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Diaper Bag Essentials

I have a confession to make. I have a tiny addiction to diaper bags.
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My oldest child is 4 and over the last four and a half years I’ve used approximately 10 different diaper bags. Most have been relatively inexpensive compared to what I could be spending on them. Although I probably could spend much more if the budget allowed! But there’s still the issue of just owning so many. I’m just never satisfied with them. The straps hurt my shoulders, the compartments are too small, the compartments are too big, the interior is too dark, there’s no zipper closure, etc, etc. The truth is I’m sure there is no perfect bag out there for me, but I’ll probably keep trying to find one.

In the meantime, I’ve realized that regardless of which bag I’m carrying, they only work for me when they contain my diaper bag essentials. Too little and we may have to head home early because I forgot to pack the baby’s bottles. Too much and I can’t find what I’m looking for and get frustrated and start getting crabby with the kids (and anyone else who may be nearby.)

There is no perfect formula for what to pack in your bag. I know you’re disappointed to hear that, but it’s the truth. If you Google “what to pack in a diaper bag” you’ll get somewhere shy of 4 million results. Clearly there is some difference of opinion on what goes into your diaper bag. The key is to figure out what is right for you, your family and your kids. Personally, I don’t like to carry much. I tried the bag with nail clippers, infant medicine, extra lip balm, change and long list of other extras. But I found that I rarely, if ever, used those things. So I keep it simple.

My Diaper Bag Essentials Checklist

Here’s what is in my bag today for three kids (4, 3, 10 months):

  • 2 bottles
  • formula dispenser
  • wipes
  • small water bottle for making bottles
  • 3 diapers for baby
  • onesie for baby
  • 2 pairs of shorts & underpants for the potty-training toddler
  • 1 pair underpants for the fully potty-trained preschooler
  • extra socks – 1 pair per kid
  • snack for baby
  • snack for bigger kids
  • sunscreen
  • my list
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That last one, the list, that may be the most important item in the bag. After too many trips out of the house realizing I had forgotten something critical I decided I needed a checklist for myself.

Now you could make your list as fancy or simple as you want. I’m busy and not all that crafty so I went with simple. I wrote out my list of essentials on a simple piece of cardstock, laminated it with some self-laminating pages, cut it out and stuck it in my bag. The lamination keeps it from getting ripped, soaked with milk or otherwise destroyed.

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The reality is that most of the time there are extra things in my bag that are not on the list – things specific to the place we are going that day. But as long as I have what’s on the list, I’ll be fine. Everything else is a nice-to-have. I check the list and my bag every time we head out of the house.

Three notes about having a checklist:

1.Your list won’t look like mine. You’ll have different things based on the ages of your kids. But the idea of having a checklist can keep you sane. Let the list do the thinking for you. You don’t have to worry that you’ve forgotten something important in your bag. And if your husband or a friend is packing up the diaper bag for you, they can refer to the list as well.

2.The list will need to be updated as your needs change.

3.The principle of a checklist of essentials can work for ANY bag you carry regularly – your purse, work tote and older kids backpacks can all be helped by a simple list.


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