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Diaper Bag Must-Haves (minimalist approach)

Babies have SO MUCH STUFF. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed when packing for a day out with a little one. Personally, I prefer to stick to just the essentials. I’m not someone who wants to lug the entire nursery with me “just in case.” I find bringing just the must-haves means I’m not only carrying less around but it’s easier to find and grab things when I need them.

I’d say my diaper bag is pretty small, compact, and minimal compared to many of the ones I see others carrying around. I wanted to share my must-have items.

But first, what bags do I use?

What I look for in a diaper bag:

Backpack style: Personally, I prefer a backpack style diaper bag. It makes you 100% hands-free. Plus, husbands don’t mind toting them around.

Not too big: As mentioned above, I prefer to not have to bring a lot with me. Some people might prefer to have everything “just in case” but that’s just not my style. Having a bag that’s not too oversized prevents me from overpacking. It forces me to stick to JUST the essentials which makes trips out a lot easier.

One-handed zip: Something I discovered pretty quickly into going out with a baby is hands are a hot commodity. A bag that requires both your hands to zip closed can be annoying. One-handed zipping is key.

Pockets, pockets, pockets: Obviously, pockets help organize all the baby stuff. I NEED two side pockets where you can put a water bottle and a cellphone. I also prefer a front pocket for quick-grab stuff. Inside the bag itself, I like a few strategic pockets, but sometimes TOO many pockets just gets annoying – so it’s a little bit of a balancing act.

My diaper bags:

I have two diapers bags. One is my more casual, affordable bag. The other is a little more pricy but much more stylish.

If you’re looking for a good affordable option, I love this diaper bag from Amazon. It’s probably one of the most-popular selling diaper bags and I see other parents out and about with it ALL the time. I think two people just at our daycare have it! It’s a great price, comes in a million colors, has the perfect amount of pockets, insulated front, and easy-access back pocket. It fit a surprising amount of stuff for such a small bag, too. I think my only issue with this bag is you can’t zip it with one hand.

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My other bag is the Ryla diaper backpack (which for full transparency kindly sent me this bag as a gift but I’m not sponsored nor am I being compensated for this mention, I really just love the bag!) This is beautiful leather. I like that I can carry this with me and still feel stylish as opposed to feeling like I’m toting around a diaper bag – it really is a chic bag! It is just the perfect size, has a front pocket, two side pockets, and a back pocket. I also love that you can zip this with one hand.

Diaper Bag Must-Haves

Portable Changing Mat with diapers/wipes: This Skip Hop portable changing mat is something in so many people’s bags. It holds wipes and diapers and also acts as a quick portable mat to change. It’s great because if needed you can just grab this portion to do a quick diaper change and don’t need your entire bag.

Nursing Cover: Obviously, only needed if you’re breastfeeding. This is my favorite nursing cover. I prefer this cover because I find they are just super easy to whip out and they give me the coverage I feel comfortable. Also, the wire top pops up so I can easily look down and see Miles if needed.

The other option is a 3-in-1 cover.  These are nice because they are multi-purpose, but I find them awkward. It’s hard to stretch them over your shoulders while also getting a hungry/fussy baby underneath. Plus, when you’re feeding you can’t see what’s going on down there.

Burp Cloths: Miles doesn’t spit up a lot, so I can usually get away with just having one small burp cloth. If you have a baby with more reflux, you’ll want to make sure you have at least 2-3.

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Muslin Swaddle: I like having a muslin swaddle in my bag because I find them really multi-purpose. They double as burp cloths, can act as a mini blanket, can be used as a car seat cover in a pinch, and are surprisingly good baby toys (Miles will play with them for hours!). I really like the Little Unicorn brand.

Change of Clothing: I keep a sleep n’ play in the bottom of my diaper bag. This is great if I ever need to change Miles’ full outfit. I also keep a pair of socks and a clean onesie. I also keep a t-shirt for myself in the bottom of my bag just in case there is a huge spit-up mishap.

Portable Sound Machine: I never leave without our portable sound machine. If Miles is in need of a nap, the white noise sound will (almost always) help him fall asleep really easily. It also drowns out other sounds allowing him to take “out and about” naps a lot easier. It has saved me more times than I can count.

Extra pacifier or teething toy: Just in case, it’s good to have one! Miles isn’t a HUGE pacifier baby, but he will occasionally use them to soothe.

Stuff for mom: I keep chapstick, hand sanitizer, lotion, and extra hair ties.

Other things: Some other things I usually take out with me but aren’t necessarily IN the diaper bag:

  • Car seat cover: If I want Miles to nap this is a must. I actually forgot it just today when I went out with Miles and when it was naptime he was too distracted to fall asleep. If I had had the cover I’m sure he would have dozed off.
  • Toys: I usually grab one toy on my way out the door. I like clip-on ones I can clip to his car seat or my diaper bag so I don’t have to take up space IN my bag. Miles likes these wind chime toys. They also make hanging toys with a claw clip which is super convenient!!

What are some of your must-have diaper bag items?! What types of bags do you like best?