Unlike celebrity moms who don't blink at carrying a diaper bag priced at $50k, most moms grab theirs at a discount store or online, and those on second or third kids may just opt for the free one from the hospital. It's not a chic purse, and if a mom tries to make a diaper bag more like a chic designer bag, it will be tears all around when baby has a B.M. blow out and the bag is in the line of fire.
What's more important than the bag itself, as any seasoned mom will tell you, is what's in the bag. Of course, no one can give another woman an exact list of what's needed because it varies depending on mom's needs, baby's needs, and what stage the baby is in, as well as season and destination.
A breastfeeding mom will have a different supply list than a bottlefeeding one. While most parents learn the bulk of Mommy and Daddy tricks and shortcuts while in the trenches, hopefully reading some lists will help some new moms get a little ahead of the curve. One thing you don't really need is your own purse. Instead downsize to a wallet and keep that in the babybag, to simplify life as much as possible. Carry a diaper bag, a baby and a purse can get logistically nuts.
Kids and babies in particular, are gross. They leak from every orifice, sometimes all at once, and they think everything that falls into their death-grasp must be chewed, licked, thrown or squeezed. For that reason, it is akin to insanity to travel without some spare duds for the little dude or dudette. And depending on your child's habits, you may want more than one spare set of clothing. Remember, not just a onesie, a sleeper or a top. Have a complete outfit down to socks or booties. My first son, Kyle, had some digestive issues as an infant and I quickly learned to carry more than one complete outfit, and to also keep those sizes keeping up with his growing. Nothing worse than going for the back up outfit, only to realize you can't stuff baby into it anymore.
As I mentioned, my infant son Kyle would regularly regurgitate a whole bottle due to tummy troubles. This resulted in some awkward wardrobe moments in public. Plus, soy formula is just plain foul when it erupts like a volcano down your dress. Now, it can be tricky getting a whole back up clothing change into the baby bag, but with some planning and determination it can be done without sacrificing critical diaperbag space. First of all, go minimalist. If you don't have regular issues with huge blow outs or barf sessions, you may opt for a shirt change alone. Or maybe a sundress will do, depending on the weather. Make it something that isn't prone to wrinkle, and tightly roll it up into the smallest ball you can, as in to the point of almost but not quite being a choking hazard for baby.
Every new parent at some dismal point in life will discover the utter horror of losing baby's special thing. It could be a pacifier, not just any pacifier but the pacifier. Or perhaps Junior has dropped his blankie from an overpass on a walk. Maybe you misplaced the woobie that your sweet daughter cannot, has never, slept without. It is a dark moment in life when you encounter such valleys. Likely your tears will mingle with baby's, and the growing squeal will reverberate through your soul. For this reason, make sure baby has a first runner up for all special loves. And make sure you never, ever leave home without that first runner up. For the love of all that's holy, never ever ever take a trip without a host of special loved things. Don't be the rookie mom who thinks she can fool baby with a newly purchased look-alike. Babies know the smell, the stains, the funk of the loved thing. You'll never trick them!
Now, I'm not recommended having a flask of whiskey in the zippered pouch of the babybag. Nor am I hinting to carry a pack of smokes, or a little toke. But to have a little comfort item of your own can be a sanity saver. What might that be? Depends on the mother, really. A fidget, a little aromatherapy bottle of your fave relaxing scent, or maybe a novel to scan while baby nurses? You know what might do the magic for you. I do recommend along these lines a little snack that won't go stale or sour in the bag. Crackers, a frozen fruit cup that will thaw in the bag, or a baggie of pretzels or nuts are all good choices. Being out on the go with baby will make every trip at least twice as long, and 26.7 times as hard, so having some item with you to soothe fraying nerves is a good use of diaperbag space.
Wipes are something you will never buy, and go, "What if I never use them all?" The real question is how many do we need to keep at any one time in the babybag? It seems all ages and stages until middle school have messy aspects to them. Exploding diapers, projectile spit up, self-feeding and science experiments in the backseat are all likely causes for needing a case, but realistically you need at least a travel-sized packet. Personally, I always kept a bigger stash in the trunk for reloading. Want to be a frugal and environmentally friendly wiper? Make your own from a gentle baby soap solution and cut up rags. You'll control what chemicals come in contact with delicate baby skin and save yourself some pennies in the process.
Having a simple wipe off changing pad is a lifesaver, especially when traveling or out in public spaces. You don't really want to put your baby down on one of those changing things in the public restroom, do you? No, no you don't! They may as well call them E. coli stands. Ideally, the changing pad should easily wipe clean and be thin enough to fold up easily within the bag. Some may roll up and then tie for storage. Just be sure to replace it if it should crack or there are tears, as it would be hard to keep sanitary and bits of plastic are choking hazards. There are disposable changing pads on the market, and typically they sell in sets of 10 or more. If you feel more hygienic just tossing the pad when through, that's understandable. Too cheap for that option? I relate to that mindset, as well.
Moms need pads, too. Just not changing pads. They need sanitary pads for that lovely lochia discharge, and then later "just in case," they get their periods. Since you have no idea when Aunt Flo will return it's like a really crappy surprise party you should be prepared for. Also, if mom is breastfeeding, she doesn't want to leave the house without breast pads for those unpredictable leaks from the milk bags, er, breasts. Usually within several weeks to a few months, your breasts will become adjusted and leaks will be quite rare. Unless of course, you are away from baby or have gone too long between feedings, then you can expect some dribblings. What kind of breast pad depends on Mom's needs and likes/dislikes. Just keep them clean and changed, as infection is possible and highly undesired!
