A Minimalist’s Guide to Being Mobile with Baby

minimalist baby minimalist baby

Leaving the house with a baby can be a whole thing. In the early days of unpredictable naps, round-the-clock feedings, and sudden poop blowouts, it would sometimes take me 45 minutes to get out the door for a 20-minute trip to the grocery store. Add to that all the stuff you’re supposed to lug around to keep your little one comfy, dry, warm, cool, fed and happy, and it can be really daunting to leave the house at all.

But if you want to show your baby the world (and have an occasional excuse to shower and put on your cleanest sweats), it helps to streamline your going-out process. I discovered pretty quickly that so many of the items Pinterest told me I absolutely, definitely needed to own were actually completely unnecessary. But, hey, now you get to learn from my expensive mistakes! Here are some of the things that allowed me to keep it simple while being mobile with my baby.

Invest in a Cozy Wrap and a Carrier

Women around the world have been wrapping their babies to their bodies and getting on with life for centuries, but for some reason, this “trend” only made it to our Instagram feeds in the last few years. Whatever, I’m glad it finally did, because babywearing is a million times better than hauling a cumbersome bucket seat or pushing a stroller the size of a small car through a crowded restaurant.

When I first wrapped my son, it was life changing. I could eat (though I definitely dropped bacon on my my poor baby’s head more than once). I could reply to emails! And when he was really small, I could even go to the bathroom without having to set him down and endure his screaming while I tried to pee. After a few days practicing babywearing at home, I was confident in my wrapping abilities and took it to the streets — on walks, to restaurants, to stores. For the most part, I soon was leaving the infant seat in the car; when we drove somewhere I’d just place him in the wrap when we reached our destination. For me, babywearing made nearly every errand about 10 times easier. As baby got heavier, I upgraded to a soft structured carrier that allowed for multiple carrying positions and offered the same freedom as the wrap.

By the way, carriers are amazing for travel, especially if you’re flying without the help of another adult. The baby goes on you, and you can zip around the airport with your bags placed on a stroller or luggage cart. Brilliant.

Ditch the Diaper Bag, if you please

Hate to break it to you (that’s a lie, I’m so excited to tell you this!): You don’t really need a diaper bag if you don’t want one. My son is two and I’ve never carried one because my big leather tote always had plenty of room for my own stuff plus a large zippered pouch that held 3 diapers, an extra onesie or two (as well as pants and socks when it was cold), a sample size of diaper cream, a 10-pack of wipes, a couple of thin burp cloths, and a roll of dog-poop bags (for dirty diapers and wet clothes). And I still managed to fit in a few pacifiers and a soft floppy hat, as well as a muslin blanket or two to use as a nursing cover or changing surface or spare burp cloth. Obviously, it’s a little easier if you’re breastfeeding and can leave the house sans formula and bottles, but clean water is pretty easy to come by these days, and powdered formula can be pre-portioned into small bottles that go into their own neat little pouch.

You know who really needs a diaper bag? Dad. Because he doesn’t already carry around a giant tote filled with Band-Aids and Ibuprofen and Altoids and hand lotion. But honestly, my husband preferred a backpack to a tote, anyway, and it’s a lot easier to carry a backpack than a vinyl shoulder bag with too-short straps.

Don’t Rush Into a Stroller

I know it’s sooooooo tempting to register for a stroller — or flat out buy one — based on reviews and aesthetic preference. But given that you don’t really know exactly how you’ll use it until you’re living with baby for awhile and your stroller needs may change over time, it can be best to wait.

For example, because I wore baby a lot in the beginning, the travel system we registered for ended up not being as necessary as I thought it would be — plus it couldn’t handle the busted sidewalks in my historic neighborhood. A few months in, I realized what I really needed was a smooth ride for our extra long walks, so I eventually got an all-terrain stroller that fully reclined and let face baby out or towards me (of course, this was *after* a non-refundable but very regrettable eBay purchase of a jogger with a fixed front wheel — whyyyyyyyy?). I know this isn’t exactly great advice on which stroller to buy, but hopefully this will at least keep you from ending up with four of them, like I did.

My advice: Don’t worry about a stroller early on. Wear baby and/or use a simple frame that your car seat can snap into for the first several months. It’s one less piece of gear to clog up your entryway – or collect dust in a corner when you finally figure out you bought one that wasn’t quite right for you.

Leave the Toys at Home

You know your baby will have, like, zero interest in toys for the first few months, right? And once she does, when you’re out and about, nearly anything can be a toy. A spoon? Neat! Mom’s thumb? So cool! An empty plastic cup? Where has this been all my four months of life?

When it comes down to it, as long as your baby is safe, warm, fed, and dry, you’ll both be just fine leaving the house without loads of gear. And you’re probably about due for some new yoga pants and dry shampoo anyway, so get out there, mama.

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Emily Farris lives in Kansas City, MO with her burly husband, toddler son, and two rowdy rescue mutts. She's written for Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and The Cut. When not busy cleaning up somebody's pee, she's posting about drinks and home decor on Instagram @thatemilyfarris.