How to Pack Your Diaper Bag Like a Pro

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The first days and weeks after you bring your new baby home might be a little hectic. Or a lot hectic. You’re physically recovering from giving birth. You need more sleep. And it might feel like the only thing you do all day is feed your baby and change diapers.

In time, you’ll have someplace to go and a good reason to bring your baby with you. Knowing how to choose a diaper bag and what baby items are essential to pack inside is the key to successful trips – short or long – with your baby by your side. Which beats not having what you need and heading home (with an unhappy baby) sooner than you planned.

Not Your Mother’s Diaper Bag

Diaper bags have evolved beyond those small quilted ones featuring cute baby animals, short handles, and a single zipper across the top. These days, a diaper bag is more likely to be a:

  • Backpack that keeps your hands free and can be worn with a front baby carrier
  • Tote bag with two long straps you can slide over your shoulder
  • Messenger bag with one long strap to wear across your body or over one shoulder
  • Diaper clutch with changing pad that can hold a few diapers and other bare essentials

In fact, today’s baby bags are stylish, practical, ergonomically designed, and technologically advanced. Many have extra compartments, insulated pockets for bottles, built-in changing pads, and plenty of other cool extras. No matter what style you choose, the best diaper bag helps you stay organized so you can find everything you need within seconds. Which is essential if your baby is crying and you need to take immediate action.

A final thought: You may be using this fabulous new baby bag for several years, as your baby becomes a toddler or even heads for preschool, so it’s a good idea to think about the style and color before you buy or add a certain diaper bag to your baby registry. Another consideration is how your spouse or partner will feel about wearing or carrying this specific bag when they’re out with the baby.

What to Pack: Newborn

Newborns don’t need toys, but they do need more feeding and diapering supplies than an older baby. Here’s a list of essential items for your newborn’s diaper bag:

  • Diaper wipes
  • Diapers (1 or 2 per hour of trip, plus extras)
  • Changing pad
  • Diaper rash cream
  • 2 extra outfits
  • Zip or reusable bags (to keep dirty stuff away from clean stuff)
  • Nursing cover (if needed)
  • Extra baby blanket
  • Swaddle blanket
  • Pediatrician’s phone number
  • Hand sanitizer

If you’re breastfeeding, you also need to pack:

  • A blanket or cloth to cover you when feeding in public
  • 2 to 3 bibs
  • 1 or 2 burp cloths
  • Easy snacks and water for you

If you’re formula feeding, you also need to pack:

  • Bottles
  • Cans or packets of formula
  • Water (for powdered or concentrated formula)

What to Pack: Infant

As your baby grows, they will need a few more items in addition to the newborn essentials listed above. Your older baby won’t need a swaddle blanket, but you’ll want to check to make sure the extra clothes in their bag still fit. You may want to add:

  • Favorite toy, book, or stuffed animal
  • Baby food and snacks (if they’re eating solid food)
  • Sun hat or winter hat
  • Baby sunglasses
  • Extra socks
  • Travel size baby lotion
  • Teething toy
  • Over-the-counter pain or teething medication
  • Digital thermometer

Take a Test Run

Now that you know how to choose a diaper bag and what to pack, you’re (almost) ready for your first trip away from home with your baby. Here are 5 suggestions to make it as smooth as possible:

  1. Don’t go too far. Taking a couple of short trips close to home is a good way to find out how much you and your baby can handle.
  2. Avoid the crowds. Until you’ve made a couple of successful trips, it’s best to visit smaller locations and avoid rush-hour crowds.
  3. Pick the right time. Your baby will be more content or ready to nap in the car right after a feeding and diaper change.
  4. Pack the night before. Putting everything you’ll need in the diaper bag ahead of time means one less thing to think about.
  5. Keep your bag packed. Restocking your diaper bag after every use means you won’t have to hunt for missing items before the next trip.

As you can see, with a little planning and a little practice it’s not hard to take your baby with you when you leave home. And it’s worth it. Because there’s a whole world of new experiences out there just waiting to be shared with your little one.

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