baby proof: a simplified diaper bag.

January 21, 2015

baby proof: a simplfied diaper bag The diaper bag we pack for Faye is a fairly bare bones affair. Of course it’s not entirely bare bones, because life with a baby isn’t bare bones. It’s padded bones. A little messy and jiggly but very lovable bones.

In fact, it turns out that unpacking a bag and writing about its contents is a surefire way to feel like what you have is anything but simple. But eight months on the job, this is where we are. Our diaper bag might not include everything you include. It might include quite a bit more. But in case you’re looking for encouragement in the crusade against schlepping the entire nursery on your shoulder, here’s what’s been working for us:
baby proof: a simplfied diaper bag As I’ve mentioned before, the bag itself is a several-year-old tote that I scooped up from Forestbound. If I were to buy a dedicated diaper bag, I might choose this one, which has convenient snaps along the top to help keep everything secure on long subway rides. And there are plenty of long subway rides. This is the bag as I pack it to drop Faye off for an afternoon of babysitting or a long day out on the town (say, museum hopping). When I head to the grocery store or the post office, or even for a long winter’s walk, I bring exactly none of this stuff because I hate being loaded down with stuff. More on that here.

For clarity’s sake, I’ve divided the bag’s contents into three main categories:

Diapering essentials:
diapers
wipes
coconut oil or another favorite diaper cream
wet bag*

Fairly self-explanatory, I think. (A bit more about diapers, here, in case you’re interested in going the cloth route.) The wet bag is something that’s essential for cloth diaperers, but when we’ve traveled and used disposables, I’ve found that it’s helpful to have around then, too. Kind of a nice relief not to have to ask someone if you can throw a soiled diaper into their trash can. We bring Faye to my sister’s house for babysitting most weeks, so there’s always a bit of coconut or jojoba oil around for her to use, but we’ve also been given a number of samples of these creams as gifts from friends, and I keep them in the bag just in case we’re out and about and need something soothing.

Food essentials:
stainless steel containers
spoon
a bib
baby bottles (+ milk, of course)

Now that Faye has nearly reached the eight month mark, we’re firmly entrenched in solid food territory. I’ve been using small stainless steel containers to pack up a bit of mashed avocado or squash or anything else mushy. We use glass bottles for milk (they come with a silicone sleeve, which I usually remove because they have a tendency to soak up freezer smells if the bottle’s been frozen.)

Just-in-case extras:
an extra set of diaper fasteners
an extra diaper cover
an extra onesie
an extra pair of pants
a small toy or two

I keep this stuff to a minimum because it’s amazing how fast you can find yourself cramming in the just-in-case snowsuit or the just-in-case sun hat on a day when it’s raining torrentially and 70 degrees. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I really wished I had something that’s not on this list.
baby proof: a simplfied diaper bag I keep things organized in the diaper bag by reusing small muslin bags: one for Faye’s bottles and one for her solid foods. I admit that this step might appear precious or unnecessary, but I find that using the bags helps me to remember to pack them. A morning trek to the nearest (read: far away) Whole Foods to buy a new nipple because I’d forgotten to pack one taught me to develop a packing strategy. Luckily, our amazing babysitter packs everything back up for us at the end of the day. Together I think we’ve got a pretty good system going to make sure that we’re not constantly leaving behind spoons or bottle caps or nipples or any of the little things that could get lost in the shuffle. baby proof: a simplfied diaper bag This zipped pouch from my friend Becca houses all of the extras: diaper cover, bib, onesie, diaper cream, etc. Keeping all the little stuff zipped up makes finding it easier than it would be if everything was floating all around.
baby proof: a simplfied diaper bag Into the main bag go the diapers (loose), a small plastic box that we refill with wipes (similar, here), the wet bag, and the other pouches.

In the early weeks after Faye came, we purchased a small travel changing pad. I can now safely say that like so many new baby purchases, the pad served mostly as a way for us new parents with a tiny infant to feel better. With the changing pad, we felt prepared. Having it safely tucked into our tote meant we’d never show up to the pediatrician without extra diapers again. For that extra bit of piece of mind, it was probably worth it to have the changing pad. But I can also honestly say that we rarely really needed it and only occasionally used it. A few weeks ago I left it out on the stoop for some other young parent to scoop up.

