Baby Changebag Checklist
What Should Be In The Bag?
Let's break this down into the categories of feeding, changing, first aid and 'other', for ease.
Under six months, the contents of your bag, when it comes to feeding your baby, will depend greatly on whether you breast feed or bottle feed. Obviously, if you're breastfeeding, you probably only need a muslin, spare breast pads or nipple covers (if you use them), and anything you happen to use as a discreet feeding aid; blanket, sling, breastfeeding 'apron' or whatever.
Bottle fed babies require more paraphernalia, and as a minimum you will need a bottle carrier, enough bottles to get you through the length of your trip out, and possibly a bottle warmer. Current thinking about making up bottles in advance is that it is easier to avoid contamination if you take bottles of cooled boiled water with you, adding formula powder just prior to the feed. To this end you can now buy formula dispensers; simple containers with two or three compartments that allow you measure out the correct amount of formula and keep it sterile until required. As for the necessity of a bottle warmer, there is plenty of debate as to whether warming bottles prior to feeding really makes any difference, and some suggest training your baby to manage without. However, if your child won't drink unless their milk is warm, a method of warming will be necessary. There are plenty on the market, some using your car's lighter socket, others that involve carrying a hot flask, and more besides.
Beyond six months, (or earlier if you've started weaning before six months) heading out for anything more than an hour or so will probably necessitate your taking one or more meals with you. Baby foods jars, or lidded pots (if your baby's food is homemade), are essential, and many on the market come with a spoon that clips on to the bowl for ease. Storing this inside a freezer-bag-style plastic bag will ensure cleanliness is maintained. A bib (should you happen to have one of those children who is happy to leave one on!) is also handy, and there are disposable ones on the market, which can cut down on the amount of space taken up or weight added to your bag. Similarly, a damp flannel or wipes for cleaning up the chaos after a meal, are advisable. When it comes to older children, while meals may take place in a cafe or be quickly picked up in the supermarket, you may find it more convenient to carry healthy snacks with you, such as fruit, nuts or rice cakes, and their drink bottle. And maybe you need an adult-sized snack and drink to keep you going through your busy day!
Nappies are of course an essential. Re-usable nappies are considerably bulkier than disposables and this will in part dictate the kind of bag you buy. You also need most of the things you use when changing nappies at home; a mat, (to protect surfaces and ensure cleanliness), wipes, cream if you use it, and a zip-up nappy bag or nappy sacs for soiled nappies. Most changing bags come with a built in mat. Check that it is big enough for your needs, and wipe-cleanable. Anti-bacterial hand gel is also useful should you be changing nappies away from hand-washing facilities.
Every parent or carer will have their own list of things they find essential under this heading, but as a minimum, you'll probably find that carrying tissues, pain relief sachets (with a medicine spoon or dispensing syringe), teething powder/gel/granules, sunscreen, antiseptic cream, insect repellent (also available as wipes) and insect bite/sting cream will cover most bases. Some parents find the homeopathic remedy Arnica, which is available either as a cream, spray or tablet, useful for when their child has a bump, but please consult with a qualified homeopathic practitioner before using.
If your child had his or her way at this point, you would probably find yourself carrying at least half of their toy collection everywhere you went. But there probably is some wisdom and sense in carrying at least one favourite toy with you for entertainment and comfort - not everywhere you go will have a helpful supply of toys on offer! If your child has a particular item for aiding sleep, such as a dummy or a comforting stuffed animal or 'doudou' then these are obviously also helpful. A change of clothes (or two!), and extra warm layer and a sunhat will also help you to be ready for all eventualities. A handy mum's tip that we can also pass on to you is to take a couple of pegs out with you as well; they are very useful for creating a sunshade with your muslin if you find your child unexpectedly snoozing in their pushchair on a warm day.
What Kind Of Bag Should You Use?
With so many styles to choose from, what makes sense for you?
Taking Care of You
As you probably know, pregnancy causes a substantial softening of all sorts of tissues within the body, including muscles, in preparation for labour. It takes a while for things to return to their normal state after the birth, by which time you find yourself frequently carrying an awkwardly shaped, wriggling bundle of fun for a significant part of the day. And you're getting less sleep than you are used to. So, let's face it, you are going to get aches and pains during this first year, and there is no point adding to them because the bag you carry for at least a part of every day, is making things worse.
There's a lot of research out there warning of the permanent damage women are inflicting upon themselves by virtue of carrying overly heavy handbags, and crammed-full change bags (that do not account for our ergonomics) must surely be inflicting the same kinds of harm. So, tempting as the many beautiful yummy-mummy-esque designer change bags on the market are, do stop and think about practicality and your physical health. There are, if you shop around (and the web is great for this) some great, sensible, well-designed bags out there, that will help you look after your back and still suit your style.
At this point, can we make a plea for the humble rucksack? There are some specifically designed as change bags, but even a run-of-the-mill one will serve you well as a change bag, and take better care of your back. Rucksacks are also great if you have an older child to hold hands with while pushing the pram or carrying your baby in a sling, because they leave both hands free.
Other Features To Consider
There are a huge number of change bags available, making choosing just one very difficult, so, some other things to factor in to your decision include:
- Does it have sections for your purse, keys and phone? This could seem inconsequential, but actually, when you're managing little ones, and rushing to get them in the car or pay at the till, knowing these items are easily accessible is a real bonus!
- Does it have clips, handles or other features that allow you to secure it to your pram or buggy handle safely? This can be another way to reduce the wear and tear on your back, but do be aware that very heavy bags on handles can change the centre of gravity for a buggy and on occasion tip it backwards.
- Does it have separate sections, so that changing items and food items can be stored separately? For hygiene reasons you may find this kind of bag preferable.
Finally; Why Two Is Better Than One!
Picture the scenario. It is 8.10am on Monday morning and you HAVE to be out of the door, with your work things, child, car keys and sanity in five minutes time. First port of call, the childminders' home or your day nursery, to drop off your child. Having a bag that you leave fully packed with essentials that then only requires minimal checking on Sunday evening, can make life so much easier. Yes, it does mean buying two of all disposable supplies, but in the long term, as everything is used at a slower rate, there is no overall increase in expenditure, apart from the initial purchase of the extra bag. Believe us, it is worth it!