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Diaper Bags 101: A Parent’s Guide to Finding The Right One


Maria West & Meng Li for Huhu

Once you have a baby, the days of walking out of the house with a small bag that contains just your phone, wallet, and keys are over. Pretty soon, it'll feel like you must pack up half of your house to go on a short outing with your newborn.

Diaper bags are much more than a glorified purse to carry diapers and wipes around. And if you've ever shopped for one, you know the decision-making process is overwhelming and convoluted. There's an endless array of bags in different sizes, made with various materials, and run the gamut in terms of style. It's hard to know which one is right for you.

Let's simplify choosing a diaper bag with tips on what to look for, how to determine your style, and finding one mom and dad can both love.

Picking A Diaper Bag

Choosing a diaper bag is almost as hard as picking your family stroller or infant car seat. It's what you'll carry around for years, need at a moment's notice, and constantly have by your side (or in your car). You can consider these types of bags and features when doing your research:

Styles of Diaper Bags

  • Backpacks: A hands-free style that is comfortable and versatile, great for accessibility across caregivers, and a great gender-neutral option. A popular choice for families with multiple young children.
  • Totes: These over-the-shoulder bags can be stylish and easy to load. Depending on the fastener, not typically spill-proof. Harder to multitask or carry for long periods if it's fully packed.
  • Messenger Bags: A long cross-body strap keeps it hands-free but may not be as comfortable as a backpack or fanny pack, especially if carried for long periods—a popular option for those looking for a more masculine look.
  • Fanny Pack Diaper Bags: Compact and lightweight, this is an excellent option for only a few items (e.g., your phone, wallet, and a diaper or two), or if your child is potty-trained.

Diaper Bag Features

Look for these features if function is your friend:

  • An expansive main compartment with plenty of pockets
  • Insulated cooler pocket for bottles, formula, breastmilk, and sippy cups
  • Easy closure mechanisms like zippers or a magnetic clasp
  • Bottle pockets that hold bottles of all sizes.
  • Made from fabric that is wipeable and easy to clean.
  • A base (i.e., bottom of the bag) that stays upright when placed on the floor. Because you don't want your diaper bag falling over and spilling onto the floor of a public bathroom!

Must-have Diaper Bag Add-Ons

A good diaper bag setup makes finding what you're looking for easy, quick, and stress-free. Here are a few ways to upgrade your parenting toolkit:

  • Clear pouches
  • Insulated pockets for bottles and drinks
  • ID tag with your last name and a phone number
  • A portable changing pad
  • A refillable wipe container

Packing a Diaper Bag: Essentials Checklist

Diaper Bag Essentials

Packing a diaper bag is like dating - you don't know what you really need until you try it a few times. Every baby has different needs, and every parent has different preferences, so you'll eventually have your own unique set of diaper bag 'essentials.' But, as a starting point, here is a standard list of items that most parents of infants carry in their diaper bags.

  • Diapers (pack one for every two hours you're out)
  • Wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • An extra outfit or two
  • Travel size diaper cream
  • Portable changing pad
  • Portable cell phone charger
  • Snacks and water
  • Your water bottle
  • Disposable placemats and bib
  • Comfort items like a lovey or stuffed animal
  • A few small toys
  • Medications if needed
  • Gallon ziplock baggie for dirty clothes
  • Small trash bags to store dirty diapers

Packing A Diaper Bag for Your Newborn

Some of the above essentials won't apply to your baby until they need more than love, sleep, and milk. Here are some considerations for what to pack when going out with a newborn:

Extras for your newborn bag:

Diaper Bag FAQs

Sarah, Founder of Poppylist, With the Kibou Fanny Pack Diaper Bag

Are you a new or expecting parent who is utterly confused about diaper bags? Here are some Q&As to help you understand whether you need a diaper bag and which one might be the best for you.

Q. What is a diaper bag?

Diaper bags are a common and popular baby shower gift and baby registry item. A diaper bag is a dedicated bag (e.g., backpack, tote, etc.) for carrying baby and kid items. Parents use a diaper bag in addition to or in place of their regular purse so they can fit everything their kids may need during outings.

Q. Who should use a diaper bag?

Any parent or caregiver for young children will need a diaper bag. From newborn through preschool, kids require stuff (e.g., diapers, wipes, extra clothes, toys) you couldn't fit in a pants pocket or a regular bag. Typically, one family will share a diaper bag, though it's becoming more common for families to have more than one for different occasions.

Q. Why do you need a diaper bag vs. a regular backpack or tote bag?

A good-quality diaper bag is crafted to hold *all* the things—and messes—for babies and kids. Spill-proof and washable fabrics are better for diaper bags than fancy leathers. A diaper bag could have an insulated cooler pocket for bottles and snacks. You don't want to ruin your regular bag with gross kid stuff. That said, we know practicality is important to many parents-to-be, and you can still find a diaper bag that can function as your bag long after you need it for your kid(s).

Q. How long do you use a diaper bag?

Most parents use a diaper bag for 3-5 years. This is typically when kids are out of diapers and potty trained but still need a few things during outings. Once they're in school full-time, you won't need to carry their stuff around as much—woohoo! However, you may need to use a diaper bag for 10+ years if you have multiple kids.

Q. Do I need to bring a diaper bag to the hospital?

It's optional. An overnight weekender bag or a small suitcase for everything will suffice, but you could use the diaper bag to pack just the baby gear. You won't need as much as you think. A few essential clothing items, pacifiers, and special birthday items (e.g., letterboard sign; Nana's knitted blanket) will do. The hospital will provide diapers and wipes during your stay (and plenty to take home).

Q. Should I register for a diaper bag?

A diaper bag is a fun gift to give (and receive) because you'll need it on Day One. Adding a diaper bag to your Poppylist baby registry is a great way to ensure you get what you want. Be specific if the brand you choose requires customization on colors or style. When you add it to your Poppylist baby registry, you can add a note for your gift gives, for example: "Buy me this diaper bag and help us get out of the house!" Bonus points if the gifter stuffs it with smaller items on your baby registry.

About Huhu: a New Breed of Diaper Bags

Huhu created a diaper bag that gives parents function and form. For years, diaper bags were practical but ugly, or stylish but completely impractical. We want parents to have both without having to sacrifice one or another. Learn more at