Diaper Bag Checklist – 17 Essentials To Pack (Expert Tips from a Mom of 3!)

There’s nothing worse than heading out with your new baby only to realize you forget an essential item.

On the other hand, you don’t want to lug around a diaper bag that weights 100 pounds because you put every single item possible in it! So what are diaper bag essentials? Today I’ll share just that!

As a new mom, your diaper bag is your new BFF (so be sure to get one that you like!). It will be your go-to bag for the next 2-5 years.

I’m a mom of 3. I’ve had my share of times when I arrived at the zoo without a bottle to feed my baby or a fall festival without a diaper to change a blowout. And you know what? I don’t want that to happen to you!

Diaper Bag Checklist - 17 Essentials To Pack (Expert Tips from a Mom of 3!)

I’ve learned more than a few things over the last 4+ years having 3 kids, all of which are valuable to you!

So today I’m going to walk you through my diaper bag checklist so you don’t end up at dinner with no diaper to change a blowout or at the pediatrician with no spare change of clothes (read my story about that below!).

Diaper Bag Checklist

Diaper bag checklist - the 17 diaper bag essentials you don't want to forget

17 Diaper Bag Essentials

17 Diaper Bag Essentials from a Mom of 3

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1. Diapers

Diapers + wipes are diaper bag essentials

Ok, let’s start out with the obvious — diapers! No, you don’t need a whole pack, but you will need at least one for every two hours you plan on being out. I always put in one extra, because you never know what might happen.

As your baby gets bigger you won’t be changing them as often so this time frame can be pushed back a bit. For example: I bring one diaper for every three hours I’m out for my 1-year-old. But newborns pee and poop a LOT, and you don’t want to be caught empty-handed.

2. Wipes

Diapers + wipes are diaper bag essentials

This is a bit of a personal opinion about whether you want a travel-size pack of wipes or a full-size. Personally what I do is this: When one of the full-size packs of wipes that I use at home is about half gone, I put that in the diaper bag!

That way I’m not going through a ton of extra waste with the small travel-size pack, and I’m not short on wipes in the case of an extreme blowout. I also have three kids, so the likelihood of needing extra wipes for dirty hands, messy faces or spills is very likely so having more than 10 wipes in my bag is a good idea.

(I do, however, keep a travel pack of wipes and a few extra diapers in my “emergency bag” in my car. More on that in my mom hacks post!)

3. Diaper Rash Ointment

Diaper Rash Ointment

There’s nothing worse than changing your baby’s diaper only to realize they are extremely fussy because of a bad diaper rash! Diaper rashes can come on suddenly, so don’t be caught empty-handed.

Keeping diaper rash ointment in your diaper bag will ward off any painful butts and uncomfortable babies!

4. Portable Baby Changing Pad

Portable changing pad pack for your diaper bag that holds diapers and wipes

Most diaper bags come with a changing pad, however getting a portable baby changing pad like this was the best investment for me. I stock it full of my diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream and throw it in my diaper bag.

That way when I need to change a diaper, I don’t always have to bring the entire diaper bag with me! I just need the changing pad pack. This is also one of my husband’s favorite so he’s not lugging a backpack to the bathroom with him when he changes a diaper 😉

5. Burp Cloths/Bibs

aden and anais burp cloth and bib is a favorite to keep in your diaper bag

My personal favorite are the burp cloths that double as a bib so you only need to bring one thing with! I only keep one burp cloth in my bag unless my baby spits up a ton or I know I’ll be gone for multiple feedings. In that case I’ll add in an extra one.

My daughter would go through one burp cloth each feeding and soak it, while both my sons barely needed one. So depending on your baby, bring 1-2 burp cloths with you!

6. Change of Clothes

Put a change of clothes in your diaper bag

Funny story. When our third baby was born, I brought him to his first pediatrician appointment with just a diaper and a swaddle blanket in my bag. My husband had taken our older two kids to the state fair and brought the well-stocked diaper bag with him. Since I was only going to be gone for a short time and then meeting up with him, I assumed I didn’t need much.

I was wrong.

My son ended up peeing mid-diaper change and got pee ALL over his clothes AND the one spare diaper. I ended up having to ask for a fresh diaper from the nurse and put him in his carseat with no clothes on, just his swaddle blanket around him and his hat on him!

