Ask the Expert: Diaper Bags
Ask the Expert: Diaper Bags
April 2, 2021

Ask the Expert: Diaper Bags

Ask the Expert: Diaper Bags.
Ask the Expert: Diaper Bags

Ever wish you had a baby gear expert by your side to answer all of your questions and help you build your baby registry every step of the way?

Welcome to Ask the Expert, a new series where I answer real questions from real Babylist users and parents just like you. Who am I? I’m Jen LaBracio, Babylist’s Gear Editor, a role that perfectly combines my love of (obsessive) research with my love of all things baby gear.


A diaper bag makes getting out of the house with your baby (and alllll the stuff you need to take along with you) a whole lot easier. So it’s no wonder that you have a lot of questions around how to choose a diaper bag and which bags are best depending on your needs.

Diaper bags: you asked, we answered. Let’s get to it!

What exactly goes IN a diaper bag?

I wanted to start with this question because I just love it so much. And I think any first-time parent can relate. I remember getting ready to leave my apartment with my son for his first pediatrician appointment, staring at the diaper bag open on my couch and thinking to myself, “Well, hm. What exactly is supposed to go in this thing?”

Here’s how I like to think of it: a diaper bag should be packed with the necessities (diapers, wipes, bottles if you use them, etc.), backup options in case of a mess or a blowout, and stuff to keep your baby entertained.

The contents of your bag will change as your baby gets older, but here’s a breakdown of the basics:

  • Diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream
  • Portable changing pad
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bib
  • Burp clothes
  • Backup outfit or two (don’t forget socks!)
  • Lightweight blanket
  • Pacifier
  • A few small toys (teether, rattle, board book, small electronic toy etc.)

Optional, depending on your child’s age, if they nurse or use a bottle and what type of climate you live in:

  • Nursing cover
  • Bottles and formula
  • Baby wrap or carrier
  • Sunscreen and sunhat
  • Snacks

Check out 10 Diaper Bag Essentials to learn more about how to pack your bag and suggestions on what specific products to put inside.

What features do you actually need in a diaper bag?

There are a few features I think are must-haves in a diaper bag. Others are more of a “nice to have,” so I’ll break down both.

Must-haves:

  • Comfort. This is a biggie. Whether you prefer a backpack style, a crossbody or something else, you need to make sure whatever bag you’re toting around is comfortable to carry. Thicker, padded straps usually equal more comfort. And look for a bag that fits your body type. If you have a smaller frame, for example, a huge, bulky diaper bag probably isn’t the best choice for you.
  • Size. Like our friend Goldilocks knows, finding a bag that’s just right—not too big and not too small—is the way to go. You want something big enough to hold all of your stuff but not so big that it’s cumbersome to carry. Keep in mind that the size of the bag you’ll need to carry will depend on how many kids you’re packing for and how old your little one(s) is.
  • Pockets, pockets, pockets. I love pockets! And compartments! And pouches! And zippers! Baby stuff is tiny and can easily get lost at the bottom of a bag. Pockets and pouches keep things separate and organized. They’re also great for keeping dirty stuff away from what’s clean.

Nice-to-haves:

  • Extra features like stroller hooks, an insulated pocket for bottles, a water bottle pocket, dedicated tech compartments for your phone or laptop and a built-in keyring are all nice to have.
  • Although it’s a matter of personal preference, I strongly favor diaper bags that can be worn a few different ways: a backpack style, over your shoulder, etc. I like having options depending on how I need the bag to work for me that day.
  • Look for a bag that can either be thrown right into the washing machine or has an easily wipeable surface. This can be tougher if your bag is made from a natural material like leather, but even most leather diaper bags will have interiors that are wipeable.
  • Self-standing bags (bags that stand upright and are lifted a tiny bit off of the ground when you set them down) are a nice plus. I like that they won’t topple over and that they aren’t directly in contact with the floor or ground.
  • Some bags come with built-in changing pads or are sold with a portable changing pad included. It’s a nice perk and something you’ll definitely use.

How to Choose a Diaper Bag can also help you figure out which features to look for in a bag and what type of diaper bag is best for you and your family.

Is a diaper bag a necessity or can you repurpose a tote or backpack?

It may be weird to hear this coming from the Gear Editor at Babylist, but…there are truly very few “must-haves” when it comes to baby gear. Short of the basics like a safe place to sleep, clothing, diapers, and milk or formula, there’s very little that a baby actually needs. (But shopping for them sure is fun, isn’t it?)

You don’t need a diaper bag if you don’t want one or if it’s not in your budget. It’s totally doable to use a bag that you already own, like a backpack or a tote. I do recommend using some sort of organizing system inside, though. Baby stuff is tiny and it’s a huge pain to have to root around for five minutes every time your baby needs a pacifier. Something like the ToteSavvy works really well, as do plain old Zip-Lock storage bags.

What diaper bag holds the most? What’s the best diaper bag for twins?

We got this question from a few different users. And while there’s no exact answer (what one person considers to be a giant bag might not be the case for someone else), there are a few oversized bags that I like specifically for parents of multiples or if you have a few children close in age.

  • Skip Hop’s Mainframe bag isn’t enormous but does have a nice, wide-mouth opening that provides easy access to all your stuff. The brand’s Duo Weekender is also a good XL option, too.
  • Petunia Picklebottom’s Boxy Backpack is extra-wide and boasts tons of storage and different carry positions.
  • We love the bestselling Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. bag for lots of reasons (it’s 100% machine-washable!) and it’s a good choice if you’re in need of a large, durable bag for twins or multiple kids that will go the distance.
  • The Kinney Backpack from Mina Baie is a beautiful vegan option that’s roomy, versatile and easy to clean.

What’s a good transition diaper bag for toddlers who don’t need as much stuff?

While there are definitely some challenges to the toddler years (terrible twos, we’re looking at you), there are also lots of perks. And paring down the amount of stuff you’ll need to carry around every time you leave the house is definitely one of them.

There aren’t any diaper bags specifically designed for the toddler years; you can really make any type of bag work, depending on your preferences. I still like a bag with lots of pockets and compartments even if you’re using it for an older kiddo, but you can sacrifice on size a bit. Look for bags with a smaller profile like a slimmer backpack style, a tote or even a narrow crossbody. Here are a few ideas to kick off your search:

We received a ton of questions on the best diaper bag across lots of different categories, like the best luxury diaper bag, best compact diaper bag, best diaper-bag-that-doesn’t-scream-diaper-bag etc. Here’s a roundup of some of my favorites broken down by category.

Best affordable and stylish diaper bag:

Best diaper bag that’s worth the splurge:

Best diaper bag that doesn’t look like a diaper bag:

Best compact diaper bag:

Best gender neutral diaper bag:

Best diaper bag for a breast pump:

Best diaper bag for travel:

For even more diaper bag picks, head over to the Best Diaper Bags guide!

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