Tips & Tricks to Prepare You for Any Baby Emergency
Hey, it’s difficult being a parent. There’s no checking out at five o’clock with this job so you can “veg out” all night watching “X-Files” while eating chocolate super almond chunk ice cream.
Nope, these days you’ve got a constant little gunner riding shotgun: your baby! And it’ll surprise you the situations you’ll find yourself in because of your adorable little sidekick.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Babies are fantastic! They’re cute, they’re cuddly, and they can projectile vomit at a moment’s notice. Oh, and did we mention how they cannot talk or hardly move, and it’s up to you to figure out what they need?
Good luck, mind reader!
A baby isn’t as complex as your car’s dashboard. Nope, there aren’t dials and warning lights to help you diagnose a problem. With a baby, there’s only one universal alarm to indicate something is wrong: that high-pitched baby howl.
Fortunately, a baby’s not as complicated as a car, and when a baby starts to scream, there are only three possible things that could be wrong:
- The baby is hungry
- It’s tired and wants a snuggle
- It has a dirty diaper
Run through the checklist, and if the baby still hasn’t resorted back to its state of cooing cuteness, then you better get out the thermometer and prepare to head to the hospital. (Don’t freak out; your baby will be fine!)
But this article isn’t about some hypothetical, worst-case scenarios. Nope. This is a hard hat and lunchbox type of article for the day-to-day grind that keeps those babies on the road! And by “lunchbox” I mean diaper bag.
Yes, your diaper bag is your cache of ninja warrior tools (diaper bag essentials) that will keep you capable of caring for your marvelous mini-you and ensuring your baby is happy, delightful and ready to slide into a fitful power nap at a moment’s notice.
So, read on and let us help you turn that slovenly embarrassment of a diaper bag into a pristine, world-class field kit of parental awesomeness!
Which Diaper Bag to Pick
At this point, you have our permission to just throw your diaper bag away. You’re probably embarrassed by it, anyway. You’re probably hanging your head, even. Just know that everything will be fine, so long as you get rid of it and start over from scratch.
First off, you may select whatever diaper bag you want. Pick what you please, and we wish you luck! What is it about diaper bag design that has resulted in this bleak, miserable trend of only pastels and flower prints? Every single diaper bag seems to be a different shade of miserable.
People, keep in mind that a diaper bag is just a bag. In fact, you can retrofit any bag into being a diaper bag. Ideally, though, you want a bag with lots of compartments and outside pockets for all your diaper bag essentials — you know, things like baby wipes, bottles and plastic bags filled with dirty diapers. (Although, ninja tip: you should not put the dirty diapers back in the diaper bag!)
Get a “Star Wars” diaper bag if that’s your thing. Or, if you want, get a black bag with a red demon face and green flames. It’s not like it’s a bag of knives! Carry whatever bag you like. Just because you’ve had a baby, it does not mean you have to conform to flowers and mushroom prints in soothing shades of gender-neutral green.
The important thing about a diaper bag is not its appearance, but rather what’s in it. If you have a bag that reflects your personality, then you’re a lot less likely to try leaving it at the park or at grandma’s house (subconsciously, of course.)
Also, there’s no law that says both a dad and a mom can’t have their own diaper bags. Don’t get territorial. Just get your own bag. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You might have two diaper bags on hand to combat a baby emergency instead of just one? That’s a win, folks!
What’s in a Bag?
You knew there would be a checklist at some point in this article, right? Here is a list of diaper bag essentials — items all parents should have on hand when out and about in the world with their tykes.
Keep in mind that this is hardly a definitive list, and you have a few things you must consider. How old is your child? How many children are you packing for? Are there any special needs? This list is a starting point, but you should know it must be tweaked, young Padawan, to suit your family’s individual needs.
Here’s your starting list of diaper bag essentials:
- Thin changing mat
- Baby wipes
- Extra baby clothing
- Extra pacifiers
- Baby powder
- Safety pins
Obviously, right? The question is, how many? The whole key to this diaper bag prepping and packing exercise is to not end up with a trunk that weighs 700 pounds.
