What to pack in your diaper bag is basically a delicate science that you become the master of the longer you’ve been a parent. Seriously, you will spend several months forgetting things and thinking of other supplies you want to stuff in your tote. It’s an evolving science too, because as soon as you get your packing perfected, your baby is onto the next stage and needs different gear.
It might seem that parents are always packing and unpacking their bags to keep it current and stocked. It’s a fact. Luckily for you, dear readers, I am the mom of three. Yes, three children. They’re ages 4, 2, and 4 months. By now, I’ve nailed down the necessities for all of the age groups and I can say that with confidence.
I’ve been caught out in public without spare outfits and at restaurants without the coveted sippy cup. And like the very best girl scout, I’ve learned to be prepared. Always be prepared! That’s why I’ve gone through my bag to share my diaper bag checklist of necessities and extras to help you prepare a well-stocked diaper bag so you won’t be caught with your baby’s poop up their back and nothing but a clean diaper to put them…in the middle of December. That’s a true story!
Small disclaimer: If this list and diaper bag packing tips seem extensive, it is because my diaper bag doubles as my purse. With three children, I don’t have time or energy to lug around more than one bag. Everything I need goes in the bag with their stuff. It simplifies life and the diaper bag acts as a command center of sorts when I’m out with my kids.
Table of Contents
This is probably obvious. It is a diaper bag after all. However, my expert parenting knowledge says to always pack at least three more diapers than you think you need. Trust me, always pack more. Also, if you’re the parent of multiple children in diapers, make sure you pack enough for both kids if they aren’t in the same size. Once they’re potty trained, throw in extra underwear too!
Diaper Disposal Bags
These are going to contain your dirty diapers and the mess and stink that comes with them. I use them to throw them away in the trash can at home, friends’ houses, and any public trash can. It’s common courtesy and more hygienic. Plus, if you’re ever caught without a trash can, good diaper disposal bags will store the dirtied diaper until you reach a suitable place to toss it. Some even come with handy portable dispensers these days.
Many diaper bags have wet bags included. If not, grab yourself one. These are useful for throwing in soiled clothes, burp cloth, or a blanket. Basically, anything you need to wash and don’t want to touch the other stuff in the diaper bag can go into a wet bag. These are also great for summer months when you’re frequenting the pool or splash pad and you need to contain wet bathing suits or clothes, hence the name “wet bag.”
This is another “always pack more than you need” pick. Wipes are a NECESSITY, regardless of your baby’s age. Not only do they clean baby bottoms, they clean countless messes on your little, on you, on the playground, on the carseat cover. You name it, you can use a baby wipe on it. And with all of that use, you can find yourself running low unexpectedly. If you find yourself thinking “I probably have enough for the day,” just don’t. Get yourself stocked up with some sensitive skin wipes before you’re left with a blowout and not enough wipes to clean it.
In the middle of a pandemic, these are greatly important. I typically grab a travel pack of Wet Ones disinfecting wipes or throw some Lysol wipes in a plastic baggy. I use these for tables, shopping carts, my stroller, the car seat, my car keys, my cell phone…The list goes on. Especially during cold and flu season, these are essential to save your peace of mind.
Diaper Rash Cream
It’s best to have a variety of zinc cream on hand. Diaper rash is no joke and the longer you leave it without attention, the worse it gets. Having a sore bottom can wreak havoc on your baby’s mood, which is a bummer for all grown-ups involved. That’s why I always have a tube of diaper cream stuffed in the back of my diaper bag. Plus, in a pinch, you can try it on other irritated skin if it needs relief.
Aquaphor or A&D Ointment
This is good to keep in your diaper bag in the fall or winter. Windburn, chapped lips, cracked hands, this stuff takes care of it and gives fast relief. Whether your little one needs it, or you, you’ll be glad to have this ointment on hand when the need arises.
Mylicon Gas Drops or Gripe Water
My first baby was a fussy baby. Can’t you tell by my list? But seriously, she had colic and cried every single day from 4 pm to bedtime. We had to be home to weather the storm most days, but if we were out and about, I relied on my supply of gas drops and gripe water to get us through it. Throw them in a leak-proof bag to save yourself if they spill.
Infant Tylenol or Motrin
A small container of either of these pain relievers is good to have in your diaper bag backpack. My first also started teething between three and four months old. It was brutal and I was glad to have Tylenol on hand when we needed it. Be sure to stock Tylenol if your little one is younger than six months, as they can’t have Motrin (ibuprofen) before then. It’s good to have after well checks with shots too.
I keep these on hand for my youngest and usually phase them out around 6 months when spitting up is a less frequent issue and I have less room in the bag because they have other needs. Still, for young infants, having a burp cloth (or two) in the bag is a good idea.
