Seasoned moms know that packing a diaper bag is a careful balancing act. On the one hand, you don’t want to get stuck without an extra diaper when your baby really, really needs one. On the other hand, you don’t want to have to lug a 50-pound suitcase to the park. The key is to bring just what you need to make it through a few hours out of the house, and to have a bag that’s both convenient and manageable.
Diaper Bag Basics
When you’re purchasing a diaper bag, look for one that has plenty of space inside for all of your needs, as well as dividers and compartments for items that you want to keep separate. Make sure that the shoulder strap is comfortable, and make sure that the opening is both secure (you don’t want diapers flying out) and easy to open on short notice (you don’t want to be fussing with a tricky buckle while your baby is screaming).
When you’re ready to pack your bag for the first time, plan for the absolute essentials. Start with one diaper for every two hours you plan to be out, plus one extra for emergencies. Next add a small pack of wipes, approximately 20 or so. You shouldn’t have to bring an entire large pack; you can just put a few in either a diaper-bag-sized wipes holder or a large plastic Ziploc bag. (It’s a good idea to keep an extra diaper and some wipes in the back of your car as well.) You should also have a changing pad in your diaper bag, or else a small blanket to place under your baby for changing time, as well as a single change of baby’s clothes. Finally, throw in a few plastic shopping bags to use as trash bags for soiled diapers – and a small (trial-sized) container of hand sanitizer – and you should be good to go for a quick shopping trip or some errands close to home.
Longer Trips With Your Diaper Bag
When you plan to be out for a little longer, especially during a mealtime or snacktime, you’ll want to pack a few more items. If you have an infant, bring along supplies for a bottle, or else bring plenty of water for yourself if you are nursing. Having an extra pacifier on hand may be a big help too. If your baby is eating baby food, bring along a small jar and a spoon as well as a paper bib that you can simply toss after use. For older babies and toddlers, pack some finger-friendly snacks like Cheerios, pretzels, or granola bars. Depending on where you are going, you can bring an insulated sippy cup with milk or an empty cup to fill with water when you need it.
If you expect to have a lot of waiting time on your hands, pack a few small activities to keep your little one occupied. Little cloth books are great for diaper bags because they weigh next to nothing. You might also consider some toys like a plastic key chain or a small stuffed animal with rattles or crinkly sounds to keep your baby entertained. For older children, carry a small notepad and a mini-pack of crayons for doodling.
Many moms also find it helpful to carry a miniature first aid kit in the diaper bag. You can either buy one or create your own: Start with a trial-sized container of Tylenol, add a few bandages, alcohol wipes, antibiotic cream, and some sunscreen, and you should be good to go.
Last but not least, after all of the baby’s items are packed, you still need to pack your keys, wallet, cell phone, and any other small personal items. Many moms find it most convenient to fit all of these things in a small purse or travel wallet that will fit inside the diaper bag.
Does it sound like a lot of work? Maybe the first time you head out it will take you a while to get everything together. But once you have a system worked out, it shouldn’t take long to get organized. Just remember to keep your diaper and wipe supply filled, and keep your snacks and drinks fresh. After that, you can head out and relax, knowing that you have all the supplies you need to keep everyone clean and happy.