Do we really need a designated diaper bag?

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We are 35 weeks along and keep seeing all kinds of diaper bags: big ones, small ones, lots of ugly ones… but none we want to buy! I have back problems and always use sturdy backpacks to carry things in to balance the weight ( I don’t even use purses). I also hate that diaper bags are predominantly “for women” or marketed that way. My husband and I will be doing equal lugging around of said bag.

We have seen specialty “backpack” style diaper bags that are very expensive, and were hoping for a cheaper alternative. We are planning to breastfeed and cloth diaper, so don’t need bottle warmers and we have small cloth diaper carriers already (for stuffing in bags).

So the question is: why can’t we just use a normal backpack? What makes “specialty diaper bags” so different and special? — Vivi

So if you’re not using a diaper bag… what kind of bag ARE you using? Tell us in the comments and spread the knowledge!

Comments on Do we really need a designated diaper bag?

  1. We got a very simple, small/medium sized, gender neutral bag and it served us well. The only downside of backpacks is that it’s hard to get anything out of it while you’re on the go, if you have other stuff in your arms, and/or don’t have somewhere to put it down. But if you have back problems, it’s surely worth the downsides.
    The main positive of diaper bags, is a feature that they share with many other kinds of bags: pockets and compartments. It can be really frustrating to be searching for whatever you urgently need in a big jumble of stuff.
    Lastly: watch out for best laid plans. You never really know how it will be until you get there (one more reason not to invest too much money into any one parenting strategy). We also planned to exclusively breastfeed and cloth diaper. But sometimes we brought bottles of pumped milk with us (mama wants to party, y’know?) and bringing along cloth diaper supplies took up a lot of space compared to the compostable diapers we eventually switched to.

  2. I used a regular bag with my first son and a diaper bag that looks like a purse with my second son. I liked both and I definitely don’t think you have to have a diaper bag. The only thing I would suggest is to use a bag that can be wiped clean (I.e. not fabric or canvas). It’s a lot easier to clean up if you have a bottle or baby food spill inside. I speak from experience here. Also, I love a bag with a key clip so I don’t have to search for them in the bottom of my bag.

  3. With my first two children I used my backpack that I had from university. It’s much easier to carry a baby or toddler around with both arms free and it’s better for your back. The only difference I can tell is that diaper bags come with insulated pockets (if you need them) and wet bags, and sometimes a change mat. You can replace those easily (eg. I just used plastic bags and a stand-alone change mat or cloth nappy). With my most recent baby I just used a plastic bag inside my handbag with a few necessities inside! Diaper bags are completely non-essential, although some of my friends have really enjoyed shopping for their bags, so I guess it just depends on what you want to do!

  4. For our 3 week old, we use a 5.11 tactical “bail out bag”. It has MOLLE webbing and you can attach pouches to it. My husband is a veteran and has LOTS of pouches that he bought/ was issued when he was deployed and so we use those to organize things that don’t fit in the bag. It’s a little small, so we’ll probably switch to another tactical bag when she gets older and her clothes and diapers take up more room.

  5. I spent$80 and got the Daddy Gear backback when we took a trip to Seattle b/c i thought it would be much easier for traveling and security. We have loved that thing! I’m sure a normal backpack would work too, but i like the already divided sections and the special spot for the diapers/wipes. Its so much more organized than a regular diaper bag… no more digging! AND it already has a waterproof section for dirty clothes or whatever.

  6. We use a black and grey bookbag that we got at a sporting goods store for about $40. It’s held up wonderfully for over 2 years, been washed and dried and still looks new, and is super comfy with its padded straps because it was in the hiking packs section (it’s not as large as the other packs, though). This way my husband and I can use it at any time without obviously holding a “diaper” bag, and when it’s slung on both shoulders, we can easily hold/chase/run with the kid. Loves it!

  7. We have a little bag (not so little, we have two babies) with wipes, a wet bag, spare diapers, and changes of clothes (early on it also had an extra shirt for me). For many trips, that pops into a purse or other bag. For longer trips, we have a really good backpack, and that bag goes into the backpack along with blankets/toys/more clothes/food/bibs, and it can go as long as overnight.

    This combination of mini diaper bag (just big enough) and maxi backpack (not specifically a diaper bag, but a specific bag) works well for us.

    And in an airport or while traveling, we just need to grab the little bag.

  8. You absolutely do NOT need a diaper bag. You need a bag that you like, that holds what you need it to hold, and—most importantly—that is comfortable for you to carry when it’s full. That’s it!

  9. We said to hell with diaper bags, mostly because the ones we could afford were super fug, and because I have back problems, so single shoulder bags were out. We use a Mountain Equipment Co-op backpack, and it works just fine. The laptop compartment is perfect for a travel change pad, and it has the right amount of pockets for storing all my random baby junk.

  10. Wait and see. We didn’t think we needed a diaper bag and for a couple months we used a backpack and other bags we had lying around. When my daughter was 4 months old we bought a generic diaper bag and we love it but I don’t regret the time we spent ‘diaper bag-less’. I totally understand the temptation to buy everything before the baby comes but there really is no need. If a backpack ends up working for you that’s great and you don’t have to buy another piece of junk!

