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How To Pick the Perfect Diaper Bag

A diaper bag is one of the most important pieces of gear you will use as a new parent. You will soon find that your diaper bag is your saving grace when your baby is hungry, has a dirty diaper, or just won't stop crying. You will need a bag that is functional enough to do a variety of duties, durable enough to withstand your soon-to-be toddler dragging it across the playground, and stylish enough for you to want to carry it every day. That's a lot to ask out of one bag. But never fear, this guide will be your greatest resource in attempting to find the diaper bag of your dreams.

FUNCTIONALITY

You need a diaper bag that is going to support you through all of the temper tantrums, nights out, and day trips that you are about to take with your little one! So what should you be looking for in a truly functional bag?

1. Mommy Space

This diaper bag is not just for baby, it is also for you! (Trust me, you will no longer be carrying around that designer purse and a diaper bag and a baby). You are going to need space in this bag for not only diapers and wipes, but also for your wallet, keys, sunglasses, lip gloss, and other toiletries you may decide to take along with you. 

Make sure you choose a bag that has a place for everything you need.

2. Space for the Babe

Besides your own essentials, you’ll need space for a bunch of different baby items. A typical diaper bag should be able to accommodate:

    Phew! That was a lot of stuff! With so many items floating around in your bag, you can see why it is important to not only have space for everything, but organized space for everything. 

    Azaria La Mere Diaper Bag

    Azaria La Mere Diaper Bag

    Azaria La Mere Diaper Bag

    3. Growing Room

    Unless you're planning on having only one child, you will most likely need a bag that can eventually handle both a toddler and a newborn. So imagine all of the items mentioned above and add in 2-3 larger diapers, a snack cup, a small water bottle, and a small toy -- you want a bag that can handle all this without overflowing or becoming too bulky.

    Azaria La Mere Grand Diaper Bag

    Azaria La Mere Grand Diaper Bag

    When You're Shopping:

    • Go ahead and stuff that bag: Take that list of items above with you and find items that are around the same size and put them in the bag.

    • Try organizing the bag: See if everything is still easily accessible and convenient to put away. Remember, once you have a new baby you may only have one hand to rifle through your bag and grab things. The more organized you can be the better.

    • One last step: Don’t forget to take everything out of the bag before buying it. We don’t want you getting in trouble with the law!

    STYLE

    More than ever before, moms have a lot of choices when it comes to the style of their diaper bags. You can get a bag that looks like a purse but functions like a diaper bag, or you can find stylish backpacks and messenger bags. The bottom line here is that you need to find a bag that speaks to your style as well as your need for function.

    1. Color

    There are two schools of thought here: get a bright and colorful bag that really shows off your personality, or get one that is made up of a more neutral color palette that will coordinate with every single outfit in your closet. There are pros and cons to both options, so your job is to truly find one that you (and your significant other) are happy to carry around!

    Freshly Picked Diaper Bag

    Freshly Picked Diaper Bag

    2. Traditional Bag vs. Hybrid Purse

    These days most women are opting for more purse-like (aka hybrid) diaper bags. These bags speak to our desire to retain some of our pre-mommy style! However, traditional bags are much more likely to be carried by the spouses. Let’s be honest, what guy wants to walk through the park with a bag that looks like a purse? Not many. 

    So what is the difference between a traditional diaper bag and a purse hybrid? A traditional diaper bag is one that was specifically created for its purpose--to be a diaper bag. You will find that more traditional bags tend to have extra pockets (gotta have that organization!), are larger, and look like what they are--a diaper bag, which is why the significant others love them. Purse hybrids, on the other hand, work hard to hide what they are. This covert attempt usually allows for fewer pockets, upgraded fabrics (like leather or vegan leather), and chic designs.

    Freshly Picked Minimal Backpack

    Freshly Picked Minimal Backpack

    When You're Shopping:

    • Include your partner. Make sure that they will feel comfortable with the features and style of the bag.
    • Figure out which functions are most important to you and how much style you are willing to sacrifice for those functions.
    • What do the purse hybrids offer that the traditional bags don't and vice versa?
    • Consider getting two bags: one traditional and more functional bag, and one that feels more stylish for nights out or special events.
    • For the dads: if you and your significant other can’t decide on a bag that you both like, keep in mind that there are diaper bags out there created specifically for men! They are usually made from more masculine fabrics and patterns. 

