Busy parents know, you’ve gotta have your gear. And whether this is your first baby or fifth, every now and then we all need a refresher on packing the perfectly functional diaper bag. Not only that, but with all the cool options on the market these days, picking which bag to buy or add to your baby registry is a big decision in itself. 

Some days with Baby will bring blow-outs and snack breaks; others will bring tantrums and wardrobe malfunctions. No matter what today has in store, you’ll be ready with a little planning. From actual diapers and wipes to those sneaky necessities you might not have thought of, here’s the nitty gritty on keeping everything you need when you’re on the go with babies (or toddlers!) in tow. 

The Best Diaper Bag Style for You

This is a matter of personal preference, but there are some important factors to explore.

Over-the-Shoulder Diaper Bags

If you’re a first-time parent who’s just getting the hang of things and wants to be over-prepared, or a city mom who can strap your bag over your stroller handles anytime you leave home, you might opt in for a classic large over-the-shoulder diaper bag. These bags are extra roomy but don’t offer as much hands-free ease unless you’re using a sturdy stroller.  

Backpack-Style Diaper Bags

Second-time mamas who have a streamlined system in place, or those who prefer to have their hands free will likely be happier with a backpack style. These are the epitome of convenience and often don’t “look” like diaper bags (ahem: cool girl, you’re still in there!), but they don’t always have as much space inside for a ton of stuff. 

Convertible Diaper Bags

Another option is a convertible diaper bag featuring straps that can be worn over one shoulder, cross-body style, or as a backpack. If opting into this adjustable and very practical diaper bag, just make sure you try it on in the store first before committing. Some positions might be more comfortable than others and you want to make sure you like how it fits and feels in the settings you’re most likely to use. 

Where to Shop for a Diaper Bag

Department stores tend to offer pricier, high-quality diaper bags of all styles. Amazon, Target, and other affordable retailers are churning out more and more cool contenders all the time. Read lots of reviews (negative and positive) in detail before committing to a bag. Also, talk to your circle to see if any friends who are parents have a preference. A diaper bag is an investment, and you want yours to be a good one. 

Speaking of investments, if you plan to rock a designer diaper bag, always check The Real Real for secondhand options or Gilt.com for steep discounts on last season’s merch before spending thousands on something that is ultimately going to end up covered in pee and encrusted with goldfish crackers. (Thank us later!)

Diaper Bag Must-Have Features

No matter what brand or style of diaper bag you choose, make sure it has the following features and components:

  • Temperature-regulating pocket or pouch to keep bottles cool or warm 
  • Changing pad 
  • Multiple pockets for bottles, cups, etc 
  • Wipes access sleeve 
  • Interior zip pocket for storing valuable items when you aren’t carrying your purse 

What to Pack in a Diaper Bag

There are items that your diaper bag should be stocked with at all times and others that should be checked on and restocked or changed out at various intervals, as detailed below.

Diaper Bag Staples 

Here are some anytime essentials to consider keeping your diaper bag stocked with:

  • Diapers (7-10)
  • Wipes (full pack or 2 small packs)
  • Diaper cream
  • Pacifiers in a protective case (2)
  • Extra outfit or bodysuit
  • Sweatshirt or cardigan for air conditioning 
  • Socks 
  • Burp cloths (2)
  • Nursing cover / muslin swaddle 
  • Empty bottles (2)
  • Powdered formula if Baby takes formula (2-3 bottles’ worth measured out)
  • Bibs (2)
  • Container of Puffs, packet of teething crackers, or other non-perishable snacks from 6 months up
  • Sunscreen
  • Teething toy
  • Rattle or light-up toy
  • Soft book
  • Coloring book or busy book for toddler
  • Chapstick or lip gloss (for you!)
  • Book or Kindle in case Baby falls asleep and you get a moment to yourself! 

Diaper Bag Inserts 

Keep a zip-lock bag or small plastic pouch in the nursery or kitchen for easy grab-and-go. This can be tossed in your diaper bag—or any other bag—quickly on your way out the door each morning. It should contain:

  • Extra diapers (2-3)
  • Spare bodysuit 
  • Applesauce or yogurt pouches (for babies/toddlers 6 months+)
  • Frozen baggies of breast milk if adding to a bottle
  • Pre-measured water in bottles for formula bottles on the go

Get Into a Foolproof Diaper Bag Routine

At the end of the day (well, and the beginning!), a well-stocked diaper bag comes down to a little bit of prep work… but the effort is so worth it. Get in a loose version of the following routine to keep yourself feeling prepared and calm at home and on-the-go, no matter what a day with Baby brings your way.

Evening Rundown

After your daily adventures, briefly go through the diaper bag and remove any snack wrappers and other trash, dirty bibs or bottles, etc., and refresh them with new or clean ones. Every once in a while, use this moment to give the inside of your diaper bag a quick swipe with a baby wipe or a paper towel spritzed with natural all-purpose spray to rid any surface germs or general funk. Restock whatever you’re low on and place your diaper bag by the front door.

Morning Ramp Up

Do a quick sweep of your diaper bag to make sure that no old snacks, dirty clothes, etc. remain inside (especially if you didn’t clear it out last night!) and toss those where they need to go. Re-stock your bag with your daily inserts and hit the road. Easy!

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.