Now that you have brought your baby home and survived the first week of sleepless nights and the stream of well-meaning visiting Grandparents who insist on holding on to your baby despite her cries for food (why do they do that?), it is time to venture out of the house (and, yes, sadly that does mean you have to get out of those pyjamas, and possibly think about brushing your hair) and take your baby into the big wide world. Unfortunately, the days where you could simply grab your keys, purse, and phone have long gone. Now that you are a Mummy you need to be a bit more prepared, and that is where the glorious Changing Bag comes in handy.
If you’re a parenting newbie you might be wondering what exactly goes in a changing bag, and where to get one from. We’ve got everything covered right here.
Choosing A Changing Bag
At this point, you might be confused about what makes a changing bag different from a regular bag, and indeed, many parents do choose to use a rucksack or large bag instead. However, most changing bags also come with a portable changing mat. This is handy when you find yourself in a public changing station with less than favourable cleaning standards, or if you need to perform an Emergency Explosive Nappy Change (yes, it’s a thing and you will experience it one day) in the back seat of your car, on the grass in the park, or at the aforementioned overly possessive grandparent’s house. Some also include additional bottle holders, and most have lots of pockets and internal compartments to help you organise the various items you will have to carry. Most also include a long strap so you can hang the bag over the handles of your pushchair.
Changing Bags come in a variety of different styles, so you don’t have to sacrifice your inner fashion goddess just because you now have to lug around pretty much everything but the kitchen sink with you everywhere you go. You could embrace everything pink with this fabulous bag by Cath Kidston or go for something a little more subtle with this sleek black offering from Silver Cross.
If you need to stick to a budget, then Mothercare also have a simple black bag complete with a mat and an insulated bottle chamber for the bargain price of £16.99, available here.
Essential Contents Of A Changing Bag
Next you need to think about what to pack in your lovely new bag. Firstly, the essentials:
The amount of nappies you pack really depends on how long you plan on going out for, and it’s a good idea to have a spare or two in case you end up being out longer than planned. Most new-borns will use anything between six to twelve nappies a day. Breastfed babies tend to poop more often so will be on the higher end of that scale. If you are only going out for an hour or two then two or three nappies will be plenty, but you will need more if you are out for the whole day. As your child gets older, the amount of nappies they will need will decrease to about five to six a day.
You will need something to put the offending nappy into once it’s been changed. Don’t rely on public changing stations having a bin specifically for nappies. You may have to throw it in a general bin, in which case a bag will prevent other users from being exposed to the fruity aroma of your baby’s offering. You will also need bags for when there is no bin available and you have to carry the nappy with you. You can buy the sacks in large quantities, and there are even fragranced options to help limit the smell, such as these from Boots.
Going Green? If you are using cloth nappies then you can either stick to disposables when out and about, or you will need to think about something to carry home those soiled nappies in. You could use nappy sacks, or consider getting a waterproof nappy sack such as that available from cloth nappy manufacturer Totbots.
A pack of wet wipes is the most convenient way of cleaning you baby when you are away from home. You can save money by buying them in bulk, and there is a big range from which to choose. If your baby has sensitive skin, try using a fragrance free variety. I found WaterWipes to be a lifesaver when my first-born suffered from severe eczema, though they are pricier than many other brands.
If you want to be more environmentally friendly, then you could cut up an old towel or fleece blanket to use as wipes and carry along with a bottle of water to use to clean your baby. You will need a bag to place them in after to take them home for washing.
Babies are generally messy, and a change of clothes is essential for any changing bag, in case of milk spit up, sickness, or a leaking nappy. If you are going out for a whole day you may want to have more than one change of clothes, and of course, a waterproof bag or carrier bag to place the soiled clothes in.
Feeding / Nursing
If you are breastfeeding then you don’t need to think about carrying bottles and formula. You will probably want to pack a supply of breast pads though to avoid any embarrassing leaks. Furthermore, if you are concerned about modesty or privacy you could pack a breastfeeding cover, such as the Mamascarf available from Kiddicare.
