My husband and I were broke when our oldest child was born. Like, we’re talking the kind of broke where they repo your garbage can because you can’t keep up with your trash bill! It wasn’t great, but that was life. The one good part was that we didn’t buy a lot of unnecessary stuff. We got her a crib, clothes, diapers, diaper bag, etc. We didn’t have money to waste on anything that wasn’t essential, which meant we also weren’t weighed down with extra baby clutter. Today I’m going to walk you through what you really need to stock your diaper bag!
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Which Diaper Bag is Best?
If you haven’t yet walked down the diaper bag aisle. let me give you a hint. There are a LOT of diaper bag options. Half of them aren’t really practical (we’ll get to that in a minute). So, how do you know what to choose? What makes the difference between a fabulous diaper bag and one you’ll want to chuck in the trash?
A good diaper bag is one with a fully secure closure. It doesn’t have to be Fort Knox, but you want it to close all the way. Many diaper bags will close with a snap in the middle, or a zipper across the top with open areas on the sides. Your diaper bag WILL tip over at times. If there are openings that can’t be fully closed your things WILL spill out. Do you really want to be scrambling to gather your stuff back into the bag? I thought not! Get a bag that completely zips closed and save yourself some grief. A backpack like this is my favorite choice.
A lot of diaper bags are just one big pocket. That seems like a good plan, because you can just dump everything in. The problem comes when you need to take something out. One big section means no organization. What you want is something with several separate compartments. This will make it much easier to find your baby’s pacifier in a hurry! That’s why I love backpacks instead of a traditional diaper bag. They have more pockets to keep you organized!
Babies are kind of gross. They’re cute and lovable, but definitely gross. At any given time they could have multiple bodily fluids coming out of several places at once! Literally everything that goes on or near a baby needs to be easily washable. That means your diaper bag needs to be something you can easily clean and disinfect. The nice thing about backpacks is that they can usually go in the washing machine or be wiped with disinfecting wipes.
What Not to Buy
There are soooo many things in baby stores. Every sales associate and baby magazine will give you a list a mile long of everything you need for your baby. I promise, probably half that list isn’t necessary.
Have you ever seen those parents on TV shows loading up their entire car every time they run an errand? They look like they’re packing for a week at the beach rather than a quick trip to the mall! Those parents tend to pack a lot of impractical things. Here are a few things that aren’t practical to bring in your diaper bag.
- A Boppy: It’s big and bulky.
- Sample packs of wipes: They don’t hold enough.
There are some baby products that you can skip buying because they are just plain redundant. Parents are often tricked into buying a bunch of different single-job products instead of a few good multi-use tools. That means dead weight in the diaper bag because you’re carrying around stuff you don’t need. When you’re stocking your diaper back, skip over these two things.
- Hand sanitizer: We’ll talk later about a better option.
- Travel changing pad: You can use other things in it’s place.
I’m going to be real here for a minute. I was fooled into buying several things with my first baby that ended up being unnecessary (even with our meager budget). Other people (like the sales lady at the baby store) will tell you that you need them, but they are wrong. There are some baby items that will just waste your space and money.
- Bottle Warmer: You can use hot water to warm it.
- Wipe Warmer: Store your diaper bag indoors and you’ll be fine.
What You Really Need
Now that you know what to look for in your diaper bag and what to walk right by in the baby department, let’s talk about what you really need. To break this down (because organization is key here), we’re going to split things in to five categories: basics, feeding, changing, emergencies, and comfort. Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter for fearless moms to get your Diaper Bag Checklist!
This category is for the kind of things you would normally carry, even if you didn’t have kids. You wouldn’t want to be without them regardless of where you are going.
- Keys: Do you really want to be locked out?
- Wallet: This is especially important if you are driving!
- Cell phone: Can you really survive without one? 😀
- Wet Ones: They’re good for cleaning hands, faces, spills, and diaper changing stations (no hand sanitizer needed).
Babies and toddlers who don’t get fed in a timely fashion turn into those little gremlin creatures from the horror movie. You need to ALWAYS be prepared to feed your child while out! Take my word on this one.
- Breastfeeding: If you’re breastfeeding you’ll want nursing pads (disposable or reusable) and a cover if you choose to use one.
- Pumped Milk Feeding: You’re going to need bottles filled with pumped milk and a way to keep them cool (you can use hot water to warm them).
- Formula Feeding: Pack a container of pre-measured formula (have enough for at least one extra bottle), empty bottles, and bottled water (again, you can warm it with hot water).
- Snacks: Toddlers will get munchy, as will you if you are breastfeeding (you’ve probably never been so hungry before). Bring snacks that are shelf stable and easy to eat.
Your baby is going to need a diaper change at some point. Not only that, I can almost guarantee he or she will have a ‘diaper integrity failure’ (aka a blowout) at some point. Be prepared for these by having a few strategic items stashed in your diaper bag.
- Diapers: Pack 1 for each hour you will be gone, plus two extra for a newborn. If your baby is older, pack 1 for every 2-3 hours you’ll be gone, plus 2 extra.
- Wipes: Bring a travel pack since it will take up less room. Just don’t depend on those sample packs to carry you through a poopy diaper change!
- Spare outfits: Bring 2 spare outfits for your baby, plus a spare shirt for you (trust me on this one). Choose outfits you don’t really like since they will just sit there in your diaper bag.
- Zip-top bags: Carry two gallon-sized zip-top bags or reusable wet bags. These can be used to hold soiled outfits from a blowout or dirty disposable diapers if there is no place to dispose of them. Also, they can be used for motion sickness episodes!
Emergencies happen at times. It’s just a fact of life, even if we don’t want it to be. You need to be prepared for these things so you can handle them.
- First aid kit: This doesn’t need to be some huge emergency kit. Have the basics like adhesive bandages, antibiotic ointment, and tweezers.
- Emergency medicine: It’s vital that you pack any emergency medicine you or your kids may need, like an EpiPen or an inhaler.
- Medication list: Keep a list of any medications your baby uses in the diaper bag so that you don’t have to try to remember it in an emergency.
Babies get fussy sometimes. Pack a few strategic items to help soothe your baby while you’re out and about.
- Pacifier: The pacifier (aka dummy, binky, and paci) is vital to keep on hand if your child uses one. You do NOT want to be caught out and about without it when your baby hits meltdown mode!
- Lovey: A lovey is some sort of toy or object that your baby likes to snuggle to calm down or go to sleep. Not all babies use them, but if yours does, buy two (or three, or twelve) and stash extras everywhere, but especially in your diaper bag. You’ll thank me later!
- Swaddling Blanket: I didn’t discover the Aden + Anais blankets until my third child and they are the BEST! They are large enough for easy swaddling and a clean surface for baby to play on or to cover the diaper changing station, yet light enough to keep babies cool while swaddled or while using as a nursing cover.
A Well-Stocked Diaper Bag Will Make You Smile
The sheer volume of baby items on the market today can be overwhelming. You want to be prepared but you don’t want to pack half your house every time you go out! Follow these tips to make sure your diaper bag is stocked with what you really need. Sign up below to get your FREE Diaper Bag Checklist to get prepared and organized!
Be sure to read Part 1 in the Having a Baby series!