Nothing can make or break a day out with littles quite like being properly packed.  Overpack and quickly grow cranky from the schlep. Underpack and your little is sure to throw up, spill her entire sippy moments after you’ve cleaned her up, and beg incessantly for her favorite stuffy. Been there, right?  With warm weather heading our way (we’re putting out all the good weather juju these days) we tapped mom-of-3 and TWELVElittle founder Julia Min for her tips on choosing the right diaper bag.

Know Your Non-Non-Negotiables

For me, a diaper bag must have both style and function,” says Julia.  “These are both areas that [TWELVElittle] does not compromise in any way.”  In Julia’s experience, moms often let style trump function.  “I see [women] struggling because the diaper bag they use doesn’t have pockets and, if a diaper bag doesn’t have a designated pocket for bottles, you run the risk of spillage in the main area of the bag,” she explains.

When it comes to function, remember that size plays a big role.  A diaper bag that’s too small will become jam-packed and difficult to navigate, while a diaper bag too large can be all too tempting to fill.   “There’s really no need to go out and buy a giant diaper bag thinking that you’ll need to pack up your entire house when going out with the baby,” Julia advises.  “I know new moms feel that they need to overpack their diaper bags for those “just in case” situations, but then we are stuck carrying a very heavy bag and we don’t end up needing half of the contents inside,” she continues.  “If you really want to bring along extra essentials, keep them in the car or under the stroller basket.” GREAT idea.

Beyond style, functionality, and the correct, size, the right accessories make all the difference when it comes to keeping a bag organized, functional, and easy to keep stocked. “Pack up the diaper bag with pouches so you don’t have all these things scattered in the bag,” Julia suggests.  Another point for pouches:  “It’s also helpful to then easily transport just the pouches for when you have to switch bags.”  As far as a pouch system, Julia suggests designating a pouch for a certain purpose so you and your partner know which pouch to use for different situations. “For example, a first aid pouch, a pouch for extra clothes, a wet bag for soiled clothes, etc,” she explains.  “We carry Trio Pouches in our collection which helps with diaper bag organization. I also love them for my personal goods, too!”

Ages + Stages Matter

When it comes to choosing the right bag and accessories, there is no one-size-fits-all option.  Julia breaks down her top tips for diaper bags by age:

The early stages with a baby are a sleep-deprived blur, but rest assured that things will get better! Our On-The-Go Stroller Caddy is great to hook onto the stroller bar for walks with your newborn baby. They’ll pretty much live in the infant car seat (which can go atop a stroller frame) for the first several months, so it’s useful to have the essentials right at your reach.

Baby and Toddler
When going out with a baby AND a toddler, a backpack style diaper bag is a must! We have the On-The-Go, Companion and Unisex Backpacks available in our collection for parents who are juggling multiple kids. Trust me when I say that you want to be hands-free as much as possible, with a decent-size diaper bag that’ll fit essentials for both the baby and toddler. 

Two Toddlers
If you’re out and about with two toddlers, you’ll still need a lot of essentials with you, especially if they are both at the potty training stage. And since they will both be running around, a backpack diaper bag is still a must-have–especially one with two insulated side bottle pockets so that water bottles and sippy cups are easily accessible. Also, remember to bring a wet bag with you for those “mistakes happen” moments. 

Toddler and Older Kid
This is when things get a little easier. The older kids don’t need a lot of things anymore, perhaps just a water bottle. If they still want their toys and snacks, they can carry their own backpack, and we have a kids line with adorable bags for toddlers up to teens. Choose a bag they’ll love, and you’ll see that they’ll want to carry around their own stuff! Yay for independence. 

Three+ Kids
After all the kids are potty trained, I like to switch to a tote style or smaller bag like our Mini-Go backpack. You will still need to bring some snacks and essentials like a first-aid pouch, but you really don’t need to pack everything like before. However, we still have a large backpack diaper bag ready for weekends spent all-day outdoors!

Thanks, Julia!