Diaper Bag Essentials
Your diaper bag is going to be your lifesaver when you’re on the road! From dealing with poop explosions to sudden tantrums, your diaper bag is going to get you through those unexpected, messy realities.
Since your diaper bag is a mini version of your baby’s room, it can be difficult to decide:
- What to put into it AND
- How to fit it all in
What do you actually need in your diaper bag? What are your diaper bag essentials?
It depends on your child’s age, how long you’ll be out of the house, and where you’re going. It can be as complicated as packing your hospital bag.
Here’s my diaper bag checklist. It applies for newborns to toddlers. I’ve also included a list of additional good to have items if you like to be even more prepared for unexpected events.
Before I get into the checklist, I’m going to talk about what diaper bag I recommend because it’s the most important part…
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Best Diaper Bag
My first diaper bag was a messenger bag, which only had a few compartments – only 1 of which had a zipper. It worked fine for trips to the doctor’s and play dates. When I was planning a flight across the country with the baby, I quickly realized this diaper bag wouldn’t do.
I needed a bag with:
- Way more sealed, functional pockets to keep things secure, separate and easy to locate
- A backpack configuration so I could be completely hands-free
- Gender neutral colors so her dad could use it comfortably
- A back anti-theft pocket so I didn’t have to worry about guarding my valuables
The Ferlin travel diaper backpack is the one I ended up buying. I love this backpack. It was the best one that fit my needs at the time.
If I were to pick now, I would instead select this one. This bag is very similar to the Ferlin backpack – even down to the comfortable ergonomic straps, BUT it has a laptop/tablet specific pocket. During my maternity leave, I often found myself carrying both my diaper backpack and my laptop bag. Having an all-in-one would be ideal!
Now that we’ve discussed the diaper bag, here’s the checklist for what to include within it…
Diaper Bag Checklist: 18 Must Haves
Diaper Necessities in the Diaper Bag
1. Diapers (2 diapers + an additional 1-2 for every hour you’re out)
2. Wipes (At least 10 if you’re out for 1-2 hours and up to 30 if you’re gone for the whole day. Baby poop explosions can use 5+ wipes. Wipes are also handy for wiping off dirty surfaces, the change pad and your hands after a change.
3. Portable Changing pad for if you need to place your baby on the washroom changing table. This is probably already included in your diaper bag. If you don’t have one, I love this Kushies Baby Deluxe Change pad. It’s better than the one that came with my diaper bag and most changing pads because it’s much larger. It’s also soft and easily washable.
4. Plastic or biodegradable bags for dirty diapers, new or used pacifiers and bottle nipples.
5. Reusable cloth zipper bag for soiled clothes and cloth items. I previously used plastic bags for this purpose, but I’ve since bought this Skip Hop Grab and Go Wet/Dry Bag. It’s got 2 pouches – one for wet/dirty clothes and another for new/replacement clothes. It’s worked well. I’ve heard it doesn’t hold dirty diapers well so I wouldn’t use it for this purpose.
6. Change of clothes for baby in case your baby has a diaper explosion or vomits etc. Don’t forget to include socks.
It might even be worthwhile to include 2 outfits. I was once stuck on the highway for hours waiting for a tow truck and my baby went through 2 poop explosions. We had only brought 1 change of clothes so she ended up being naked for the ride back. Now we always include 2 outfits just in case!
Food Necessities in the Diaper Backpack
7. Food and snacks:
- Formula and bottles if you bottle-feed
- Snacks and water if your baby is eating solids e.g.organic puffs (looks like cheese puffs, but is a healthier snack) or premade food pouches. I didn’t use these all the time because I wanted to expose her to different foods. It was a convenient way to feed her a good serving of fruits or vegetables when things got busy!
8. Baby’s cup if he or she is drinking water: We were initially thinking of getting a traditional sippy cup, but then we heard it can cause tooth decay and speech issues. The recommendation was to give babies regular cups, but naturally, water spilled everywhere!
