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How to Choose the Perfect Diaper Bag for You

You’ve got the stroller, the crib, the car seat—the essentials for your baby. The next thing that’s probably on your shopping list is the diaper bag that will fit your (new) lifestyle, and it’s something that should be right for both you and your baby.

Now you’ve probably bought lots of bags before. Designer “it” bags. School backpacks. Tiny going-out purses that fit nothing more than keys, ID, and cash. Overnight totes. And none of that prior shopping experience will quite prepare you for the vast array of choices of diaper bags that you’ll find on the market these days. So many options, and so many specific features for so many different needs.

So let’s start with some basic things to look for.

Organization: You probably know this, but it must be said that diaper bags are not just for diapers. As a mom you quickly realize that you have to be prepared for every possible scenario—leaking diaper, runny nose, hangry baby—and when any of those situations strike, you want to have the solution at your fingertips. So that means cramming every snack, butt paste, favorite binky, and more into your bag, but in an organized way that allows you to find each item quickly when you need it. So look for pockets (lots of pockets) and compartments (lots of compartments) in the bag. Outside pockets are especially handy for the most-used items. Some people like open pockets for easy access, but having some that can close (by zipper or otherwise) is also a good idea so your child’s can’t-sleep-without-it lovey (or, equally bad, your cell phone) doesn’t accidentally fall out on the way to the grocery store. Decorative rings and detachable key hooks also provide good places to attach pacifiers, toys, and other necessities.

Durability: Suede is probably not a great idea for a diaper bag unless you want to wear the spit-up stains like a badge of honor. But pretty much any other material will hold up well if it can be wiped clean or washed. Diaper bags also tend to be used long beyond the infant months, so look for durable fabrics like treated canvas or nylon.

Wearability: How do you like to wear your bags? On the shoulder, cross-body, or on your back? Your answer to this question will help you decide what kind of diaper bag you want to buy. Generally speaking, with all the other things you have to tote around (not least of all, your baby), finding a bag that can be carried hands-free and opened and searched one-handed is a huge plus.

Design: As functional as diaper bags need to be, you shouldn’t have to scrimp on style. Diaper bags have come a long way in recent years; no longer do you have only cutesy or boring options. The different styles, fabrics, and prints practically change with every season. If paisley is suddenly ubiquitous on the runways, you can bet you'll find it on a diaper bag. Look for something that fits in with the rest of your wardrobe, because you will be carrying this around everywhere you go with your baby. If you are a jeans-and-t-shirt type, choose something casual and neutral. Have a sleek, all-black wardrobe? There are bags to go with that too.

Extras: Many diaper bags come with fold-up changing pads, and most have insulated outside pockets for bottles. And some bags feature clip-on stroller straps so you can hang your bag from the handles of your baby's ride.

Accessories: There are also all kinds of add-ons you can buy to help you organize your diaper bag. From pacifier pods to bottle bags that keep your milk cool, these accessories can further compartmentalize your essentials. If the bag doesn’t come with a portable changing pad, there are plenty you can choose from. And any bag can be attached to your stroller with these hooks.

Some Insider Tips

  1. Try not to overload your diaper bag too much. It’s super convenient to hang your bag on your stroller, but remember that if the bag is too heavy, there could be a tipping hazard. (And even more so when you switch from your tank of an infant stroller to an umbrella stroller.)
  2. Once you’ve bought your ideal diaper bag and organized it just to your liking, take it out with your baby for a week or two and make a mental note if you suddenly find yourself needing something that you didn’t pack. With that real-life knowledge, you’ll be able to swap things in and out so that you can have all your essentials in hand, without all the things you don’t need that are simply taking space and weighing you down. And remember that your baby’s needs (and favorites) will change with time, so it’s a good idea to go through the bag and clean it out every month or so in any case.

Now let’s look at the different styles of bags you can choose.