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How much time have you spent searching endlessly for a diaper bag alternative? Even when you find a small diaper bag you love, it seems impossible to fit everything in it!
Large diaper bag with a small purse inside.
I went through all the iterations–small diaper bag in a large purse.
No diaper bag, ziplock diaper bag.
Wallet in a diaper bag.
Don’t go through this madness yourself! Learn from my experience and find the diaper bag solution that works best for you!
In this article, I tell you about my favorite diaper bag alternative. I also talk about my favorite full-sized diaper bags, how to organize them, and tips for choosing the best one for you.
Our Favorite Diaper Bag Alternatives
I’m going to interest you to our favorite diaper bag alternatives, showing you some of the benefits–and drawbacks–of each.
- Backpacks: a great alternative to traditional diaper bags that are easy to use, don’t hurt your shoulder, and often hold more–and better! There are tons of options, but we’ll highlight our favorite!
- Diaper clutch: a stylish, minimalist way to carry the few things you need and nothing more!
- The dad hoodie: somewhat cheesy, but a really great bag-free option! It’s a hoodie that’s full of interior pockets to hold everything you need.
Do I Need a Diaper Bag?
I can’t tell you how much time I spent researching different diaper bags before Jack was born, trying to decide if I even needed one. I still hear this question a lot, particularly from parents about to have their first baby.
It’s also an especially common question from dads, who often aren’t used to carrying around bags and really, really don’t want to.
The answer is yes and no. You see how much I love Dwypeze, and in some ways, it counts as a diaper bag. A diaper bag alternative, yes, but isn’t a pouch with a diaper still a bag with a diaper?
But do you need a “normal” diaper bag? That depends on you.
Atlanta is a driving city, so I always have my car. It’s easy for me to just toss some extra clothes and toys into a bag and leave it in the car.
But when Jack was little and we took bottles with us, we needed a traditional diaper bag, and our favorite was definitely a diaper bag backpack. My picky little nurser was never willing to breastfeed in public. He must’ve inherited his Daddy’s modesty.
Jack was always strange about nursing. Had he nursed in public, we could’ve easily gotten by with just our Bratpack and backup clothes in the car.
With small products, you can get away with sizing up on a purse and carrying what you need in there, but that doesn’t help dad (or purse-averse moms or nonbinary parents) if they’re carrying a bottle around.
Since we had bottles of breastmilk that needed to stay cool, we needed a diaper bag. Or a small cooler. Either would’ve worked.
(1) Diaper Clutch
A diaper clutch is a super stylish way to carry everything you need and nothing more! It works much like the bratpack, except it’s way more fashionable (but often has slightly less space.)
Our favorite is the Baby Bum Co. Crossbody Diaper Clutch, which looks just like a clutch purse, except that it has a wipe opening on the front.
People rave about its budget-friendly cost, simplicity, and how it’s much more spacious than it looks.
(2) DIY Diaper Bag Wristlet
There used to be a product I adored that was everything you needed for diaper basics in a pocket-sized bag. And believe me, if it’s ever back on the market, you’ll be the first to know about it. But when they stopped making this product, I thought there had to be an effective way to create my own. Enter the DIY diaper bag wristlet.
To make this mini, on-the-go diaper bag, I use the large packing cube from Lily Jade, and if I need more items than will fit, I attach one of the smaller packing cubes.
Then I fill it with basic necessities:
- 1-2 diapers
- Travel pack of wipes
- Travel-sized Desitin
- Disposable changing pad
- Disposable dry bag (I use a dog poop bag)
Backpack diaper bags are great alternatives to traditional diaper bags. There are tons of them out there, but my favorite is one that is amazing for bottles.
That is, after all, one of the most common questions moms ask.
What Is The Best Diaper Bag for Bottles?
If this is you, and you need a traditional diaper bag, this is my absolute favorite.
The HaloVa Travel Backpack is amazing because of its intelligent design and ease of carrying bottles. The front pouch is actually built to hold bottles.
What it’s missing that many diaper bags have is an insulated pouch for bottles. That said, the interior is waterproof, so you can put a small ice pack (I like the Lanisoh breast ice packs because they take up so little space) in the same pouch.
This isn’t a diaper bag alternative, but it works well for people who need the space and don’t want a small diaper bag.
