I know all you 'been there, done that' moms are laughing at this question, but I have to tell you that the answer was only silence and blank stares when, while watching me shop online for the perfect bag, my husband asked me this question. He asked because I was begging for his opinion on bag after bag with many different features and options, and he was probably trying to be practical and helpful by looking for details. But my lack of an answer made me realize that aside from the diapers listed in the title of the bag, I have no idea what the hell goes in a diaper bag.
I went searching for this answer with a two-pronged approach. First, I did the most obvious thing and Googled it. And obviously I'm not the first person to wonder this because there were LOTS of results. The lists ranged from basic, everyday needs to what I can only guess are the supplies you would take in a diaper bag if it were an Armageddon type situation. Secondly, I called and e-mailed a few mom friends. New moms and veteran moms had a lot of overlapping answers, and each individual had a tip that reflected their personality, lifestyle and mothering habits. Great. If you want what seems like a really comprehensive list, I'd consult this site. Or this one. If you're more of a minimalist, try looking here. And plan on winging it, since that seems to be the back-up to every well-planned parenting scenario.
Once the question of what to fill the bag with was answered, the hunt for the bag raged on. There are TONS of really practical bags out there, but if I'm honest I will admit that something in me had this dream of finding a diaper bag that didn't look like a diaper bag. That functioned the way I needed it to, but made me feel like I was somewhat still stylish and true to myself despite the reality. If you aren't that worried about carrying a diaper bag that looks like what it is, you are a better woman than I am.
A lot of the experienced moms that told me about their own quest for the perfect diaper bag were open to admitting that bags marketed for that purpose weren't always their favorite. Some of them chose to splurge on a larger version of their favorite designer purse, some went with sporty messenger bags. All of them advocated pockets, straps long enough to fit over your stroller handle and a bag you would feel comfortable carrying with you all the time, every day. To the woman, each one reminded me that you should find something either machine washable or at least wipeable, because becoming a mom seems to involve unwanted liquids spewing everywhere at unexpected times.
I did extensive research, partly because I felt this purchase was something I had to make on my own instead of registering for as a gift and therefore I was looking for a great product with a reasonable price-point. And also because I realize that I'll be carrying this bag with me everywhere I go, meaning not only do I need it to function efficiently but to make me feel like not just a mom, but a woman with a cute bag and a sense of style. Call me vain, but I'm not willing to sacrifice the last vestiges of my fashion sense just because I carry a sack full of wet-wipes.
The following are some of my favorite finds. If it was practical, economically feasible, and slightly less insane, I'd probably have 10 diaper bags.
An Actual Diaper Bag: Some moms will tell you that a bag made for carrying diapers has the built in practical features that make it worth while. Unfortunately, finding an actual diaper bag that isn't a) ugly or b) screaming 'THIS BAG HOLDS DIAPERS AND IS PRACTICAL' is harder than you might think.
Both of these bags have wipeable interiors, pockets made to fit your baby gear, changing pads, and are also really cute. The Skip Hop Studio Tote (shown in Pewter Dot, $89), and the Baby Mel Amanda (shown in Mulberry Leaf on SALE for $48!) can both be found at www.diapers.com
The Sporty Bag: If your style is somewhat sporty but you are still hoping for a bit of style, or are looking for solid ways to make sure you husband has no excuse to shun the diaper bag, this bag from Patagonia might be for you, the color selection alone made me tempted. Or check out Dakine's Messenger Bag in Hombre/Black for $65 from www.evo.com.
The Purse In Disguise: A few of my mom friends admitted that despite needing a bag that can carry wipes and sippy cups, they had a hard time giving up a more structured, polished purse. As long as the opening is large enough, the straps are versatile and you are willing to keep lots of Ziploc bags on hand to contain wet messes, there's no reason you can't splurge on a pretty bag and still expect it to function for you and baby.
Fossil 'Kenya Satchel', $168, in yellow and Tano's 'The Lingo' in red on sale for $138.99, both at www.piperlime.com
Handmade and Functional: As a bonafide Etsy addict, it seemed only natural to spend hours on end scouring the site for diaper bag candidates. One of the bonuses of choosing a bag from Etsy is the possibility of customization; most sellers are happy to discuss ideas for adding/changing features of their bag to make it perfect for you. The possibilities are endless. Pictured below are Bayanhippo's 'Worthy Bag' in Khaki with Chocolate for $42 and the 'Delila Bag' in Sweet Sparrow by annyandme for $72.
My Choice: I ended up choosing a bag that satisfied the practical demands of a mommy's day-to-day life, met my desire to maintain some of my personal style, and supported my love of handmade goods.
Etsy seller tippythai made her Canvas All-Purpose Bag, $44, in deep purple for me (pictured above in maroon), and I truly love it. It won't be big enough for weekend excursions, but it comfortably fits our changing pad, several diapers, wipes, a few toys and a bottle/water bottle with room to spare, plus my wallet, camera, lip gloss and phone. I'm looking forward to being able to use this when the little one arrives, but I'm not being fully honest if I don't say I'm already using it. Practice makes perfect.