reasonably well.

Here’s a quick video explaining how to fold your receiving blanket to get it on your child. Once the diaper is on, just use the safety pins to attach it as snugly as you can. Just be warned that it might not be quite as leak-proof as a disposable!

How to make a cloth diaper out of a towel

One of the next best things to use for a diaper substitute is a towel that you already have around the house.

Rather than grabbing a giant bath towel, however, it’s probably best to use your baby’s bath towel. Depending on how old your baby is, some hand towels could work great for this option as well!

What you need:

  1. A baby bath towel (without a hood) or hand towel
  2. Safety pins

Since most baby bath towels and hand towels are cut into a rectangular shape, you can follow the same tutorial above for folding a receiving blanket to get your towel into the right shape. If you have a larger baby, then you might start to run into trouble using a hand towel because they will get quite small once you’ve turned them into a square. Use the safety pins to fasten the diaper together on your baby snugly!

How to make a T-shirt diaper

Don’t use your favorite T-shirt for this DIY diaper hack!

What you need:

  1. An old t-shirt that you don’t mind getting dirty (bigger the better)
  2. Safety pins

This hack is great because you don’t have to cut up the shirt and most people have a closet full of old t-shirts that they just don’t want to throw away for whatever reason. You might also have a bunch of shirts tucked away because ‘you’ll fit into them again someday.’ I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I bet you could stand to give a few of them up for a happy baby!

Here’s a great video on how to fold a normal t-shirt into a diaper. Essentially, you are converting a t-shirt into what cloth diaper people call a ‘flat diaper.’

How to make a diaper out of a sheet

Sheets are another great option for making an emergency diaper because they can be easily folded and they are super easy to clean.

What you need:

  1. A relatively small sheet (a baby or twin-sized top sheet would be best)
  2. Safety pins

The biggest challenge with using a sheet for a diaper is that they will be quite large compared to a normal diaper. The solution here is to fold the sheet in half a couple of times to bring it back down to a manageable size. Since most sheets are so thin, however, we will benefit from doubling it over because it will be more absorbent.

Here is a variation of the flat cloth diaper fold called the airplane fold. You could use this option or one of the videos from above to get the shape that you need. Once it’s in the right configuration, just pin the diaper in place and watch out for leaks!

How to make a diaper out of maxi pads

This one is a little weird for a couple of reasons. Number one, we’re using maxi pads. Number two, we can’t just use maxi pads to make a diaper because they just aren’t big enough. Using this trick means that we need to find a way to capitalize on the absorbency of the maxi pads (which pretty much work like the absorbent part of a diaper) while finding a way to keep them in place on your baby for long enough to help with the problem.

If your baby is a newborn, then the best way to incorporate maxi pads into the equation is to add them to one of the other solutions that we’ve already talked about to increase the absorbency.

If your baby is a little older (1 or 2) and already has a few pairs of ‘big boy or girl underwear’ around the nursery, then you can simply pin a few maxi pads to the inside of the underwear and slip them on like normal. This is not an elegant solution, but it could be helpful in certain situations.

Making a diaper out of toilet paper or paper towels

Toilet paper diapers aren’t just a baby shower game after all!

Actually, this solution likely won’t be super effective because it’s going to be incredibly hard to keep the toilet paper in place and we all know that it will disintegrate immediately once fluids are added to the equation. Similar to maxi pads, you can definitely use toilet paper or paper towels to help increase the absorbency of one of the other solutions on this list. Paper towels will hold up much better than toilet paper in this scenario, especially if they are folded over or you have a bunch of them.

In a pinch, you could also just stuff them into your toddler’s ‘big boy underwear’ to try and mitigate some of the damage when pees or poops.

If you want to try and waterproof this particular hack then read on to the next solution for a potential hybrid!

How to make a diaper out of a garbage bag or plastic store bag

This is NOT a solution in an of itself but using a plastic store bag or cutting down a garbage bag could be a helpful way to add some waterproofing to one of the other solutions above.

If you have ever wondered what makes disposable diapers so great its that they have an extremely absorbent interior with a plastic exterior. It’s this plastic layer that helps waterproof the diaper and keeps all of the fluids and other yuck right where they are supposed to stay – inside the diaper.

Check out this video below of one crafty parent that just folded up a spare cloth and used a plastic bag from the store to tie around the baby. With this solution, you don’t even need safety pins because the bag will just tie on at the sides!

Josh

I'm the dad in charge of Natural Baby life. With 10 years of parenting experience across three children, I am constantly learning how to raise children more naturally. I'm passionate about doing whatever it takes to raise a happy and healthy baby! Find out more about me here.

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