I like to be prepared. When I run to the grocery store, it’s easy to just grab a diaper or two, some wipes, and head out the door. If I’m heading out for a full day with my kids, though, I DEFINITELY need a little more. Here’s a look at suggestions for items to keep in an all day diaper bag (good for both the baby and toddler stages)!
For the first time moms: You do NOT need to bring ALL of these things for a day out with your baby or toddler. This is a list full of suggestions. You know yourself and your baby. You know what’s important to have on hand for your family. My hope with this post is to remind you of the basics when you’re preparing and inspire you with things you may not have thought of- but will be happy to have later!
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Diaper Bag Basics
Which diaper bag style is best?
The diaper bag business is booming. There are SO MANY styles, colors, sizes, and options available- and I think the answer to this question is personal. Think about what YOUR priorities are when you’re out with your baby or toddler and what kind of bag fits your needs best.
During the baby stage, I really prefer a traditional messenger style bag. I like having the bag right at my hip and being able to grab what I need quickly and without much effort. Baby on right hip. Bag at left hip. We had a SKIP HOP DIAPER BAG for my first and it was amazing.
During the toddler stage, I’m a fan of the newer backpack style diaper bags. Generally I need less access to the bag and more access to my hands during the toddler years- and the ability to run after my kid at any given moment. A backpack is more comfortable and easier for moving around. My current favorite backpack style is from LATCHED MAMA.
When I pick our diaper bags, I try to think of my husband, too. He doesn’t travel with our kids nearly as much as I do, but I’d like him to be prepared and comfortable when he does. Would he wear a Disney Princess bag? Probably, if it was his only choice. Does he WANT to wear a Disney Princess bag? No.
So I keep my bags neutral and accessorize with the fun. I have carried a pretty, floral bag in the past for a period, though, and kept our basic grey bag on hand in the closet- just in case.
I also like a bag with pockets. Pockets are built-in organization. Women love pockets. Moms love pockets. More pockets, please.
Bags Inside the Bag
Sometimes pockets aren’t enough. Sometimes you need pouches and pods to go along with your pockets. Honestly, I love storage pouches and always have a stash on hand so when I need one, I have one. I also like that they’re removable so I can temporarily remove a pouch I don’t need. My favorites for in our diaper bag are waterproof pouches. You can get these in TONS of places, but some of my favorites come from cloth diapering companies because they are pretty and soft on the outside and sturdy and smooth on the inside.
By the way, if you only buy one waterproof bag, get yourself a wet bag to keep in your diaper bag. It’s a zippered bag, about the size of a piece of paper, and it can be a real life saver. You’ll need one if you’re a cloth diapering mom, but they can come in handy for every mom- when your kid decides they NEED to bring home slimy rocks, or they have an accident, or you want to keep wet shoes tucked away after some water play…
Diapers and Wipes
It’s a diaper bag. It needs diapers. (Otherwise it’s just a really well-stocked purse, right?) I pack one diaper for every two hours I know we’ll be away from home. I don’t always use them all, but I’d rather have extra than not have enough.
Another diapering necessity: wipes. Since we cloth diaper, I keep a pouch with our cloth wipes and a small glass spritz bottle in my bag at all times. Disposable wipes are great, too, of course- just make sure you keep an eye on how many are left in the pack so you don’t run out!
Side note: I actually love cloth wipes and a spritz bottle for all moms, no matter what kind of diapers and wipes you’re using on the butt. They’ve come in handy for purposes besides diapering, like cleaning up messes, wiping noses, and burp cloths for the spitty baby days.
Mom Things in the Diaper Bag
Pay and Park
Don’t forget about your own needs for the diaper bag. Toss your wallet in there. (Pro tip- Put it in a designated spot so you don’t have to hunt for it every time you need it.) Make sure your keys are in there. And if you’re like me and constantly losing these two items, use TILES to make sure you’re not constantly late because you can’t find them to put in your bag.
Chances are I’m looking like a mess as I run out the door if my kids are in tow. I’ve even driven off without brushing my hair or putting on makeup (and not realizing until I’m already halfway to my destination). That’s why I keep the basics like face powder, lip gloss, a brush, bobby pins, and hair ties in my bag. Not to mention, life with little ones can get wild. Even if I’m composed when I head out, I like to be able to fix myself up after rolling down a hill at the playground or snapping a hair tie at the grocery store.
Since we’re talking about pampering- If you live in a warm climate, get yourself a handheld fan or cooling towel to keep in your bag. They are glorious on a hot day and have saved me from toddler meltdowns. (My kids hate the heat.)
My phone acts as my GPS if I’m traveling anywhere unfamiliar and letting it die would be a definite problem. Remember to bring your phone charger so your phone is ready if you need it- for an emergency OR a really cute photo op. I try to keep one that includes both a wall and car charger on the end.
