What to Pack in Your (Maximalist) Diaper Bag

The diaper bag. The on-the-go, hit-the-road nursery/ playroom/ kitchen/ bathroom/ closet for your new babe or wild toddler. You know you need a diaper bag. You know the basics of what to pack in the diaper bag- diapers, wipes, maybe some bottles… but what else?! What all do you pack in your diaper bag if you want to be prepared?!

Here I’ve pulled together my personal list of must-haves along with some tips and tricks that I’ve found useful through the years to share with you (and feel free to share with any other mommas you know that could use the inspiration)!

But wait. Don’t get me wrong. Not every trip out of the house requires the whole shebang. If you’re running around the corner to the store for 5 minutes you can probably survive just fine with a diaper and some wipes.
So here’s the first tip: Store items in pouches of things that are alike. I’ll get into details in a minute but the point is that it makes life easy when you make your bag easily customizable. Keep your pouches ready to go and toss in whatever you need for each outing.

Now let’s go pack a super prepared maximalist diaper bag together and get you ready for anything!

Diaper Bag Basics?

Which kind of diaper bag is best?

Maximalist Diaper Bag Inspiration Pinterst Image
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The diaper bag options are endless. There are SO MANY styles, colors, prices, and sizes available- and I think the answer to the question “Which is the best kind of diaper bag?” is personal. Start by thinking about what YOUR priorities are when you’re out with your baby or toddler, your style, and what kind of bag fits those needs best.

During the newborn stage, I personally preferred a messenger style bag. I liked having the bag directly at my hip and being able to grab what I needed quickly and without much effort. Most include a strap long enough to go across the body, making it extra secure. Baby on left hip. Bag at right hip. This style also tends to be thinner if you use a stroller often or travel more extensively (easy squeeze under the seat).

The backpack style diaper bags have also majorly gained popularity in recent years. I switched to one when I didn’t feel I needed access to the bag as often and did need more access to moving quickly (hello, toddler years). Having the bag securely strapped to my back gave me the ability to be comfortable during play and to run after my kid at any given moment. A backpack style bag is also worth considering if you babywear on the front. It stays nicely out of the way of carriers or wraps and distributes weight more evenly on your body, though you’ll need another solution if you flip to back carries.

The truth about diaper bags is that you can really use any bag you want! If it’s comfortable for you and fits everything you need… Tah dah! You have a diaper bag. Want to shop outside the box? Look for something with a sturdy, waterproof fabric– or be prepared to wash or replace it often. I also recommend looking for something with a few pockets. Pockets = Storage. Women love pockets. Moms love pockets. More pockets, please.

Another note: When I pick out 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. Does he WANT to wear a Disney Princess bag? Probably not. So I keep my bag neutral and fill it with fun accessories. I have carried a pretty, floral bag in the past, though, and kept our basic grey bag on hand in the closet- just in case.

How to Keep Your Diaper Bag Organized and Clean

Sometimes pockets aren’t enough. Sometimes you need pouches and pods to go along with your pockets. Sometimes you want to be able to wash, add, or remove individual little pockets of goodies. You can never have too much storage and organization with kids in the picture.

toddler putting a rock into a mermaid reusable bag
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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. I like that they keep the mess contained inside and don’t let disaster spread to the entire diaper bag. If you’re a cloth diapering mom, these are a necessity, but even if you’re not- it’s great to have a place for wet shoes, soiled clothes, slobber bibs, random river rocks picked up by your toddler…
(You can also replace this with a disposable plastic product like a grocery bag or diaper pail bag if you prefer. If you’re looking for a sturdy, affordable disposable option, a friend recommended doggy bags! Yes, THOSE doggy bags. They can work wonders.)

Reusable snack and sandwich sized bags are another great choice for carrying snacks or messy items. Pods and pouches make it easy to find pacifiers, small toys, or diaper accessories. Keep items in designated small bags (ex diapering pod, feeding pouch, toy baggie) for easy access.
Even a basic ziploc can replace these products in a pinch or on a budget!

My other must-have for myself that I recommend for consideration is a fold-up reusable bag. I bought an adorable mermaid one and keep it clipped to the outside of my 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 I want 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).

Some of my favorite places to shop for waterproof pouches, clutches, pods, and wet bags: THIRSTIES, FABUFLUFF, HAPPY BEEHINDS, BUMKINS, and ITZY RITZY.

What do you NEED in a diaper bag?

The Diapering Supplies

cloth diaper inserts hanging to dry
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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. It’s a habit from my daycare days. 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 smaller burp cloths for the spitty baby days.

If you’re expecting more than a 10 minute trip around the corner, you may want to also carry a diaper pad. It’ll keep your babe’s bare skin off of public changing tables and is easy to wipe down if there’s any kind of mess. (The paper towels available in most bathrooms are a great alternative to this if you forget or don’t want to buy a pad.)

Buy extra and pack your preferred diaper cream if your kiddo is a frequent user. It’s also worth packing some if you’re visiting a new place with new foods and/or going on vacation. Depending on your destination, you may not be able to easily buy diaper cream without making a special trip for it and a change in diet, routine, clothes, or climate could trigger an unexpected rash.

