Monday, August 5, 2013

What You Really Need In Your Diaper Bag

First, let's define the word "need": something you will die without. By that strict definition, the only things you need in that suitcase-sized tote you call a diaper bag are a blanket, some granola, and a spear to keep predators away from you and your young. You don't even need diapers or wipes because you've seen the Babies documentary and you know all you need is a dried corn cob to get that business taken care of.

Okay, okay, I guess the meaning of "need" varies from one manic mother to the next. I like to consider myself a low-maintenance parent with low-maintenance children, so this is what I "need" (in a first-world sense) in my diaper bag:

Your arsenal.

For the bebes:

-Wipes. I have a set in my bag and another in my car. Even after all my children are potty-trained, I'll be keeping the wipes in my car.

-Diapers for both my children. In an emergency, know that a size four diaper can work on a size one newborn ... just saying.

-Plastic bag(s)--they take up no room and their utility is almost boundless. Just don't store a poopy outfit in a bag and then forget about it in your hot car for a week ... because then you'll need another plastic bag to put over your head to protect yourself from the weapons-grade stench, and that's just not safe.

-Backup outfit, and by "outfit" I mean a bare-bones white onesie. This is your emergency outfit, remember, not the ensemble your little cherub will be wearing in your family portrait. This is meant to get you from the Target bathroom, where you discovered the blowout, to your house in a socially acceptable manner. It could even be debated that just a diaper can qualify as your "backup outfit." No judging ... but if that's your plan it will probably go down in the Walmart bathroom.

-Blanket. Because Houston is so warm, I love the muslin blankets that are huge, but compact. And apparently you can forgo the expensive Aden+Anais blankets and make your own.

-Burp rag (blanket/extra outfit can double as this in a pinch).

-Pacifier. One for the mouth and another for the bag.

-Toy. 1 or 2 SMALL tokens of amusement for the toddler. Graham is welcome to bring his own bag of cars/books to use in the car if he carries it himself.

-Other potentially legitimate supplies include: breast pads, Tylenol (a few in a Ziploc, not a space-wasting bottle), bottle-feeding paraphernalia, etc. And that's a very restrictive "etc"!

For Kimber: 
-Wallet. I use this lovely card carrier. It's easy to find because it's cold and shiny (very important when you're searching the black hole that is your diaper bag).

People mistake it for a cigarette case ... but the most interest thing inside is the punch card to my favorite crêperie.

-Water bottle (Graham and I are willing to share, so we don't need a sippy cup). I love this water bottle, mainly for its colors, but also because it is insulated (less condensation when I leave it in the car during a humid Houston summer). I don't love that I have to bite the mouthpiece. I'd prefer a straw.


-Keys. Save yourself some time and always put these in the same pocket. Same goes for the wallet and phone.

-Pen and paper.

-Chapstick. This barely makes the list.

Things you think you need, but don't:

Changing pad? No. It's okay for your kid to come into contact with germs. If you must, you can use a blanket/plastic bag combo. I used to carry one of these around, until one day I forgot to put it back in the bag after washing ... and two months later I realize I hardly miss it.

Diaper cream. Unless you have a kid with a chronic diaper rash problem, you don't need this. Don't start whining about "just in case," either. Chapstick can address a serious, random problem in a pinch.

Lanolin. Same as above. It's great for the early weeks, but then put it in your medicine cabinet.

Sunscreen. Put some in your car, if you must.

Face wipes/Lysol wipes/binky wipes. You already have wipes! A baby wipe is a baby wipe is a baby wipe.

Lotion. Unless you've brought your baby along on your Antarctica research trip where the atmosphere is sucking moisture from your baby like a shop-vac, you don't need this. Buy some good lotion that will last several hours, and put it on before you leave the house. Also, remember you don't really need to give your baby a bath more than once or twice a week. Your baby isn't the sweaty, post-pubescent mess you are after a day without a shower, and it just dries out their skin.

Nursing cover. This is a whole other soapbox ... but use your blanket, or else go sans cover, heaven forbid. Oh wait ... I'm pretty sure God didn't give Eve a fig-leaf nursing cover ...

Hand sanitizer. Your baby is destined for a life of asthma and Coke-bottle glasses if you are anal about this. Suck the binky off yourself and pop it back in his mouth. Also, just wash your hands or use a beloved baby wipe.

Snacks. Unless you are going to be gone through a meal, your toddler should be able to go several hours without food (obviously, this is age-dependent). Hunger is not pain, and they will eat better at the next meal if they haven't been snacking their fat, sticky, privileged American face off.

The moral of diaper bag packing is to weigh what you really need against the strength of your shoulder. If the weight of your "what-if-there-is-a-nuclear-holocaust-and-I-do-not-have-infant-dose-radiation-pills" anxiety is heavier than your 30 lb diaper bag that won't shut, then pack every single "just in case" item you can think of. Good luck finding anything when you need it, though ... and prepare your health savings account for the shoulder reconstruction surgery you'll need when you're sixty (this actually happened to my best friend's grandmother, who carried a too-heavy purse her whole adult life).

Also, you will live (i.e. you don't need) a Petunia Pickle Bottom bag. The Skip Hop Dash (what I use, pictured at the top of the post) is less than 1/3 the price, has enough room/pockets for the essentials, won't clash with 95% of your clothes, and doesn't scream "I'm a diaper bag full of unnecessary crap!" Also, it's the bag Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber use, ahem.

But really, all I actually need is a simple pouch made from a goat pelt, strapped across my back, right next to my spear.


  1. Kimber, you are so great at telling it like it is.

  2. We were destined to be friends. You're perhaps the only woman I know who is more "No nonsense" than I am. Just wait until I'm a mom--I will regain my title.

    Let's talk breastfeeding in public sometime.

  3. So, is this your response (clear misunderstanding) to what I should pack to take to the hospital or just a random lovely post about diaper bags?

  4. Lisa, I have to get in on that conversation!

    I love this post! Although, I'm thinking of nixing the pacifiers? I've heard war stories of trying to get little ones to surrender their pacis. So why not forego the whole thing? Although, I reserve the right to laugh at my naivete in the heat of battle.

    1. It's true, the pacifier is a blessing and a curse. Graham stopped liking his on his own at four months or so. I'm hoping Ruby follows suit ... it's just so dang handy.

  5. Love this, "need" is truly relative. This also reminds me of my sister in law's barebones approach she calls the "poopy clutch" which can be seen at this link.
    It's for short outings and holds pretty much 2 diapers, wipes and a onesie but looks like a purse. She throws it in her bigger diaper bag when they'll be gone longer. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication!

    1. I was totally at the "poopy clutch" stage right before Ruby was born. I loved only needing a diaper--and I just kept it in the car most of the time. And your sister's blog is awesome!

  6. I can't believe I had to actually get myself a baby before I realized how baby wipes are. Baby wipes and I are now in a lifelong relationship.

    But in your list of non-essentials, I have to ask, NO HAND SANITIZER?????? This is at the top of my ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL IN EVERY SITUATION list. How can you draw a deep breath in public places, knowing you have no sanitizer in your bag??? Nothing feels more reassuring to me than the sting of alcohol in all the cracks of my dry knuckles. Ain't no germs gettin' in thur.

    1. No hand sanitizer! When I die after contracting a drug-resistant bacterial infection, I'm coming to haunt you for contributing to its evolution.


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