The other mom emergency product you need in your diaper bag? Your period product of choice. After baby, our bodies can be soooo unpredictable. It’s best to be prepared at all times and save yourself the stress.
For your convenience
I know this is a silly bonus item, but I also love to make sure I have one of my GO-CUFFS in my bag. It’s a padded sleeve with a handle that fits take out cups and travel mugs and leaves you with hands free. It’s cute and convenient and I love it. (I happen to love them so much that I signed up as an ambassador. Use code “EXPLORERMAMA” for 20% off!)
My other must-have for myself is a fold up reusable bag. I got an adorable mermaid one from THIRTY-ONE (I’m not a consultant, just a fan) and keep it clipped to the outside of my diaper bag. There have been so many times I needed extra hands in a store (like when I buy too many books), the park (when we’re on a walk and I remember that pinecone activity we are supposed to do later in the week) or even when I’m visiting family and they want to send me home with new clothes or toys (because grandparents).
Pack All the Products
My kids are pale and sensitive skinned. If we’re outside, I try to have them lathered up with sunscreen and spritzed with bug spray. My preferred products are THINKBABY for the sun because it’s effective while still being healthy (also reef safe) and OFF! for bug spray because we do a lot of playing in woods, on farms, etc and I’m not messing around with bites.
Keep it Clean
We always have hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in the bag. During the winter I also tend to keep immune boosters tucked in there. No idea if they help, but I figure it can’t hurt.
Keep a Spare
If you get your kid through childhood without them messing up their clothes in public… I have questions that need answers. Between mud puddles, drool, meal time spills, and potty incidents, it is a miracle if my kids’ clothes stay in tact for an entire day. I don’t care at home, but it turns out most public places do not like kids covered in mud making a mess of their space. So we pack extra clothes (and that previously mentioned wet bag). Each kid has a pair of pants, a shirt, and a set of socks in the bag. My potty trained kiddo has a spare pair of undies.
When it’s cold I also try to keep an extra pair of gloves and warm hat shoved in the side since we’re always losing and forgetting them. I’ll even occasionally pack hot hands if I know we’re going somewhere particularly cold, like a winter festival. In summer I bring a sun hat.
Booboo Better Now
My children are incredibly accident prone. They injure themselves ALL. THE. TIME. I have started keeping a miniature first aid kit clipped to my bag. We don’t usually need it, but it’s come in handy a few times when one of my boys needed the comfort of that magical band-aid (which they call a booboo better now) after a fall.
Time to eat
Whether it’s bottle or breast, your baby will need to eat if you’re leaving the house for a chunk of time. Pack up your bottles, formula (use one of those premeasured containers for maximum convenience), and water OR toss in a cover, breast pads, and lanolin. Now you’re prepared for lunch on the go! (By the way, if you’re a breastfeeding mama, check out our post with TIPS FOR NURSING IN PUBLIC!)
You can also consider packing a bib and spit rags if you have a messy eater or spitty baby.
Keep calm and carry on
The biggest worry I hear from parents when they try to bring baby out for the day is the fear of a complete meltdown. Try to keep your baby’s top comfort items in your diaper bag and lessen the chances. Preferences are different for every kiddo but this may be a pacifier, blanket, stuffed animal, swaddle, or toy (or maybe all of the above!) My kids also both loved being worn so we kept a wrap or soft structured carrier in the car at all times.
make meal time easier
Sometimes bringing toddler supplies with you makes sit down meals simpler- and nowadays they make all kind of travel friendly snack and dinnerware for kids! If you have a messy eater, bring a plastic toddler bib and reusable or disposable placemat! Have a tiny human with tiny fingers and a preference for tiny utensils? Make life easier by bringing toddler utensils in a travel case! If your kids are like mine and go all “pinkies up” over their drinking glass you can bring silicone straws, a portable cup, or a stretchy lid. We are all about making life easier here. Do what it takes.
I also ALWAYS have snacks in my bag and a drink when I remember. Snacks save the day every time with both of my kids and Brother is always thirsty.
Distract and entertain
Waiting is hard. Waiting is EXTRA HARD when you’re a toddler. That’s why I keep a pouch full of quiet activities tucked in the front pocket of my diaper bag. Are you spotting a trend here? I’d rather be prepared than be stressed out. If the pediatrician leaves us in the waiting room for an hour or we choose a busy restaurant for dinner, I like to enjoy my time with my kids, which can be hard after a long day and everyone’s patience is running thin.
Psssst… I also must admit: I keep some of my favorite fidgets in a pocket of my diaper bag. If I’m stressed or feeling impatient or overwhelmed, they help me, too!
Do not forget to pack your sense of humor. You’re traveling with little humans who are adjusting to the world. No matter how prepared you think you are, something will always surprise you or throw everything off! Take the good with the bad and enjoy making memories.