Of course, no mother wants to leave the house without milk for baby. If you are nursing, you are good on that, except perhaps you like to take a bottle of expressed milk for ease of feeding in public. Maybe you are on a hectic shopping trip, a doctor's appointment or something wear whipping out the milk makers isn't as convenient. If you are bottle feeding, you need to bring formula and water. With my son Kyle, I would have powdered formula pre-measured into the bottles, and then I'd carry a couple of bottles of sterilized or nursery water. I'd mix as needed so the bottles would be fresh and I'd be less likely to waste the formula. Some women prefer the already mixed formula bottles. Just be sure to add one or two more than you think you'll need, in case of getting stuck somewhere longer than anticipated.
Smart mommies learn to pack themselves drinks, as well. No, probably not vodka and OJ in a sippy cup. Probably...not. But rather, a water bottle, a juice or something to stay hydrated. This is especially true for breastfeeding moms on the go. It's not your imagination; you do need to drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself running well and nursing baby. Signs of not enough fluid include thirst (of course!), headaches and sluggishness. You may also think you're hungry, but really just need some water in your system. A refillable water bottle is the most economical and environmentally friendly choice, but just be sure to wash it in hot, soapy water each evening before refilling it. Just constantly putting in more water and drinking from it will result in more germs than the dog's water dish. Eww.
Now, a blankie can fall under the security item in the list, but this is just a normal blanket. No special powers or attachment. A blanket is a key item in your babybag contents because of its utility. It can double as a changing pad if needed, it can cover baby's stroller in case of too much sun, cover baby in the car seat in case of too much chilly wind, or cover a chilly seat to make baby more comfy. A blanket can create a little resting spot that is cozy for baby (or mom.) It can create a playmat while visiting your best friend. It can help steady a wobbly baby in a swing or seat. A blanket can provide entertainment while playing "peekaboo." Few things can have as many uses as a blanket. Just be sure to keep it washed and the cootie count down to livable scale.
Of course, most nursing moms are glad for a blanket to cover up while nursing in less than ideal public spaces. No, you need not be ashamed, but you may be chilly, shy, have an easily distracted/nosy baby, or be outside and want baby covered. Blankets are wonderful tools in such cases. They also provide some coverage if you need to adjust, or put in a nursing pad or anything along those lines. Lying down with baby on a park bench while big bro plays? Roll up the blankie and get a bit more comfy. Blankets are good for car rides when you need some more neck support. Got a sore bottom post-birth and stuck sitting at the DMV forever? Roll up a blanket to get your sore area lifted and supported.
Sometimes basic is still best. Take a simple soft, damp washcloth and put it in a ziplock bag. This was a necessity for my older daughter, who had sensitive skin and especially needed extra care around her mouth and on her face. Turns out she eventually became allergic to a common ingredient in cleansing and beauty products, methylisothiazolinone. Her skin became so inflamed from the chemical she developed a rash that then turned her skin black and became necrotic. Hopefully, you won't have such issues, but an allergy to the chemical in wipes and other products is pretty common. At any rate, there are times a good, old fashioned cotton washcloth can't be beat by a flimsy, disposable wipe. I never traveled without at least one in the babybag and never regretted having it with me.
While running errands with baby, or taking a walk in the park, you won't need a full-on first aid kit. There should be one in the car and at home, however that covers all necessities. But in the baby bag you should have a smaller, more concentrated one for the likeliest of needs. Some bandages for boo-boos is essential. Have a small variety pack, as they take up very little room. Tweezers, cotton swabs and antibiotic ointment are all good options, as are diarrhea OTC treatments and an anti-itch lotion. Pain/fever reducing medication is another must. If you have a child with frequent allergies, you might want to bring tissues and a nose syringe, too. Keep bulkier, less used items in the bigger first aid kit in the car. Also, make sure baby's pediatrician is in your cell phone to avoid any panicked looking for the number.
Make sure you have first aid items that you're likely to require on an outing with baby. That depends on the Momma, but may include allergy eyedrops, tummy medications and grown up sized adhesive bandages. Keep your prescriptions in childproof bottles that are labeled, to be legit, safe, and upfront in case of any questions of medications you take. Have your doctor and insurance info ready in your phone, just in case of an emergency. Again, more involved and bulkier items should be stored in your car in the trunk, console or glove box. Or maybe get a handy-dandy first aid kit that stores on the back of the passenger seat. However, you can never be prepared for every possible accident or mishap. To do so would require towing a trailer of supplies everywhere you go!
You don't want the bag to be so full of toys it'll topple over the stroller, but when there's room, add toys. Toys are comfort, distraction and joy. Toys make long lines shorter, mean doctors less scary, and boring friends of mommy's less annoying. Toys can keep baby, and therefore, Momma, from having a meltdown. I like a nice assortment of old favorite and some that baby rarely sees. Those novel toys will seem like long lost friends that baby had forgotten she missed. This pumps up the distraction factor immeasurably. It's always a good idea to wash those toys regularly to keep germs from moving in and taking over the toy collection. Also, make certain they are in good shape and don't have loose pieces, sharp edges or any other concerns.