Diaper Bag Essentials: Advice from an Experienced Hot Mess Mom

diaper bag essentials

Let me tell you a story. It is not a story of triumph. Because, as you may have guessed from the title of this piece, I am not exactly the mom who has it all together. And spending the last year+ living the always-at-home pandemic life has not made that better. So let me be a cautionary tale on the importance of diaper bag essentials and what happens when you forget them.

It’s been a long year…

This tale of despair begins when I decided to take my children out into a public place for the first time in a very long time. We were all out blowing off some much-needed steam when the inevitable happened: one kid spilled, the other decided that it was the worst day of all time and needed their soother, and general chaos ensued. There was crying, screaming, and much stickiness.

As I rifled desperately through my bag, I realized I had none of the things I needed to rectify either of these situations. In fact, the more I looked, the more I realized that I was missing a TONNE of diaper bag essentials. All of the important sanity-saving items had migrated out of the bag over the long stretch of us staying at home. Quarantine has turned my brain to such mush that I did not even think to collect them again.

Now, this (entirely too) minimalist packing style is a pretty big course correction. When I was a shiny new mom, I was slightly less of a mess. Which meant that I thought through a lot more possible disasters and packed my diaper bag essentials accordingly. This did, however, sometimes lead to me resembling this guy:

Long story short, I am the messy mom who has been on the ugly end of both over and underpacking. So, whether you need a post-pandemic refresher or are a brand new parent trying to get your packing plan started, here are the diaper bag essentials you ACTUALLY need for life in the wild with your littles.

So What’s Essential?

diaper bag essentials
📷 Kelsey S.

The term essential can be a little misleading. It means something different to everyone. What is essential is going to depend on you, your kiddos, and your plans for the day. So when you are gathering your diaper bag essentials, I suggest you try to do a mental walkthrough of your plans. It is generally safe to assume that something weird will happen (because kids are involved) but at least having a general idea of what is in store will help you have the things you need to deal with the day.

All that being said, there are some staple items that you probably aren’t going to want to be without.

Diaper Bag Essentials for the Kids

diaper bag
📷 Alexandra G.
  • Diapers– Let’s start with what should be obvious (but something I have totally forgotten) diapers. You will need one diaper for every two hours you plan to be out, plus a couple of extras just in case. If you have older kids, this is obviously less essential. But if they are still in training pants, make sure not to forget those.
  • Food- Whether this means snacks, bottles, or a boob, don’t forget what you need to feed baby. A hangry kid in the wild is no fun for anyone.
  • Wipes– Wipes are for sure the unsung heroes of the diaper bag essentials. Whether you use disposable or cloth wipes, they are an obvious must-have for diaper changes. But they are also great for cleaning kid-goo off of basically anything, including your child.
  • Change Mat- Even if your diaper bag came with a changing pad, I suggest critically assessing its utility. They are often smaller than you’d like. Plus, other change mats have more uses. If you are short on space, something like our Lifesaver Mini works great. If you can make the room our Lifesaver Mat is a must-have, since it can double as a blanket, burp cloth, emergency towel, or play mat as well.
  • Wetbags- Whether you cloth diaper or not, wetbags are a diaper bag essential for sure. Smaller bags are great for organizing all of the loose items you pack so they don’t end up getting lost in the bottom of the bag. Dry/Wetbags are great for bringing a change of clothes and then carting it home when it gets dirty. If you are headed to the beach or the splashpad a larger bag is great to have to bring home wet towels and suits.
  • A change of clothes- If you have ever interacted with a child, you know why this is necessary. Make sure to throw in a seasonally appropriate hat as well, just in case.
  • Distraction/Comfort Items- This could include pacifiers, toys, or that special blanket. Basically, whatever works to comfort or distract your kiddo long enough to avoid a meltdown at the checkout.

Diaper Bag Essentials for You

parenting essentials
📷 Amanda U.
  • Hand Sanitizer- Even pre-pandemic this was a diaper bag essential for parents. No one knows how fast germs can spread better than a dad who has watched a gastro bug take down their kid’s playgroup.
  • Sunscreen-Bring it and put it on. It is easy to forget yourself when you are worried about the littles. And the lobster look isn’t cute on anyone. I prefer the spray-on variety so that I don’t have to tackle my toddler and wrestle him like an alligator to apply it. Also, throw it and the sanitizer in a wetbag to avoid any issues with leakage.
  • Keys, wallet, phone etc.- Make room for these important personal items in the diaper bag. Even if you would normally carry them in a separate bag. There is nothing like carrying too many bags plus your child to make you feel more like a pack animal.
  • Other items to keep YOU comfortable- Snacks, breast pads, a water bottle (filled with espresso if necessary, we don’t judge). Again, it is super easy to focus on the stuff your little one needs and completely forget about yourself. But you are the one managing the traveling circus once you head out, so make sure you have what you need to stay feeling your best.