That’s why we love this trainer cup because it’s exactly like a regular cup except there are minimal spills! The baby drinks from the rim like any regular cup. It’s only when you tilt the cup and apply pressure to the inside rim that liquid comes out. Your baby can whip it around or throw it on the ground – maybe a few drops will come out, but that’s it!
9. Snack catcher so your little one can feed independently. Alternatively, you could use other containers like ziplock bags for storing snacks.
11. Nursing cover/receiving blanket: I love these Aden and Anais muslin blankets as they are super versatile and can be used as a swaddle, burping cloth, a nursing cover, a tummy time mat, a changing pad cover, a car seat/stroller cover, general blanket etc.
Toys for the Diaper Bag
Depending on your child’s age, bring toys to keep your little one entertained. Whether you’re at a restaurant or running errands, having toys in your diaper bag helps distract and stimulate your child’s growing mind.
13. Pacifiers, teethers if your baby uses pacifiers or teethers. Consider bringing multiple and have a clip-on so they don’t fall on the ground.
14. Books: I like to put a few different books in my daughter’s diaper bag:
- Baby Touch and Feel Animals book: This is the board book my baby loves the most! She likes flipping the pages and touching the different textures e.g. puppy fur. It’s durable and she can’t chew the pages as easily as other books.
- Usborne Peep Inside Collection 6 Books Box Set: This is a very colorful and engaging series. It’s for older toddlers, but I’ve been reading it to my daughter since she was a month or 2. The books are about dinosaurs, animal homes, the zoo, night time, the garden, and the farm. I love reading these with her! There’s good information for her to know. The illustrations are beautiful. She loves touching the holes and moving the flaps.
15. Toys that clip on: These Lamaze toys are great because they can be clipped onto the diaper bag so they don’t take up space. They’re a great way to distract and entertain kids under 1.
Safety Products for the Diaper Pack
17. Sunglasses if your kid keeps these on
18. Kids sunscreen (for babies over 6 months)
13 Additional Diaper Bag Essentials for Mom, Dad and Baby
If you have space, here are some good-to-have items. Depending on how your baby’s doing and where you’re going (e.g. if he or she recently had a diaper rash or you’re going to the park where you’re anticipating a lot of mosquitoes), you can add things as you see fit.
1. Diaper cream (travel size)
2. Nail clippers: Your baby’s nails grow so fast. To keep with frequently cutting and filing her nails, I found it easier to set the routine of clipping her nails in the morning every few days. I know some moms love including their nail clippers in the diaper bag. If you’re looking for a great nail clipper set that’s designed for little nails (e.g. clipper are dull so there’s no possibility of cutting your little one), I love this nail set .
3. Nursing supplies e.g. breast pads, cream if you need them although I never used these
4. Insect repellent
5. Portable placemat: This silicone placemat has a scoop, which makes it great for catching food before it falls on the ground. Sometimes I even use it on my dining room table just because of the scoop feature!
This placemat is ideal for restaurant outings because the surface is silicone so food doesn’t slip and slide around. There are suction cups so the mat can’t be easily removed. You can also feel comfortable knowing your kid is eating off a surface you personally know is clean.
6. Long sleeve sun shirt: To not have to constantly reapply sunscreen, you can pack breathable UPF 50+ long sleeve shirts. If your toddler might get wet, get the rashguard version. It’s a good idea to order a size up to get more use (you can always roll up the sleeves).
7. Tissue paper: While the diaper wipes work well for many situations, it’s good to have tissue paper on hand to wipe your baby’s face and hands.
8. Nose aspirator: If your baby is constantly getting stuff stuck in her nose, the Nose Frida will be handy. There was a point when I was using this tool every day for a week on my little one because she was just that stuffy!
One thing I should mention is that I did have to use it combined with a chopstick to pick out dry snot. The Nose Frida would move the snot to the edge of her nose and then I would use a dull chopstick to take it out so you might want to also have a chopstick on hand.
