Gone are the days of leaving your house with just your keys and your phone. A diaper bag is a must-have for toting diapers and wipes, of course, but also bottles, snacks, toys, books, blankets and alllll of the other things you’ll need to take your family show on the road.
Do You Need a Diaper Bag?
Real talk: kids are unpredictable. Just when you think your child is full, minutes later they’ll want a snack. It’s practically guaranteed that your baby who always poops in the morning will have an afternoon blowout if you’re anywhere inconvenient (think: on a plane, hiking, shopping, at that nice-ish restaurant). Having key essentials at the ready means you can deal with whatever scenario arises without having to pack up and head home.
If you want to skip the diaper bag, you can definitely use a regular backpack or even a tote to cart around whatever you need. (You can even slip a diaper changing clutch—a compact changing pad that can hold a few diapers and other bare essentials—into your usual bag.) But lots of parents choose to register for a diaper bag since they’re specially designed for organizing baby + kid gear and often feature extra compartments, insulated pockets for bottles and other helpful perks.
What Types of Diaper Bags Are There?
Diaper bags come in a variety of styles including:
Backpacks let you have your hands free. They can even be worn on your back while you’re wearing your baby in a carrier on your front.
Totes feature two long straps so you can carry the bag over your shoulder.
Messenger bags have one long strap. They can be worn crossbody or over one shoulder.
A diaper clutch is small and portable. Clutches fit the bare minimum: think a few diapers, wipes, a small tube of diaper cream and maybe a change of clothes.
Need help figuring out what kind of diaper bag to get? Check out our How to Choose a Diaper Bag guide o for tips on what to consider:
Yes. Even if you decide to skip buying a diaper-specific bag, you still need a spacious carry-all for when you leave home with a baby. If you prefer to repurpose a bag you already own, it helps to use packing pouches or an organizing bag insert so you aren’t scrambling to find the essentials in your bag. Otherwise, it’s certainly worth investing in a new diaper bag because they’re designed specifically to use with infants and toddlers.
Types of diaper bags
Backpacks: Your best bet if you want to be hands-free, diaper backpacks are popular because they’re comfortable to wear on long outings and stay put as you move. Unlike regular backpacks you’d carry for travel or work, these look like diaper bags on the inside with baby-friendly organizational compartments.
Totes: With two long straps to wear over your shoulder, these are convenient if you need to reach inside for something while you’re carrying it. They also tend to be even more spacious than diaper backpacks and have bigger compartments, making them ideal for younger babies that need more items when you’re out.
Messenger or crossbody bags: Similar to totes, these bags are roomy and easy to access. The difference is that they have one long strap and hang lower, so they may be more comfortable to wear if the bag feels bulky under your shoulder or if you’re arms are occupied with a baby. You’ll often find removable long straps that come with tote diaper bags so you can also wear them across your body.
Convertible bags: As the name suggests, these diaper bags can switch from one of the above styles to another, and sometimes even can be worn all three ways. Depending on the shape there may be one ideal way to wear it – i.e. if it’s taller it’s best as a backpack, but if it’s wider it’s best as a tote or messenger – but removable and adjustable straps let you choose how to carry it an any given time.
Clutches: If you don’t need to carry as much in your bag, clutches hold just the basics you need for diaper changes. They’re also ideal for holding the essentials together so you can toss it into larger bags when it’s time to head out.
What to look for in a diaper bag
Interior space: Don’t be fooled by appearances; what matters most is what’s on the inside. (Yes, we’re still talking about diaper bags.) Bags that don’t look huge can still be surprisingly roomy once you open them, and bags that do look big don’t necessarily have a lot of packing space. If you want a diaper bag that can hold diaper changing supplies, clothes, blankets, bottles and more, make sure you look at the inside compartments.
Organizational pockets: Most diaper bags have large elastic pouches to hold diapers and bulky items along with smaller zippered compartments so you don’t lose the little things. Some even have bottle and wipe holders for easy access. You can also find bags that come with extra pouches in addition to the built-in pockets.
Stroller hooks: Unlike regular styles, diaper bags often have discreet rings or straps that you can attach onto the stroller’s handlebar and be bag-free while you walk. Some bags can be clipped on directly, but oftentimes you need to add hooks onto the stroller separately. Just be cautious of how heavy the bag is to prevent the stroller from tipping over.
Strap comfort: If you’re worried about holding a heavy bag for a long period of time, look for straps that are wide and padded to help offload the weight. You can also look for adjustable straps to help find the right fit.
Accessories: The majority of diaper bags come with a changing pad so you don’t have to purchase your own, but the size and thickness of the pads will vary. Some also come with extra containers, straps, and more add-ons for a better value. Others, especially the ones that are lower priced, may be sold as the bag alone, so don’t always assume you’re getting the changing pad.
Style: Don’t forget to make sure to pick a bag you’ll actually enjoy wearing. There are tons of options to choose from and you certainly don’t have to sacrifice fashion for function. Also consider who will be using it; many styles are unisex so all parents and caregivers can share the same bag.
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