One last essential…

Some grace for yourself. Whether you are a brand-new parent or one who is feeling a little rusty after a long and tiring year, you are going to have moments when you forget something important. Don’t beat yourself up. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. I for one would be more than willing to lend pretty much any diaper bag essential to a fellow parent who forgot their own. And I’m betting I am not the only one. So don’t suffer in silence if you forgot sunscreen and it is 400 degrees.

What do you think? Is this a good list of diaper bag essentials? Is there anything you think I forgot? Let me know in the comments below.


About the Author

Amanda is a teacher and mom of two from small-town Ontario. When she isn’t struggling to keep up with her boys, you can find her reading, crocheting, or writing poop-jokes for Lil Helper’s website, emails, and blog.


diaper bag essentials

Name That Stain! Strange stains and how to treat them.

Everyone has had a weird stain at one point or another. Whether it’s on clothes, or upholstery or carpet, you’ve probably at least once questioned how something got there. Well, as a parent that only gets worse. A lot of parents will find themselves scratching and sniffing stains or sometimes even a good old taste test will do. Let me tell you, that is a gamble.

Sniff test is a parental go-to

Brick-red stains

You might come across inserts or diaper stains that are brick red or reddish brown. This can be disconcerting especially if you have a younger baby who hasn't started solids yet and you have no idea where this stain could be coming from.

I remember the first time I saw my little guy’s cloth inserts stained brick red and while I didn't worry about it being blood (as it was clearly not) I could not for the life of me figure out where it had come from.

I did hours of research to find one hidden comment in the bowels of a forum by a mom who said the stain could be caused by baby Tylenol. Rejoice! I had in fact given my little Baby Tylenol as he was in the throes of teething. Pain. Fever. Overall crankiness. You know what I'm talking about.

(Gif from Buzzfeed)

Now while this kind soul answered the what of it, I had no answer for the why?
So here I am today to do just that! After much research I found out about Urate Crystals.

Urate crystals (commonly called "brick stain" by doctors) are a combination of calcium and urate, two substances normally found in urine. Most people will see this in breast or chest fed newborn babies as these crystals are often the cause of dehydration and newborns are drier as they wait for a caregiver’s milk to come in.

Urate crystals also can be seen in older babies and children. “This often indicates some level of dehydration, which can result from occurrences such as fever, a reduced number of feedings or volume of human milk or formula, or a shift to warmer weather.”

Medication can also cause an influx in these crystals so I often got these stains anytime I used Baby Tylenol.

While these stains can fade over time and multiple washings I found it helped move things along to sun them. Harnessing the power of the sun does wonders for stains. As any granny or cloth diapering parent will tell you.

Simply wash your item, and while its still damp, leave it in the sun to dry and VOILA! Stain gone. (If your stain is really stubborn this might take a few tries). Just re-dampen your item and lay back out or hang in the sun.*

Small Black Stains

Small black stains can be one of a few things.

1) Grease

Sometimes your washing machine can leak grease onto your clothes or diapers. As your washing machine is built up of a motor and transmission it requires grease to keep the parts properly lubricated. Over time the rubber seals that keep that stuff separate from your wash can break down.

If you start finding black spots on your clothes and you think it might be grease your first step to troubleshoot is to clean your washing machine drum. Overtime detergent and fabric softener can build up. By cleaning out your washing machine you can determine whether or not the marks are from build-up or something else.

Who knows what you’ll find in there!

If you have an agitator consult your owner’s manual as that’s a trickier job. Sometimes you’ll just see a buildup of dirt. You can clean that out and re-install your agitator. If you see motor oil then you’ll have to decide on calling a washing machine repair company or consider buying a new machine.

As for your fabrics that have grease stains, you can take Dawn and a small toothbrush and scrub the grease out and then thoroughly rinse the fabric.

2) Mold

Mold can appear like small black spots. If you suspect it’s mold the only way to kill spores and prevent them from spreading is using bleach. Check out Delight’s Knowledge Base for instructions and ratios on bleaching your diapers (or other products).

