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The 21 Diaper Bag Essentials You’ll Regret Forgetting at Home

Apr 13, 2020

The 21 Diaper Bag Essentials You’ll Regret Forgetting at Home

There’s an art to packing the perfect diaper bag…

​On one hand, you want to be prepared for anything.

On the other, if you pack too much, you’re going to look at your heavy diaper bag with dread every time you leave the house.

Keep reading for a checklist of all of my diaper bag essentials with ideas for how to keep things light and portable.

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These are the diaper bag essentials for babies 0-6 months

Changing pad

Get a changing pad like this one. It’s basic and not bulky.

Or, for a true space saver that’s the perfect travel item, pack a couple of these disposable ones.

Diapers

Pack 1-2 diapers for each hour you’ll be out.

PRO TIP: *Always* keep a few emergency diapers in your car and stroller.

I’m all about the Pampers Swaddlers but don’t overthink this.

Wipes

The easiest, cheapest, and least bulky wipe holder for a diaper bag is a Ziploc bag.

Just pull a bunch of wipes out of a normal pack and stick them in a sandwich-sized baggie.

Or…

Get this ridiculously highly-rated wipes dispenser.

⬆️ 11,000+ reviews don’t lie!

Diaper ointment

These mini tubes are unscented and are also my go-to for face rashes.

Stick one in the car, the stroller, and of course your diaper bag!

Hand sanitizer

This is better than nothing after you’ve changed a dirty diaper or if you’re about to prepare a bottle on the go.

diaper bag checklist backpack with baby essentials

My diaper bag essentials!

Ziploc bags

You’ll be glad you packed these if you’re carrying a poopy diaper and can’t get to a trash bin right away.

2024 Update: With my second baby, I just discovered these baggies and I’m stunned by how well they *actually* work.

💩 This is gross, but case in point, I recently found a (bagged) poopy diaper in my car that I didn’t notice had been sitting there for DAYS. 💩

P.S. I’m late to the party, clearly, as these have ~19,000 reviews!

Burp cloth

Pack at least one in your diaper bag.

Keep a bunch more in the car to minimize weight and bulk in your diaper bag.

Someone recommended these white cloths to me as a cheaper alternative to actual ‘burp cloths’ and they’re the best.

We have 2 packs and I’ll never use anything else. 🙂

Pacifiers

Even if you have a pacifier clip, somehow, some way, the pacifier ends up on the ground. So pack a couple.

I store them in a mini Ziploc so they stay clean.

Change of clothes

Keep a long-sleeved romper in your diaper bag.

(One clothing item is easier than a shirt + pants + socks).

Pro Tip: *Size up* on the outfit you pack. It’s really easy to forget to swap it out as your baby gets bigger.

I also keep a few spare outfits in the car. (This is the perfect use for gifts that you don’t love).

car kit for new baby caddy with diapers new mom hack

Grab my car caddy here.

Socks

Baby socks are notorious for falling off so it’s nice to have an extra pair.

P.S. If you need newborn-sized socks that miraculously don’t fall off, these are *the* best.

Muslin blanket

These have a gazillion uses. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been happy to have one with me.

They’re great to use as a nursing cover, burp cloth, stroller cover, towel, make-shift bib, somewhere to lie baby down, and of course warmth!

Breast pads

If you’re breastfeeding and leaking, you’ll want to carry around some nursing pads that are either disposable or reusable.

Bottles

One of my favorite mom hacks is packing a couple of *pre-filled* 2-oz bottles of formula when I don’t know how long I’ll be out.

As long as they stay at room temperature, you don’t have to worry about the milk spoiling until you break the seal.

Make sure you get the nipples, they’re sold separately. 

If you’re finding this list of diaper bag essentials helpful so far, post it in your due date group!

Other useful diaper bag essentials

Now that we’ve covered the core diaper bag must-haves, here are a few additions that you’ll be glad to have with you on outings.

Change of clothes for you

Pack an extra shirt for yourself, particularly if your baby is prone to spitting up.