Mealtime Must-Haves for the Diaper Bag

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Whether it’s bottle or breast, your young 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 if they’re items you choose to use. 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 should also plan on packing a bib and spit rags if you have a messy eater or spitty baby. If your little one is teething or just learning to eat, we love silicone and mesh feeders to make us more mobile- or keep a spoon and your preferred brand of baby food in the diaper bag.

If you have a toddler in tow, I’ve got a few suggestions that can make sit down meals simpler. 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. I’ve even brought collapsible tupperware in my bag when I knew my son wouldn’t eat everything at the restaurant but was likely to want more later.

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Download a printable list of all these items!

We are all about making life easier here. Do what it takes.

Oh, and I ALWAYS have snacks and a drink in my bag- for all of us. Snacks save the day every time.

Practical Necessities for in the Bag

Don’t forget about your own needs for the diaper bag. Toss your wallet in there. Make sure your keys are packed. Grab your phone. (Pro tip- Put these in a designated spot so you don’t have to rummage every time you need them.)

The other mom 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.

What are some extras you may WANT in a diaper bag?

Avoid Meltdowns

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, teether, 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 or bag at all times.

Psssst… I must admit: I also keep some of my favorite fidgets and a book in a pocket of my bag. If I’m stressed or feeling impatient or overwhelmed, they help me, too! And my Loop noise blocking earplugs? Those are a necessity for me, especially if we are going to a noisy kid’s play place. You get to have comfort items, too!

Mobile Mommy Self Care

Another comfort for you: Keep beauty basics like face powder, lip gloss, a brush, mascara, bobby pins, and hair ties in your bag. Life with little ones can get wild. Even if I’m composed when I head out, it’s nice to be able to fix myself up after rolling down a hill at the playground or breaking a hair tie at the grocery store.

We're going on an adventure written in gold on a bag
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Stay Connected

Remember to bring your phone charger so your phone is ready if you need it- for use as a GPS, in an emergency, or just a really cute photo op. I try to keep one in the bag that includes both a wall and car charger on the end.

Prepare for the Outdoors

Toddler sitting in a strawberry field with an adult sized baseball cap on his head
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If you forget a hat for babe, one of yours will work, too!

Keep that silky soft baby skin safe! If you’re outside, keep kiddos over 6 months old lathered up with sunscreen and spritzed with bug spray. My preferred products are THINKBABY for the sun because it’s effective and skin safe (also reef safe) and OFF! for bug spray because we do a lot of playing in woods, on farms, and other buggy places and I’m not messing around with bites. Remember to read and follow the directions on your products.

If you have a babe under 6 months, replace these items with a proper sun hat and protective clothing for outdoor adventures. Actually, those aren’t bad items to have for any age. Also consider sunglasses for sunny days, toss in a hat and gloves for cold days, and extra water if you’ll be in the heat or exercising. If rain is in the forecast, you may want to pack an umbrella, poncho, or stroller cover.

If you live in or are visiting 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 many meltdowns. (My kids and I hate the heat.) If you’re going out into a winter wonderland, hot hands are a warm luxury. (Warning: These should only be handled by adults and older children. Do not place any kind of warming product against a child who can not easily and clearly express when it may be TOO hot or burning skin.)

Accidents Happen

Keep a Spare

If you get your kid through childhood without them messing up their clothes in public… I have questions. Between mud puddles, drool, mealtime spills, and potty incidents, it is a miracle if my kids’ clothes stay in tact for an entire day. Pack extra clothes (and that previously mentioned wet bag). Make sure each kid has a pair of pants, a shirt, and a set of socks in the bag (or in the car if you carry a small bag!). My potty-trained kiddo has a spare pair of undies. A friend shared that she uses small packing cubes, like the kind you’d use for a vacation suitcase, to keep her bag organized and separate each of her children’s extra outfits.

Toddler driving a golf cart through rough terrain
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Mommy, MD

Children love to explore and adventure. Sometimes this adventuring leads to accidents. Keeping a miniature first aid pouch clipped to the diaper bag is a great idea if you happen to be a parent with an accident prone kiddo. I don’t recommend lugging around an entire first aid kit on a regular basis, but the basics are nice to have on hand. You can usually find a cheap one for under $10 that includes things like band aids, a small ice pack, alcohol wipes, sting relief pads, and a dose of pain reliever.

Along these same lines- keeping a bottle of your preferred pain reliever, allergy pill, or other meds you may want or need while away from home is a great idea. Tissues are another great on-hand illness item along with honey drops or cough drops.

We always have hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in the bag, too. During the winter I also tend to keep immune boosters tucked in there. And you can’t forget a stain stick. Sometimes you can avoid a whole outfit change with that magical tool.

You may also want to keep an extra copy of your child’s insurance cards in a pocket of the diaper bag in addition to any important medical information you might want doctors or EMS to have in case of emergency. This is particularly important if you’re packing a bag for a caregiver besides yourself or your significant other.

Distract and Entertain

toddler playing with toy at restaurant
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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. A post FULL of ideas is coming soon but here’s some quick ones: a ImagineInk or Color Wonder coloring set, small books, some stickers, and a puzzle cube are all great.

And Finally…

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.

Let us know below, what is a must have for YOUR diaper bag?!

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