The great thing about diapers is they fold down to almost nothing. A downside, though, is babies can go through a lot of diapers. If you anticipate being away from diaper replenishments for a long time, then you’d better pack accordingly.
Babies sense fear and they know when you’re afraid you might not have enough diapers along on an outing. That’s when they burn through them like fireworks. A good rule is to bring two diapers for every hour you plan to be out. It’s not out of the question, though, to leave the house with at least 15 or 20 diapers tucked neatly in the bag.
Thin Changing Mat
You need a mat that’s waterproof or plastic on one side. Why? Because you never want to lay your baby down naked on one of those public changing tables.
How would you like laying your face on the lid of a public toilet? Yeah, NO. It’s gross. So, why would you consider allowing your baby’s beautiful, disease-free skin down on a changing table that’s riddled with germs of who knows what?
In fact, let’s just go over changing table protocol:
- Wipe down the table with a baby wipe
- Put down the changing mat
- Lay your baby down on your mat
- Always ensure your body forms a barrier so your child can’t roll off the table
All this said we realize that sometimes you’ll have changing emergencies. You don’t have to be a parent long before you discover that no diaper is infallible. Weak areas lead to leaking, first notice of which is the growing stains around your child’s legs or back.
When faced with a Code Red, it’s important not to panic. You still have to prepare the table before getting your child out of those nasty clothes — no matter how hard they’re screaming.
Always assume a changing table is soiled and germ-ridden. In the absence of a station, you may have to change your baby outdoors somewhere, so you’ll be glad you brought the mat. Heck, bring two if you have space.
You discover baby wipes when you have children, and then you never do without them again. These marvelous, moistened cloths are key among your diaper bag essentials like a hammer is to a toolbox.
There is no diaper mess so bad that baby wipes can’t solve it. Just keep on pulling and swiping, pulling and swiping … until the mess is gone. (Wax on, Daniel-san!)
You will need one pack — a big pack — of baby wipes in your bag. Just make sure you get the baby ones and not ones for home cleaning that say Clorox on the side.
A good call with baby wipes is to have them strategically placed in all your normal environments. Have them at work, have them in various rooms of the house and, most definitely, have them in all your vehicles. This way you can replenish your diaper bag anywhere when needed.
If you have nothing else in your diaper bag but baby wipes, you still have a fighting chance. No baby wipes, no victory. (Make that your parenting mantra!)
Extra Baby Clothing
In-the-know parents know you should have at least one set of clothing for your baby with you always. That way, when darling’s diaper leaks all over, you’ll be ever so glad you’re prepared.
Anytime a clothing swap becomes necessary, take the time to rinse the soiled clothing out and then safety pin it to the outside of your diaper bag, so it dries. It’s not ideal, but if your baby has another accident, then you have emergency back-up clothes to your back-up clothes.
Baby clothing packs compactly, so you might even bring at least two whole sets. If possible, pick clothing separated into pants and shirts, rather than onesies. That way you can salvage unsoiled garments and mix and match to get something clean and dry.
Babies don’t care too much about fashion but are all about comfort.
You can use a small blanket to cover the changing mat, so your baby is more comfortable, you can use it to swaddle your babe if it’s chilly out, or, if you run out of baby’s clothes, you can wrap your baby with it—the possibilities are endless.
Instead of a blanket, it could be a thin towel. A few washcloths will also prove to be very useful.
Always bring formula enough for a day or two. You don’t have to keep it in the original unwieldy tin. Save space by transferring some to a small, sealed container.
You never want to be in a position where you can’t feed your baby. A crying baby draws zombielike women out of the woodwork. They come trotting over to you with their best, but unwanted, intention, and you’ll have to fend them off with a stick.
Plus, your baby can’t sleep when hungry, and you want your baby to sleep.
