The contents of a diaper bag laid out on a table with a diaper bag for dads

A dad’s guide to packing a diaper bag

By Paul Zalewski, dad of two girls, pillow fort expert, lego enthusiast, and purveyor of fine situational dad jokes.

Have you ever wondered exactly what goes in a dad’s diaper bag? The entire point of having a diaper bag is to be prepared for any situation, because, as a parent, anything can, and will, happen. That’s just the way it goes it with kids.

Are there benefits to having two diaper bags, one for each parent? What do you even put in a diaper bag? Would the contents of one parent’s bag be different from the contents of the other? What kind do you even need to buy?

It doesn’t matter if you are a new parent, or an old pro, picking out and packing a diaper bag can be a lot to deal with because you can’t possibly predict everything that will occur when you are away from home with your mini-you. Isn’t the Boy Scout motto to always be prepared? Let’s discuss.

What Should A Dad’s Diaper Bag Look Like?

What do you think of when you think of a diaper bag? A huge, brightly colored, plastic bag with a lot of pockets and a very noticeable, uncomfortable, shoulder strap? While those kinds of diaper bags are cute, many don’t have the room that we need for all of our kid’s stuff, as well as our own. Many store-bought bags don’t last long, especially with the weight that you’ll need the bag to carry. 

And, honestly, without any negative connotations, your baby will not care what the heck their diaper bag looks like. It may have been created for their safety and comfort, but it’s on your shoulders, and it is your bag.

Every father needs a cool bag that reflects their personality, and there are many bags out there that don’t look like traditional diaper bags. You need a sturdy bag that you can throw on your back, so both of your hands are free to keep ahold of a wiggly kid. It’s an extra plus if you can use the bag later, for work, travel, or play.

Fathercraft, for example, has created a dad diaper bag for adventurous dads on the run . It looks sophisticated and sleek, appropriate for any formal, or informal, occasion. The bag has plenty of easy-to-reach pockets, some of which are insulated for bottles that need to stay warm or for food that needs to stay cool. It’s attractive, water-resistant, and there is plenty of room for everything baby needs, and daddy wants.

Fathercraft's diaper bag for dads outside with a rainbow behind it
Oh hey, that’s our diaper bag for dads. You should check it out.

When you no longer need the Fathercraft bag for a baby, it makes a sexy man-bag for work or travel. No one will be able to tell it was once a diaper bag.

So many traditional diaper bags are designed to be used for a couple of years before being thrown away or packed away as a memory. If you are going to spend the money on a diaper bag, grab a good-looking, multi-use, and well-made bag that you can use over and over again. 

Hospital Bag Checklist For Dads

Dads need to prepare a bag for the hospital, just as moms do. Moms pack their essential toiletries, pajamas (so they don’t have to wear those ugly hospital gowns), and two comfortable outfits, one for them to wear home and one for the baby to wear home. Many times, dads are so worried about moms and their babies that they can forget about themselves. 

What are your plans for when mom is in the hospital having your kiddo? Are you staying the night at the hospital, or going home? Will you be in the room, or in the waiting room? Whatever your situation, you will need to prepare for the hospital as well. You may want to pack:

  • An extra set of clothes. You never know when your brand-new baby will projectile vomit or poo black and green all over the only clothes you wore to the hospital.
  • Pajamas, if you decide to stay the night. 
  • Toiletries, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, or anything personal that you could need. 
  • If you wear contacts, bring your glasses and extra solution. The moment you first see your child may bring a tear, or many, to your eyes. If you have ever cried while wearing contacts, then you know.
  • Your personal medications and, perhaps, something for a headache, just in case.  
  • Phone charger and cell phone, for those essential “It’s a boy/girl!” texts (and you can read or play games on it during times of long wait).
  • Hand sanitizer. You may want everyone to disinfect their hands before putting their mitts on your new prodigy.

Aside from yourself, you can back up your parenting partner by packing a few essentials for the baby:

  • Extra diapers. The hospital may give you some, but it’s smart to be prepared, just in case. (Just in case is most parents’ motto).
  • Extra wipes. Baby wipes can be used for much more than just cleaning your baby’s behind.
  • Formula, just in case, and a bottle. 
  • Weather-dependent items, such as extra baby blankets, socks, and a hat.
  • An extra going-home outfit for the baby, again, just in case.
  • A government-approved child safety seat for the car ride home.

Some hospitals will want to check out your car seat, just to make sure it’s safe before you take the baby out of the hospital. Please don’t take this personally, as quite a few people, mothers and fathers, show up very unprepared. If you can be this prepared before, during, and immediately after the birth, you can put your full attention on your parenting partner and your new mini-you. 

Dad’s Daily Diaper Bag Essentials

Being a father is an amazing experience but, at the same time, can be trying. You will need to take a bag with you whenever you go anywhere with the baby. Exploding poops, spit-up, and various emergencies can spring up at any time and most of these emergencies can be addressed efficiently if you have everything you need in that bag.

Pro tip: having a diaper bag with lots of places to stash stuff is key. Fathercraft Dad Bag featured.

