The diaper bag checklist

First time parents can often be surprised by the sheer amount of stuff a new baby needs when you venture away from home.

From diapers and wipes to complete outfit changes, pacifiers, bottles, and burp cloths, a well-packed diaper bag quickly becomes a necessity. It’s a lesson you’ll learn the first time you realize you desperately need a clean pacifier, and you don’t have one.

You’ll become a pro with your own system soon enough, but until then, use this checklist for packing your baby’s diaper bag. That way, you won’t forget a thing!

The Essentials

Diapers: Pack one diaper for every hour you’ll be out, plus two or three extras.

Wipes: You’ll find wipes indispensable not just for diaper changes, but for wiping surfaces, cleaning sticky faces and hands, and mopping up leaky messes. Some manufacturers sell slim, hard cases for a bundle of wipes. A small stack tucked in a resealable plastic bag will work just as well.

Changing pad: If you can’t find a changing platform in a bathroom (or even if you can), you’ll need a changing pad. Some diaper bags have attached changing pads, and there are disposable and reusable changing pads available for purchase separately as well.

Diaper cream: When your baby needs diaper cream, nothing else will really work. Keep a travel tube handy in case your baby’s tender bottom gets diaper rash.

Plastic bags: This is a useful item when you have a dirty diaper or soiled clothing. There are scented bags available just for sealing dirty diapers on the go, but any bag you can tie up will work. Be sure to keep them in a zippered compartment well away from your baby’s curious hands. Plastic bags can pose a suffocation risk.

A change of clothes: Accidents, spills, and even drool can make a wardrobe change critical. Don’t forget socks!

Bottles of formula or pumped breast milk: Depending on how long you’ll be gone and how much your baby’s eating at a time, you may need more than one. If you’re formula-feeding, try adding measured formula into a clean bottle and buying bottled water at your destination.

Baby food and spoons: If your baby is eating solids and you’ll be out during a usual feeding time, don’t forget lunch! Include a bib if you’re feeding them baby food instead of snacks.

Sippy cup with water: Look for one with a sealable top to prevent leaks.

Burp cloths: These can also work as impromptu changing pads in a pinch.

Pacifiers: Pack at least one spare pacifier if your baby uses them. To keep them clean, toss them in a zippy bag if they don’t come with a cover.

Blanket: Keep your baby warm or shaded, use it as a changing pad, or even as a nursing cover, in the event you don’t have one.

Nursing cover: If you’re breast-feeding, a nursing cover can offer privacy and comfort. It’s also easier than draping a blanket over your shoulder.

Hand sanitizer: You’ll need this after diaper changes if you don’t have access to soap and water.

Sunscreen or a baby hat: Protect your little one from the sun with sunscreen if they’re older than 6 months, and use a hat if you’ll be outside.

The Extras

If you have room, consider tossing these extra supplies.

Toys: Something small and age appropriate can be a lifesaver when you need to entertain your baby. A favorite book may be a good idea, too.

Bandages and pain reliever: You don’t need to pack the entire medicine cabinet, but these can be useful supplies.

An extra shirt for mom: If you’re dealing with spit-up or a diaper explosion, you may need a clean top yourself.

Nursing pads: If you’re breast-feeding, these will keep you leak-free.

Teething rings: Toss these in if your little one is working on those new teeth.

What Else?

Variables like the weather and time of year, the length of your outing, and your baby’s age and special needs can mean you’ll need to make a few adjustments to your diaper bag’s contents.

Some parents keep a small stash of changing supplies in the car, and you might consider two diaper bags as well. That way, you’ll have a small one with just the essentials for short trips, and a bigger bag to handle a longer outing away from home.

The Takeaway

This may seem like quite a load for such a small person, but the right diaper bag will stow everything comfortably. Look for one with separate, roomy, or zippered compartments for organizing all your stuff.

When you pack your diaper bag, try compartmentalizing. Stack diapers, wipes, and the changing pad together, and keep smaller items like little toys and pacifiers in zippered areas. Bundle the change of clothing in a resealable bag, and stop leaks by storing bottles and snacks separately. Try to keep the most-needed items readily accessible as well.

Don’t forget your own essentials! You’ll need your wallet, keys, sunglasses, bottle of water, and cell phone. And make sure to add your baby’s pediatrician’s number to your contact list.

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