One of the first things you probably added to your baby registry was a diaper bag. My personal favorite: the Convertible Backpack from NursElet, because two words: machine washable. I also love my ToteSavvy insert for when I want to carry one of totes I already own. Either way, you’ve got your bag…at least I assume you do, because why else would you be reading this? Back to the bag. It’s great. It has all the pockets, all the compartments, all the places to tuck away the essentials you need while you’re out and about with your babe. It’s perfect. But what the heck do you PUT in it?
How you pack your bag will vary based on a variety of things. Depending on how many tiny humans you’re packing for, the ages of those tiny humans, where you live, where you plan to go and how you long you plan to be there will determine what you need. And also what you don’t need.
Let’s start with the basics.
These are things that need to be restocked/replaced when used.
Diapers…because it’s called a diaper bag for a reason. You know you need them, but how many? I usually pack 1 diaper for every 2 hours I plan to be out, and then toss in an extra one (#becausekids).
*Pro tip: I also keep a small zipper pouch with one diaper, a changing pad, a travel size diaper cream and a onesie in the car at ALL times, tucked into the pocket on the back of my seat.
Wet/Dry Bag. If you’re cloth diapering, you’re going to want to have a separate bag to put the dirty ones in so they don’t touch the rest of the stuff in your bag. Even if you’re using disposable diapers a wet/dry bag is a good thing to have and something I always carry with me. If your baby has a blow out or your toddler is like mine and is a magnet for mud, you need a place to stick those dirty, wet clothes. You can pick up a three pack for under $15 on Amazon. Even when you’re no longer toting a diaper bag, you’ll still use your wet/dry bags. In the summer they’re perfect for storing a wet swimsuit or take one yourself to bring to the gym. If neutral isn’t your style, green sprouts has some fun designs.
Wipes. Not just for wiping baby butts. I like Bets & Emy wipes because they’re 99.9% water and 0.1% citrus extract, with no fragrances, oils or alcohol. That means they’re safe for EVERYTHING. You can use them on your face, for your toddler’s sticky hands, to wipe off your dashboard while you’re sitting in the school pick-up line…you get the idea.
Spare Outfit. Because spit-up. And blow outs. Enough said. Don’t forget the socks, because you’ll always lose one.
Burp Cloth. This is especially important if your baby has reflux. My oldest did not and very rarely spit up. My youngest spit up after every time I fed her for months. This will help prevent lots of shirt changes (and explanations for those weird stains) for you.
Bottles/Formula. Just like with diapers, the amount you pack will depend on how long you plan to be out. The small pre-made bottles of formula are great for traveling. These formula containers work well to portion it out so you don’t have to bring the entire can, and they’re very inexpensive.
Sippy Cup. If you’re past the bottle stage, you’re not off the hook. You’re just going to trade them in for sippy cups. We like the stainless steel bottles from Nuby. They’re leak-proof and unlike plastic, don’t leave your water tasting funky after a few hours. They also keep things colder, longer. They are however a littler noisier when dropped…just warning you.
Bib. Whether it’s just for drool or your baby likes to use yogurt for styling their hair like mine does, a bib will hopefully keep that spare onesie you packed away from getting used too soon.
Snacks. Now that you’re a parent, you have essentially become a vending machine. You’d be amazed at how well a handful of Goldfish can curb even the worst tantrum. Hands down the best snack cup in the universe is the Munchie Mug. My oldest daughter has had hers for two years and we still use it almost every day. The top is made of fabric, not hard plastic and completely covers the opening, so no stale snacks. If you’re not planning to dig in soon, it also comes with a screw-on cap, keeping those precious morsels fresh until you need them. The handle has an opening so you can use a tether like the Lil’ Sidekick to keep it secure and prevent drops. (Though even if this thing hits the floor, the snacks stay contained…ask me…I have video evidence).
Seasonal Items. Remember when I said it’ll depend on where you live? If you live in Florida you’re going to pack a little differently in January than someone who lives in Michigan. You won’t always need sunscreen (just remember your baby has to be at least 6 months old to use it) or a winter hat, so plan accordingly based on the elements.
What Stays In The Bag.
Changing Pad. Most diaper bags come with this. I actually have yet to find one that doesn’t. Just leave it in the bag. Wipe it down as needed. If you happen to lose it or just want a spare, they do sell them separately and they’re less than $10.
Diaper Cream. Don’t travel without this stuff. I did. Never again. Especially if it’s more than just quick trip. Regardless of whether you’re using the standard Desitin or you prefer an organic variety like this one from The Honest Company, I always recommend the Tush Swiper! It’s a diaper cream applicator that prevents you from having to get that sticky stuff all over your hands. I’ve changed one too many diapers in the back of my car with no sink in sight. Not only does it keep your hands clean, it’s antimicrobial, too.
Nursing Cover. If you’re breastfeeding and want a little privacy, you’ll want to keep a nursing cover in your bag. I love this one from NursElet because not only is it a nursing cover, it also functions as a shopping cart/high chair cover as well as a car seat cover. I’ve used it as a blanket, too.
