Buying a diaper bag is like buying a new purse, briefcase, or backpack. It’s a bag that will be with you 24/7, so choosing the right one is no easy feat. I spent almost as much time researching and looking at diaper bags as I did for my son’s stroller and crib.
The reason is that, aside from finding one that fits your style, you also need to get one that has all of the components you’ll need, is the right size, and makes sense for you. And first-time parents typically have no idea what those needs are yet!
With that said, here’s a checklist of the things you should look for when buying a diaper bag, and the questions you should ask yourself to determine what model might fit best.
As with any other accessory or piece of clothing that will be a recurring member of your wardrobe and daily outings, you want something that fits your style. If the bag will be exclusively for mom, there are tons of designer and fashionable options that disguise one as an oversized purse. Looking at the Ju-Ju-Be Better Be Sapphire Lace Messenger Diaper Bag, you’d never know it was a diaper bag. It boasts a stylish blue and white pattern, and can be slung over the shoulder like a purse. There’s a dedicated mommy pocket with extra-long scrunchy key clip, sunglasses case, lipstick loops, and pen loop; and even a picture pocket for holding brag-worthy photos.
If dad will be using it too, however, you might want to opt for something a bit more practical, in a solid black colour, for example, and messenger or backpack-style instead of one you can sling over a single shoulder. (Though if you plan to have it slung over the handlebars of a stroller most of the time, that might not matter.)
This was one of the toughest considerations that factored into my decision. I wanted a diaper bag that could hold everything I needed, but also wanted to have something compact that I could bring along on short walks. In the end, I invested in a good, large-sized diaper bag, but also got a second small messenger-style bag for quick trips to the store or walks to the park. Mentally run through the items you think you’ll need, add a few extras for the items you probably forgot about, and look for a bag that can accommodate all of those. For example, you’ll probably be bringing along an extra pair of clothes, nursing cover or formula dispenser, which can all take up a lot of room. Be careful of getting a bag just because it’s cute and stylish: that will mean nothing if it isn’t big and spacious enough to carry everything you need.
The JJ Cole Caprice Diaper Bag boasts an extra-spacious interior with multiple organizational compartments, exterior pockets to hold your wallet or smartphone, and insulated side bottle pockets. Plus, it’s fashionable in an aqua radian design.
Jolly Jumper’s Striped Diaper Tote Bag is sizeable as well, with a spacious interior that has multiple pockets, exterior pockets, padded change mat, and zippered interior privacy pocket. Its black and white striped design is fashionable to bring along to formal events, yet would go equally well with a pair of jeans and sneakers.
This is likely a feature you overlook, but it’s worth considering what material is used both for the exterior and interior of the bag. Can you throw it in the washing machine? Are there removable segments you can wash, or can you only spot clean it? And how easy is it to wipe down the inside following an unfortunate (and inevitable) spill or leak?
The interior of the Jolly Jumper Manhattan Diaper Tote Bag can be wiped clean when needed – a great feature to seek out in a diaper bag.
Separate pockets should not be under-estimated in a diaper bag. You’ll quickly realize how useful they are when you end up with a dirty and smelly onesie that you need to tuck away somewhere until you get back home to wash it, or worse, notice that your fresh fruits and baby food is thrown into the same compartment as your diaper rash cream. Make sure there are dedicated pockets for the essentials, including a side insulated pocket to hold a baby bottle, separate zippered pockets for items you want to keep away from others, like medicine or a soother, and individual spots to keep toys, diaper change gear, food, and extra clothes. And by the way, make sure it has a pocket that you can use specifically for your gear as well, like car keys, cash, credit cards, and smartphone. Remember, the diaper bag will likely be the only bag you bring along, which means it will also double as mom’s purse.
The JJ Cole Backpack Diaper Bag, for example, has 11 total pockets inside, ad multiple organizational compartments, plus front zippered pockets, and exterior side pockets to hold baby’s bottle.
An insulated section for food
To extend the longevity of your diaper bag, look for one with an insulated compartment, and maybe even included food containers, where you can store food. Once your baby has moved on to solids, you’ll appreciate having this dedicated area where you can store purees and other foods and keep them cold. My diaper bag had a separate zipper compartment on the bottom that held three food containers and a freezer ice pack, and this was probably my favourite feature of the bag.
Insulated side pockets for easy access to a bottle
Look for a bag with insulated side pockets for baby’s bottle or sippy cup. This will afford easy and quick access to it when you need it, and can help keep things like milk cold. Ideally, look for one with double pockets so that formula feeding mommies can store a formula dispenser on the other side, or you can bring along two bottles for extra-long outings.
The JJ Cole All-Around Diaper Bag has a hide-away bottle pocket on the inside instead of out, along with 12 total pockets inside. A magnetic outside flap allows mom or dad to open the bag quietly, without disturbing baby.
A change pad and place to keep it
Most bags come with change pads and a space to store it. But I’d advise taking it out of the bag, and unfolding it to check the size. Some are so tiny, you’re almost better without it. In fact, I ended up swapping out the change pad that came with my diaper bag for another one that was much bigger and more easily wipe-able. But if you can find a diaper bag that comes with an amply-sized, strong change pad that you can use to protect your baby on potentially dirty and unsanitary public change stations, all the better.
The aforementioned Jolly Jumper Manhattan Diaper Tote Bag comes with a padded change mat, as well as a change tote that can be carried in the bag or on its own.
Check out a selection of diaper bags at Best Buy Online.