How to Choose a Diaper Bag

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on July 20, 2022

A diaper bag is the bag parents use to tote around everything they need for their kids while they are young. It can hold diapers, bottles, formula, extra changes of clothes, and more. What you put in your diaper bag will probably change as your baby gets older, but you can likely use the same bag until your child is potty trained and no longer needs diapers. 

Their utility makes the choice of a diaper bag an important one.

There are several different styles of diaper bags that could work for your lifestyle. The only type of diaper bag you should really avoid is one that clips onto the handlebars of a stroller. If the bag is heavy enough, it could make the stroller tip backward, causing a safety hazard for your child when they are in the stroller. 

Here are other types of diaper bags to consider:

Tote bag. These bags have handles and may look like a large purse. Unlike some purses, they have plenty of pockets both inside and outside to store important items you will need as a parent. You can usually wear a tote-style bag on your shoulder or hold it in your hand. 

Messenger bag. These bags have a large strap that allows you to wear the bag across your body. Messenger bags are often marketed toward men, but anyone can use them. Like the other styles of diaper bags, messenger bags also have extra pockets for everything you will need to care for your child. This bag is useful because it leaves your hands free to do anything else you need to do.

Backpack. These types of bags have straps on the back so you can wear them on your back. They have more pockets than the average backpack you took to school with you. This allows you to stay organized and keep dirty clothes or messy snacks away from clean items. These bags also leave your hands free for watching children and other tasks.

Backpacks may be better for your posture than a tote bag or a messenger bag. Bags that you carry on one side of your body can cause an imbalance of muscle growth, potentially leading to back pain, headaches, or neck pain. A backpack distributes the weight evenly, especially when the straps are wide.

Convertible bags. According to experts, this may be the best type of diaper bag. Bags that have different options for how to carry them allow you to relieve the strain that comes from carrying the bag in any position for too long. There are bags with detachable straps to turn it from a tote into a backpack or from a backpack into a messenger bag to suit how you are feeling on any particular day.

What makes a diaper bag different from a normal tote bag or backpack are the features that are well-suited to parenthood. Here are some features to consider when choosing a diaper bag:

Changing pad. Many diaper bags come with a changing pad in a designated pocket. This makes it easy to find when you need it, and also separates it so that if it gets dirty, it doesn't contaminate everything else in the bag. Even bags that don't come with a changing pad usually have a special place to put one if you buy your own.

Pockets. A diaper bag is all about storage. Modern bags come with pockets perfectly sized for smartphones. Some also have pockets for tablets and even laptops. Easy-access pockets should be used for wipes, pacifiers, and anything else your child will need frequently. You will want to make sure there are enough pockets so you can keep food and clean items separate from dirty clothes and dirty diapers.

Insulation. Many diaper bags come with an insulated section to help keep bottles and snacks cool.

Bottle pockets. Most diaper bags have specially designated bottle pockets. However, you should bring a bottle or water bottle along to make sure it will fit in the pocket before you buy it.

Closures. Make sure that the pockets and the bag itself have a good closure. Many parents prefer zippers over magnetic buttons, snaps, or velcro. Zippers stay shut even if the bag falls over. Velcro, on the other hand, can be loud if opened while a baby is sleeping and often wears out after a period of steady use.

Material. You generally want a diaper bag that you can fully wipe down, both inside and outside. Spills are common, and messes will likely happen. Moisture-resistant nylon, microfiber, or vinyl are usually good choices. However, vinyl can crack in colder weather, so if you live in a wintery climate, it's probably best to go with a different material. Many bags are also machine washable.

Colors and patterns. Diaper bags now come in almost any color or pattern imaginable. There are both masculine and feminine styles. For the exterior, a darker color can hide stains. A lighter color inside might help you find things more easily.

The best diaper bag is the one that is going to work for you. Before you go shopping, think about how you will use it. Is it going to be your purse and your diaper bag? Even if not, you will likely end up throwing your keys and wallet in it at least some of the time. You should also consider if you will be walking around with it often or if it will mostly go in the car. 

Be sure to try on the bag and walk around with it. See if the straps are comfortable and make sure you like the look and feel of the bag. Put a few items of your own in the bag to see how it feels with stuff inside of it. If it feels too heavy with just a few things, then you may need to look for a more lightweight bag.

Choose a bag that is the right size for your lifestyle. You don't need the biggest bag out there. You just need one that is big enough to hold everything you need and one that has the right arrangement of pockets for efficient parenting.

Show Sources


Consumer Reports: "Diaper Bag Buying Guide."

HEALTH Beat: "Are Backpacks Better than Shoulder Bags?"

We the Parents: "Best Diaper Bags of 2022 (Super stylish & functional)."

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