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Diaper Bag Essentials

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Article by:

Cara Dumaplin

RN, BSN, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant

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Let’s talk about what to pack in a diaper bag. I spoke with the moms on the Taking Cara Babies team, listened to parents from my online community, and used my experience as a mom of four to create a guide to diaper bag essentials. I’m including a diaper bag checklist, diaper bag must-haves, and more.

Want to join the Taking Cara Babies community? Be sure to follow me on Instagram for more tips and sleep advice!

What to pack in a diaper bag:anchor

Diaper bag must-havesanchor

Every family’s diaper bag needs are going to be a little different. Over time, you will find what diaper bag items are a must-have for you and your baby. While some parents like to have a fully-stocked diaper bag with any item their little one may need, others feel safe with just a few necessities. 

Want a free download of my diaper bag checklist?

Here are my diaper bag must-haves:


  • Diapers (1 per each hour you’ll be away)

  • Wipes (1 pack)

  • Diaper cream

  • Changing pad

  • Bags for dirty diapers (and dirty clothes)

  • Clean outfits (2)


  • Bottle

  • Formula or breastmilk

  • Nursing cover (If you like, feel free to nurse however makes YOU most comfortable.)

  • Burp cloths

  • Bibs

  • Nursing pads

  • Snacks 

  • Water Bottle 


  • Pacifiers

  • Portable sound machine


  • Lightweight blanket

  • Toys

  • Books

Safety and Sanitizing

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Sanitizing wipes

  • Small first aid kit

  • Sunscreen (for babies 6 months and older)


  • Wallet

  • Keys

  • Hair Ties/Chapstick/Comfort Items

  • Phone

  • Spare shirt

  • Snacks 

  • Water Bottle 

Expert Tip: If you will be away for a while and your baby needs to nap on the go, consider bringing a baby carrier to use for a contact nap.

Diaper bag packing and organization tipsanchor

Having an organized diaper bag will make finding items much easier. Here are my tips for packing and organizing your diaper bag:

  • Use organizing bags. Using clear storage bags to keep similar items together can help avoid digging and rummaging for one specific item! I recommend having a bag for diapers and wipes, one for clean outfits, one for snacks, and another for items for parents. 

  • Repack your bag. I always recommend repacking your diaper bag when you get home from an outing. When you’re rushing out the door to get somewhere with your baby, it’s so nice to know that there are diapers and wipes already in your bag!

  • Recheck every few months. Every month or so, I encourage you to check the size and type of clothing you have packed in your diaper bag. As your little one grows and seasons change, you may need to refresh clothes or diapers to be sure everything fits.

Expert tip: If you’re still awaiting the arrival of your new baby, pack the diaper bag when you pack your hospital bag. While you won’t need to bring it to the hospital with you, you’ll have it packed and ready for your baby’s first pediatrician appointment.

Choosing the best diaper bag:anchor

When choosing the best diaper bag for you, here are features to consider:

  • Tote or backpack style. Most diaper bags are either a tote or backpack style. You can decide what works best for you and your lifestyle!

  • Pockets. Look for a diaper bag that has plenty of internal pockets to help with organizing smaller items.

  • Easy to clean. Your bag is going to get dirty! Having a diaper bag that is easy to wipe clean or throw into the washing machine is a must. 

  • Size. If you have more than one young child, you may want to look for a larger-sized bag to easily fit more items.

  • Style. Do you want a diaper bag that looks like a diaper bag? Or a diaper bag that looks like a “normal” bag or backpack? You know your own style and preferences best, so choose what you love! 

You can find my favorite diaper bags here.  

Alternatives to a diaper bag anchor

Depending on the age of your baby, the distance you’re traveling, the type of outing, and your style, you may prefer an alternative to a diaper bag. Here are some options:

  • Diaper caddy in your car. Once your baby is a bit older (think over about 12 months), then keeping a small bag with you and using a car diaper caddy for other essentials may work for you and your baby!

  • Diaper bag insert. If you find yourself frequently needing to switch back and forth between bags, you can consider using a diaper bag insert. With the insert, you can keep all of your essential items and simply move them from one bag to another.

  • The bag you love. Any bag, tote, or backpack that you love can be your diaper bag. You may have to purchase some organizing bags or get a little creative to make things easier to find, but if you love it, your favorite bag can be a great option.

Expert Tip: In the newborn stage, it can be helpful to bring a fully stocked bag with you – even on short outings. You’ll be thankful you’re prepared when unexpected needs happen.

Want tips to help set your mind at ease about baby sleep before your little one arrives?
I have a free download called 5 Things Every Expectant Parent Needs to Know about Baby Sleep.

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