And if there’s one take away from this post, that’s it. Some things will work and you will cling to them for support. Some things won’t, and you’ll abandon them on neighbors’ stoops for someone else to use. Nothing makes parenting a tiny human easy, but a very few things make it easier. You just have to find what those things are. More often than not, it’s not very many things at all. For me and for now, the solution to a diaper bag has been using an old tote and stuffing it full of pouches. 

* I can’t find our exact bag on Etsy anymore, but a quick search yields tons of similar results.

PS. Last spring we started using this backpack, a gift from Storq, and it’s been awesome. Like everything else baby-related there are about a million options that will work just fine. It’s part trial and error, part personal preference, and part convenience.

PPS. This post was updated after the birth of Erin’s second child (January 2017).

More baby proof posts, HERE.

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59 Comments

  • Reply moni.zuza January 21, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    We started solids last month (fun!). I like those tins of yours – do those lids stay closed? They look like they pop off easily, but so hard to tell from the photo.

    How do you manage with no change pad though? Our little one always seems to have an explosive diaper when we go out and about. Said change pad then gets stuffed into the wet bag and needs to be laundered when we get home.

    I am so with you on little bags to put in a large bag. So comforting this organization, no? 🙂

    • Reply Erin January 21, 2015 at 1:56 pm

      Yeah! So far, so good on the tins stay closed and not leaking! Maybe we've been lucky on the change pad so far! (And having an extra cloth diaper around just in case has sometimes been helpful!)

      • Reply admin January 21, 2015 at 3:41 pm

        Hey there: Absolutely no judgement implied. I think it's awesome that you found the Pronto to be so useful—I think so much of the baby stuff is trial and error and finding what's right for you.

  • Reply Anonymous January 21, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    I'm pregnant with my first, and I've been soaking up your baby proof posts. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    • Reply k.f.r. January 22, 2015 at 7:47 pm

      Me too! I'm also trying to go about collecting necessities with minimal fuss. Thank you for these posts!

  • Reply asideofdessert.com January 21, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    I love the natural look of all your baby items. Beautiful!

    • Reply admin January 21, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      A backpack sounds awesome. Thanks for the tip about the Evenflo tip, too! We got our LifeFactory bottles second-hand from my sister—glad to learn about a more affordable glass option.

    • Reply admin January 21, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      Oh man, ignorance is bliss? I honestly haven't done any special googling, have just pumped and frozen in the glass bottle and then thawed in fridge or in a pot with water on the stove! So far, so good!

  • Reply Jacquelyn | lark&linen January 21, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    You are my future mama alter ego. I am bookmarking all of these posts for future reference. I KNEW you didn't need ALL the stuff that comes along with babies.

  • Reply Anonymous January 21, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    I loved the Skip Hop Pronto. We used it all the time and it was the only bag we needed. This blog is getting so judgemental 🙁

    • Reply Erin January 21, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      Hey there: Absolutely no judgement implied. I think it's awesome that you found the Pronto to be so useful—I think so much of the baby stuff is trial and error and finding what's right for you.

    • Reply Anonymous January 21, 2015 at 8:39 pm

      I feel like there was nothing judgmental at all about this post. And wasn't the skip hop pronto the wipe holder…not a bag? Anyway, this post seemed to be very affirming of different options and finding the right fit.

      • Reply admin January 22, 2015 at 12:12 am

        We've used Seventh Generation in the past, mostly because they've been easy to find! They've worked for us!

  • Reply emily @ cabin fervor January 21, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    We used a changing pad (or a spare blanket) a lot too — even for tame diapers, it would at least keep our precious babe off the questionable surfaces in public restrooms. Everything else I agree with — you truly don't need a lot!

    What worked best for us was using backpack as our diaper bag: no slipping off your shoulder while you're on the move. I also highly recommend Evenflo glass bottles for those on a slightly tighter budget. Simple, inexpensive, no complaints here.

    • Reply Erin January 21, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      A backpack sounds awesome. Thanks for the tip about the Evenflo tip, too! We got our LifeFactory bottles second-hand from my sister—glad to learn about a more affordable glass option.