Baby wrapped in swaddle cloth and hat in car seat

Lesson learned.

Even if you’re going to be gone for just a short time, it’s a very good idea to bring a change of clothes. Most often I just throw in a pair of pajamas since it’s just one article of clothing rather than pants and a top. Keep things as easy as possible!

7. Waterproof Wet Bag for Soiled Clothes

You need a waterproof bag for soiled clothes in your diaper bag

I guarantee there will be at least one time in your parenting experience that a child will soil their clothes, whether it’s a pee accident, a blowout, or some other experience that will result in wet clothes.

A bag that’s waterproof that can hold wet clothes so the rest of your diaper bag items won’t get ruined is one of the best diaper bag essentials ever.

I always put my spare change of clothes inside the waterproof bag so it keeps everything together. Then when I need it, I can just pull out the bag with the extra clothes and do what needs to be done! 🙂

8. Pacifier (If You Use Them)

Pacifier and pacifier bag for your diaper bag

If you use pacifiers for your kids, you definitely don’t want to forget them at home! You’ll want at least one extra pacifier in your bag at all times.

With our second baby, I found these handy bags that not only keep them clean but easy to find! Nothing is worse than being at church or a restaurant and frantically trying to find that elusive pacifier. This bag helped so much!

9. Bottle + Formula (If Using Them)

Don't forget to put a bottle and formula in your diaper bag!

If you are bottle feeding your baby, don’t forget a bottle! I’ve found it easiest to actually buy an extra bottle and just keep it in the bag.

If you’re formula feeding, you need one of these formula dispensers! Keep it full so your baby stays happy (and full haha!).

10. Nursing Cover

Black white stripe Milk Snob nursing cover on a carseat and Baby Bling bow on a baby

A nursing cover is useful even if you’re not nursing! I love the Milksnob nursing covers, because they double as a carseat cover.

On days that it’s windy, rainy or sunny, simply wrap the nursing cover over your carseat to keep your baby protected from the elements!

It also can be used as a lightweight blanket on days that get a little chilly as well.

11. Snacks

Add snacks to your diaper bag!

This one’s for you AND your baby! If you’re breastfeeding (or just a busy mom), you’ll want some healthy high-protein snacks to keep the hangries away. 😉

Carrying a bottle of water for yourself is the easiest self-care you can do. You’ll feel better if you stay well hydrated, have something to wash down your snack, and don’t have to drink out of your baby’s sippy cup!

Once your baby starts eating, you’ll want to make sure you have age-appropriate snacks. Put in some fruit or veggie pouches, puffs or other easy-to-transport snacks that won’t ruin an appetite! Don’t forget the snack cups or other utensils you’ll need to make it easy to eat on the go.

12. Toys

Toys for baby are a diaper bag essential

Now please, don’t fill your bag with your baby’s 10 favorite toys. And also don’t leave the same two toys in there all day every day!

Pick out a couple toys that are small (things like our kids’ favorite suction toys that are perfect for eating out or this crinkle paper), and rotate them in and out of your diaper bag!

This will help keep your baby occupied and happy when you’re out and about.

13. Poop Bags

You should have poop bags for dirty diapers in your diaper bag

Don’t get caught with a stinky dirty diaper and nowhere to contain the stink when you throw it away! You can use these plastic poop bags for baby diapers or what we do is actually use dog poop bags (double duty if you have a dog!)! Either one will do the trick at containing the smell when needed.

You only need a couple of these in your bag at all times, and they’re so small they won’t take up much space!

14. Sunscreen (+ Bug Spray)

Keep sunscreen and bug spray in your diaper bag

Throw in a small travel-size container or sunscreen stick for those spontaneous stops at the park or when you find yourself at a farmers market with no shade for you and baby!

This is something that’s helpful for both you and your little one — after they’re 6 months old, of course.

If you live in a place with gnats or mosquitos like I do, throwing in a small bug spray is a good idea too! You don’t want to ruin a picnic because you can’t get the bugs to leave you alone!

15. Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is a diaper bag essential

Another thing for you and kids (if you have toddlers!) is hand sanitizer. Use this before feeding your baby or after changing them.

Or use this before snack time! Kids love to get their hands dirty and touch pretty much everything possible, so you’ll want to keep a small hand sanitizer close by!

16. Band-Aids

Bandaids are needed in every diaper bag!

