Welcome to the Baby Bag Diaries. A series where we share real stories from real mums exploring the transformational journey into motherhood, shining a spotlight on their favourite products and the pieces of advice they wish they had before having a baby. 

New mum, step mum and geologist, Stephanie, shares with us her unique motherhood journey. She opens up on what it was like getting an instant family with her stepson, adding another baby into the mix and how she’s adjusted to her new life. She also lets us know all her must-haves for new mums and her go-to baby shower gift (spoiler alert, it’s not what you think). Follow more of Stephanie’s journey at @stephjanemillar


Tell us about yourself? When did you become a mama, how many babies do you have? 

I am a geologist, a planner, a crafter, an optimist, an enthusiastic baker, a step mum to a brilliant 6yo boy and now a mum to an adorable 3-month baby boy. I’m currently on 12 months of Maternity leave, which has been the oddest feeling going from the busy day to day on the 9-5 job, to now juggling the unexpected wonders, and startling lows, of life with a newborn. But I have a bright 6yo step son who loves to sit next to his brother in the bouncer while I run around and do laundry, and a husband who enjoys cooking just as much as I do to help out.

Who were you before you became a mum? (Tell us about your lifestyle, job, career, passions, travels, hobbies etc). 

I have a 3 part mum story – life prior to being a step mum, being a step mum, and life before having my baby boy.

Prior to being a step mum, I was a FIFO geologist enjoying an 8/6 roster, planning overseas trips with friends and heading out to try new restaurants every other weekend.

Then just like that, I fell in love with a man and had an instant family. I was now playing an integral part of shaping a toddler, along with his mum and dad. I eventually moved into an office based role in the city, to be home every night and have more flexibility to be there for the little man in my life. I learnt more patience, how to optimise space in a young boys room & always find the missing sock (usually stuck in a toy draw). 

Now, mum to baby boy, on maternity leave, figuring out how to ‘switch off’ the work part of my brain and be present with my completely new lifestyle which revolves around the ‘breastfeeding’ spot on my couch (easier said than done!). So these days, I still try out new restaurants, via the Uber Eats app.

Are you still that person? How has motherhood inspired or changed you? Any light bulb moments?

There have been so many versions of me over the past few years that I don’t think I could comment to whether “I'm still that person”. I can still relate to pieces of each version of myself, but honestly, I am a different person and sometimes I’m OK with that, and sometimes I’m not. I've never been great at ‘self-care’ routines, doing face masks, or going for a massage. Since having my baby boy, I’ve realised how much more effort I need to put into sustainable self-care, to ensure I am well to look after the boys, but also to role model to them the importance of prioritising your self physical and emotional health. 

Tell us what you thought motherhood would be like before you became a mother? 

I thought motherhood would be long nights (true), constant managing and reassessing my own expectations (true), a lot of laundry (true) and overwhelming sense of purpose and enveloping love (true). 

What’s in your baby bag right now?

Let me list off the standard items:

And the not-so-standard:

    • Klipsta clip attached to my bag to help carry the bits and bobs I accumulate (like my step sons jumper he no longer wants to wear)
    • A couple of compact lightweight shopping bags that scrunch up very small. Become my all purpose ‘bags for stuff’ when I don’t have the energy to repack the nappy bag when out, or for actual shopping!
    • A compact travel towel. This is my emergency burp cloth or change mat when mine get dirty. Or it's to wipe off the kids when they get dirty, or an alternative picnic rug to sit on if we can't find a seat somewhere. I’m a big fan of anything multi-purpose use.

Designated baby bag, nappy bag backpack or your handbag with baby things packed in it. What’s your style?

I am an over planner – I have a designated baby backpack for my car, plus another backpack for my husband, and then a baby bag handbag with the bare essentials for little trips out of the house.

My style is to be over-prepared with everything pre-packed so I can grab and go.

Let’s talk looking effortlessly chic even after having a baby. We know this is an area that many women including ourselves find challenging, dressing our new postpartum bodies and reconciling our personal style with motherhood. Do you have any advice for new mums?  

