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Baby Shower & Registry
How to Choose a Diaper Bag

As a parent, you want to be prepared for anything and everything when you head out the door with your baby, whether it’s for that doctor's checkup, a long-awaited trip to Grandma's house, or a walk in the park. One item you really can’t go without is a well-stocked diaper bag, equipped with all the essentials you need to keep your baby happy, clean, and dry. Read on to discover why a diaper bag is a must-have, what to pack in it, and how to pack it for optimum convenience.

Why You Might Need a Diaper Bag

“Do I really need a diaper bag?” is a question you might have been asking yourself when putting together your baby shower registry or shopping for baby gear.

Technically, you could get away with using a backpack or tote bag you already have at home, but if you’re looking for something more specific to the task, there are plenty of great shoulder diaper bags or backpack diaper bags on the market that are designed for carrying your diapering gear and other essentials for your baby.

Many diaper bags include extra features like changing pads or cooler bags to help keep breast milk or baby food chilled when you’re on the go. Most diaper bags come with lots of pockets and compartments. And, with some diaper bags, you don’t even need to carry a separate handbag or purse, as there’s a parent pocket or pouch for stowing your phone, wallet, and keys.

When it comes to the look, some diaper bags are disguised as normal backpacks or totes, with a modern and neutral design, while others come in a sweet pattern or shade you'd expect to see in a diaper bag. Take your pick!

With a diaper bag, you can have everything at your fingertips, and this can be really helpful when you’re trying to change your squirming baby or feed your hungry little one. Of course, the way you organize your diaper bag can make a difference too.

What to Pack in Your Diaper Bag

The must-haves you need to pack in your diaper bag depend on where you’re going, the weather, and how long you'll be out and about for. In this section, we list the basic diaper bag essentials as well as some diaper bag extras you might consider adding. Beyond these, consider what you might need to keep your baby comfortable based on what you’re doing and any special needs you and your little one might have.

Diaper Bag Essentials

Below is a list of diaper bag essentials, perfect for a quick outing, a day trip, or even an overnight stay:

  • Diapers. Pack one diaper in your diaper bag for every two or three hours you'll be away, plus one or two extras just in case.

  • Wipes. A great option: Pampers wipes, which are designed for your baby’s sensitive skin. Some wipes come in a travel-size pack, which could be useful if space is at a premium in your diaper bag.

  • Diaper rash cream. Choose a travel-size diaper rash cream to save space. You can also use petroleum jelly or a barrier ointment to help prevent diaper rash.

  • Changing pad. Most diaper bags come with one, but if not, throw in a changing pad or a few disposable pads, as you never know where you'll end up needing to change your baby.

  • Hand sanitizer. Just in case you can't wash your hands before and after a diaper change, or before feeding your baby.

  • Nursing cover. Nursing covers are really versatile. They're handy for extra privacy when breastfeeding, and they can also be used as a light blanket or to throw over the stroller for added sun protection.

  • Burp cloths. Pack one or two burp cloths or even washcloths for your baby’s spit-up, or for wiping up spills.

  • Bottles and feeding supplies. If you are using them, pack baby bottles and other feeding supplies like bottle nipples, pre-made formula (or powdered formula for mixing later), or a portable bottle warmer.

  • Food, snacks, and water. If your baby is eating baby food, pack as much of it as you’ll need. If you have an older baby or toddler, pack some travel-friendly snacks, like O-shaped cereal or fish-shaped crackers, as well as water. You may want to pack some snacks and water for yourself as well.

  • Pacifier. If you use a pacifier for your baby, store it in a re-sealable bag to keep it sanitary.

  • Waterproof bag. This will come in handy for wet or soiled clothing or a dirty burp cloth.

  • Change of clothes. This is especially important for day trips or an overnight stay, but even on a short outing your little one can have a poop explosion that requires a quick change of clothes. Don’t forget extra socks.

  • Nursing pads. Tuck a few of these into your bag, and then into your bra, to help with breast milk leaks.