I always need blankets in my backpack diaper bag. In the summer, I like light muslin blankets that won’t burn them up but still provide coverage and double as burp cloths in a pinch. As the weather cools, I like lighter fleece blankets to cover the car seat and tuck around them over top of the restraints (coats don’t go under car seat restraints, remember!). Blankets are also handy to have when you need to lay them down for a spell or need a nursing cover.
Piggybacking on the blankets, some mothers like to use nursing covers. I don’t happen to use one often as a blanket is easier for me to maneuver. However, if covers are your preference, be sure to tuck one away in your diaper bag.
For slobbery babies, have some soft fabric bibs on hand in your bag in case your little soaks through the one they have on. As they get older, you may want to pack silicone feeding bibs or smocking bibs. You’ll be glad to have them when you decide to grab a bite to eat away from the house and don’t want to sacrifice their outfit to some pizza or spaghetti.
Sippy Cup or Bottle
If you are bottle feeding, this is essential! Kids always want a drink at the most inopportune time. Just have the cup ready to go and save yourself the trouble. Most diaper bags have a spot specifically for sippy cups, straw cups or bottles anyway. These are especially necessary if you’re going out to eat. If your little one can’t handle a kids cup at a restaurant yet, you’ll be kicking yourself if you run off and forget a sippy.
I was one of the unlucky moms whose kids didn’t take a pacifier, not one of them. It’s okay, we’re surviving. But if you are one of the lucky ones, pack extra pacifiers. You never know when your little will drop it in the Target parking lot or toss it somewhere especially gross. Having extras will save you from the meltdown.
This says “extra,” but trust me when I say this is essential. Always, always, have an extra outfit. I learned this the hard way and repeated the mistake too many times to count. By now, each kid has an extra outfit (a shirt at the very least) in the bag. Be sure to cycle out your outfits too. You don’t want to be stuck with a long fuzzy sleeper in the middle of summer or a onesie that’s three sizes too small. They can be easy to forget if you don’t use them, but trust me, change them out every month.
Trust me when I say baby food snacks are the ultimate lifesavers. They calm bad moods, fix fighting siblings, distract antsy minds, and fix low blood sugar in a pinch. Some of my favorite snacks to pack are fruit gummies, granola bars, animal crackers, applesauce pouches, Goldfish, and whatever fruit I have on hand (bananas or apples usually). I pack for my kids, but also for myself as I always have low blood sugar. If you’re like me, go ahead and throw something in for yourself. You never know when you’ll be stuck in a waiting room somewhere watching your kids chow down on fruit gummies and you’ll be desperate for a snack yourself.
A Mini First Aid Kit
It’s an excellent idea to have first aid supplies on hand. We’ve actually covered how to put together what to pack in your diaper bag first aid kit as it’s own article. So check that out first.
In my diaper bag, I keep bandaids and antibiotic ointment. However, if you really want to be stocked, you can also include saline spray, anti-itch cream, bug spray, sunscreen, etc. If your child has allergies, it could be a good idea to include Benadryl or necessary epi-pens. Also, if you have any medical supplies, you can make room for them in your bag. For example, if you are diabetic, keeping your supplies in the diaper bag will cut down on the amount of baggage you need to carry while you’re out and about with your baby.
I like to have a few small toys to keep little hands busy when I can’t let them run around. These usually include teethers, rattles, matchbox cars, small dolls, play cell phones, or action figures. Whatever they’re feeling at the moment, I toss it in the bag. They save us from meltdowns in restaurants or long car rides. With three kids, these are helpful when I have to juggle the attention.
Again, books are great for distracting busy minds when I need them to be quiet and calm. So, at a restaurant, in the car, at doctor’s appointments, books are helpful tools that I can feel good about handing over. We limit screen time in our house and books are always the first tool we reach for when we need a distraction.
Table Cover for Dining Out
If you have never seen these, they are usually adhesive or silicone and they stick to tables as a placemat to contain messes and protect your child from germs, which is great considering the current state of the world. I find them especially helpful because I follow baby-led-weaning with my kids. If you’ve never heard of that, it really means I turn my kids loose with solid food and let them use their hands to feed themselves. Yes, it is messy, but I find that they are more adventurous with foods and I actually get to eat when we do it that way. So when mine are ready for solid foods, these go straight into the bag.
Chapstick or lip balm is great to have on hand for mom or for toddlers. I keep a few in my bag. Most of the time, it’s an SPF that is plain and colorless so I can use it on my toddlers should they have dry or cracked lips.
If you are breastfeeding, you’ll likely want to keep extra nursing pads in your diaper bag. It takes a while for milk supplies to regulate and until then, you’ll likely have times when your breast milk will leak. For some women, they can soak through pads in a few hours, so consider having several sets tucked away for emergencies.