When you’re a new mom, it’s daunting when making your baby registry list because you have no idea what you’re going to need versus what you think you’re going to need. Everybody will have different opinions and answers on what they need and don’t need. For instance, do you need that wipe warmer? Everyone I asked said no. We did because the wipe’s warmth kept my son from peeing in our faces during a diaper change.
When you’re registering for everything you think you’ll need for home, you’re also registering for things you think you’ll need on the go, like a diaper bag and all the essentials. But what essentials do you need in a diaper bag for a baby or what should you pack for a toddler? And what can stay home? We’ve curated a list of tips to not over-pack your diaper bag because nothing is worse than trying to lug a newborn or toddler in addition to 60 pounds of items. There’s no need to feel like a pack mule, mama.
How to Pack a Diaper Bag for a Baby
Packing Up Formula
One important thing that determines what you pack in your baby’s diaper bag depends on how you feed your baby. If you are formula feeding, you should feed newborns and young babies whenever they seem hungry.1 During the first few days, most healthy formula-fed newborns feed about every two-to-three hours. As they grow, they often eat about every three-to-four hours.1
On average, a newborn drinks about one-and-a-half to three ounces each feed, and at two months, that increases to four-to-five ounces; at four months, from four-to-six ounces, and at six months, up to six-to-eight ounces. Based on that information, you can calculate how much formula, water, and bottles you’ll need to get through your trip. Pack your formula and the necessary tools you’ll need to feed in a container that fits into your diaper bag.
Packing If You Breastfeed
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need three changes of clothes, depending on how long you’ll be gone, a nursing cover if you want one (it can also be used as your burp cloth), wet wipes, and diapers. You’ll need to change your baby’s diaper every two-to-three hours.2 This is to prevent diaper rash and build-up from dangerous bacteria like E-coli from poop. So, plan the number of diapers you’ll need based on how long you’ll be away from home.
However, babies pee about 20 times a day during the first few months.2 It would be costly and exhausting if you tried changing your baby’s diaper every time. You want to change hers every two to three hours, but you don’t need to wake them from changing a wet diaper.
Using Cloth Diapers? Bring a Wet Bag
If you’re using cloth diapers, the same rules apply for how often you change the baby and how many diapers you need. But you’ll also need a wet bag for soiled diapers to pop them in the washing machine when you get back. A wet bag is a good idea in general for those blowouts. You don’t want poopy clothes hanging out in your diaper bag.
Toys & Activities
The hardest thing for me to figure out was how many toys and activities I needed to bring for my baby. My son wasn’t the best sleeper and was always alert and curious. I didn’t need five toys, some books, or a lovey. He was happy to be looking out the window of the car. If he got fussy, I gave him his stuffed caterpillar and pacifier. Sometimes a couple of teething toys worked well when he was teething, but babies are pretty stoked just checking out their surroundings and looking at you. However, it gets a little harder to entertain your kid once they hit the toddler stage.
How to Pack a Diaper Bag for a Toddler
It’s helpful to pack diapers, a wet bag for accidents, and messy clothes until they’re potty trained. However, ages 12-18 months need five-to-six per day, 18-24 months need four-to-five per day, and 24-36 months need two to three per day.3 Thankfully, that’s less space than diapers in your diaper bag. But you will replace them with snacks, snacks, and more snacks.
According to the CDC, toddlers need something to eat or drink about every two to three hours or about five or six times a day.4 Depending on how long you’ll be gone, pack accordingly. Sometimes if you’re going on a long car ride, snacks work better for keeping your toddler occupied than toys. Pop out a delicious new snack when they’re starting to fuss; I bet they’ll be happy in no time. And don’t forget their water bottle for drinks.
Pack an Activity or Two
If snacks aren’t working, my son always enjoyed a book where he could turn the pages and feel the textures and crinkle toys. As he got older, he also enjoyed window clings, Crayola no-mess markers, and coloring books. I kept all these things in the car for him to do while we were driving. When we were out of the car, I would bring a book or two for him to look through or for me to read to him in a waiting room.
And, of course, pack a couple of extra pairs of pants and shirts for accidents.
Now that you know what to pack in your diaper bag, there are ways to ensure it’s more efficient for you to grab what you need so you don’t feel so bogged down.
Tips to Not Over-Pack Your Diaper Bag
- Make a checklist of items you’ll need before heading out.
- Purchase a diaper bag with lots of pockets and great accessible storage. Be consistent with where you store things in your bag so you don’t have to search for something.
- Reorganize once a week. It’s essential to review what you have, what you needed, and what you didn’t.
- Use gallon-sized Ziploc bags to store changes of clothes. You can get the air out of them and flatten and stack them so they don’t take up as much room in the bag.
- Pack two diapers for each hour you’ll be gone. You won’t be sorry.
- Buy diaper bag essentials and keep them separate from your “home essentials.” Instead of trying to pack it every time you leave the house, keep your bag filled and replenish it once you get home.
- Buy travel-sized items to put in the bag instead of full-sized ones. You can even throw a handful of wipes into a Ziploc bag before leaving the house to save on space.
- Make sure you pack for the weather. If it’s warm outside, you probably don’t need those extra layers for your baby.
- Keep any oversized coats, baby blankets, or winter wear out of the bag and inside the car until you need them.
What toys, snacks, and distractions you’ll need depend on the kid and other factors, like how well they do in the car, whether you’re carrying them, or if they’re in a stroller. But if you pack diapers, wet wipes, formula, snacks, and some activities, they’ll be happy campers. And for all those once-in-a-blue-moon items? Keep them in your car instead of tossing them in your diaper bag. There’s no need to lug that around when it’s for a just-in-case scenario.