  • Wallet and phone. If you're not taking your purse, transfer your phone and wallet, and any other must-haves like keys, to your diaper bag, preferably in an easy-to-access pocket or pouch so you can find them when you need them.

Diaper Bag Add-ons

Going out with your baby can be unpredictable—sometimes having the essentials isn’t enough. With practice, you’ll get to know which items are crucial and what you can go without, as well as how to recognize what extras you’ll need based on things like the weather and how long you’ll be out for. To help you get started, take your diaper bag to the next level with the following add-ons:

  • Blanket. Use it for extra shade over your baby stroller’s canopy, for added warmth in cooler weather, or for extra cushioning under your baby’s changing pad.

  • Extra layering. You may want to pack an extra layer for your little one, like a light sweater for chilly spring nights or a thicker jacket for winter.

  • Sunscreen. It’s a good idea to have sunscreen on hand, though keeping your little one out of direct sunlight, and protecting her with clothing and a wide brimmed hat, is the best strategy.

  • Hat. In winter, you’ll want to have a warm knitted hat for your baby, and in summer a wide-brimmed hat to protect him from the sun.

  • Toys. If you’re going somewhere where you suspect your little one might get bored, pack a favorite plush animal, a board book, a rattle, or a teething toy.

  • Bandages. You never know when your baby or toddler will end up with a scrape or a scratch, especially if you’re headed to the playground. Have some bandages on hand for any little accident. The cartoon character kind (or something colorful or sparkly) will definitely help make his booboo feel better. If you have a small portable first-aid kit you could pack that.

  • Sleep suit. If you’re taking an overnight trip with your little one, don’t forget to pack her pajamas, sleep suit, or wearable blanket.

  • Bib. Whether you’re bottle feeding your baby or you’re already feeding him solids, you’ll want a bib to keep the mess at bay.

  • Extra shirt. Whether breast milk leaked or you got covered in spit-up while burping your baby, having an extra shirt on hand might save the day from time to time.

Diaper Bag Packing Tips

Packing your diaper bag needs to be strategic. You don’t just want to throw everything in there, because you’ll be kicking yourself later when you struggle to find something while juggling your wriggly baby. Organization is key especially when you need something fast, like a burp cloth when your baby spits up, or the pacifier that somehow migrated to the bottom of your diaper bag.

Here are some tips for packing and organizing your diaper bag so everything is easy to access and reach:

  • Organize by category. Your diaper bag shouldn’t be like a black hole. Instead, keep things in the right spot, so that you know where to look to find them. If your diaper bag has pockets and compartments, decide what you will put where and always have these items in their regular spots. If the bag you’re using doesn’t have many compartments, use small bags, like clear re-sealable plastic bags, to pack different categories of items together. For example, pacifiers and bottle nipples in one bag, diaper changing items in another.

  • Portion bottles. If you’re formula feeding with powdered formula, measure out the formula and water and store them separately for mixing when your baby is ready for a feed. If you’re giving breast milk from a bottle, keep bottles of the appropriate amounts in a cooler.

  • Stop leaks. No matter how well you’ve packed your baby’s milk, the water bottle for yourself, or the baby sunscreen, leaks are bound to happen. No one wants to be digging around in a wet, icky bag. The best idea is to pack each of these potentially leaky items in a re-sealable plastic bag so that if a leak does happen, it’ll just go in the bag and not all over the contents of your diaper bag.

FAQs at a Glance

  • Pack one diaper in your diaper bag for every two or three hours you plan to be away, plus one or two extra diapers just in case.
    So, for example, if you plan to be away for a couple of hours, pack three diapers.

  • The following are some essential items you might consider packing in your baby’s diaper bag:


    • Diapers
    • Wipes
    • Diaper rash cream
    • Changing pad
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Nursing cover
    • Burp cloths
    • Bottles and feeding supplies
    • Food, snacks, and water
    • Pacifier
    • Waterproof bag
    • Change of clothes
    • Nursing pads
    • Wallet and phone

The Bottom Line

A diaper bag can make life with your baby or toddler much easier. With everything organized and in its place, you can feel totally equipped to head out with your little one.