By Erin Ollila
Everyone has an opinion on what to pack in a diaper bag. However, the more stuff you include, the more you have to carry and sort through when you’re out and about. Which led us to wonder, what are the essentials needed in every diaper bag? We asked some real life parents what the most important items are in their own diaper bags, and here’s what we came up with.
Regardless of what stage of life your little one is in, if you’re carrying a diaper bag, they rely on you for nourishment. Make sure you always leave the house with all the feeding essentials.
For formula-fed babies, this means a bottle and liquid or powder formula. You may even want to pack a bottle of water in case you get stuck somewhere without access to water during your travels. (It can also serve as a drink for you if you get parched!)
Breastfed babies always have access to their food if they are with you; however, if you choose to cover up while nursing, remember to bring a feeding cover in your bag. Muslin cloths work triple duty as blankets, burp cloths, and feeding covers when you’re in a jam.
Older babies will need a bib, clean spoons, and baby food in a jar or pouch. If you make your own food, make sure to get miniature storage containers with a locking lid so they don’t spill.
Snacks are also essential for babies, toddlers, and moms. In fact, most toddlers live off of snacks, so forgetting to pack some may lead to a major meltdown.
“Snacks and drinks by far are the most important thing in my diaper bag for me and kids,” says mom of two toddlers Chanel Cardoso.
Amanda MacArthur, mom of one, agrees. She says, “The most important item in my diaper bag is a bag of arrowroot teething cookies, because they keep my daughter’s attention for about 30-45 minutes, long enough to eat a meal at a restaurant.”
And don’t forget about something for you, too. Pack a protein bar, apple, or banana so you can stay full while on the go.
A Change of Clothes
Besides the diapers, clean clothing is probably the next most important item in any diaper bag. For toddlers, consider packing one full change of clothing (shirt, pants, underwear, and socks). If you’re potty training, bring an additional pair of underwear and pants in case more than one accident occurs — trust us, it happens.
Babies need more than one outfit, especially when you’ll be out of the home for an extended period. Why? Because babies have a sixth sense of determining when the most inopportune time is to completely soil themselves —and then they follow through, potentially more than once!
The easiest way to store your children’s clothing so they take up the least space is by rolling them. Learn from Marie Kondo, or simply lay the pieces of clothing on top of each other, fold in half vertically, and roll from top to bottom.
And don’t assume that packing clothing for your child is enough. You need clean clothes for yourself, too.
“I always carried an extra shirt in case of leaky breasts due to nursing, a diaper blow out, or baby puke,” says Holly Souza, mom of two boys. Almost every mom that we polled reported being covered in some uncomfortable substance in public and wishing they had a new shirt to change into.
Toys and Activities
It can take some effort to keep your little one entertained in new environments. Both babies and toddlers bore easily, so pack a few items to keep them busy. For babies, soft toys and teethers are a great addition to your bag. Bring extra because they’ll likely get dropped. The good news is that they can easily be thrown into the dishwasher or washing machine when you get home to wash all those dirty-floor germs away.
For toddlers, pack toys that will keep their brains and hands busy. Water-painting sets, or crayons, paper, and stickers are easy to travel with indoors. Bubbles are great for outdoor play.
Disposable diaper trash bags can be used in many different ways. Danielle Kempe, mom of one, says, “They look like pet poo bags but are amazing when you're doing a change outside of a bathroom. In a pinch they can separate soiled baby clothes away from other items in diaper bags, too.”
You can use them outside of diapering for collecting trash after a picnic or holding random collections your toddler might find and want to keep forever and ever and ever, such as shells on a beach day, rocks from a hike, or random bits of paper from...well, anywhere!
Even though you call it a diaper bag, it doesn’t mean you’ll remember to pack the diapers. Boy mom Kaci Anderson says, “I'd usually forget to restock the diapers! So I'd have this diaper bag full of everything I thought I'd need (and usually didn't) but no diapers.”
And it’s not just Anderson who forgets. So many parents that we polled about their own diaper bags agree that sometimes, the basics go missing. Needing to restock the bag often leads to forgetting. Because you’ll constantly be changing diapers on the go, do a double check for these helpful items every time you leave the house: diapers, wipes, a changing pad, trash bags, and diaper cream.
Oh, and one more thing. Holly Vine, mom of twin boys, points out that you don’t need a traditional diaper bag to carry all these products. In fact, you may want yo skip the store-bought diaper bag altogether.
She says, “Don’t feel pressured to buy an actual diaper bag. I used gallon-sized storage bags — one with diapers and wipes in it, one with snacks and a bottle, one with a spare outfit, and then another empty one for unexpected extras. The storage bags have a bit of a vacuum seal effect so you can squish the air out of them to make them neat and small, and it stops potential spills that would have wrecked your entire bag. It gives flexibility to change between bags if you want to change your style — or if one gets covered in poop or vomit!”
Many parents forgo the traditional style of a shoulder bag and instead use backpacks, but this method also gives you the flexibility to use anything, like a designer purse or even a reusable shopping bag for diaper-bag duty.
If your brand new to carrying diaper bags, or even if you’ve done it for a while but want to minimize what you bring with you, just pack the essentials: food, toys, clothes, empty bags, and diapering tools.