Just telling you that you will need everything in your bag that the mother has in her bag isn’t enough. Each person needs their own bag, organized in their own way, so that everything is easy to find quickly. When you are a newer father, it’s harder to pinpoint everything you will need to address some of these emergency situations. So, let’s go over what to include in your diaper bag:

  • Enough diapers to last a day for every hour you plan to be away from home, just in case. A blanket or portable changing pad will be required to keep bare bottoms from touching the cold and dirty surface of a changing table, park bench, or the seat of your car.
  • Extra pacifiers.
  • Antibacterial hand sanitizer.
  • Plenty of wipes. They can be used to clean up after a dirty diaper, but they can also be used to soak up spills, catch the saliva constantly falling from their mouths, clean your hands, or wipe the new-parent tears off your face. (Hey, it happens).
  • Formula and/or food. A hungry baby can be a screaming baby. A screaming baby can easily bring on those new-parent tears in a tired mother or fathers. Newborns will still be on breast milk or formula for quite a while and getting them on a schedule takes time and a strong routine. Occasionally, babies with GERD, or a form of acid reflux common in babies, may want to bring along some rice or oatmeal mix specifically made for babies, as mixing a little with the formula or milk in a bottle can help with related projectile vomiting issues. When they start on baby food, make sure that you have a baby spoon and a variety of different kinds of baby food. 
  • You may want to pack a couple burp rags, or special cloth towels, that you can throw over your shoulder when you feed and burp the baby. If you find that you sometimes forget these towels, pack an extra shirt for yourself. You will need it.
  • Several baby outfits, appropriate for the weather, and of the correct size. Of course the baby will be dressed when you leave the house but, chances are, your adorable baby will need several outfit changes within several hours, just like a fancy bride at her uber-expensive wedding. The temperature can change throughout the day, and your baby may need to move in and out of a jacket, for example, depending on the weather.
  • A hat, baby sunscreen, or sunglasses (for the kiddo). It isn’t safe or healthy for the baby to be in the sun for long periods of time. The sun can be in their eyes while in their car seat, or in the park. 
  • You should include any, and every, medication that your baby may take. An OTC liquid pain reliever for babies is necessary for teething pain and fevers, which can spring up at any time.
  • Even though we all have cell phones and access to 411, a tangible list of emergency telephone numbers (doctor, mother-in-law, etc.) is staple that should be tucked into a safe pocket inside the bag. That way it will always be there, for sure, if you need it.
  • Toys. You literally HAVE TO include a few toys in the bag, along with a baby blanket large enough for the baby to play on. You don’t need to bring the entirety of their toybox, but a few simple toys that they like to play with long enough to give you a short break from face to face contact, if you need.  Babies need a break from us too and toy time, along with belly time, can give you a few minutes of peace. 
  • Toys, again. Babies tend to get bored in their car seats easily.  You can find special toys, made specifically to attach to the car seat to prevent dropping and/or throwing, so that you can drive safely and without distraction. It is truly a pain to have to turn the car around to find a toy, in the middle of the road, that your baby threw out the car window. (They laugh while doing this by the way. They love playing fetch, as long as you are the one doing the fetching).
  • Bottles of water. You will need clean water to mix formula, or for you both to drink. 
  • A baby thermometer. Though this is very important in our current world, with everything going on, it will always be essential. Babies can get sick quickly, and if they are still crying after you have fed, changed, and held them while they slept, it may be a great idea to touch a thermometer to their armpit, just in case. 

Even after all of this stuff, you should still have a few pockets to claim as your own. You can throw your wallet, cellphone, and car keys in the bag while you complete your activities. Some adult snacks, like granola bars, or even a Snickers, may save your sanity. A small, child-proof bottle of headache medicine, for yourself, of course, can slide right into one of the pockets as well.

This may seem like a lot of stuff. You may feel as if you are packing for forever, instead of a few hours at grandma’s house. But you are better safe than sorry. Baby stuff may be small, and the bag will be pretty full, but all of it is essential, for both of your comforts.

How Often Should The Contents In A Diaper Bag Be Checked And Repacked?

A problem that new parents can easily fall into is forgetting to check their diaper bag before leaving home. Maybe we forgot to refill diapers from the last time we went out. Perhaps we were so busy that we accidentally left their dirty clothes in there, instead of replacing them with clean ones. We could show up to an important event without formula, or a clean bottle, or the ever-important extra pacifier that will definitely come in handy, if you decide to use them.

It is important for you to check your diaper bag before you go out, each time, if possible. It may be easier, and more beneficial, to do it immediately after you get home, especially if your kiddo has fallen asleep in the stroller or the car. This way you are prepared at all times, for anything, and you can confidently grab that bag on your way out the door.

Being a new parent is hard. It’s stressful, it’s busy, it’s emotional, and it’s a learning process. You will make mistakes and you will win big. It’s all part of being a parent, let alone a new one. Keeping that diaper bag fully stocked with the essentials will cut down on your stress and allow you more quality time with your amazing child. It goes by so quickly. 

Discuss this with your parenting partner and find out what they believe is essential for the kid, as well as for yourself. A steady and consistent plan will help reinforce a routine, which every kid needs. If each parent has their own diaper bag, there is a greater chance that one will always be full and ready to go. Always be prepared, just in case.

What’s next?

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve got a new baby on the way or a little one at home. So, allow us to introduce ourselves. Hi, we’re Fathercraft. We make stuff that makes parenting even more awesome. You can learn more about us here, and check out our diaper bag for dads here.

What do you call a cow on a trampoline? … A milkshake!

Why did the cookie go to the doctor? … It was feeling crumbly

Hi, we’re Fathercraft. Our mission is to help guys gain the confidence, skills, and knowledge they need to be an awesome dad. Here you’ll find baby gear reviewsessential baby product recs, and a few things of our own, like our new dad class and our dad bag.

All the best on your journey into fatherhood.

P.S. What did the beach say when the tide came in? Long time no sea.

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