Diaper Bag Essentials (What to Pack, Skip, and Never Forget!)

In a camel colored bag is diapers, a bottle, a nasal aspirator, a white and black striped outfit and a grey bunny with a yellow dress.

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I still remember the thrill of packing my diaper bag for the first time while I was getting ready for our baby. It felt like such a huge milestone–she was about to actually be earth-side! I delicately gathered and organized every item I was sure our little one would need, along with a few goodies for myself and called these my “diaper bag essentials.”

When I finished, however, it weighed about 300 lbs and felt more like a carry-on suitcase than a diaper bag for a newborn

I’d obviously missed the memo about what constitutes diaper bag essentials.

As a classic over-packer, it wasn’t surprising that I felt the need to carry our daughter’s entire closet and toybox on the go. I knew that lugging all that extra weight around, along with our baby and the car seat, wasn’t sustainable.

So, I pulled everything out and started from scratch. 

Did our baby need six different outfit options while we were out? No.

Was bringing three different stuffies a good option? Definitely not.

How about those puff snacks she wouldn’t eat for the next several months? Out they went!

As a mom of two now, I’ve learned you don’t need all that crap every time you leave the house. Sure, you never know what will happen, but you can still scrape by with the bare necessities. 

Also, most of us don’t live in isolated terrain with zero access to stores; if a need pops up, you can always grab it while you’re out. 

So, pay close attention if you want to simplify your checklist and make packing a diaper bag hassle-free. Below you’ll find a list of everything you need, plus some helpful tips to ensure you never overpack your baby’s bag and end up looking like a postpartum pack animal!

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Do You Have to Use a Diaper Bag?

Listen, I get trying to narrow down on the amount of baby gear you have sitting around your house. From cribs to high chairs, the amount of “stuff” these little creatures come with really blows my mind. In fact, you might even be looking to curate a list of minimalist newborn essentials.

That said, some of it is important, like diaper bags. 

Sure, you can easily throw some items into a big purse and call it a day (which I absolutely did on occasion!), but it’s nice to have a designated bag you can grab whenever you’re leaving with your kiddo. 

That doesn’t always mean you have to carry a full-size diaper bag. 

If you’re running an errand or making a quick trip to the store, you can always opt for a diaper bag clutch to help lighten your load. 

Should You Buy a Car Diaper Caddy Instead?

During a recent chat with mom friends about diaper bags, some said they opted out of buying one. Instead, they threw a storage container or diaper caddy in their car.

The point was that instead of dragging a heavy diaper bag around, they would grab a few things they needed out of their car stock and throw them in their purse before leaving the car.

One mom of twins said this was especially helpful because carrying two babies was hard enough! Not having to lug around a diaper bag made things easier for her. 

That said, whether you choose a diaper caddy to keep in your car or choose to keep everything in your diaper bag so you can grab and go is your call! I’m the type of person who likes to keep one back stocked so I don’t have to think about it every time I walk out of the door.

You might like the option of just throwing a onesie, a diaper, and some wipes into your purse when you get out of the car. You do you!

What Should You Look for When Picking Out a Diaper Bag for Babies?

While packing the right things inside your diaper bag is crucial to staying organized and prepared on the go, it’ll be even better if you have the right bag type to put it all in. 

For example, if you have a tote with zero pockets and organizers, your stuff will fall to the bottom and induce severe parenting stress and rage whenever you have to dig around to find something. 

So, as you’re preparing your baby registry checklist and choosing which items you want and need, consider these tips for picking the perfect diaper bag:

  • Space and Storage: No, you don’t need a giant suitcase as a diaper bag, but you’ll still want lots of room and pockets to keep things together. 
  • Easy-to-Clean Surfaces: Our first diaper bag was SO CUTE–for the first ten minutes until we got it dirty and had difficulty cleaning it. Pick a diaper backpack or bag that’s easy to wipe down…you’ll thank me later!
  • Insulated Storage Areas: From snacks to bottles, you’ll love having a pocket to keep things cool while out. 
  • Make Sure it’s Comfortable: Head to your local baby store and try on diaper bags before you choose one. You’ll be carrying it a TON, so you want to make sure it feels good.
  • Stroller Straps or Clips: You won’t know how nice it is to hang your bag from your stroller until you need to! Many diaper bags come with built-in straps or clips for this purpose.
  • Partner-Friendly Style: Make sure you pick a bag your partner will want to carry, too. Sure, a diaper bag covered in flowers and hearts might be cute, but would your other half prefer something more gender-neutral?