              SIZE & WEIGHT

              Size and weight are two of the most important aspects of a diaper bag, but they often get overlooked.

              You need a bag that is large enough to hold everything you need, but not so big that as your baby grows you feel like you have a lot of wasted space. You also need to find one that will be the right weight for you with all of your baby gear in it!

              In terms of sizing, you absolutely must consider bulk. Once stuffed, some bags are much more bulky than others. The size of the changing pad, the available space inside, and the ability to pack things side-to-side versus in front of each other are all factors that can affect the bulk of a bag. Make sure the bag has wide openings. You will also want to assess how large the bag is on its own without anything inside of it. If it is so big that it is getting in your way all by itself, then it will just be a nuisance once you actually have stuff in it!  

              In terms of weight, consider that certain types of fabric are heavy all on their own. This means that when you add baby gear you may get an extra-heavy bag. If you’re able to see the bag in-person, stuff it while you are at the store and carry it around for awhile! Figure out if you will be comfortable carrying it for about 5-10 minutes at a time. If you are comfortable, then it is the right bag for you!  

              Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack

              Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack

              When You're Shopping:

              • Pick up a few different bags made of different fabrics. Compare the weight while they are empty.

              • Take your favorites and stuff them.

              • Now carry them around for at least 5 minutes.

              • How does it feel on your shoulders?

              • Is anything cutting into you?

              • Is there any strain on your neck or back?

              • Remember, any discomfort you're feeling now you will have to feel in the future while juggling a wiggly baby who wants to get out of your arms!

              CARRY OPTIONS

              Diaper bags typically have three different carry options: shoulder straps (like a purse), messenger strap, and a backpack. Each are great options, so which one is right for you?

              1. Shoulder Straps

              Shoulder straps are great for a few reasons: you are probably already used to carrying bags with shoulder straps, they are easy to grab, and they tend to hang down and out of the way when you're not using them. Shoulder straps also tend to be made of a very durable material.

              Fawn Design Mini Diaper Bag

              Fawn Design Mini Bag 

              2. Messenger Strap

              The messenger strap can make any bag hands-free and is easy to add on as a style option, but it also features some great functionality - allowing you the ability to wear the bag behind you and, with an easy pull, twist the bag around to your front for easy access to its contents! With a messenger strap you are also still hands free and ready to handle anything that your kiddos throw your way. As well, most bags that have messenger straps also have a secondary carry option, so that you have lots of choices! 

              Nuna Diaper Bag

              Nuna Diaper Bag

              Nuna Diaper Bag

              3. Diaper Backpack

              Using a backpack as a diaper bag is a great way to keep your hands free and the bag out of the way. It’s a very popular option for many parents! It stays securely on your back with no chance of it falling off anywhere or getting in the way of your legs. Plus, since the weight is distributed evenly across your back, you don’t have to lean from one side to the other to keep yourself balanced or continually switch it from one shoulder to the other. Backpacks can be a practical, comfortable, and stylish diaper bag option.

               Azaria La Mere Luxe

              Azaria La Mere Luxe

              When You're Shopping:

              • Make sure to try every carry option that each bag has to offer. Most bags will offer you a messenger strap and then either a backpack or shoulder strap option.

              • Which carry option do you like more?

              • Are the backpack straps placed comfortably?

              • How easy is it to move the bag from your back to your front?

              • Is the handle the right length?

              • Do the straps fall off at all?

              • Wear the bag around the store for a little bit. Make sure that it is going to be comfortable enough for you to carry for long periods of time.

              FABRIC OPTIONS

              Fabric is an incredibly important part of your diaper bag. It needs to be durable, easy to clean, and of course gorgeous.

              1. Glazed and Coated Fabric 

              Glazed and coated fabrics are specially treated fabrics that create waterproof barriers and extra durability. These types of treatments are most often used on lighter fabrics in order to strengthen them while still keeping the lightweight nature of the fabrics intact. Multiple companies utilize these fabric treatments to ensure the durability of their bags.

              Glazed Coated Canvas and Coated Canvas

              This type of "fabric" is specific to the Petunia Pickle Bottom line. They use canvas fabric which is lightweight, and then glaze or coat it to create a scratch resistant, waterproof, and extremely durable diaper bag. This type of structure allows for fun, versatile prints that never lose their color.