Whether you’re covering up a scraped knee from a toddler taking a tumble or covering a blister from a pair of new shoes you decided to wear, having a few bandaids is among my diaper bag essentials!

Bonus: They’re small, so they won’t take up much extra space!

17. Mom or Dad’s Essentials

You can’t forget about you! Don’t leave home without your wallet, phone or car keys!

I like to keep a clutch with my essentials (wallet, phone, lip balm, etc.) inside it. That way I can easily transfer it from my purse to my diaper bag and know everything I’m going to need is inside!

What to Look for in a Diaper Bag

I’ve gone through quite a few diaper bags over the last 4+ years, and I’ve learned a few things!

diaper bag backpack from austin fowler

First you want to have one that’s easy for you to carry. I found that having a backpack was the best option for me, especially with two rounds of 2 kids under 2.

Also, having a diaper bag with good pockets was crucial! With so many diaper bag essentials you need to have on hand for your baby, it’s necessary to have good quality pockets.

Packing a diaper bag well depends on being able to find what you need when you need it. So even if you use a regular bag as a diaper bag, it’s worth investing in a diaper bag insert to give you the pockets you need.

Inside pockets of Austin Fowler diaper bag backpack

And look for something that’s cute! You’ll be carrying this bag every day for years so it’s worth spending a little extra money on — especially if that means your spouse will take turns carrying it!

My absolute favorite diaper bag is my Austin Fowler backpack diaper bag! I have a full review on it (with a discount code!) here.

Inside of packed Austin Fowler diaper bag backpack

I also love my Freshly Picked backpack diaper bag, and I have more details on that bag too!

I have a list of 19 best diaper bag backpacks to choose from a variety of different options too!

Diaper Bag FAQ

What Extras Should I Pack in my Diaper Bag?

You’ll figure out what your personal diaper bag essentials are, but there might be times you want a few extra items with you. These aren’t must-haves, but they sure are nice sometimes.
If your baby only naps reliably with some white noise, bring a portable sound machine in your diaper bag for some extra quiet time. You won’t have to rush home for naptime and you won’t have a fussy baby on your hands.
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll soon realize that you’re not always in charge of the milk you’re making. Keep a couple nursing pads in your bag in case you’re running late on a feeding or you have a leak.
Carrying a portable phone charger and cord will help you feel connected and ensure you’ve always got your camera ready when your baby does something adorable.

What Do I Need in My Newborn’s Diaper Bag?

Newborns are a lot of work, but they don’t need a ton of supplies. The diaper bag essentials for a newborn revolve around eating, sleeping and pooping — the few things they do! You’ll want to pack all the gear I listed for diapering and being ready for accidents, a change of clothes for you and the baby, and whatever you need to feed the baby.
Newborns don’t need snacks or toys, but don’t forget the snacks for yourself!

What Do I Need in My Toddler’s Diaper Bag?

You can probably ditch the bottles, nursing cover and maybe pacifier for your toddler (but you know them best!), and just add more snacks! Be sure to bring plenty of water for outings, and be prepared to change their whole outfit — shoes and socks included!

How Long Do You Use a Diaper Bag?

That’s up to you, but many people use them until their kids are about 5. You may carry less in your diaper bag once your baby is potty-trained around 2 or 3 and you don’t need diapering supplies anymore. You will likely still carry a bag for snacks, water, wipes, a change of clothes, and other items until your kid is in kindergarten or beyond.

That’s it! I hope this diaper bag essentials and diaper bag checklist helps take the guess work out of what to include in your bag and prevents any moments of panic because you find yourself stranded with no diaper!

I also have some other helpful mom life posts, including your Hospital Bag Checklist and 15 Mom Hacks You NEED to Know!

Thanks for reading and sticking around!


  • Jen Biswas

    Jen has styled women for photo shoots, fashion shows, board meetings, work trips and most importantly, every day life! She's been hired to style many homes as well. Her aesthetic aims to make style approachable and practical, and most of all fun! She's a mom of 3 who loves frozen cookie dough, plants and a generous pour of creamer in her coffee. Her biggest joy is helping others find joy in personal style through practical tips and inspiration. She loves to share all of her styling secrets on Paisley & Sparrow! Feel free to send Jen a message or join the fun on Instagram!

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Your Expert Diaper Bag Checklist
Your Expert Diaper Bag Checklist