Need help finding the ideal option? Below is a list of our favorite diaper bags for new parents:

On a blue mat sits a stack of diapers, a green pacifier, green, white and yellow burp cloths, and white and light green socks.
From snacks to pacifiers, your newborn needs a LOT of stuff when you leave the house. Check out our list of baby must-haves before you start packing your diaper bag.

The Diaper Bag Essentials You Never Want to Leave Without

Now that you have the perfect diaper bag, it’s time to fill it! Don’t let packing a diaper bag stress you out. Stick to the essentials below, and you’ll be good to go!

1. Anything You Need to Change Baby’s Diapers

So, what’s the most important thing to put in your diaper bag? Drum roll, please…everything you need to change their diaper! 

Shocking, I know!

Really, though, you’ll want whatever you need to change diapers out and about–and plenty of it! A friend of mine told me that it sounds silly, but having enough diapers in the bag is crucial since, inevitably, you’ll always need more than you think!

You should also include plenty of wipes, diaper rash ointment, and a changing pad if your bag doesn’t already have one.

If your changing pad gets dirty and needs a wash, you can always use puppy pads as a temporary replacement!

2. Spare Clothes

When our kiddos are babies, they don’t have much control over their bodily functions. From spit-up to blowouts, they tend to wreck their clothes more often than you might think.

Spare clothes are a diaper bag essential for newborns!

No, you don’t need an entire portable wardrobe, but bringing a couple of extra onesies is always a great idea!

3. Formula-Feeding and Breastfeeding Supplies

Whether your baby drinks formula or breast milk, make sure you have everything you need for travel feeds.

That includes formula, bottles, bottled water, and a cooler to store breastmilk or pre-made bottles if your bag doesn’t have an insulated pocket. 

4. Your Little One’s Favorite Baby Toys

Does your baby have a favorite toy or teether? Throw them in the bag on your way out of the house!

Packing a few toys is an excellent way to distract your little ones and keep them happy when you’re out or when you’re changing a diaper in a busy restroom.

Only pack a couple, though; two or three trusted friends are all you need to keep baby busy. 

5. Pacifier and Holder

Is your baby a big fan of their pacifier? Do yourself a favor and remember to bring it with you!

Many companies even make these convenient pacifier cases you can clip onto the outside of your diaper bag for convenient, sanitary storage. 

6. Dirty Sacks a.k.a Waterproof Bag

Do you know what isn’t fun? Trying to find a place to store dirty diapers and soiled baby clothes until you can get home and deal with them! 

That’s why every diaper bag should include a “dirty sack.”

Whether you purchase plastic bags or a reusable dry bag, these will help contain the mess (and the smell) until you can eliminate the evidence. 

7. Burp Cloth

Keeping a burp cloth or washcloth on hand is always good for small messes, drool, or baby spit-up.

Just remember to take them out and wash them after use!

8. Blanket

I always had a small baby blanket in our diaper bag for all those “just in case” instances.

Whether I needed extra layers for baby, a nursing cover, or a different place to lay them for diaper changes, I used ours more than I can count. 

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Helpful Extras Your Infant Might Need When You’re On the Go

Now that we’ve covered the essentials, why not chat about the extras? While I wouldn’t classify the suggestions below as diaper bag must-haves, I highly suggest throwing them in if you have room to spare!

1. Packing Cubes

I’m so mad I didn’t think of this when I had little ones! Packing cubes are a fantastic way to organize your back and keep like items together. For instance, you can throw your diaper-changing accessories into one pouch and use another for spare clothes and burp cloths. 

It might sound silly to get bags to go inside your bags, but I’m here to say that packing cubes are one of my favorite travel accessories, as they make everything super accessible!

2. Infant Medications

When our eldest was little, she was a frequent Gripe Water recipient.

Therefore, we usually kept a bottle in the diaper bag and at home. If your little one needs medication, it’s a good idea to bring it along. 

3. Sunscreen

As a resident of the toaster oven called Florida, packing the best baby sunscreen is crucial. Mineral sunblock is an excellent diaper bag addition if you plan to spend time outside, especially during warm weather.

4. Snacks and Food for Babies

Sure, we’ve already talked about packing bottles for babies, but as they get a little older and start eating regular “human food,” you’ll appreciate having some snacks with you AT ALL TIMES. 