This is also something you can keep in the car to minimize bulk in your diaper bag.

PackIt cooler

If you’re bringing breastmilk or formula, get yourself this genius *all-in-one* cooler that goes directly into the freezer.

No ice packs needed!

They come in all different sizes.

Portable sound machine

I’m updating my recommendation with my second baby!

I used to recommend this one, but I have a new favorite…

This little sound machine is not only portable, but really powerful, and the battery lasts a *long* time.

A lightweight hat

This little hat is the best one I’ve ever bought. It’s silky soft, stretchy, and fit Aden perfectly from about 1 month through 7+ months.

Snacks for mom

Breastfeeding makes you hungry!

These are my *all-time* favorite protein bars. Low carb, high protein, SUPER delicious. I have them on auto-ship.

Teethers or toys

You’ll start needing these when your baby is around 4 or 5 months old.

Any teether with a hole in it is great so you can attach a pacifier clip or plastic links to keep it from falling.

Miscellaneous mom/dad stuff!

It’s crazy how easy it is to forget about your own needs.

The diaper bag becomes your purse.

Keep an emergency tampon, cash, chapstick, and whatever else you normally carry around with you.

Diaper bag essentials for traveling

This list will change depending on the length of your trip and whether you’re traveling by car or by plane. For the most part, you will just want to bring extras of the items listed above.

You can read my in-depth article for a full packing list: Flying with an Infant During the Pandemic

I’ll call special attention to a few things you should definitely pack in your diaper bag for travel…

  • Disposable changing pads (airplane bathrooms are gross!)
  • Disinfecting wipes to clean your seat, tray table, screen, and everything in between.
  • Drool bibs to keep your baby’s outfit dry (much easier to swap out the bib instead of the whole outfit). Here are great traditional bibs for small babies… and of course, these bandana bibs are my personal fave!
  • Extra baggies. Every time something falls onto the floor, put it into a “dirty” bag so it doesn’t contaminate all your other stuff.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to diaper bag essentials

What kind of diaper bag should you get?

Here are my 2 tips:

1 – Get a backpack. It’s SO much less awkward than a shoulder bag, especially when you’ve got your hands full or you’re baby-wearing.

2 – It doesn’t necessarily have to be a “diaper bag.” My diaper bag is a Valentino backpack. (Yes, I know I’m crazy).

Most of the time, my hair is a mess, I’m wearing sweatpants, and I’m covered in spit-up… so the classy backpack makes me feel a little bit better about myself.  #momlife

If you’re thinking of using a backpack as a diaper bag, go for it!

The only real differences are that ‘actual’ diaper bags tend to have more pockets, some of which may be insulated.

I didn’t feel I needed these, but this is a personal choice.

If you’re looking for an actual diaper bag, here are the main features to consider:

  • Number of pockets
  • Number of insulated pockets for bottles
  • Waterproof or water-resistant
  • How easy it is to clean
  • Capacity and dimensions
  • Lightweight
  • Backpack vs. shoulder strap
  • Appearance (lots of moms prefer something that doesn’t look like a diaper bag because they use it as their purse even when they’re not with their baby)
  • Gender-neutral if dad will be carrying it (and he cares)

What are the diaper bag essentials for dad?

The vast majority of what belongs in a diaper bag has to do with what the BABY needs—therefore, the lists above work for mom, dad, and all other caregivers too!

The only real change would be if the baby is breastfed, which just means that dad needs to remember to pack extra milk.

Related to diaper bag essentials and preparing for a new baby:

Voila! Everything you need for a perfectly stocked, light-weight, non-bulky diaper bag!

A well-packed diaper bag can be a lifesaver when you’re on the go with your baby.

Hopefully, this list of diaper bag essentials helped you figure out what you actually need to have while you’re out and about with a baby under 6 months old.

Share this list of diaper bag essentials with your due date group if you think your fellow moms-to-be will find it useful!

This article was originally published in April 2020 and was updated in February 2024.

 

21 Diaper Bag Essentials | The Ultimate Checklist