              • Extremely durable

              • Glazed coated canvas tends to be slightly heavier than the coated canvas

              • Wipe clean only

              Teflon Coated Nylon

              Nylon with a teflon coating is Ju-Ju-Be's signature fabric. This blend boasts the lightweight durability of nylon with the stain fighting power of teflon! Plus, these bags are even machine washable. This means that if you do get some dirt (or other oddity, you never know with kids!) on your bag, that when you throw it in the wash it will come out looking like new.

              • Very Durable

              • Lightweight

              • Holds its color well

              • Machine washable, air dry

              Bedford Nylon

              Bedford Nylon was developed to be just as durable as nylon, but maintain the ability to pleat beautifully. A thicker, coated nylon helps some diaper bags remain ultra light but ultra durable. They are also water and stain resistant for easy cleanup.

              • Durable

              • Lightweight

              • Stain and water resistant

              • Spot clean only

              2. Nylon Fabric

              Nylon fabric is extremely popular in the world of diaper bags. Lightweight and durable, dyed nylon will hold on to its color throughout the years as well as keep its shape. It can also be treated to add features and functions that will allow this bag to look like new for years to come.

              Nylon and Cotton Nylon Blend

              Nylon and cotton nylon blended fabrics are fantastic because of how incredibly light they are! Nylon is also a very strong fabric in terms of being able to hold up well against a lot of wear and tear, which is why it is so popular for clothing as well! Nylon and Cotton Nylon Blend Bags are also very easy to wipe clean, just hand wash only please!

              • Durable

              • Lightweight

              • Easy to clean - depending on the brand some are machine washable and some are spot clean only.

              3. Vegan Leather

              Vegan leather is a fantastic alternative to more expensive, genuine leather bags. You can often achieve the same look of leather, depending on the quality. Some bags have the same leather texture you would expect from genuine leather. You do need to watch out for scratches with vegan leather bags as they can start peeling if not properly cared for. However, there are levels of vegan leather in terms of quality - a stiffer and thicker faux leather will hold up better than a lighter, thinner one.

              • Durable, if properly cared for and a high quality vegan leather is chosen

              • Lighter than genuine leather

              • Wipe clean only

              Luli Bebe Monaco Diaper Bag

              Luli Bebe Monaco Diaper Bag

              4. Genuine Leather

              Like with any genuine leather bag you are going to get durability, wear, and fairly easy clean up. As leather is a heavier material you do need to be prepared for your bag being on the heavy side.

              However, that is a small price to pay for a bag that will probably last you for 10-20 years to come (if not more) when properly cared for. Look for companies who create their full-leather diaper bags with lightweight interiors and barrel dyed exteriors, which will keep you wanting to use them looking even more gorgeous over time! 

              • Very durable

              • Wipe clean only

              • Wears beautifully

              • Can be on the heavy side

              Azaria La Mere LuxeAzaria La Mere Luxe

                5. Cotton Canvas

                Cotton canvas is a popular fabric for many bags from Petunia Pickle Bottom to JJ Cole to Little Unicorn because of it's lightweight and easy-care material. Most bags made from cotton canvas material are spot clean or hand wash only, however since cotton is such a versatile fabric you may have more choices in terms of stain-fighting options. Most cotton bags are also paired with another type of material to increase their durability, like leather or vegan leather accents and protective feet on the bottom of the bag.

                • Spot clean only

                • Lightweight

                • Versatile printed fabrics

                UPPAbaby Changing Backpack

                UPPAbaby Changing Backpack

                When You're Shopping:

                • Read. The. Tags. The tags will tell you what kind of material the bag is made of and the care instructions.

                • Note that many bags are NOT machine washable, even if they are fabric.

                • Understand that there is a tradeoff in weight for a bag that is a woven fabric versus a bag that is glazed or coated versus a leather bag.

                We at The Baby Cubby believe that finding the perfect diaper bag is no small task. You will need to use your bag for years and years to come, so you must find one that is going to work for you, not against you. Never be afraid to learn everything about the bag prior to purchase. No question is "dumb" when it comes to new parent essentials like diaper bags.