But when baby leaves the house, whether for a day's outing or to be left with a caring caregiver, how much of all that "stuff" will the baby really need?
Experienced dads offer the following checklist for things to include in the mobile baby care kit--often known as a diaper bag.
Diapers. Clearly, a diaper bag needs diapers. But how many? Every baby will be a little different, but a good rule of thumb is to keep about four diapers in the bag all the time. We kept a few in the car just in case, but four is a reasonable number for the diaper bag.
Wipes. Pre-moistened baby wipes are great for cleaning up from the messy diaper, wiping baby's dirty hands, or spot cleaning dad's shirt that was on the receiving end of the diaper changing process. They are also great for wiping down the handles of grocery carts, on which babies notoriously teethe.
Hand sanitizer. A small bottle of hand sanitizer is a welcome and light weight addition for the diaper bag. After a diaper change, it is a nice feeling to know you aren't transmitting too many germs to everyone you meet.
Changing pad. Having a changing pad in your baby kit can allow you to put baby on his or her own personal surface for a diaper change, and not straight onto a bathroom counter or changing table. And if it gets dirty, you can throw it in the wash when you get home.
Plastic bags. A few quart sized plastic bags, preferably with the sealable opening, are really handy in the diaper bag. If the baby leaks on his clothes, you can put them in the bag for later laundering. If there is not a convenient place to pitch the dirty diaper, a sealable bag can carry that diaper without an odor until you have a place to dispose of it.
Change of clothes. It is always a good idea to carry one change of clothes for baby in the diaper bag. Babies seem to go through outfits faster than teenagers go through chewing gum. A "onesie" is a light weight one-piece change of clothes that will fit well in a diaper bag and get you and the baby by in a pinch.
Bib. If your baby is teething, takes a bottle, or is starting with solid food, a bib is an important take-along. It will probably save at least one change of clothes, and will keep baby a lot more comfortable (translated: less crying).
Burp cloth. Speaking of keeping clean and comfortable, a burp cloth will help dad stay that way. After baby eats, or when you are just holding the baby over your shoulder, baby will often spit up. It's just a part of a new baby's digestive process. So protecting yourself with a burp cloth will help you avoid that unsightly stain on your shoulder or down the back of your shirt, sports coat or jacket.
Digital thermometer. It is always a good idea to keep a digital thermometer in your diaper bag. When baby starts acting ill or has a warmer than normal head, the doctor will always ask about baby's temperature. You can use a digital thermometer with a flexible tip to check his or her temperature rectally or under the armpit. A more recent invention is a pacifier-based digital thermometer that gets an oral temperature reading. Either one is a good item to include in the diaper bag in case of illness.
Emergency card. I always recommend keeping an emergency card in the diaper bag with contact information, medical information and more, just in case of emergency. Certainly, if you are leaving baby and the diaper bag with a caregiver, the emergency card is even more important. We have a downloadable version of an emergency card that you can print out, fill in and put in the diaper bag and on the bulletin board at home or give to your caregiver to put on her bulletin board.
Hat. This one is not as intuitive as it should be, but baby's scalp is pretty fragile. We learned this one day after taking our baby with us on a visit to a national park. Even though he was in a front-pack carrier all day (and, we thought, in the shade), his scalp was really sunburned the next morning. We had to try to find a hat at a souvenir stand, which of course was way too big for the baby. So we started always carrying a little hat in the mobile baby kit for just such an event.
It's a pretty long list, but most items here are small and easily packed. And your baby may need some other specialized equipment based on her own needs, and your preferences. But this is a good list for a basic baby care kit to help make your outings more pleasant for you and your baby.