Side Note: I still have not needed the replacement filters so I don’t recommend getting those.
9. Snacks for yourself: Especially when I was breastfeeding, I was hungry all the time. I would often pack 1 or 2 Cliff Bars in my diaper bag to hold me over until the next meal and to prevent myself from unnecessarily buying takeout.
10. Wrap for carrying your baby: It’s handy to have a carrier with you in the diaper bag in case you need it. I have an Ergobaby Carrier, which is too bulky to put in a diaper bag. I know some moms have the Boba Wrap, which can be rolled up to fit in a diaper bag.
11. Change of shirt for mom and dad in case your baby’s waste lands on you
12. Personal belongings: If you’re not carrying a separate purse or bag, you can also put your wallet, keys, cell phone, sunglasses, gum etc. in your diaper bag. Don’t forget to include your emergency information (e.g. Doctor’s phone number) in your cell phone or on a separate piece of paper in your wallet. You want to ensure it’s easy to access just in case.
13. Additional toys: If we’ll be out of the house for a longer period, I bring a few extra toys just in case like this Baby Einstein Musical Toy, especially when we’re in the car and she’s having a fit! This toy – with its large button she can press to switch between the 7 songs – it calms her down. She loves watching the lights flashing to the beats. I personally like listening to the classical tunes!
If I’m going on a play date, I also like to bring this ball. I first heard about this toy from a mom who was raving about it because even her daughter (who is a small baby and has tiny fingers) could play with it. The oball is soft, light and bendable. The large holes make it easy for my baby to grip. This is the first toy she was able to hold and play with. Now we play catch with it!
Additional Diaper Bag Tips
1. Maintain organization in the diaper bag
Not only do packing organizers come in handy when you’re packing a luggage, you can use them in your diaper bag! It might sound silly to spend money on a bag that you’re essentially putting inside another bag (I thought so!), but these packing organizers save you so much time because you’ll know where everything is. No more guessing where to find the snack catcher at the bottom of the diaper bag!
In my diaper backpack, I use packing organizers to separate my change of clothes, first aid/safety stuff, and food items.
To separate my diapers, wipes and cream, I use a DIY diaper bag caddy hack. I read about this hack online and thought it was genius!
Basically, when you finish using one of the hard plastic wipes tub like this one from Pampers, you attach a soft plastic wipes case underneath the lid with elastics and then fill the remainder of the tub with diapers and your diaper cream. Everything is in one place so it’s easy to take things in and out as you need them!
2. Keep Extra Diaper Bag Essentials in the Car
The most important parts of your diaper bag are the diapers and wipes. Instead of always having to replace diapers and wipes in the diaper bag (and just in case you forget, which I often did!), I now keep extra diapers and wipes in the car backseat organizer. I also put a light jacket for her in it in case we go to an extreme air-conditioned area (like the grocery store) or the temperature drops.
This organizer has 9 pockets. I don’t use most of the pockets right now. As my daughter grows, I know it won’t be long before I’ll be fully using this organizer.
In the trunk, I also recommend including a standard first aid kit or DIY it. Put together a first aid kit bag with assorted bandaids, antiseptic wipes/spray, and aloe vera gel for itchy mosquito bites. Pack your kit in a ziplock bag to prevent damage.
Final Thoughts on the Diaper Bag Essentials Kit
When you’re out with your baby, you never know what’s going to happen. Being as prepared with a diaper bag of tools helped me be a lot more comfortable dealing with the unexpected.
Have fun putting your diaper bag together! Let me know if you have other diaper bag essentials I haven’t mentioned.
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Related Newborn Essentials Articles:
- 6 Month Old Baby Must Haves
- What I actually used from my hospital bag checklist
- Best Tips for flying with a baby
- Free Baby Things
- Baby on a Budget: 18 Tips You Need to Know
- Pregnancy Products I Couldn’t Live Without
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