When you first start getting out and about with baby, you’ll feel like you’re packing the entire house – including the kitchen sink! It’s hard to know just what baby will need and as a new parent the thought of being caught short can be a little daunting.
Don’t panic! Follow this handy guide to baby bags and you and baby will both survive a day out and about with the baby bag packed and good to go!
The Baby Bag
Every parent needs a baby bag to carry baby’s essentials. There are dozens of different brands, styles and colours available, so there should be no problem finding one you like. Gone are the days when teddy bear fabric was your only option- now many styles come in plain fabric which cleverly disguise baby bags as everyday backpacks. You no longer have to tell the whole world you’re carrying dirty nappies and half the nursery over your shoulder.
When choosing a baby bag, keep an eye out for the following features:
Fabric of baby bags
I know it sounds like a pretty basic pointer, but make sure the inside of your baby bag can be wiped clean. You will have everything from dirty nappies to mushy crackers inside that bag, and machine washing every week just is not an option.
Pockets, pouches and compartments
Pockets, pouches and compartments are a real plus, and at the very least you will want two separate sections in your bag – one for dirty nappies, and one for everything else. A small front pocket is useful for things you want to find in a hurry, (like pacifiers and car keys), and a bottle pocket may be useful – even if you are breastfeeding, a bottle pocket is useful for carrying food and drink later on. Some baby bags offer insulated pockets for food and drink, and while this is certainly useful, it is not essential.
Most baby bags have a small soft change mat included, so you always have a clean place to change baby when you are out and about. Usually the change mats are attached to the bag on a long cord, but make sure it can be unclipped if you need to give it a good clean. The fabric should be wipeable on one side at least.
Style of baby bags
While there are many different styles available, the two basic versions are over-the-shoulder carry bags or standard backpacks. A backpack is easier to carry if your ‘out and about’ days involve a lot of walking or moving around, but they are a little harder to find things in, if you are in a hurry. Over-the-shoulder versions usually have a bigger opening and plenty of room to rummage around without tipping everything out. Some styles now come with interchangeable straps so you can have the best of both worlds.
Size of baby bags
I know it feels like you need a small suitcase to last the day, but trust me- this feeling will pass. A baby bag does need to be big enough to carry everything you need, but just like a suitcase on holiday, the bigger it is – the more things you’ll pack. Whether you choose a baby back pack or an over-the-shoulder version, your baby bag doesn’t need to be any bigger than a standard school bag.
Baby bags can be bought from specialist baby shops or the nursery section of any department store. Prices range from $30 right through to $200 depending on style, fabric, and most notably – brand.
What do I pack in the baby bag?
What you pack in your baby bag largely depends on where you are going and how long you’ll be gone for. In the early days you’ll find yourself packing for every emergency, but as time goes by you’ll start rationing your supplies. While you are getting used to baby’s routine, pack whatever makes you feel comfortable and use this handy checklist to make sure you’ve got everything covered.
One for every 2 hours you will be away, plus a couple of extras just in case.
Plastic bags for putting wet clothes and nappies in
If you are using modern cloth nappies you will obviously need to take your soiled nappy home, and it’s not always possibly or appropriate to dispose of your disposable nappy when you are out. Ordinary plastic bags do the trick, or you can buy packets of slightly scented plastic bags for around $5 a packet from supermarkets and baby stores. These disguise soiled nappy smells, so you don’t have to walk around with stinky nappy smells all day.
Baby Wipes or Bottom Flannels
If you’re changing baby while you’re out, you are going to need something to wipe their bottom with. Baby wipes are very convenient, as you simply throw them away or wrap them up inside the nappy when you have finished. Most brands come in travel cases or soft packs, so you don’t need to pack your giant value pack every time you go out.
Some babies react to ingredients in baby wipes, so try to find brands that have minimal ‘extras’. You also want a brand that is moist, but not so wet that it leaves baby’s bottom sticky. Every parent has a favourite brand, but in my experience you generally get what you pay for. Baby wipes range in price from $4 – $15 depending on brand and size of packet. Travel packs range between $4 and $7. It will work out cheaper if you have a small container in your bag, which you keep filling up with wipes from your giant value pack.
If you are not a fan of baby wipes, then simply pack a damp flannel in a plastic bag or container. You may want to pack an additional dry flannel just in case.
Change of Clothes
When I say a change of clothes, I don’t mean an entire wardrobe, but it is useful to have an extra set of clothes for emergencies. Every now and then baby will have a nappy to end all nappies, and you’ll want to be prepared. For example, you could keep a singlet, a stretch’n’grow and a cardigan permanently in the bag. Also make sure you have a sun hat in summer and a woolly hat in winter.
Bottles and Snacks
Obviously when baby is young you are all they need in terms of food, but as baby gets older you will want to have snacks on hand. If you are bottle feeding have the bottles pre-filled with boiled water, and take the formula powder along to add at the time. You can buy formula in single serve sachets which are great for when you are out and about, or scoop just enough powder into a small, clean plastic container.
Granted, you are not always going to need medicine, but it’s a good idea to keep some barrier cream, a tube of teething gel, a small bottle of paracetamol and a medicine spoon in the bag just in case. In summer it’s also essential to keep a small bottle of baby sun block in one of the pockets. If you leave these in the bag all the time, you never have to ‘remember’ and they’ll always be there when you need them.
If your baby has a pacifier, leave an extra one permanently in the baby bag. That way if one gets tossed out of the pram, you’ll have a spare one handy. A small rattle or toy can also be a life saver when baby gets tired and grumpy.
Getting out the door with a baby can take major organisation, so try and keep all the basics permanently in your baby bag. If you can manage it, unpack your baby bag at the end of a trip and re-pack it straight away. That way you are ready to dash out the door whenever you need to.
For more information on your nappy options, nappy products and changing accessories see our series of great Kiwi families articles on Nappies.
For getting out & about with baby there are now so many options. Check out our article on Prams & Buggies for some great advice.