Monday, 1 August 2011

The Changing Bag

Tips to help you buy a bag for your partner, help her buy one or even buy one for yourself!
Does your partner love bags? Then chances are that she dreams of a changing bag (or two) to add to her collection. If that’s the case, a very nice touch would be to buy her one while she is pregnant or, if you have young children, one to replace the one she already has or just one to surprise her at any time. She will probably have looked at what is on offer and will have set her heart on one (or two), so you could quiz her and/or help her choose. The information below will help you.

Perhaps she actually hates bags and the idea of having to carry one all the time. The fact is that she won’t have a choice (babies come with a lot of stuff) and the market is full of bags to suit all personalities, you know your partner well so make sure you have a good look and, if you don't find anything by way of a so-called changing bag, you could look for a bag with lots of different pockets, it could even be a backpack.

Whichever bag you decide to get, I would strongly advise making sure that it is water-resistant, lightweight, spacious and with plenty of pockets and compartments of all sizes (it’s very important to distribute things where you can find them instead of just throwing everything in).

You may be thinking: “But our pram already comes with a matching bag, or you can just buy a bag, any bag, separately and be done with it, right?”. Tread very carefully, to you all changing bags may look the same, but to a girl they are totally different in design and feel, each girl seems to favour a different changing bag based on design, functionality, etc. Sometimes “matchy-matchy” isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, sometimes she will prefer to have a changing bag that doesn’t look like a changing bag or she will want one that matches her personality, one that is a statement or one that is as organised as she is or that turns even the most disorganised of girls into the tidiest of goddesses.

Let’s face it, it's one of those battles that you’re not going to win, blame it on hormones, exhaustion or general female status. The good news is that there really is a bag for all budgets, even a free one!

 The rationale behind a changing bag

Just in case you are wondering why it is necessary to have a bag at all, here are a couple of reasons:

-       The ability to find anything and everything when you need it is priceless. Just think that many a time the baby will be screaming while you are trying to change a nappy or prepare a bottle, looking for their favourite toy, a dummy, a wipe, a snack…
-       It frees up space in the basket of the pram, that way you have it available for the rain cover, a blanket and even your shopping.

If that isn’t enough to convince you, here is a list of the essentials that you will need to pack in the bag, perhaps it will help you decide what type of bag is best, as you can see it is rather long:

-       Nappies
-       Nappy cream
-       Nappy bags
-       Changing mat, most bags include one but I personally have a "nappy purse" keep everything tidy and to hand when changing baby while out and about and extremely handy if you decide to go for a changing bag that isn't actually a changing bag as such (e.g. a backpack)
-       Wipes (you may know already that at the beginning you only use cotton wool and water on a newborn’s bottom)
-       Bibs
-       Muslin squares
-       Feeding equipment:
-                For babies under six months: At the beginning, if not exclusively breastfeeding you will need a minimum of one bottle per outing plus one carton (I personally always carried a minimum 2 bottles and 2 formula cartons*,  just in case!). When you go out for the whole day, chances are you will need about 3-4 sterilised bottles. If breastfeeding exclusively, you will have a lot of extra space in the bag!
-                From six months to one year: Once the baby is weaning, as well as bottles and cartons of formula*, you will have to include snack pots, jars of shop-bought food or containers with homemade food, and a beaker of cooled down boiled water
-                After the baby is one: you may not need to carry bottles or formula all the time but you will still need to carry some snacks, jars, pots of homemade food and water just in case
-       A jacket, cardigan, jumper, snowsuit, etc. (when not in use this can go in the basket of the pram if it doesn’t fit in the bag)
-       A change of clothes
-       A blanket (this can go in the basket of the pram when not in use)
-       Sun protection cream
-       Sun hat or winter hat (depending on the season)
-       First aid kit (I have a BabyAid)
-       Antibacterial hand gel
-       For the parent: car/house keys, tissues, money and cards, lip gloss, mobile phone and any other objects you deem essential when you leave home for any amount of time

*If you are using formula, bear in mind that cartons of ready-made formula (despite being a great invention) are expensive. If you’re on a budget, you can buy powder dispensers to carry the right dosage of powder. This requires preparation though, you have to wash and/or sterilise them and put the right amount of powder in them (a word of warning: if your partner prepares them for going out, don't annoy her by using them at home just because they make your life easier, unless you know for sure that you will get round to wash/sterilise the used container and fill it with the right amount of powder so that she has it ready for when she wants to go out).

