Diaper Bag 101 – What You Should Pack

mom holding baby in city with backpack diaper bag on her back

New parents have a lot of questions:


How can I help my spouse connect to our baby while I’m pregnant?

Can you hold your baby too much?

Do I count the time between feedings from the start of a feeding or the end?

Is green poop normal?

What should I pack in my hospital bag?


Other common questions relate to diaper bags, like what you should pack in a diaper bag or if you even need one.

Do we need a diaper bag?

mom holding baby with backback diaper bag on

Yes! Do you leave your house without a purse or at least a wristlet? (If you do, I don’t know how you do it.) Diaper bags are just like purses—they’re great for holding everything you need when you leave home; except this time you’re storing things for your baby and a few things for you. 

Babies require A LOT of stuff, especially newborns, and you need a convenient place to put all the diapers, wipes, etc., even on those short trips to the grocery store.

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Can I use any bag as a diaper bag?

Many handbags and backpacks can double as diaper bags. Some parents choose to use a large bag they already have and just buy a diaper bag insert organizer so they have more pockets and organization inside their bag. With that being said, a diaper bag is a great purchase—or something to add to your baby registry—for even the most minimalist of parents.

While a stylish tote is made for a woman’s everyday necessities, it tends to lack all the necessary interior pockets for a baby’s everyday necessities. Today’s diapers bags are as fashionable as the purse you use now, but they’re more functional for this new stage of life. 

Does your favorite tote have insulated bottle pockets or an insert to store your portable changing pad in? A diaper bag does. Is your expensive fabric shoulder bag easy to clean from spills and spit up? Most diaper bags are made with easy-to-clean outer materials and a waterproof interior lining.

And moms, consider your partners. Are they going to carry around your purse when they take your baby on a daddy-daughter date? I’m guessing their reaction would be something like this…

man pointing his thumb down gif

A diaper bag backpack is a perfect option here because you can easily find one that’s sporty enough for him but still cute enough for you and that’s convenient and comfortable for both of you.

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What should I pack in my diaper bag for the hospital?

top view of open diaper bag

Packing your diaper bag for the hospital is fun, or at least it should be. Don’t stress over what you need to pack. The hospital will provide some things if you want or need them. And if you live close to your hospital, you can always have your spouse run home to grab something you forgot or ask the grandparents to stop by and pick it up on their way to see you.

But to help ease your mind and ensure packing that cute diaper bag for the first time is as fun as it should be, use this hospital bag checklist:

    • Pajamas. Bring at least two pairs. Baby knotted gowns work great because they are comfy to wear day and night, make diaper changes super easy, and won’t irritate baby’s umbilical cord stump.
    • Socks or booties. Baby’s feet and toes easily get cold. Plus, you never know how warm or cool the hospital will be.
    • Mittens. Some babies come out with long, sharp nails. If the clothes you brought don’t have built-in foldover mittens, bring a pair or two of your own.
    • Hats or headbands. Hats help your newborn stay warm. The hospital will provide a hat, but if you want something a little cuter, bring your own. And if you’re having a girl, you can always bring a soft, stretchy newborn headband for her to wear, too.
    • Burp rags. Whether nursing or bottle-feeding, burp rags are very helpful during and after feeding time.
    • Blanket. The hospital will provide blankets, but it may be nice to have your own, especially during skin-to-skin time and on the drive home.
    • Going home outfit. What you choose will depend on where you live and the season, but make sure it works with a car seat and is picture-worthy!
    • Pediatrician’s contact information. Your doctor or nurses will ask you about the pediatrician you plan to use. You’ll also probably have to fill out a form for the hospital that includes his or her information (name, address, and phone number). If you have it already written down or saved on your phone, it’ll be easy to provide that information.
    • Diaper cream. The hospital will have some in case you need it, but in my experience, I didn’t love what they gave us. We had a nice nurse who got us a better diaper cream while my son was in the NICU, but we later found out it cost us almost double what we would’ve paid for one at a drugstore.
    • Nursing pillow. This won’t fit in your diaper bag, but it’s a must-have if you plan to breastfeed.

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The hospital will have diapers, wipes, baby wash, and lotion, but if you have a certain brand you want to use, then you can bring your own. It’s actually not a bad idea to bring a small extra bag to put all the free (kind of) stuff in that the hospital will send you home with.

What should you pack in a diaper bag for everyday outings?

mom holding baby in city with backpack diaper bag on her back

Once you bring your baby home from the hospital, you’ll want to repack your diaper bag, and then repack it before every outing. Here are some things to have inside your diaper bag:

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Diaper cream
  • Portable changing pad
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Extra clothes
  • Food for baby (bottle, formula, pumped breast milk, baby food, etc.)
  • Bibs
  • Burp cloths
  • Small extra sacks or wet bag (for dirty diapers, clothes, or pacifiers)
  • Extra pacifier and binky clip (if your baby takes one)
  • Extra lightweight blanket
  • Baby wrap
  • Small toys and/or books.

Now that you know the essentials for your baby, here’s what to pack in the diaper bag for yourself:

  • Extra shirt
  • Nursing pads
  • Nursing cover
  • Snacks and water (especially if you’re breastfeeding)
  • Wallet
  • Small makeup or toiletry bag for personal care items.

As your baby gets older, what you put in your diaper bag changes. Take for instance some parents swap out a baby wrap for a structured front baby carrier once their child is around 6 months old and has good head control, so they can hold their baby but have their hands free to shop. Just remember to consider your baby’s age, stage, and every scenario you may encounter and then pack accordingly so you’re prepared no matter what happens while you’re out.

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Kirsten Metcalf is a writer, editor and mother to a hilarious but very strong-willed toddler and a beautiful baby girl. She started writing short stories in elementary school and years later became a sports reporter and editor. Now, she mainly writes marketing, religious and parenting-related blog posts. Even before she knew she wanted to be a writer, Kirsten knew she wanted to be a mom. She knows being a mom is one of the most rewarding but hardest jobs out there, which is why she loves being able to share parenting knowledge and support to other moms through her writing. When she actually wins negotiations with her toddler, Kirsten likes to reward herself by watching KU basketball, eating cheesecake, or going on a Target run by herself.