Blanket. If you’re not nursing and therefore don’t carry a nursing cover, a light blanket is something you should always have on hand. You want to have a place to set your baby down, or something to cover them with if it gets chilly.
Pacifier. Babies suck…literally. My first daughter couldn’t function without her pacifier. My youngest was practically born sucking her thumb. If yours is the pacifier-type, you’ll want to have one specifically for the diaper bag so you NEVER forget it. Keep a pacifier clip attached so it doesn’t get lost. A pacifier pouch, while not absolutely necessary, will keep it from picking up lint, crumbs and whatever else is floating around in that bag. Or you could try the Doddle & Co Pop Pacifier that pops right back into itself, no separate pouch required.
Teethers/Toys. Aside from being a snack master, you’ll also find that you become your child’s entertainer. Make sure your bag is filled with things to keep them busy in case you get stuck waiting in line somewhere or find yourself in a place where it’s not ideal to have a wailing baby. For teething babies, I love the Munch Mitt. It straps right onto your baby’s hand and they can gnaw away. We also really like the ChewBox teethers from The Evolved Parent Co. While it may be temping to hand over your keys, think about where they’ve been. And then ask yourself the last time you washed them. Mmhmm…thought so. Kleynimals are a great alternative to your own keys, without the risk of the panic button being pushed. Let’s face it, babies are not fooled by those colorful plastic toy keys anyway. For older toddlers, I highly recommend Melissa & Doug On The Go Water Wow! books. They’re reusable coloring books that work with a special water marker, so no need to worry about your kid going rogue on a waiting room wall. At less than $5 a piece, they’re well worth it.
Health & Safety.
For a quick trip to the grocery store, you can probably survive without the infant Tylenol, thermometer and nail clippers. But for longer adventures, be sure to have these things with you.
Nail clippers. Babies’ nails grow fast. Like wolverine fast. Be prepared. We’ve survived almost 4 years with this 2-pack of clippers from Safety 1st – I keep one in the diaper bag and one in the medicine cupboard. How I haven’t lost a pair still blows my mind. They make much fancier versions, but these cheap ones work just fine. Chances are you won’t be lucky like me and you’ll lose them anyway.
Thermometer. Again, this is unnecessary for a quick outing, but if you’re going for a weekend or longer, bring the thermometer. Fevers can come out of nowhere. I really like the Kinsa Smart Stick Digital Thermometer because it’s super small and very reliable. It uses your smartphone to record the temperatures so you can keep track and even offers advice for when you should call the Pediatrician or head to the ER.
Tylenol/Motrin. When that random fever does spike, you’re going to want one or both of these on hand to help bring it down. Most of the infant/children’s varieties will come with the dosing dropper.
Tissues/Nasal Aspirator. If your kid can blow their nose, you’re over one of the hardest parts of parenting. Okay, maybe not. But there’s nothing worse than a stuffy nose in a baby that can’t do anything about it. So tissues for older kiddos who can blow their nose, and a snot sucker for those who haven’t figured it out yet. When I first saw the NoseFrida I was grossed out. But it WORKS.
Other Medications. Things like gas drops, gripe water, or anything else you may need depending on your baby’s needs. Little Remedies makes a nice infant essentials pack that has all of that stuff. I was able to find one that came with a travel pouch or you can just use a Ziploc bag.
Your Own Stuff.
Don’t forget, you’re sharing this bag with your baby. So make sure you choose one that has enough pockets for your things, too.
You probably don’t leave the house without your wallet, keys, phone, etc. But now that you’re a parent you will have to add a few things to your list.
Nursing Pads. You know how in the movies when a lactating mom hears another baby cry and soaks through her shirt? That really happens. I prefer reusable pads, but they do make disposables as well. Chances are you’ll get lots of samples from your OB or at baby shows, so I just tuck those in the diaper bag.
Snacks. Wait, that’s already on the list. No. I’m not talking about your kids’ snacks. These are for you. Especially if you’re breastfeeding, you’re going to be hungry – all. the. time. Just make sure they’re not perishable or easily squished…because you’ll forget they’re in there. Protein bars, almonds and raisins are a few of my favorite go-to snacks.
Water bottle. For the same reason as above. You need hydration, too.
Spare outfit. Ummm…that one is already on the list, too. Again, this one is for you. Maybe not a whole outfit, but I always have an extra shirt in the bottom of my bag. Because that burp cloth you thought was going to catch the spit up? It doesn’t always catch the spit up.
Phew. That list looks long. That list IS long. You probably won’t use all of it every time you venture out. But you’d better believe the one time you leave something at home, that’s going to be the time you need it.
For times you don’t want to lug the bag with everything, keeping a ‘quick trip’ bag packed is a good idea, too. The Basic Baby tote looks like a regular tote bag, but has pockets inside for the bare minimum essentials (diapers, wipes, a bottle) and you can just toss your keys, wallet and phone in the bottom. I use this when I have to run to the post office or the bank and I know I won’t be gone long.
Is there something you always keep in your diaper bag that I didn’t mention here? Leave a comment below!
For a printable version of this list, click the image here: