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Are you trying to figure out what you REALLY need in your diaper bag? What are the actual diaper bag essentials? You’re not alone! Many moms feel like they are either over packing or worse, forgetting something! The last thing you want to do as a new mom if find yourself outside without one of your diaper bag essentials! So here’s your guide to help you develop your own customer Diaper Bag Checklist!
Where to start?
In order to figure out what your specific list of “essentials” are, you first need to ask yourself a few questions…
- How far from home will you be?
- How long will you be out?
- Will you be feeding your baby formula while out or breastfeeding? (or both?)
- Will you be feeding your little one solids while out?
- Will you have access to a clean bathroom with a good changing table situation?
- Does your baby get a diaper rash easily?
- Is your baby starting to get mobile and will be hard to change?
- Could your little one get cold while you are out?
These are all things that parents need to consider when putting their diaper bag checklist together! The answers to these questions will determine what you need to bring with you and how much of it.
Don’t forget to check out my Baby Must-Have Checklist!
Common Diaper Bag Essentials
You can break up your “must-have” list into the following categories: Feeding, Pooping, Care, and Mom Stuff. (Yes, “Mom Stuff” is my technical term of the day…)
Let’s break these down:
If you are EXCLUSIVELY NURSING, you will likely have the least to bring with you in this category. Some common diaper bag essentials for the nursing momma are:
- Nursing cover. If you choose to use one. I did in the beginning until I built up the confidence to ditch it. You could also use a thin blanket as a nursing cover and carry one less item in your bag.
- Burp cloths. I recommend using cloth diapers as burp cloths (this link and the other links below are affiliate links. See below for more info). For more about spit up and burp clothes, read my post about Spit Up! I like this option best because they are super absorbent and inexpensive.
- Water. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times so you can stay hydrated while nursing!
- Backup Formula IF you find it helpful. This may be a bit controversial but here goes… Many moms, including myself, find comfort in knowing that they have a bottle of formula on hand JUST in case they are unable to find a safe quiet spot to nurse their baby. I did this and though I only used it a couple of times when I really had to, it gave me peace of mind. If it’s the difference between being able to reach your breastfeeding goals or not, then I think a couple of ounces of formula won’t hurt! I like the “Nursette” bottles because they are only 2 ounces each and come with a disposable nipple. These are perfect if you just need to buy yourself a few minutes until you can nurse. Since they are so small, you won’t feel like you are wasting anything and if you don’t end up using them, you can easily donate them.
If you are FORMULA FEEDING, you will want to consider the following:
- Small bottles of water. The super small 8 oz bottles of water are perfect because they will always be ready to use, take up little space, are will already be at room temperature! (Room temperature is suitable after the first few weeks).
- Bottles. Have enough bottles with you for the time you plan to be away plus one extra just in case.
- Formula. I formula fed my first and I used to keep snack sized Ziploc bags of formula with me. Each bottle bag would hold one serving (or one bottle worth) of formula.
- Burp Cloths. See Burb Cloths above.
TIP: When you are ready to prepare a bottle, just pour water from a freshly opened bottle of water into the bottle (to the right amount) and then add the formula powder. Swirl to mix and it’s ready to go! IF your baby needs the water to be warmer than room temperature, find somewhere to order a cup of hot water and let the bottle sit in that for a few minutes or run under hot water. Pre-made bottles of formula can get expensive and this method doesn’t take up that much extra space.As a bonus, you’ll likely end up with a little water left over for yourself!
If you are EXCLUSIVELY PUMPING, you will likely want the following:
- Bottles of pumped milk.
- Ice packs for the milk.
- Burp cloths.
Since pumped milk is okay at room temperature for 6-8 hours, you MAY not even need an ice pack. Use an ice pack if you think you might not use up the milk during your time outside but be sure to finish or dispose of the milk within 24 hours even if you use an ice pack. (Note: I’m not an expert on this. For really great breast milk storage information, go to this post on KellyMom.com).
Anytime we the baby left the house without me (like with my husband for instance), I’d send two bottles of pumped milk. One would stay at room temperature and one would be with an ice pack. This way one would soon be at room temperature and ready to use immediately (unless the baby needed it warmed further than room temperature). The second one would stay cool and just be a back-up. Just in case.
And last but not least… If you are FEEDING SOLIDS, you’ll want to have:
- Spoons. You’ll want to have a few just in case one or more drops. These spoons are super soft and change colors to indicate when food is too hot!
- Ziploc Bag. To put the dirty spoons in unless you have the disposable kind.
