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              Baby Gear

              What to Pack in A Diaper Bag - Our Essentials for Every Age

              As a new mom I’ve discovered there’s one surefire way to learn if something is a diaper bag essential: Leave home without it one time and get burned. After an especially painful trip to my daughter’s pediatrician, I’ll never leave the house sans pacifier again.
              Written By
              Elyse Moody

              On the other hand, I’ve also gone out with so much stuff that I look like I’m headed to the airport—make that the international terminal. Taking the baby bouncer and six changes of clothes to my MIL’s four blocks away probably is overkill, I admit.

              To spare you either scenario, I ran my diaper bag packing list by some ladies who’ve put a lot of thought into what goes into a well prepared yet not overpacked diaper bag: Nell Shapiro, founder of Kibou, maker of fanny pack–style versions that hold only the items you truly need, and Erica Joy Dunn, owner of the children’s boutique Littlenecks Cape Cod.

              There are some obvious items, like diapers and wipes. Beyond that, you really can pare it down.

              “I see moms on vacation walking around with these monster diaper bags,” says Dunn, who has a 15 month old and a four year old. “You don’t need extra blankets.”

              As your child ages, your diaper bag will change—and lighten up even more. “It gets easier to carry less, and man, is that liberating,” says Shapiro, mom to two little boys. “At a certain point in their development you’ll gain confidence in knowing what they need and don’t need when you’re out. And especially when you’re only going out for a couple of hours, you may find you can get away with toting around a lot less.”

              Shapiro also points out that many parents report using more than one diaper bag. “Who doesn’t want to carry less if they can?” she says. You don’t need to schlep a full day’s worth of supplies on a Starbucks run.

              Read on for our expert diaper bag checklist, from the bare necessities for traveling light (well, as light as possible) to the extras that make long outings easier.

              Diaper Bag Essentials for Every Age

              Diapers. The number you need will vary by age. If you’re headed out for a long day or you’re a new parent to a new baby, be sure to pack extra, adds Shapiro.

              Wipes. Alcohol- and fragrance-free ones, like WaterWipes, are gentlest for a baby’s delicate skin. You can also use them to de-gunk a pacifier or swipe spit-up off clothes. Even though wipe packs are technically resealable, consider tucking them in a resealable bag to ensure they don’t dry out.

              Hand sanitizer. Babyganics makes a small, refillable, fragrance-free foam dispenser that doesn’t spill, leave sticky residue behind, or dry out your hands.

              Sunscreen and bug repellent. A hat and/or sunscreen is essential. (Make that for you and your baby.) Dunn likes SuperGoop and Piping Print seersucker sun hats; they fasten with an easy Velcro strap. When it’s buggy out, avoid using scented lotions and bring bug wipes or spray along to the playground too. Look for formulas with picaridin, a natural repellent that’s okay to use on kids as young as two months.

              Food. Pack a baby bottle (milk, formula, or water, depending on their age) and/or snack for babe. “You never want to get caught in a hanger meltdown without something on hand,” says Shapiro. I’ve found that even though I feed our daughter mostly breast milk by bottle right now, it’s nice to have a single-use container of formula along with a nipple for a hangry outburst in case I forget a bottle from the fridge. A time or two it has been a lifesaver. For older babies, you’ll need a utensil. Dunn likes Harper and James Kids tie-dye spoons because they have a handle that doubles as a teether. Shapiro suggests adding a snack and water for grownups too.

              First aid. At a minimum, says Shapiro, you need a stash of Band-Aids. I have a mini tube of Dr. Rogers Healing Balm tucked in a pocket; it works for scrapes, chapped cheeks or lips, and, in a pinch, impending diaper rash.

              Your wallet, phone, and sunglasses—no need to carry a purse as well. Dunn keeps her phone in a Caep case; it has a long, beaded crossbody strap that makes it impossible to lose in the bag and lets you carry it hands-free.

              A photocopy of baby’s insurance card and list of medical conditions and known allergies or prescription medications they need. My husband always has our daughter’s insurance card in his wallet; I’ve had a few occasions where I needed it and couldn’t pull up a copy on the insurance company’s website right away. It’s nice to have a printout I can hand right over to the receptionist at the doctor’s office, etc.

              Diaper Bag Essentials: Ages 0 to 18 Months

              Waterproof changing pad. Cute fabric ones are really more for covering up the changing station in a public restroom than containing blowouts or sneaky pees. For practical purposes, a puppy pad does the job just fine and folds up super-thin.

              Pacifier (if your baby takes one)

              Burp cloth and/or bib. A friend gifted me a Little Unicorn burp cloth and said, “It sounds weird, but this was my favorite kind of burp cloth.” Now I get it.

              Extra baby outfit. Shapiro and Dunn agree one change is plenty. If it’s toward the evening, throw in pajamas, suggests Dunn, and save your future self a step. Her boutique’s best-selling brand is Joy Street, which feature vacation destination prints.

              Swaddle blanket. They can serve so many purposes: tummy time surface, picnic blanket, sunshade, breastfeeding wrap, etc.

              A note on diapers, from Shapiro: “At the newborn stage, you never really know how many you’ll need, so it’s safest to go out with at least four. By six to nine months, you’ll probably have a better sense of your baby’s rhythm and how often they fill a diaper (as well as how much they will tolerate a wet or poopy diaper. PSA: Some babies detest the feeling of a wet diaper on their skin, while others could sit in a virtual water balloon for hours). By 12 to 18 months, most families can probably get away with one to two diapers for a morning or afternoon outing.”

              Diaper Bag Essentials: Ages 18 months to 3 Years

              “By now you can probably ditch the burp cloth and swaddle blanket,” says Shapiro. “If they’re still using a pacifier, be sure to have a couple (these have a tendency to disappear when most necessary). The extra outfit is less essential for blowouts by this age, but you never know when they might wind up covered in a mixed veggie pouch or wander over to a muddy puddle.”

              Extra undies and pants (“If they’re out of diapers,” notes Shapiro, “and even more if you’re in the midst of potty training.”)

              Diaper Bag Essentials: Age Three and Beyond

              “While many toddlers are out of diapers by age three, not all are,” says Shapiro. “And even if they are, let’s be honest: There’s still lots of stuff to carry.”

              Favorite toy or coloring game (Shapiro likes WaterWow)

              Spare undies/pants

              Diaper Bag Extras for All Ages

              A dry bag. To contain accidents of all types—or wet swimsuits. Dunn recommends Zipped bags: They’re clear, so you can see what’s inside, and they have a carabiner to clip onto your bag’s handle—a great visual reminder to toss it in the laundry hamper when you get home instead of forgetting it inside where the wet stuff will get forgotten.

              Disposable bags for blowout diapers, etc. Running around with kids can get…stinky. Contain the worst smells by knotting them inside biodegradable bags.

              A laundry stain pen.

              An extra reusable shopping bag (this is a great way to put those Amazon Prime or Instacart bags to use)