Lists. As someone who is not always the most organised person in the world, there’s nothing I value more than a good list, which also happens to be just what you need when you’re expecting a baby. There’s a ton of stuff out there these days, from buggies to baby baths, slings to bassinets (or “clothes holders” as they were in our house) and everything in between. Faced with the endless possibilities of the internet it is easy to lose all sense of what is essential and what is a giant waste of time and space in your living room.
Over the course of a couple of babies, I came to realise that the only things that really matter are the ones that you use all the time for months and months: somewhere to put the baby when they’re asleep, somewhere to put them when they’re awake, a way of carrying them that is comfortable, a carseat that you don’t hate, a buggy that you like, and a changing bag that you love.
Changing bags might not seem like an immediately obvious priority, but for the foreseeable future you’re going to need to be prepared for all baby eventualities every time you leave the house, as well as regular, grown-up eventualities, so this really needs to be a bag that has space for you too.
You know the way some people go a bit funny over shoes, and start salivating at the idea of 6 inch heels and strappy sandals? I’m a bit like that about shoes, but my Pavlovian reactions are mostly to do with bags. I come from a long line of bag ladies. When I was a child, my mother’s handbag, for reasons known only to herself, lived on a shelf in the hotpress (or airing cupboard, if you prefer). Going to get her bag was a bit like opening a tabernacle to take out a sacred chalice. It was a bit of a Mary Poppins affair, but it was a central organising object of her life, and by extension, the whole family. Money, keys, shopping lists, emergency sweeties, band-aids, pencil, paper, nail scissors, comb, hair bands. I thought she was unique in keeping her bag in a strange place until I met my mother-in-law whose handbag lived on a chair in the kitchen that no one else was ever allowed to sit on. They called it The Bag Chair, which caused no end of noun confusion for the annual Spanish exchange students.
There’s a funny irony in the fact that the smaller the human, the more things are required, and you will need to carry All Of The Things. All Of The Things will include at least some of the following: nappies, wipes, nappy cream, changing mat, change of clothes, soother, toy, other toy for when they get bored of the first one, snacks, bottles, water, as well as adult essentials like keys, phone, wallet, water, and maybe, if you’re feeling optimistic about sleep, something to read. A good changing bag will have lots of different, easily accessible pockets for all of these different things, to avoid bad combinations of things. Like a squishy banana plus your keys. Or a shredded teething biscuit and your phone. Or snotty wipe and your keys. You get the idea.
There is nothing worse (apart from all of 2020) than scrabbling around at the bottom of a big bag with a small opening, desperately searching for the one thing that will make the baby happy. So when you are choosing a changing bag, bear in mind that it should help you to be organised.
Lots of pockets are essential, both inside and out since there’s a good chance you’ll be holding the baby and trying to put things in or out of pockets at the same time. Constant use requires durability and material that is easy to clean. As fashion catches up with the idea that quality supports sustainability through longevity, a good bag that will last a long time is a worthwhile investment. As your baby grows, all those pockets will find other uses. Toddler organisation involves a whole other bag of tricks to amuse and distract. Changing bags make excellent travel bags because of all the different compartments.
Caring for babies is hard, and good quality baby products should make your life easier. Buy a bag you love using. Where you keep it is up to you!
By Susannah Sweetman - writer and mum of 4.