diaper bags alter tremendously throughout the first year of your baby's life. first of all, you will need one. you can use a backpack, buy a really expensive bag that makes you feel more stylish, or throw everything in a reusable grocery bag. regardless of what you choose, you'll need something. you'll also be stuck with it for a while so you might as well find something you will be able to look at for the next two years.
once you've purchased your bag of choice (or pulled something from the back of your closet), you'll need these items first. you can have this diaper bag filled before baby even arrives and i highly recommend being prepared. as tired as you are at the end of your pregnancy, you'll be even more so when baby arrives so get as much done as you can before your sweet one comes.
diapers - any brand will do. i have to say, though, i'm more of a diaper snob for newborns. their skin is so sensitive and i like the diapers that are the softest and don't rub my baby wrong.
wipes - buy these suckers in bulk. you'll go through them a lot faster than you can say "poopy diaper." the initial baby poop is really sticky an thick and you'll need a lot of wipes to do the job well. while the little cute travel wipe dispensers are nice, they will be empty in a day and need to be refilled. save yourself the trouble and just put in a full pack of wipes.
plastic diaper bags - these are for smelly diaper disposal and they are a life-saver. your baby will poop pretty much everywhere you take him or her. these little bags are usually scented with a fresh baby powder scent and are the perfect size to put your smelly diaper into before disposing of it. it's also a lot less messy to put every wipe and smelly bit into one little location. you may not think it's a big deal now but, trust me, you'll thank me later.
changing pad - most diaper bags come with one of these. if it doesn't, go out and get yourself something to change your baby on. there is nothing more disturbing than laying your brand new, perfect baby onto a changing table in a public bathroom or onto the floor at a friend's house. not only will this protect the baby, it will also protect the floor. babies have an amazing ability to pee and poop as soon as you take their diapers off. just as you're lifting your sweet one's little legs up to wipe their bottom, they will explode and you'll end up spending the rest of your day out shopping in poop. as much as you try to avoid it, this too will probably happen to you. if you're going to be out and about for a day, you may want to stick an extra change of clothes in your car, just in case.
disposable changing sheet - these are a convenience but are not a necessity. how much easier is it to throw something soiled away, though, instead of taking it home to be washed?
feeding needs - these will be different depending on whether you are nursing or bottle feeding.
- for bottle feeding: you'll need water bottles to fill up your baby bottles, clean bottles, and formula. i'm a big fan of the little formula dispensers. you can measure out what you need for one feeding and put that amount in each section of the dispenser and then make your bottle easily and quickly. there is nothing that drives your blood pressure up more as a new mom than a baby who is hungry and you're not able to move fast enough to get him or her fed.
- for breast feeding: a blanket or some breast feeding cover to make nursing a little more comfortable at the start. let me just throw something out here as well. nursing is tough and it takes a lot of practice. you would think that something so natural would be really easy to pick up. let me just dispel that myth. it's hard to get the hang of. why do you think there are people out there whose entire job is just to help people be successful? if it was so easy, would we need paid helpers? give yourself some grace and some time. also, be prepared. if you really want to breast feed, buy some things to make it easier for yourself. i'm not suggesting a cover because i think we need to be embarrassed about breast feeding. i'm just letting you know, it's easier when you can focus on your baby and getting him or her latched on and not worry about who might be seeing your huge, engorged boob hanging out. you'll also want a towel or a burp cloth of some sort. babies are messy as they are learning how to latch on and at the beginning, your milk can get all over the place. bring yourself a towel of some sort. you'll want to dry off and you'll probably need it for your baby too. lastly, bring some extra nursing pads. they can get filled up quickly and they can stink (think sour milk mixed with sweat...not pretty). you don't want to leak onto your shirt or smell. you'll also want some lanolin cream for your dried, cracked and sometimes bleeding nipples. i know that's graphic but it's also the truth. lanolin helps and it's safe for your baby. pack some...you won't regret it.
change of clothes - you'll want this, believe me. baby poopies can be explosions. i think my record with my kids was one that went all the way up to his ear and down into his shoes. really. it happens. be prepared. always have extra clothes for your newborn packed in the diaper bag. you won't be sorry. in case of explosion, use the disposable diaper bags to pack up poopy clothes to take home.
pacifiers - some people don't do pacifiers. we didn't with our first child because we were afraid he wouldn't nurse. the thing is, my boobs became his pacifier. for the second, third and fourth born, we used them. we loved them. if you are going to use a pacifier, be patient with these too at the beginning. buy the smallest ones according to the size on the packaging and keep working with your newborn to get them into their mouths. they have to learn how to hold onto them. once they do, you'll have something to soothe your baby when you just can't get to their milk fast enough. always pack several pacifiers in your diaper bag. they disappear about as often as baby socks do.
burp cloths - maybe you'll be blessed with a baby that never spits up. i never was. my kids spit up from birth through age one. i spelled like vomit for four complete years. regardless of how bad your child spits up, you'll want a burp cloth. there is always something to clean up and these little pieces of cloth might just save your outfit for the day. what the heck, pack two.
an extra blanket - these fall on the floor often. you may not want to put one around your baby after it's been on the floor of a public bathroom...or any floor for that matter. an extra one is always handy. just fyi...you probably won't need to buy any blankets for yourself, ever. people love to give blankets as a gift. you'll most likely end up with more than you can use. wait until you're done receiving gifts before you buy any for yourself.
medicine - for a newborn, bring the little gas drops. their little gassy tummies can make them miserable. for a day out and about, you'll be happy you have these.
toys - you won't need these for the first couple of weeks but soon you'll be happy you have something for your baby to play with or look at. you don't need much but you'll be surprised how something simple can keep their attention just long enough for you to check out at the grocery store.
i'm sure there are tons of other ideas out there. this is a pretty basic list to get things rolling without breaking the bank. if you have any other bits of wisdom, feel free to share here, where mommies can take it or leave it. let's all help one another navigate this crazy journey called motherhood and enjoy the ride.