Formula will do you no good, if you have no way to feed it to your baby. Plus, some finicky babies will only feed with a specific make/model of bottle.
If you’re reading this before having your baby, then you’ll be shocked by how complicated baby bottles can be. They are proprietary, meaning they don’t have common sense things like interchangeable tops and nipples between brands. Also, some have terrible seals, so they leak everywhere.
Those of you who haven’t had your baby yet are probably smirking and thinking, “That can’t be true. I’ll find the right ones.” But just wait until you’re faced with the pressure of a screaming baby, an encroaching horde of zombie moms and a bottle top you can’t get to seal without a massive leak!
Our advice is that you’ll save yourself some anguish later if you take a few minutes to practice with your baby bottle once or twice at home or in some other safe space.
Babies are picky. Sometimes, they’ll only use one style of bottle, and the same can hold true for their preference of pacifier. Once you find a pacifier your baby prefers, we suggest getting multiples of it to keep in your bag.
An annoying thing about babies is that, as they’re trying to learn to control their grasping functions and their motor skills, they will sometimes reach up to their mouths, grab their pacifiers and uncontrollably hurl it into the void with surprising speed and strength. Literally two seconds later, they’ll be furious and inconsolable that they don’t have their pacifier.
The best thing you can do in a situation like this is to be prepared for it. Have a clean copy of that preferred pacifier “at the ready” and in your bag so you can pop into baby’s mouth quickly, buying you the time you need to find the other one and get it washed up.
Here’s another ninja tip: Tie a pacifier to the bag strap with a long string so your baby can’t throw it so far that you have to scramble under nearby tables and people’s legs to retrieve it.
Talcum (Baby) Powder
This might be in the realm of a luxury item, but having baby powder on hand is nice. You can usually dry a baby off pretty well during a change, but a little talcum powder can go a long way to preventing diaper rash. A dry baby is a comfortable baby, and a comfortable baby sleeps, well, like a baby.
You may think safety pins went out of fashion with cloth diapers, but we’re positive you’ll find yourself in circumstances in which they’ll come in handy. You may have to MacGyver a new jumper out of a towel or the changing blanket, or you might need to use your diaper bag as a drying rack. Trust us, you’ll need them, and it’s better to have them among your diaper bag essentials when you do.
How to Organize Your Diaper Bag
It’s critical you view your diaper bag as tactical. When your baby is crying, and you reach for the bag, time will be of the essence.
Image: Public Domain, U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Sprunk and Senior Airman Janiqua Robinson
The best way to be organized is to have a bag with a lot of compartments. Have a section for diaper changing and a section for all other necessities. (Ninja parent tip: Load your diaper bag backwards, so that the first thing you need is the first thing you grab when you reach in!)
You’ll need the changing mat first, so that needs to be the first thing you find when you open the bag. Every soldier knows that to be good on the battlefield, he/she must run through drills to be prepared. So, too, should you do a dry run at home and then pack your diaper bag essentials accordingly.
Here’s a video that shows a diaper bag divided into three totes, each of which can be removed separately. This is just one way to organize. Find a way that works for you.
Don’t Be Overwhelmed
Remember that the baby industry is BIG MONEY, and vendors frequently use guilt tactics to coerce you into buying things that are simply not diaper bag essentials. Online, you’ll see a bunch of so-called experts packing very expensive bags with all kinds of unnecessary products.
The more stuff you have in your bag, the more complicated your life will be. Don’t obsess over having the perfect bag, because it doesn’t exist. Just get a functional bag. As you get more on-the-job training as a parent, you can make improvements as needed.
Image: by Luis Quintero, via Pexels
Seriously, if you remember 65 brands of scented lotions and creams, but forget the baby wipes, then your diaper bag will be futile. Your baby doesn’t care about fashion and style, but instead just wants to be fed, changed and comfortable enough to sleep.
