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Diaper Bag Essentials: What to Pack So You’re Always Prepared

Having a well-stocked diaper bag is clutch when it comes to keeping your little one happy and healthy on the go.

Unless you have a magical bag like Mary Poppins though, you may wonder what exactly you need and what you can do without—or even what type of diaper bag is the best. You want to be prepared but also not have an overflowing mess.

Jenny Pearson, RN, a childbirth educator at Banner Health, shared tips on what you really need in your diaper bag to be ready for anything.

Start with the right bag

Diaper bags are designed to hold baby gear and essentials, but there are so many options when it comes to size, style and even price. While most of us can’t afford a $10,000 Hermes Birkin bag – the world’s most expensive diaper bag – there are some special features to think about before you make a purchase.

Versatility: “You’ll want a ‘shareable’ look so you and your partner feel comfortable holding and carrying it,” Pearson said. There are several types of diaper bags, but backpacks are a comfortable, convenient and hands-free option. There are also convertible bags that can work as a backpack, tote or messenger bag.

Size: Purchase a bag with plenty of space because you’ll always end up needing more room than you think.

Easy to clean: Life can be messy, but with little ones, it’s guaranteed. Look for machine-washable diaper bags or ones that are easy to wipe clean.

Insulated pockets: Everyone loves pockets to keep their things organized and handy but look for a bag that includes insulated pockets so you can keep a prepped bottle cold.

Other bonuses: You can purchase these separately, but some diaper bags come with special clips that can attach to the handlebar of your stroller and changing pads that fold out right from the bag for an instant changing station.

Pack the essentials

As the name implies, you know you’ll need lots of diapers for that bag—and some wipes and diaper cream, but here is a full checklist of essential items to have ready to go:

  • Diapers: Plan on one diaper every two to three hours as a newborn, and less frequently as they get older. This can ensure they stay clean and dry and prevent diaper rash.
  • Wipes: Choose water-based ones that are free of dyes, scents and alcohol.
  • Changing pad: You may not have access to a changing table, so have a changing pad that is easy to clean after each diaper change.
  • A soft blanket, swaddle and burp cloth: You can use these for nursing, naptime and spit-ups.
  • Change of clothes: This can help for any spills or blow-outs that may occur while you’re out
  • Disposable bags: These can hold dirty clothes and diapers.
  • Hand sanitizer: Pack a bottle in your diaper bag, and make sure to use it after diaper changes and before you or anyone else touches your little one.
  • Small first aid kit: You can buy a small first aid kit or DIY. Include Band-Aids and antibiotic ointment for cuts and scrapes and tweezers for splinters.
  • Hat and sunscreen: Bring whenever you’ll be out in the sun—warm or cold weather. Sun protection is important at every age, but especially babies under six months of age.
  • Nursing gear: If you’re breastfeeding, pack a couple nursing pads and nursing cover. “You can also pack refrigerated or frozen breast milk with an ice pack or use the insulated pouch,” Pearson said. If you’re formula feeding, pack pre-portioned dispensers and bottled water.
  • Parent essentials: This may include your wallet, phone and car keys.

Add in extras based on age

“As your baby grows, so will their needs,” Pearson said.

Here is a breakdown of things you may need based on your child’s age:

  • Newborn to 6 months: pacifiers, small portable sound machine
  • 6 months to 12 months: pacifiers (if they still use one), sippy cup, baby-friendly foods and snacks for on the go, toys and books
  • 1 year old and older: sippy cup, spoon, healthy snacks, toys and books

Restock your diaper bag every time you come home

You don’t want to be caught without an extra outfit or diaper after a major diaper blowout or spit up. Designate a spot in your house where you can unload snacks and dirty items and reload with fresh items.

If you forget something, that’s OK! Worst-case scenario, maybe you have a parent friend who can lend a hand, or you can always make a pit stop at the store.

Bottom line

A diaper bag can make life with a baby or toddler much easier. You may not wield an umbrella and carpenter bag, but even Mary Poppins would be proud of your well-stocked diaper bag.

Did we miss anything on the list? Are there other essentials you can’t live without? Share in the comments.

For other parenting tips, check out:

Parenting Pregnancy Children's Health