If you are feeding by formula, then you will need to take enough formula with you for the duration of your trip out. Most new-borns will feed every 2-3 hours, whilst older babies will go for 3-4 hours between feeds. If you don’t want to carry around a pre-made bottle of formula with you (it can go off quickly in hot weather), then a formula dispenser is a great alternative. You can measure out the formula in advance and you can then put a bottle with pre-boiled water in your bag and have it ready to mix at your convenience. If your changing bag doesn’t already come with a thermal bottle compartment, then Tommee Tippee have insulated bottle carriers that fit a range of bottles. Alternatively, you can purchase cartons of pre-mixed formula, though some Mums say that their babies do not like the taste of this compared to the powdered version.
Changing Bag Items To Make Your Life Easier
So, that’s the essentials covered, but every Mum has her own must haves for her changing bag that she can’t live without. Here are some of our favourites:
These cloth squares are great for mopping up spills, using as protection for your clothes when burping your baby, and swaddling your baby. They are very durable and washable, and they fold up very small, taking up very little space in your changing bag. They also come in lots of colours and patterns, as seen on these from Boots.
You don’t need to use nappy cream all the time if your little one doesn’t suffer from nappy rash. However, you might find it useful to keep a supply in your bag in case of a flair up, which can happen surprisingly quickly. If your baby has sensitive skin or eczema then you might find that some nappy creams can actually make the rash worse. As a mother to a child with severe eczema and sensitive skin, I swear by Metanium, which was recommended to me by a GP.
Hand Cleansing Gel
Sometimes soap isn’t always available, so a small bottle of hand gel, like that you find in many hospitals, is a useful addition to the changing bag. Thankfully, you can now get moisturising versions to combat the skin drying effects of the alcohol that is used to kill off the bacteria, such as this from Carex.
It doesn’t happen often in the UK, but occasionally the sun makes an appearance and your baby will need protection for their delicate skin against the sun’s rays. Look for one that has a very high SPF rating (30 or above), which protects against UVB rays. You also need to look for the UVA rating, as some sun creams with a high SPF rating do not necessarily protect you against UVA rays, which are also harmful. UVA protection is rated by stars between 0 – 5 with five being very high, and this is often found on the back of the bottle.
You could also throw in a sun hat, although good luck with trying to get your baby to keep it on!
Food For Baby
Once you have started weaning your baby, you will probably want to pack something for your little one to eat, especially if you are out over lunch or all day. You can either choose one of the pre-made jars or squeezy pouches of baby food or if you prefer you can take along your own homemade food. There are some great products out there that allow you to wean on the go, like this set from Brother Max, which has a compartment to store a spoon, handles designed to allow your baby to hold the bowls, and the option to take separate bowls of food.
Once your baby is weaned, they may want additional water on top of their breast milk or formula, so a non-spill sippy cup is a handy addition to your changing bag and you can top it up with water throughout the day.
Food For You
If you are breastfeeding then you will need extra calories and fluids in order to help you produce milk, so you could pack a drink and a snack for yourself in case you find yourself with hunger and thirst pangs and nowhere to get a hold of anything to eat or drink. Cereal bars last for ages and take up very little room in your bag.
Toy For Baby
Keeping a small toy in your changing bag will give you something you can use to distract your baby from tears when you are out and about. A teething toy will also help with any onset of teething pain.
If your baby has a cold, just had a vaccine, or is particularly struggling with teething pain, then liquid paracetamol can really make a difference to your baby’s comfort. Calpol, perhaps the UK’s best known brand of children’s paracetamol, have handy sachets for using when out and about that come in 5ml doses. Note that if your baby is under six months then he or she should only be given half of one of these sachets (2.5ml) and a measuring spoon is provided. Calpol should not be given to babies under 2 months old. Always check the dosage on the box before giving your baby medicine.
If your baby has a dummy, then packing a spare in your changing bag is a good idea as these are easily lost! Philips AVENT pacifiers come with a handy cover that clips onto the dummy keeping them clean whilst not in use. A dummy clip is also a great way of keeping the dummy secure.
First Aid Kit
Once your toddler becomes mobile, trips, cuts, and bumps are almost inevitable. You could put a mini first aid kit in your changing bag in case you need to clean up any cuts. We particularly like this Mr Bump First Aid Kit in a handy travel sized container complete with Mr Bump plasters and a bandage.