If you are still pregnant, my advice would be to stop buying ‘maternity’ clothes, but rather buy nursing clothes. Most nursing clothes will stretch/accommodate your bump, and then become so much more functional and wearable as you can still wear them after the arrival of your baby. By investing in some chic nursing clothes while pregnant, and getting comfortable wearing them, you have some go-to outfits for your new post-baby life. I found this made my transition a lot easier. I'm in Perth and there is a little store called “Room for Two” that I absolutely love and always find some beautiful but simple pieces I can dress up or down during my breastfeeding journey.

Pre-motherhood I lived in jeans, which of course, don’t currently fit my post baby body. But jeans make me feel like me. So once I felt up to a shopping trip, I went out, bought new jeans (and yes, they were bigger than before), put them on, and suddenly I felt like myself and that I could conquer the day.

Find the staple piece of clothing that makes you feel like you (or maybe it's an accessory), go out and buy it to fit your current body and wear that every day if you need to!

Baby shower, gender reveal or baby blessing? Did you have either one of these? Tell us about it! 

I had a baby shower, which on the day turned into a very different day than what was planned due to some residential covid restrictions brought in two days before my party. Out the door went the plans of hosting friends and family in my newly renovated backyard, and instead a picnic style, bring-your-own-camping-chair event down at my local oval, with a couple of fold out tables covered with finger food. But at the end of the day, it was lovely, I had my family, friends and partners down at the oval, sun came out to shine, the boys kicked the footy around, lots of chat, a couple of games and cake was enjoyed.

We’re always on the lookout for interesting baby shower gift ideas. What were some of the best baby gifts you received? 

The most interesting gift I got was an amazing pool floatation device that my boy will get strapped into, keep him upright and be able to safely play in the water with us. And it has a built-in shade! We will certainly be using it a lot come next summer.

What is your go-to baby gift that you give to others?

I'm a fairly practical person, so my go-to present is a nappy cake, with a few trinkets, like the B&E wipes pouch & nappy bag dispenser. The parents-to-be will get lots of toys and adorable outfits, but parents will do 150-200 nappy changes in the first 2 weeks! So nappies are always an essential (whether it be disposable or cloth), which I then wrap with ribbon and add in the extra pieces.

What baby products could you not live without? 

A bouncer and a carrier. Without either, we could not have survived the ‘fourth’ trimester. 

What advice would you give to a first-time mum shopping for all the baby stuff? How do you wade through all the noise and know what you truly need? 

My advice, you still have time after the baby comes to shop!

I don’t think people reiterate this enough, you don’t need it all prior to the baby coming, so keep it simple when it comes to your baby gift registry.
Once baby comes, and you realise there is something else you need, I'm sure you will already have friends and family who would love for you to call them up and ask for them to pop out to the shops on your behalf to pick it up.
But be prepared to have bought something for your baby that they just hate and then you will never use. For us, it was a newborn bath and turns out my boy hates baths! We had to take him into the shower with us to clean him and keep him calm, very slowly building up to eventually getting him into a bath.

Hospital bag saviours – was there something that you wish you didn’t pack but wish you had? 

Dry Shampoo – you might want to wash your hair to feel fresh and get a nice photo to leave the hospital, but for me, that was too much effort. Take dry shampoo, that will do the trick!

If you could go back to a pregnant you and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Start maternity leave just a bit earlier, take some time to wind down, switch off work mode, settle into home and book in a couple of pregnancy massages.
(I only got 5 days of leave before my boy came early).

What kind of mum are you now – can you describe your parenting style in three words?

“Less is more”

What is the best lesson motherhood has taught you?

Motherhood has reminded me of the importance of meaningful relationships in my life. I want my boys to grow up seeing healthy happy family and friendship connections with the people around us and aspire to have that for themselves. This sometimes means letting go of relationships with some people, in order to share more valuable relationships with those closest to me and my family.

Any final advice or words of wisdom for pregnant or new mums reading this?

Take pictures not only of their smiles and laughs, but also their tears and grumpy sad faces, these are just as memorable and special to look back on.

March 01, 2023 — Julie Rout