Sunday, 29 July 2012

Advice for new mums: What do you really need to take out with you?

As a first time mum I prepared myself to take my baby out for her first walk.  It was May 2006 and summer had started early.  In fact it's the last summer I can remember when it was really, really hot for a prolonged period of time.

I had my travel system set up ready and I was packing a bag.

The intention was to walk around the block.  It would take me, in my post baby, suffering from piles (sorry), slightly sore state, probably about 20-30 minutes to take a slow stroll.  Without baby it would have been 10 minutes.

What did I think I was going to need!?  

The changing bag was pre-packed with 10 nappies, a full pack of wipes, at pack of 100 nappy bags, anti-bacterial hand gel, nappy rash cream, 2 spare baby sleep suits, rattles, a handful of bibs, two cartons of ready made milk, a sterilised bottle, scissors and a bottle of water for me.  Even in my post-baby state, surely I should of realised this was overkill for a short walk.

But what do you really need to pack in that baby bag?  What's essential, and what can you just leave at home?  If it's your first time, you just don't know, so you prepare for everything, terrified you'll need to one thing you forgot and somehow permanently damage your child as a result of your error.

In the first few weeks of a babies life their needs, though seemingly complex and frustrating difficult to decipher, are reasonably few and simple.  They need food and drink which comes handily in one package: milk.  They need winding, as they are rubbish at drinking that milk without sucking most of the air out of the atmosphere at the same time.  They need changing, for obviously reasons; and they need sleep.

Ideally they need all that whilst being comfortable, which means not too hot or too cold.

So; for the benefit of first time mums everywhere, here are the definitive lists for long or short walks whatever the season, along with back-up plans, should you need them and special notes on feeding on the go!

The basic list - the store cupboard of baby packing.

Whenever you leave the house with a small baby in tow you will need the following:

  • Two nappies
  • A pack of 30 baby wipes
  • 5 nappy sacks (you might need them for more than just the nappies)
  • 1 spare baby outfit appropriate to the weather (in case of nappy or milk explosions)
  • Anti-bacterial hand gel for you
  • A bottle of water for you
  • If you are breastfeeding, then a couple of spare breast pads.
  • An appropriate travel system (buggy, pram, sling, baby carrier)
  • A single rattle/toy (optional for newborns)
  • The baby

Packing for a short walk in the summer

In addition to the list above you'll need the following:

  • Shade from the sun for your baby.  When I was growing up, and for my first child, this came in the form of a clip-on umbrella.  Highly annoying devices that older babies can grab, once they can sit up, and permanently move out of position.  Thankfully technology has caught up with this problem and the shade now more commonly comes in the form of a buggy custom made UVA cover, like this Phil & Ted UV Sunny Days Mesh Cover.   
  • Or sunshades like this one. 
  • Whilst you can pick these up for £12, maybe less on ebay, you may wish to save your pennies and use a cotton sheet draped over the pram or buggy top (not on their face, else they won't be able to breathe).  They can be clipped on with bulldog clips or pegs, or simply tie a knot in the corner of the sheet and use ribbon tied around the sheet next to the knot to secure to the buggy.
  • Your own sunhat.  I'm assuming you are wearing suncream or are covered up.  Don't forget about your own welfare too!
  •  There is really no need for bottles or feeding gear if you are taking your walk shortly after a feed has finished.  See 'feeding on the go' below if you really can't bare to go without something.  

A short walk in the winter

Add the following to the basic list:
  • A spare blanket
  • Warm sleep suit/snowsuit, gloves and hat for baby
  • Warm enough clothes for you including gloves, hat and scarf.
  • Rain cover for the travel system/buggy/pram.
  • A mac for you.  Umbrellas for you are NO USE.  You will always need your two hands to steer the buggy.  Whilst one handed buggy pushing is possible for short periods, and more possible with one handled buggies than two handled ones, it's not sustainable - believe me!  So a rain mac it is.  With hood!

A long walk in the summer

You may need to incorporate a feed into a longer walk, which is fine as long as you plan for it.  Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding this simply entails checking that there are appropriate stopping points on your planned route to stop if required; park benches, coffee shops etc.

Add the following to the basic list:
  • 2 muslin squares (either for modesty whist breastfeeding, for clean up, or instead of bibs)
  • An extra 2 breast pads if you are breastfeeding
  • A sterilised bottle, either made up in advance or to make up on the go.  See notes below for options.
  • Milk (ready made or powered)



A long walk in the winter

Everything from the basic list, plus the items on the short walk in the winter list, plus the items on the long walk in the summer list.  Basically everything apart from the sunshade and sunhats!



Notes on feeding on the go


Do you need feeding kit on a short walk?