I also love the feature that allows you to keep wipes on the side, so they’re always easily accessible. We all know those moments where we’re really, REALLY thankful for having wipes on the ready.
One word of warning about the HaloVa Travel Backpack. The description says it’s waterproof, but it’s referring to the interior of the backpack.
I left mine in a moist environment without realizing it, and it grew mold on the exterior. That was my fault, but it is worth clarifying the claim.
(4) The Dad Hoodie
We’re going to shoot straight with you here and acknowledge that this product is not for everyone. That said, it’s PERFECT for some, so we want to make sure you know about it.
Husband isn’t a hoodie guy, so he wouldn’t wear this. But I know other men who absolutely rave about The Dad Hoodie.
It’s exactly what it sounds like–a hoodie. Except it’s full of interior pockets designed to hold exactly what you need for a day out with baby. And there’s absolutely no reason it needs to only be for dads. Quite frankly, I would use it.
Want an actual bag but something a little more “dad-ish”? Check out our favorite diaper bags for men.
What Is The Difference Between a Diaper Bag and a Regular Bag?
When I talk about diaper bags, I’m talking about products marketed as diaper bags, not just any bag you put a diaper in. They’re different from regular bags because they are made specifically to fit baby gear.
This is why having a traditional diaper bag was so important when we were carrying around bottles of breastmilk. A diaper bag alternative couldn’t have kept them cool.
Diaper bags tend to have lots of pouches, spaces for bottles and wipes, and perhaps even insulated sections to help keep bottles cool. Many also have waterproof interiors because of the amount of liquid parents carry.
The main reason I can see for needing a traditional diaper bag, whether a small diaper bag or a larger one, is for keeping bottles with you and keeping them cool. That was our main reason, at least.
Organizing Your Diaper Bag
If you choose to go the more traditional diaper bag route, I highly recommend getting a diaper bag organizer. Even the HaloVa Travel Backpack, which is full of pockets and pouches, has one big, deep main section.
As with any large diaper bag, it’s easy to lose things in it. And we all know that when baby is screaming, or spitting up, you don’t want to scramble to find what you need. That’s one of the many reasons I’m partial to a small diaper bag, specifically a diaper bag alternative.
You can simplify diaper bag organization, though, with an organizer.
You can organize the large space of a backpack and and still have room for larger items like clothes and toys.
If you aren’t using a backpack style diaper bag, I prefer using waterproof pouches to traditional organizers.
Not all organizers fit all bags equally, so they can get awkward. Also, if the organizer is on the bottom, you lose all the valuable the space above it.
But with pouches, like the multi-sized, see-through Travelon pouches, you can keep all your items organized but always see what you need.
One major note about diaper bag organization. Organize in a way that works for you, and then discuss it with everyone who will use the diaper bag.
If your partner, parent, or babysitter shares your diaper bag (the easiest and cheapest solution), you’ll quickly find it in disarray because they don’t understand your organizational scheme.
Talking from experience here. Trust me. Tell them how to use the diaper bag so that everything always stays in its correct place.
Choosing the Right Fit For Your Lifestyle
Ultimately, choosing a diaper bag comes down to choosing the best one for your family/lifestyle. Think about these questions:
- Who will be using the diaper bag?
- What items do we really, truly need in a diaper bag?
- Can we get by with a small diaper bag, or are we unable to be that minimalist? Be honest with yourself.
- Do we drive or walk? If you drive, basics in the car with a diaper bag alternative like Bratpack are perfect. If you walk, does your stroller have room underneath for a small bag with some spare clothes and toys? If so, hang your Bratpack from the side. If not, you may need a more traditional diaper bag.
- Do we bottle feed? If so, do we need insulation? If you’re carrying bottled water and formula powder, you can carry it in anything. If, like me, you’re carrying pumped breast milk, you need to keep the milk cool.
Asking yourself these questions will help you choose the perfect diaper bag for your family, be it a small diaper bag or an enormous one.
And, of course, there’s always the diaper bag alternative!
What’s your favorite diaper bag alternative?
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Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, mom, recurrent miscarriage survivor, & owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband (affectionately known on the internet as “Husband,”) son (Jack), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society puts too many expectations on women that make womanhood and motherhood restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Romper, Scary Mommy, Demeter Press’s Motherhood and Social Exclusion, & more.