Diapering Baby On the Go

Heading out for a day with baby? Here are some diaper bag must-haves, with tips for diapering babies in public, too

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 29, 2015

Going out with your newborn is already a little nerve-wracking: Baby’s so tiny and the world is pretty big. Then there’s the added worry of getting stranded without diapers or other baby care essentials. What can you do?

Don't worry! We talked with pediatricians and parents on WebMD’s parenting message boards and got their tips for diapering baby on the go, what to bring, and how to improvise.

Baby, Diapers, & Diapering: Travel Light

Whether you’re headed out to the park for an hour or going away for the weekend, there’s really only one baby care must-have, says Atlanta pediatrician and mom Jennifer Shu, MD, co-author of Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. “Diapers. You really can get away without anything else.”

How many baby diapers will you need? That depends on the length of the trip, says Shu, who recommends two to three for an afternoon out, but as many as 12 for an overnight stay. And “overnight diapering needs overnight diapers,” Shu tells WebMD. “They have more absorbency.”

And, because modern diapers are super-absorbent, in a pinch you can even let baby pee in the same diaper twice if you must. Don’t do it too often, however, as it can lead to diaper rash.

Travels With Baby: Diapers and Diapering Essentials

Though a handful of baby diapers is all that really stands between you and a day out with your little one, you’ll probably find it practical to have a few more items on hand, say moms and dads. These include:

Baby wipes. Wipes are another component of the on-the-go diapering arsenal for some, especially the travel-pack size. Not only do they make handling messy diaper changes a snap; they’re handy for sticky hands and messy faces, too. If you’ve got a big box of wipes at home, you can make your own travel pack by slipping a few into a zip-top plastic bag. Left the wipes at home? Wing it with a few facial tissues. New mom Amiee Peri also carries a washcloth to back up wipes. ”We just dry our baby off before re-diapering him,” she says. “We think this has really helped us avoid diaper rash.”

Changing pad. A portable changing pad is a big help when you’re out on the town and don’t know where you may end up diapering baby. Although a few cloth diapers, a simple towel, or a baby blanket is all you really need, a diaper bag with a built-in changing pad comes in handy. There are also disposable pads -- similar to the paper sheets used in a doctor’s or dentist’s office. What if you forget to bring anything that can serve as a changing pad? Try using a newspaper or improvise with lavatory paper towels, suggests Shu.

Plastic bags. Those dirty diapers, disposable changing pads, and used baby wipes need to go somewhere when you’re out and about. That’s why lots of parents suggest tucking a few plastic grocery bags in with the diapers and wipes. They take up almost no room and in return provide very useful odor and mess control while out in public.

Diaper Bags: Cute Is Optional

Love them or hate them, diaper bags can help make a day out with your newborn much easier. Fortunately, diaper bag style has moved behind flowers and pastels, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find something to suit any mom or dad.

When looking for a diaper bag, keep an eye out for something lightweight and stream-lined. Too many bells-and-whistles means juggling a baby and a bulky bag.

You’ll still want to choose a diaper bag with a lot of pockets, however. This way you can keep baby’s bottles separate from the dirty diapers, and diaper pins away from your own searching fingers. Chances are that you’ll use the bag for your things too, so you’ll want a spot to keep keys and wallet secure.

Although WebMD community members stock diaper bags with everything from phones to lip balm, many recommend carrying these items in addition to baby diapers, wipes, and pads:

  • A bib
  • A burp cloth
  • Baby toys
  • Baby food
  • Breast cream
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Diaper rash creams
  • A change of clothes for baby
  • Baby bottles and baby formula
  • A baby pain reliever, such as acetaminophen
  • Snacks for mom or dad and kids

When you get home after a day or overnight trip, be sure to restock the diaper bag. This way it stays packed and ready for your next outing or a rush trip to the doctor.

Diapering Baby in Public

In a perfect world, every public spot would have a public restroom. And every public restroom would have a perfectly clean baby-changing table.

But you received too many receiving blankets and no diapers at your baby shower, so you already know this is not a perfect world. So when it comes down to cleaning poop in public, how do fellow parents manage?

  • They use that less-than-sanitary changing table. Although many public restrooms do have changing tables, they’re often far from clean. That’s where your changing pads come in handy.
  • They use the stroller or car seat. Although neither of these is really made for a quick diaper change, both will do in a pinch, especially if you have a diaper pad.
  • They improvise. If there’s no changing table or restroom available, many parents make do with what’s around.

Parents Richard Ford and Amiee Peri make use of the flat, safe expanse of their car’s trunk to change baby Hudson. “It sounds weird,” says Peri, “but what makes it easy is: First, it's your trunk, so you know it's not dirty from tons of other people using it; second, you can spread your stuff out to make it easier to reach what you need; and third, it's flat!” Unlike the car’s contoured back seat, there’s no risk of baby falling.

Diapering Etiquette: No Diaper Left Behind

Most parents and pediatricians roundly discourage changing baby in a restaurant or other close places. Not only do dirty diapers spread disease but, frankly, baby poop can stink. And although many moms and dads may be inured to this daily task, parents run the risk of forgetting that not everyone is.

If you’re in a mall, restaurant, or other indoor spot, also be sure to tote dirty baby diapers and wipes out with you in a plastic bag to dispose of at home. It’s a lot more courteous than tossing a stinky diaper in a public trash can.

Show Sources


Jennifer Shu, MD, pediatrician, Atlanta; co-author, Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality, AAP, 2005; Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor and a Bottle of Ketchup, AAP, 2007.

Berkeley Parents Network, “Diaper Changing Troubles.”

WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic: “What Baby Gear Do You Need for Your Newborn?”

WebMD Feature: “Newborn Care: What You Need for Baby.”

Morgan Griffin, writer, Massachusetts.

Amiee Peri and Richard Ford, California.

WebMD Parenting Message Boards.

© 2009 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info