Different Styles of Diaper Bags
There is an overabundance of completely impractical diaper bag designs on the market. When considering a bag, picture yourself carrying both the baby and the diaper bag for a long distance or all day. That should help you narrow the prospects.
The three major types of diaper bags are:
- Tote style
- Satchel style
- Backpack style
Tote Style Diaper Bag
A tote style diaper bag can work well, or it can turn your day into a living nightmare. Just know what you’re getting into.
A tote style bag offers grab-and-go convenience, with big tops that allow easy access. The only problem we perceive is that a tote bag requires an entire hand to carry it, and parents already don’t have enough hands to do everything they need to do.
If you have a stroller or something/someone else to carry the bag (“Honey, can you carry this?”), then a tote bag will work great. (Ninja parent tip: Consider keeping in your car a giant tote style bag filled with ample supplies of all the diaper bag essentials, so it can serve as a kind of motherhship you use to replenish other, smaller bags.)
Before you buy a tote style bag, think about what it would be like to walk around with it for six to eight hours. Realistically, problems of a tote style bag can be solved by simply affixing a shoulder strap to its corners.
Satchel Style Diaper Bag
Satchel style diaper bags are hands-free and easily accessible, which makes them a popular and traditional choice. You just push the satchel behind you and forget about it, until it’s needed.
Satchel bags’ shoulder straps can become pretty uncomfortable over time, leading parents to under-equip them in an effort to lighten the load. Not to mention, these bags are smaller, affording less capacity for critical diaper bag essentials.
Satchels are super for day trips and their ease-of-use. If you’re going for a longer outing, though, then you might need a little more firepower.
Backpack Style Diaper Bag
A backpack-style diaper bag is comfortable, allowing you to distribute the weight on your back, and it features a large capacity. The only problem we perceive is that, to get into it, you need to take it completely off your body.
With a satchel, you can pull it around, pull out the mat and lay your child down without worry. With a backpack, that maneuver is trickier.
Still, for major trips, a backpack style bag allows for the most comfortable transport of the greatest amount of diaper bag essentials. There’s always the option of just single-strap slinging the backpack over one shoulder, but then you’ve turned it into a satchel so what’s the point?
Solution: Have More than One Bag
Let’s face it; the only way that parents will remember everything or pack all the diaper bag essentials adequately, is if they take more than one bag.
On most outings, one parent should carry the backpack or a satchel (or maybe both!) Then; there should also be a tote style bag in the trunk to replenish the other bag(s).
You’re never going to regret having access to more baby wipes, diapers, formula and changes of clothing than you’d ever thought you’d need.
How Often to Clean Your Diaper Bag
More than likely, your diaper bag will, at times, have food/formula in it or soiled clothing it, or both simultaneously. You will want to clean it regularly. A good rule is to give the diaper bag a quick wipe with the baby wipes every time you restock it.
The good thing about babies is that they grow so fast you’ll have to restock diaper bag essentials multiple times before it really gets a chance to get too dirty. That spare change of clothing you put in your diaper bag? Yeah, that will not fit your child next month.
No matter how disorganized you might be in other aspects of your life when it comes to your baby, you’ll want to keep things clean and orderly.
Congratulations, You are Now a Diaper Bag Ninja!
Being a parent is a difficult job without breaks. But you can make life a little easier for yourself by taking the best possible care of your baby.
You don’t have to subvert your identity just because you’ve had a child. That’s just going to make you miserable, and your child will notice it and become miserable, too. Just be yourself! Cherish this time with your baby, because it is ever-so-fleeting. And, while you’re at it, stamp your unique personal style onto your diaper bag and wear it proudly!
If you are a parent, then you will stumble somewhere along the way … but don’t despair! Learn, adapt, improve, and when the day comes to say goodbye to that bag and all those diaper bag essentials, we’re sure you will have constructed a steampunk, world-champion, ultra-high tactical piece of super parent ninja equipment.
You’re next-level now, and maybe someday you can hand that diaper bag down to your own child. The student has become the master!