Pack It Up: 11 Diaper Bag Essentials

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For the first few months of mommyhood, I packed nearly everything my daughter owned into her diaper bag. A change of clothes. Socks. Five diapers. Two packs of wipes. A baby towel and wash cloth — plus a few burp cloths. A bib. A blanket. Three board books …

As you can see, it was insane.

With my baby’s age has come some wisdom. I’ve compiled a list of 11 essential items, and it hasn’t failed me yet. Why 11 items? Because everyone else will list 10. I like to go against the grain.

Ready? Let’s pack it up.

Diaper bag. You know you need one — whether it’s an actual diaper bag or an oversized purse — but it doesn’t have to cost $150. Whatever you use should be durable and comfortable — and it shouldn’t have too many pockets. You won’t be able to resist filling every one of them.

I have two bags: a JJ Cole Camber ($49) for days when I want to look like an adult, and a red polka dot diaper backpack ($40) for days when IDGAF. (I’m usually carrying the backpack. Adulting is hard.) 

Diapers and wipes (counts as two items). This might seem like a “duh” addition, but it’s better that I say it than you be sorry.

I joked in the intro that I packed five diapers during Baby Bird’s early days, but that hasn’t changed. You never know when your quick Target run will turn into a hours-long outing, or when Little One will poop every 2.5 minutes.


Waterproof changing pad. Yes, you really need a changing pad. Lord only knows what grossness has been on that bathroom diaper station.

With that in mind, let me remind you to keep the pad in its own pocket or a Ziploc bag. You don’t want to transfer the grossness to your baby’s pacifier, do you?

Hand sanitizer (in case you don’t have access to a sink). My reasoning here should be pretty obvious … unless you don’t clean your hands after you go. But if that’s the case, you have more to worry about than packing a diaper bag.

Change of clothes for baby/spare shirt for you. Accidents happen — to Little One and you. Learn from my mistakes. Just pack the clothes.

Facebook conversation

Ziploc or plastic grocery bags. You need something to put those crappy clothes in (unless you’re prepared to throw them away). These bag will be really important for moms who opt to use a purse in lieu of a diaper bag.

Nothing says life of luxury like a Louis Vuitton Neverfull GM with poop stains.

A baby blanket. Good for wrapping Little One if she gets chilly, or to use as an impromptu floor play mat.

Milk. If you don’t formula-feed or give your baby pumped breast milk, you can ignore this item and instead pack …

A nursing cover. I tried using the blanket as a cover, but Baby Bird seemed to overheat — then toss the blanket off and expose me. Using a nursing cover that I have to put on my body offers me a bit more … protection. This is the one I have, and it hasn’t failed me yet. 

A board book. Baby Bird is more interested in chewing on books than reading them, and I’m happy to let her do that if it keeps her quiet at the doctor’s office or DMV purgatory. If your child is older, you can substitute with a small, quiet toy. 

Loud-toy meme

A Snickers. Or whatever other narcotic- and alcohol-free pick-me-up gets you going.

Being home all day with a child is hard, but leaving the house with a child can be hell. Stave off hanger (you know, hunger + anger) that can send you into a tailspin. Pack yourself a snack. 


  1. Great post! I used to carry around an insane amount of stuff before realizing how unnecessary most of it was. And I so love the diaper backpack. So much easier than a shoulder bag!

    • Thanks!
      Our diaper bag was so heavy I started to develop back problems. Cutting back was a necessity!
      I love the backpack, too. It’s not sophisticated AT ALL, but as I said in the post, I usually don’t care 🙂

      • Word! I bought an expensive (for me) Jujube bag while pregnant–it was some hormonal craziness, as I sold it after giving birth and got the pack we have now for 1/7 of the price. It was so beautiful and fancy, though!

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