Feeling confident to get out as a new mum is hard, the fatigue, the emotions, the anxiety, the pain you may already be carrying is heavy enough. Having a bag of carefully curated items for any situation is the new-parent equivalent of a comforter.
I have always been a handbag obsessive. Bucket, tote, clutch, cross-body, convertible backpack, yes please. During pregnancy I bought a tote bag specifically to cart my medical notes and cheese crackers (nausea) around with me. Whilst I adore aesthetics, I am a pragmatic type and insist that the bag fulfils its true function, to provide me with that I need.
Enter the changing bag
Amongst the ‘baby prep phase’ of bassinets, bottlers, blankets, and baby-grows is the bag. This simple item is a parenting key to as much freedom as a tiny bundle will allow. For me it was more than just a spare nappy. Being prepared for anything gave my poor post-natally depressed brain some reassurance that I could do it. I could go to the park for a coffee and me and the bub will be ok. I had what we needed.
I have a mum friend that literally pops a nappy in her back pocket and heads out. I am in awe of her completely. Another mum I know uses a bag for life – setting the green example to her tiny tot from day one. I salute you. They were breaking the traditional convention of changing bags and it worked for them.
I am the opposite, and as a natural born researcher of ‘optimum function’ I wanted a bag that could withstand an apocalypse. Within minutes I was knee deep in options, styles, blogs and insta stories. My mission: To find the best changing bag.
Some time later…
Easier said than done (much like birthing a baby), there are so many options out there. In the name of journalism/obsession I got the credit card out and ordered three totally different types of bags to test, alongside several trips to both department and ‘outdoors’ stores. Oh yes. I was committed, me and my bump were going to figure this out. Except, I didn’t. At least not at first. Trial and error, a bag full of runny baby poop, a sore back, many items forgotten or lost, and a total of 8 trial bags later. I realised what worked for me.
It’s just a phase
Parents repeatedly say ‘it’s just a phase’ about any moment in time as a paren. This is also true your needs as a family, so by extension the bag you carry.
After battling with a changing backpack that was impossible to clip to the buggy or open with one hand, didn’t fit everything I needed and meant crouching on the floor with the baby balanced in my arms I threw it out. I then retrieved it and donated it, because I try not to be an awful, wasteful creature. I had realised that it wasn’t about the bag the parenting manuals said I should have, but about what I was doing.
A tote-al revelation
My tiny one and I had a rough start, a traumatic birth and lots of feeding troubles. She also didn’t want to leave my orbit. I carried her all day long, everywhere. Baby carriers and backpacks are not a good mix. You end up feeling like a trussed-up turkey with sores under your double straps. I needed to be able to put my bag down quickly, open it with one hand and grab what I needed. Sound tote-aly familiar? For reasons that must be to do with storage and back health, back packs are the bag du jour for new parents. It wasn’t working for me, if anything my backpack had made my life harder (for now…)
Thank you tote bags, you have saved the day again. My comfy, multi-compartmented soft nylon tote bag was back in the frame as my phase-1-new-baby-changing-bag. Here is why:
Roomy + many compartments for nappies/wipes/balms.
A soft tote will squash down into the buggy storage (not a thing until you realise it’s a thing).
Nylon and machine washable. Dry cleaning no longer has space in my life.
Comfy handles that sit nicely next to the baby carrier straps.
Bus friendly, I live in London, I get the bus. Whacking people when you have a baby on your front and backpack on the…well back, is a one-way ticket to getting the disapproving commuter face from everyone around you.
My style, just elevated to Mama status.
Did I mention it was the phase 1 bag…? Welcome to phase 2.
For the first year and half this was my bag and I felt like I had triumphed over changing bag life. Then the game changed and my little one became mobile. Suddenly we were toddling places, and the carrier was being left behind. Now bending to scoop up my little one I’d have to make sure I didn’t knock her over with my tote swinging off my shoulder. Also snacks…so many snacks…and bottles of water. The tote was starting to let me down.
A changing bag is just that; ever changing. What you need and how you carry it goes through phases and here I was again contemplating how I’m going to make successful trips anywhere with a toddler.
The light shone and I realised that now is the time for a backpack. There is a myriad of reasons why, but at the top of my list is that I can sprint after my little runaway. Backpacks don’t fall off, things don’t fall out, and it now that I’m no longer baby wearing, there are no double strap shoulder pinches. Win.
Changing bags for me have come in two waves to suit our little family needs.
Phase 1 – the tote for easy access, tons of stuff and suitable for baby wearing.
I love the Radley Maple Cross Palm tote bag in large (dividers galore!)
Phase 2 – the changing backpack, doesn’t swing off shoulders when leaning down, running through the park and can be every bigger for even more stuff.
I love the Tiba and Marl Elwood changing backpack (great all around though I pack it slightly differently to other mums…watching this space). The other one I really love is the black padded George at Asda changing bag, nylon, gorgeous looking and so many compartments. They do both a backpack and a crossbody!
It has to work for you - Much like having a baby, you don’t really know what you will need or what to do until it they are here. It might seem like just a bag, but for me it was freedom, preparedness and a small bit of control in the chaos.