    • Reply Charity S January 21, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      Another vote for Evenflo! They are super special to me because I discovered they saved my life while hand pumping. No more milk toppling over when I put the pump down to deal with baby drama. The glass is heavy enough to securely set down the pump and milk until you can come back to it! I got mine second hand for crazy cheap! (I realise this is probably really obvious to anyone else, but it was a revelation for me)

      Question: Erin how have you found freezing milk in glass bottles? Is there any resources you recommend with info re: freezing with glass? I've been too chicken because any time I google there are so many mixed answers.

    • Reply Erin January 21, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      Oh man, ignorance is bliss? I honestly haven't done any special googling, have just pumped and frozen in the glass bottle and then thawed in fridge or in a pot with water on the stove! So far, so good!

      • Reply admin January 21, 2015 at 9:53 pm

        Genius! Updated!

  • Reply Kimberly January 21, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    This is a great list! I think I can count on one hand how many times I have actually used the changing pad – why am I carrying that thing around? The only things I would add are lip balm (for me), hand sanitizer, and in the summer, sunscreen. I agree with the comment re backpacks, but I also like a good cross body bag.

  • Reply Catherine January 21, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    Funny, I am on to my second daughter with the Skip hop change mat!! I love it for short trips as that is all I take. And definitely second the backpack, especially when you have a baby carrier on too.

  • Reply julia christine January 21, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    Hi Erin! I have had that wet bag on my wishlist for a few months. Here is the link! https://www.etsy.com/listing/119879159/gray-anchors-wet-bag-waterproof-cloth

    • Reply Erin January 21, 2015 at 9:53 pm

      Genius! Updated!

  • Reply Amy January 22, 2015 at 12:11 am

    You said you use disposables on occasion. Do you have a preferred "green" brand?

    • Reply Erin January 22, 2015 at 12:12 am

      We've used Seventh Generation in the past, mostly because they've been easy to find! They've worked for us!

    • Reply admin January 22, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      Hi Susie! It was a Christmas gift to Faye so I'm not sure exactly where it's from! But James and I have seen them before in places like museum gift shops and children's shops! I just took a look at Etsy and saw a bunch of knitted finger puppets over there, too!

  • Reply JAG January 22, 2015 at 5:34 am

    How funny, we found the Skip Hop Pronto worked best once our daughter was older…say somewhere over one year or 18 months. Once she had fully transitioned into real food and cups, we found she also rarely had need of a spare change of clothes. It was very freeing and we moved into no diaper bag…Pronto only. But then again, we were toting around one of those wipe-clean, water proof, multi-pocket diaper bags.

    Re: judgement heard but not intended…Longest Shortest Time talked about this on a podcast semi-recently. Okay, not so recently, episode #31 I believe. It is very hard not to feel that your parenting is being judged, which makes it hard to be supportive to other parents.

    • Reply admin January 22, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      Terrific!

  • Reply Susie Rawlins January 22, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Erin where is the little finger puppet from??

    • Reply Erin January 22, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      Hi Susie! It was a Christmas gift to Faye so I'm not sure exactly where it's from! But James and I have seen them before in places like museum gift shops and children's shops! I just took a look at Etsy and saw a bunch of knitted finger puppets over there, too!

  • Reply julia christine January 22, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Ahh dear, I should have bought the bag before I passed on the link…sold out 🙁 haha hopefully there will be more in the future!

    • Reply julia christine January 22, 2015 at 4:40 pm

      Never mind! Got one:) I contacted the store owner and she added more the store. Yay.

      • Reply admin January 26, 2015 at 12:56 pm

        Hi there: I wrote a little bit about it in a Moses' basket post and a crib post (both part of the baby proof series!), but maybe I'll revisit with an update! (In the meantime: We're all in the same room!)

    • Reply Erin January 22, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      Terrific!

  • Reply SL January 22, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    so great.
    It would be lovely to hear a bit about how you guys have managed baby sleep in your small space.