Not only will these distract your little ones during errands and outings, but they’re also an excellent way to bribe your child if the moment strikes (Don’t act judgy, we’ve all done it!)

5. Sunhat for Baby

Let’s get back to those sunny outdoor activities. If you have extra space in your bag, many parents love having a sunhat on hand for their little ones. 

The wide-brim UPF 50+ style from SunZip is one of my favorites!

6. Swim Diaper

If there’s extra room in your diaper pouch, throw in a swim diaper or two! A friend was just telling me how many of the mamas she knows keep them on hand at all times because you never know when there will be an opportunity for water play. 

Plus, they don’t take up much room, so it’s a win-win!

7. Shopping Cart Cover

Are you going to a store where you know shopping carts will be an option? Don’t forget to throw your shopping cart cover into your diaper bag before you head in.

I always kept ours in the car, so I could grab it whenever needed. 

Pack for Yourself, Too! These Parent Must-Haves are a Huge Help!

There’s no sense in carrying a purse when you have a perfect and very large diaper bag to fill! Make sure to throw things like your wallet and phone into the bag before you leave the house. 

Since you’ll be changing diapers and cleaning up random baby bodily fluids, having some hand sanitizer in the bag is also a good idea. While talking about things like spit-up, pee, and poop, you might as well store an extra shirt in your newborn’s bag, too, if there’s room. 

An extra pro tip for you is to always have a granola bar or two on hand in case YOU get hungry. While breastfeeding (or just simply carrying around your newborn everywhere), you’re likely to get pretty hangry. Being able to stuff something in your mouth while you’re feeding the baby is really crucial to a good outing for both of you.

A woman is standing behind a table. On the table is a coral and white diaper bag. She is putting newborn pants in it.
Wondering what you should pack and what you shouldn’t in your diaper bag? We’re sharing a checklist of diaper bag essentials!

Tips to Help You Avoid Over-Filling Your Diaper Bag

There’s no escaping the fact that getting out of the door with a baby takes quite a collection of gear. So, how are you supposed to avoid overpacking when there’s so much to fit in? 

The suggestions below are great for minimizing what goes into your diaper bag:

  • Plan your baby’s meals accordingly. If they’re formula-fed, for instance, there’s no need to bring an entire canister of formula. Scoop it out into a smaller container that takes up less space. 
  • Babies go through 8-12 diapers a day. That means they’ll need changing every 2-3 hours. If you’ll be gone for six hours, you’ll change them about 3 times. While packing an extra or two doesn’t hurt, try not to go overboard with the number of diapers you put in the bag. 
  • The entire toybox doesn’t need to come with you. Pick one or two favorite toys, and maybe a teether, to entertain your little one on the go. 
  • Instead of continually adding in random things because you can’t remember whether they’re still in the bag, buy a separate set of certain diaper bag essentials. This might include diaper rash cream, baby medications, teethers, and pacifiers. Chuck them into a separate packing cube so that you can toss them in when supplies get low in your current bag. 

Re-Check Your Bag Before Each Outing!

I’m embarrassed to admit how often I left the house without glancing in my diaper bag. I just grabbed it on the way out the door, and off we went. 

The silver lining? I know I’m not alone!

So many of us forget to double-check our diaper bag inventory and end up in a pickle after our baby has had one too many blowouts. 

Let this be a lesson to you, mama; ALWAYS check your bag before you leave.

Don’t Forget to Download Our Diaper Bag Checklist

Learning how to parent takes a fair share of trial and error. No matter how many articles you read, you’ll still have to ignore all those judging moms out there and do what makes sense to you.

That includes figuring out the “best” way to pack a diaper bag.

You may find a crafty item that makes organization easier. Perhaps, you’ll decide your baby will never wear that sun hat you threw in, but they will let you use a particular sunscreen for babies. Time will help you determine what you need and want or don’t.

Just remember, if you get stuck and need help figuring out what to do when you’re putting together a newborn diaper bag, this article is jam-packed with great ideas from other parents who’ve been there. 

Want to make things even easier for yourself? Why not download our convenient newborn diaper bag checklist? It has all the information you’ll need in an easy-to-use document. 

If you’d like to learn more about getting out of the house with a baby, we recommend this amazing YouTube video from our incredible website owner, Katy!

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So, what about you? What are your tips and tricks for your favorite diaper bag essentials?


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