I personally have always had a microwave steriliser, milk cartons, extra nappies, a pack of wipes and muslin squares packed in an extra bag for when we went out for the whole day to someone's house, that way we can just stick that bag in the car to have the peace of mind that we have enough of everything.

Nowadays I also carry a portable high chair (mine is a Totseat) that will go over pretty much any type of chair. It means that we are never without a high chair when we go to a friend’s house or out to a coffee shop, restaurant, pub, etc. And it folds neatly into a matching purse so it fits in the changing bag.

Now that you have a better idea about what the changing bag is all about, do me a favour: help her keep it organised! Do you really think that getting out of the house with a baby is as easy as getting the baby and closing the door behind you? And don't you dare ask “Do we have everything?” as you are leaving the house, unless you made sure you helped pack the bag, get the baby ready by changing him/her into a clean nappy and getting her into clean clothes, making sure you have packed a cardigan or a jacket (for the baby as well as for you!), otherwise you'll be risking having her in a mood for the rest of the day!

In fact, if you want to be in her good books and get your outing (however short or mundane) to a really good start, ask her whether SHE has everything SHE needs, including her things and a jacket or cardigan and whether she needs a couple more minutes to make sure that she really has everything. Then just make sure you have any keys (house and car) in your hand, that any back doors are locked and that you are ready to come back in if necessary. Go outside, get the baby ready in the pram, baby carrier or car seat and wait patiently for her while you make the most of those precious extra minutes alone with your baby. Repeat these steps if you stop anywhere for lunch, a snack, a visit… it is nice to be looked after since she is the one always looking after everyone and this is a very easy way of showing her that you understand that.

Learn the brand names

Some of the brand names you will see mentioned most often are Pink Lining, Lin & Leo, Pacapod, Storksak, Babymel, Skip Hop, OiOi, Wallaboo, Ju-Ju-Be, Cath Kidston, Orla Kiely… do your research online, it is easy (below I have included a few websites to help you) and perhaps next time you're out and about you will recognise one or two of the bags, either in a shop or hanging off someone's buggy, show them to her and check whether she likes them.

There are some new players in the market too, names like Mamami by Chet, Mia Tui, Sophia and Matt and Sugarjack. I have written about them here.

You will see that some of them are rather girly but there are lots of not-so-girly ones that you might like for yourself.

The prices range from about £20 up to almost £300. Expect to pay an average of £60-80 for a very nice one, practical with plenty of features and functionality.

There is also THE FREE BAG: the Boots Changing Bag. You just need to join their Parenting Club to get it for free (well, you need to buy a pack of nappies that will come in handy anyway!) and, because it’s black and grey, it will be a bag that you will feel quite comfortable carrying. So, why not just get the Boots bag and be done with it? Several reasons which your girl may have thought of: everyone has it, it's not the most organised or spacious, it's not the prettiest...

Where to look for a changing bag

Good places with plenty of brands online and in-store are: John Lewis, Kiddicare and Mothercare.

Are you on a very tight budget but would still want to treat your girl? Try eBay, there are always some nearly new and even new with tags bags there.

I will try to write more in-depth about some of these bags in subsequent posts but for now hopefully this information will give you an idea of what to look for and where to look for it. I bet you never thought so much could be said about a mere bag (neither did I, I myself am shocked by the length of this post and I wrote it!), so let's give it a little break for now. But if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or email me.  

Just remember: if you get this one right you will be in her good books for a very long time!

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