    • Reply Anonymous January 22, 2015 at 11:27 pm

      I agree!! Erin, I'm a long-time follower of your blog and I love, love, love it! I envy your minimalistic approach and hope to eventually adopt much of it. My problem right now is, with a toddler and a 9 month old, family members are constantly buying toys, etc. for them and it is just getting out of control!
      Oh, but my point to this entry was……If possible, please do let us know about your night-times and sleep (or lack thereof? Well, yes, in my case..Haha!) with the babe. Thank you 🙂

    • Reply Erin January 26, 2015 at 12:56 pm

      Hi there: I wrote a little bit about it in a Moses' basket post and a crib post (both part of the baby proof series!), but maybe I'll revisit with an update! (In the meantime: We're all in the same room!)

  • Reply thefolia January 22, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    Viva la organized diaper bag! After two babies mine is shredded and will take the unconventional diaper bag approach with baby on the way, and of course keep it just as organized and babyproofed!

  • Reply Nancy Cavillones January 25, 2015 at 2:15 am

    One of my favorite things about breastfeeding was that I could stick a couple of diapers in my purse, and maybe a tiny little outfit, and call it a day! I've always been a light packer anyway. (Sometimes, this is to my detriment though, like when the baby falls asleep on the way to an appointment, misses lunch and screams through the whole appointment because I didn't think to pack his water bottle or a snack…oops.)

    • Reply Erin January 26, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      Ha! Definitely a downside of packing light!

  • Reply Sara January 26, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    So where do the muslin bags come from, especially the one with the adorable cow face for bottles?

    • Reply Erin January 26, 2015 at 2:46 pm

      The bags are reused packaging from little gifts we've received! The little cow bag held a pair of Billie Blooms bloomers for Faye!

  • Reply Ashley February 16, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Hey Erin, love your blog, this is my first time commenting! I know everyone's needs might be different, but approximately what are the dimensions of your Forestbound bag? It looks like it fits everything pretty perfectly without being too bulky for carrying everyday. Thanks! Ashley

    • Reply Erin February 16, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      Hi there! Thanks for reading! The bag is approximately 11 inches high, 14 inches long, and 4 inches deep! Hope that helps!

    • Reply admin February 17, 2015 at 1:14 pm

      Funny you should ask! Today's post, coming right up!

  • Reply Nicole Bagozzi February 17, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Hey Erin! I love your baby proof posts, and well all your posts for that matter 🙂 ! I was wondering how do you treat the wood for your wooden baby toys and utensils? I have tried reading different things online but havn't found anything natural that seems to work! thanks.

    • Reply Erin February 17, 2015 at 1:14 pm

      Funny you should ask! Today's post, coming right up!

  • Reply Shanice February 12, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    I absolutely love this post! I am currently trying to find a more simplified way of packing my diaper bag and this gives some great tips! What size are your muslin bags?

    • Reply Erin Boyle February 12, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      Good question! I think these were about 4×5 inches? Really any size big enough to fit a bottle (or other supplies) would do!

  • Reply Cara May 24, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    I’m curious what kind of container you use for toting around coconut oil (without leaks)? This post made me realize I’ll need a “travel size” coconut oil for the diaper bag! Thanks 🙂

    • Reply Shanice May 25, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      I’m sure a small glass mason jar would do the trick 🙂

      • Reply Erin Boyle May 26, 2016 at 6:44 am

        Totally! We used an emptied glass deodorant jar that we had! Anything with a sealable lid will do!

  • Reply Manjiri June 30, 2016 at 9:41 am

    I love your blog and i just finished readng Simple matters. Your writing has incredible power to inspire and change thinking.
    I was curious, what wipes you use at home? There is so much matter online about possible toxicity of wipes.

    • Reply Erin Boyle June 30, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      I feel like most baby wipes would probably be just fine: one can drive oneself crazy. But we really love Water Wipes!

  • Reply Lauren October 18, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Hi Erin! Do you have a rice/oatmeal cereal that you guys liked? We’re about to start solid foods over here and I was looking for a good organic cereal to start with!

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 18, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      Hey Lauren,

      We really didn’t end up doing too much of either—I think we bought one container after a pediatrician’s appointment but then quickly moved over to just really overcooking oatmeal! Can’t recall the brand—it was from our local organic food store!

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