Even if, in the worst case, baby decides they didn't have enough milk before you set off on your walk, or the walk gets rid of a last bit of wind resulting in them wanting more, you are still only minutes away from home.

If you are breastfeeding and you can't stand the 'feed me' cry, you may be able to walk along whilst feeding them in a sling, or even just in your arms.  You could stop at a convenient point.  But if there really isn't anywhere to feed your baby, then it's just a matter of damage control until you can get back home, and that probably means taking them out of the pram and distracting them whilst you walk, or, simply walking as fast as you can.

Your baby may be loud for a few short minutes, and you may find that difficult if you are a first time mum, but don't worry.  Waiting 10 minutes for some milk will not kill them.  In fact, sooner or later they will learn to wait for things for short periods, especially if they also have a demanding sibling!  They will learn to trust that the milk will be along shortly and will more happily wait for you, but in the meantime, try not to worry if they have to cry for a short time.  You can't always magic up a solution immediately!


Breastfeeding on the go

If you are breastfeeding you have 'logistically' an easier time of it, in that there isn't a long list of things to remember to take with you just to ensure your baby has food.  Of course you do, potentially have slightly different logistical problems.
  1. You, of course, need to be wearing a good weaning bra.   Don't find yourself having to strip off, like I did, realising I was wearing a normal bra and couldn't actually access the all important part!
  2. Invest in a couple of good weaning tops.  Wrap over, tie at the side, tops work well, as do buttoned shirts and blouses, as you can drape them over your other breast and your tummy for much needed modesty.  A muslin square can help with that too, though they do have a tendency to fall off your shoulder at inappropriate moments.
  3. Unfortunately you may still find yourself subject to the glares from disapproving folk.  Please please ignore it.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeding your baby in public.  Be considerate to others by all means, by covering up where possible, but do not feel that you need to hide away.  In the UK any shop owner that asks a breastfeeding mum to leave tends to find themselves subject to a lot of negative press and a trip to court.  If you are in any way unsure you can find lists of breastfeeding friendly establishments on-line for your area.
You may find these posts on Maternity fashion useful: Making do and saving money and The Do's, Don'ts and where to find it.

Bottle feeding on the go

If you are bottle feeding and baby is happy with room temperature milk you could do one of the following:- 
  1. If a feed is likely to be due within the next half hour, then pack a made up bottle of milk, powdered or otherwise.  Make it up before you set off and ensure that you will have used it before the hour is up. 
  2. If you are uncertain when the feed may be due, the easiest plan is to pack a sterilised, but empty, bottle along with a small carton of ready made milk and a small pair of clean scissors to open the milk carton with.  No real need to warm these up when you need them, it's a matter of preference.  I simply opened the carton and poured it into the bottle.  
 If you have a baby that is used to warmed milk you have a few options.
  1. When I had my first you could make up your milk bottles for the coming day and keep them in the fridge.  I'd then take a bottle out in a thermal bottle holder and also take out a small plastic bowl big enough to sit the bottle in, along with a small thermos of boiled water.  I'd then pour the hot water into the bowl and sit the bottle of milk in the hot water to warm it through.  Many cafes and coffee shops will provide hot water and a bowl, so if you know you are going somewhere that does - don't pack them.
  2. These days I am led to understand they they don't encourage you to make them up in advance.  So if this is the case you could take your ready made up unopened carton along with the sterilised bottle and the hot Thermos. Milk into bottle, bottle into hot water, milk nice and warm.  
  3. If you are using the powdered milk, then you'll take a small pot with the correct measure of powdered milk in it along with your empty bottle and your hot thermos.  Add the hot water to the bottle, add the powdered milk, lid on and shake well.  
  4. Alternatively with powdered milk carry the hot water in the bottle already, keeping it warm in the thermal bottle holder, ready to add the powdered milk.  Though if you do this final version don't leave it very long before you use the water.  You need it really warm when you add the powdered milk.


  1. There - you see I may be able to meal plan but I could NEVER have been this organised when mine were babies. I just remembered my boobs (attached) and the baby (mostly). I was a wreck of forgetfulness - I wish I'd read this post 8.5 yrs ago. Could have saved so much agony :-)

    1. Kind of you to say. I love these kind of lists. I think I struggle more with food because I am a hopeless cook and lack the confidence to try; since if it goes wrong I have two hungry girls on my hands!

  2. Oooh extensive! My friend has a newborn, I'll pass the link on to her :)

    1. Thank you! I hope she finds it useful. :-)

  3. Great post. It is very tempting to take the kitchen sink along with you when you take baby out at first isn't it.

    1. Goodness absolutely!! I even used to have sterilising tabs with me to start with. Goodness knows what scenario I was envisaging would require them on a walk round the block! ;-)

  4. wonderful list! i'll forward to my brother who is a first time father and fairly panicked over holidaying with the baby.


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