The Zen of Diaper Bags

Diaper bags are one of those pieces of equipment that even non-parents have opinions about.  They can be a kinda ridiculous fashion statement, be literally big enough to fit a sleeping baby, or just a plain old symbol of your new lameness.  This is probably because they come most places with you for several years (or more if you have more than one child).  So here are some practical thoughts on how to pick one and what to put in it.

What should you have in your diaper bag?

Very little.  Ok so our diaper bag pretty much lives on the stroller, which means that I never have to carry it.  Even with that, I hate having a big over stuffed bag because it means I can never find what I'm looking for.  So we keep it light.  Here is what you actually need to have with you:
  • for all munchkins
    • diapers
    • wipes
    • change of clothes
    • a couple plastic bags (for disposing of poopy diapers or containing soiled clothes). Regular grocery bags will do or you can go with something like the Munchkin Diaper Bag Dispenser.
    • a changing pad
    • seasonally appropriate items such as a baby hat or sunscreen 
    • tiny hand sanitizer (soap and water is best for cleaning your hands after a diaper change, but for those rare times that you have to change a diaper not in a bathroom, hand sanitizer is needed)
  • for babies only
    • some way to feed the baby if you're a non lactating parent
    • nursing cover if you are the lactating parent 
  • for toddlers only
    • hand wipes
    • tissues
    • one non perishable emergency snack. (We are definitely a "no snacking on the go" family.  However, sometimes circumstances beyond your control necessitate a change in plan.  One time, my husband was on a bus bringing my toddler daughter home from daycare when all traffic stopped for an hour because the president had come to town. Delaying a tired one year old's dinner by an hour in a confined space is a recipe for all kinds of mayhem and a well placed granola bar can go a long way to keeping everyone's hearing intact.)

How do you pick a diaper bag?

In my humble opinion, you should pick the smallest bag you can find that both parents are willing to carry.

Why the smallest?

Nature abhors a vacuum and you will fill whatever sized bag you buy.  Thus, on those days when you do actually have to carry it, it's going to suck.  Also you'll never find the thing you're looking for.

Doesn't each parent deserve their own bag?

There is definitely advice out there that says mom and dad need their own bag.  I find this highly dubious.  Moving your kids things from bag to bag or making sure both of them are stocked is never going to happen, and most likely one of them is going to gather dust permanently.  Here are a couple of brands we've found that make bags likely to be palatable to both parents:
  • Lassig. We have their messenger style bag and love it.  Though, full disclosure, the messenger bag is kind of big and we only got it when we found out we were having a second child.  The need to carry both baby and toddler things simultaneously necessitated a bigger bag than the one we had to start.  That said, the bag has been awesome from the way it clips to the stroller to the extra wide shoulder strap that makes it easy to carry even when full.
  • L.L. Bean.  They're known for their high quality bags of all kinds, so why not diaper bags?
  • Skip Hop. They have a number of designs and sizes to match almost any kind of style or family.
  • DadGear.  This is a great brand for the most gender neutral of bags (all the way to full on "manly" cameo bags).
  • Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F.   These definitely run expensive but if you're looking for a diaper bag that truly converts from a purse into a backpack and has a fun design - this is your bag.
  • Any bag you are both willing to carry and can fit all the things. It's pretty easy to buy a changing pad and stroller clips and voila - you have a perfectly fine diaper bag of your very own!
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