- Baby Food or Finger Food Snacks (If you are BLW). Either jars/pouches of food that are shelf stable or a homemade jar or pouch in a cooler.
Alternatively, you could travel with a ripe banana or avocado, a disposable bowl, a spoon, and a disposable fork! You can easily mash the fruits with the fork on the go and serve that. It’s a little extra work but definitely an option!
Diapering / Pooping
I could call this section “Diapering” but where’s the fun in that?
Anyway, you’ll want to have the following Diaper Bag Essentials on hand:
- Diapers. Okay, that’s a given! Have about 1-2 diapers in your bag for each hour you plan to be away.
- Wipes. Don’t waste your money on small diaper-bag-sized packs of wipes! You can either get a diaper bag that holds a full pack (like my favorite mentioned below), or just grab a handful and put them in a Ziploc bag. It’s really not a big deal!
- Diaper Cream. Chances are that you got loads of diaper cream samples when you were pregnant. Did you keep them? If so, throw them in your bag! If not, look for a really small container because chances are that you won’t need it on the go that often – but you still want to have it on hand just in case.
- Diaper Changing Pad. Many diaper bags come with diaper changing pads which is amazing! What if your baby has a huge accident all over it though? What then? That’s why I love disposable diaper pads like these! I would put a disposable one on top of the regular diaper pad (that came with my bag) and then put my baby on that. If and when (because it will happen) your baby has a blow-out and you get poop all over the disposable pad, you can just throw it out! You won’t need to worry about cleaning up the permanent diaper pad that matches your bag. If the surface you’re using is clean enough, or you want to save space in your bag, you can even skip the nicer pad and JUST use the disposable one.
- Change of Clothes. Have 1-2 changes of clothes handy. I like to keep each pair in a Ziploc bag so that they are easy to grab. A change of clothes means a FULL change of clothes. Onesie, socks, pants/skirt/shorts. See “Blow-out” above… it will happen! You will need to change them from head to toe at LEAST once! You don’t want to be unprepared.
- Hand Sanitizer. There are so many uses for this. Just have it! In fact, get one that’s on a hook or a key chain and hook it to the outside of your bag for easy access! You’ll have so many uses for this I’m sure!
TIP: If you will be driving, it doesn’t hurt to keep an extra pack of diapers and wipes in your trunk to help you stock up when needed!
General Diaper Bag Essentials
These are items you may or may not need depending on where you are going and for how long…
- Blanket. If you want your baby to take a nap while out or think that they may be cold, keep a cozy blanket on hand! If you think your baby might not like the sounds or lights, keep an extra light blanket to cover their baby seat with. Just be very careful when you cover their baby seat – it can get very hot under most blankets so you’ll want to check on them often!
- Weather Appropriate Items. This includes hats, mittens, sunglasses, etc.
- SPF lotion. If your baby will be in the sun, be sure to keep SPF on hand so you can reapply it regularly. Just because an area is covered, doesn’t mean it’s protected fully.
- Bug Deterrent. You may need something to keep the bugs away! This could be a clip-on, a spray that you use on the clothes (not the baby!), or even a mesh cover for the baby seat or stroller.
- Baby Carrier. Some baby carriers, like slings, are very compact! I often threw one in my bag JUST IN CASE.
- Pacifier. If your baby uses one, make sure to have a few on hand.
Don’t forget the stuff YOU need while out! This would include your sunglasses, keys, wallet etc. Make sure you have what YOU need too!
What about the BAG?
Now that we know what goes IN a bag… what about the bag itself?
Let’s face it. You’re going to spend a LOT of time with your diaper bag. You want it to be something pretty, functional, durable, practical and on and on… right?
To be honest, I have never been consistent about which diaper bag I use! I’ve used just a huge boho style bag, a messenger style diaper bag, a backpack diaper bag… and even those reusable grocery bags!
All have worked and some have been better than others. The key to me has always been whether it’s big enough.
I know some people love diaper bags with tons of pockets to hold all their essentials individually, but that’s never been an issue for me. I honestly, just group what I need by the categories listed above and then put the stuff for each category in a ziplock bag.
That way, I could say “Hey honey, can you pass me the feeding stuff?” or “Can you get me a spoon from the food bag?”
That always seemed to work better than assuming that my husband or even my oldest, would know which pouch to find what I needed.
I really don’t think you need anything special when it comes to a “diaper bag” – what’s important is that you have all the right diaper and baby essentials on hand and easy to get to when you need them!
So what do you think? Did I miss any items that you feel are Diaper Bag Essentials? What about the Diaper Bag? What do you want most out of a diaper bag?