  11. I never used a diaper bag. All I would ever need was a spare onesie, one or 2 diapers, and a travel thing of wipes. If I thought I would need a bottle, I would grab a smallish one and one of the travel packs of formula. (They are tiny & look like the crystal light packs.) I can’t imagine that I would be going somewhere that didn’t have water. So your backpack should be fine.

  12. My favorite “diaper bag” was just an old messenger bag. It had easy access to everything I needed, lots of room, and it didn’t scream BAAAABBBY! Not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s nice to be able to use a bag for more than one purpose. I put my wallet, phone, and everything else in there – so the bag came with me everywhere.

    Now that our girl is older I just toss some wipes, an extra diaper or two, and her cup in a tote bag and call that my purse 🙂

    • I could have written this post! I couldn’t agree more about the messenger style bag – it was so great to just sling it across my body, grab my baby and go…and I loved being able to carry ONE bag with ALL my stuff and not a baby bag AND a purse.

  13. I use a banana republic tote bag (light, unlined, leather in a color I can live with) and I have a bag organizer inside that cost me $15 so that hubby can grab all easily and throw in his work bag if he wants to.
    All those nylon, horrible printed bags bug me and I refuse to carry one alongside my lovely handbag 🙂

  14. We use an old laptop/messenger bag from my husband. I had originally thought I would find something else after the babe was born, but now I love it so much I would never consider a real diaper bag.

  15. I was slack on getting a diaper bag before Potamus was born, and right after delivering I was NOT in the mood to find the ‘perfect’ diaper bag. So we used one of Boof’s old laptop/messenger bags from NorthFace and I LOVE IT. Almost 6 months later, I still find myself browsing the diaper bags at consignment stores and always come away knowing that I have the best bag for our family. Functional, gender-neutral, big enough with enough organization, but not so oranized that I would go batty.

    You definitely don’t need a diaper bag.

  16. DadGear has some awesome diaper bags that aren’t girly or cutesy at all. They are a bit on the expensive side, though – we have this one on our baby registry ( but sadly, no one jumped to spend $88 on it. LOL! I’m not sure if it’s something we’ll decide to spend the money to get it ourselves or not… We’re both bag lovers, so it’s tempting. 😉

  17. I leave the “real” diaper bag in the car (with change of clothes, first aid kid, lots of diapers, diaper rash cream, etc.) and just carry a large purse that, when I have the kids, I stuff in a travel wipes case and one diaper for each (and a ziploc baggie!) in a waterproof vinyl zip bag I got at Target. I hardly ever need more than that except when we’re traveling long-distance; around town and at playdates a couple diapers is plenty, and I can always go back out to the car!

    My diaper bag is a “real” diaper bag, but I think any sturdy bag with some waterproof stuff bags (or ziploc baggies) would do.

  18. They are not different. They are just a pain in the ass. After a couple of months of lugging around 2 bags, I realized everything I needed could fit in my giant purse.

  19. We bought a diaper bag and used it for maybe the first two outings our daughter had but after that, we realized we just didn’t NEED to lug that huge clunky thing around. If we were going to be out for only a couple of hours, I’d just grab a couple diapers, wipes and an extra bottle and take it to the car with us. For longer trips, I would either put supplies in a reusable grocery bag, or just put the baby’s things in my overnight bag/luggage for vacations. We ended up giving the diaper bag to GoodWill by the time she was four months old.

  20. I’ve found that for myself, the bigger the bag….the more crap I will find to stuff into it, so I really had to limit myself to a small-ish “diaper” bag. I wanted to be able to ONLY carry around the necessities. I bought a “vintage” Vera Bradley patterned messenger bag on ebay and I was able to carry EXACTLY what I needed and nothing more. It also had two great pockets on the front under the flap that held my wallet keychain and my phone. That way I could just sling the whole bag across my chest and carry the bebe easily. Now that she is almost 15 months, I just carry a dipes and wipes bag in the car in case we need a quick change. The best part is that she’ll be able to use her “diaper” bag as a school bag or overnight bag someday – it’s in a pattern and design that she won’t grow out of.

  21. A trick I use to keep the “crap” to a minimum is to stash a spare outfit and onesie (don’t forget socks!), diaper and travel wipes in a cosmetic case in the car. My MIL gets them for free when she buys Dept store makeup, and gives them to me. Since you’re cloth diapering, I’d recommend using a wet bag, or even a plastic grocery store bag.

  22. I always like using my Timbuktu messanger bag, and I will be getting a baby-specific one should we ever need it. No matter what I use, I always find it helpful to put baby’s stuff in an individual pouch or bag if the main bag is mine, and vice versa.
    For me, the main criteria is: seperate spaces (pockets, slots, etc) and the ability for my trunk to haul it around. (Backpack, messenger bag, etc.)

  23. I used mostly big purses that I could carry cross body wise with my first kid, but now I have a diaper bag from that’s awesome. It’s not too big, it has Cthulu on it, and it’s vinyl so it’s easy to clean. I love love love it. My husband has a Diaper Dude bag he loves. It’s also cross body carry, so we are both happy.

  24. No, you don’t need a diaper bag. Personally, I hate them. Whatever you use to carry around your normal stuff will suffice, unless all you carry around in a wallet, then you might want to think of upgrading. This weekend I saw a purse I really wanted to buy and used the excuse that it will be my diaper bag. Lol. Anything can be a diaper bag, I’ve used old grocery sacks in a pinch!

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