Mold must be treated with bleach. Photo credit – K Rachelle

3) Banana Stains

For toddlers just starting to eat solid foods, bananas are a fan favorite. They're soft, easy to mash and swallow and as a finger food, they’re easy for chubby baby hands to hold. What they’re also notorious for are leaving you with impossible stains. A lot of people often mistake banana stains for mold, which drives fear in the heart of cloth diapering parents.

Photo Cred – S Rodz

Banana might seem unassuming, all soft and nutritious and light in colour, however these deceiving delectables dry dark and you are left with a hideously stubborn stain that is often mistaken for mold.

While preventative measures work best (rinsing banana from clothes, bibs and diapers before letting it dry) once the stain is set, some Dawn dish soap and an old tooth brush and vigorous scrubbing can help. Some people swear by Oxiclean as well, but do your due diligence and if on cloth diapers, check with your product’s washing directions to make sure you don’t void any warranty.

Always check a product’s washing instructions to avoid kissing your warranty goodbye. Find Lil Helper’s warranty info here.

Stains are abundant when you have kids or pets but there are numerous ways to take care of even the weirdest ones.

What’s the hardest stain you’ve ever removed? What’s your tried and tested stain removal method?

*Please note that while sunning can have quite an effect on stains it is important that when sunning PUL it not lay in direct sunlight in excessive temperatures as this can damage PUL which can render a product useless and void a warranty. Even sunning through a window can be effective.


About the Author

Heather is a STAHWM who lives in St. John’s NL. where she’s raising two humans, two dogs, a cat and a fish. In between chasing her hooligans and waiting for her Hogwarts letter, she enjoys knitting, crocheting and campy 80’s horror flicks.


What Happened When One Company Put Parents Over Profit

A Message from Lil Helper

At Lil Helper, we are all about community. We always try to put our money where our mouth is whether it be donating to charity for our Rainbow Baby initiative, offering a God Forbid Guarantee, supporting charities that help make diapers more accessible, or simply trusting and helping parents when they ask for it.

Another way we try to build this community and create positivity is through our LilHelper: Unsnapped Facebook Community. It takes a village to raise a child, and we all need some help sometimes. At Lil Helper we have worked hard to create a space that is safe and positive for parents. Caring for and helping our customers is our number one priority. Here is one story that came from this amazing group of parents, lifting each other up, and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome. We are so proud of the community we have and everyone who is a part of this wonderful Lil Helper family.


Jessie’s Story: Community & Cloth Diapers

My name is Jessie and I'm a cloth diapering Mama. 

In my life I've jumped on many a band wagon. Oils, Tupperware etc. I've never stuck with any of them. But my cloth diapers, they are something I'm proud of. I've stuck with them, mastered my wash routine, stayed on top of diaper laundry. I owned the decision I made to help the environment and limit my single use items.

2020/2021 has been rough. For all of us. I got hit with a string of bad luck I wouldn't wish on my enemies.

From the pandemic, to the sudden and tragic loss of a friend/family member, to having a miscarriage, to getting pregnant again 3 weeks after my D&C (I wasn't ready!), to crashing my car…. I just couldn't catch a break. 

One day I left 2 wet bags full of clean, unfolded diapers in my dad's car that I was borrowing at the time. The hatch doesn't lock but I mean they are bags of unfolded diapers. They looked like rags if you just peeked in the bag. I sent my boyfriend to bring them in and he only brought in one bag. I thought that was odd but didn't really think much of it. The space dino bag had the least amount of diapers in it and it's the bag he left in the car. I decided I would just grab it later. But when I went to get it it wasn't there.

My heart sank. Everything I had lost in the the last year came flooding back. I couldn't stop crying. I was 8 months pregnant. Soon to have 2 in diapers and I lost 10ish diaper covers, most of my boosters and and night time inserts. Instead of economically growing my stash to meet the needs of two babes I now hardly had enough for one. And nothing for over nights. I didn't even have enough inserts to fill my covers.

My friends and family felt bad. But they couldn't relate. My boyfriend was firm, we are continuing to use cloth. We just need to breathe and figure it out. In my heartbroken frustration I turned to the only people I knew would feel my pain. Our LilHelper: Unsnapped group.

I just needed emotional support. Like minded people who would understand the loss I was feeling, people who would encourage me to make it through this tough patch. What I found was so much more.

I wrote a vent post. Explaining my bad luck and how the loss of my diapers was really weighing on me. Our community wrapped their arms around me and lifted me up. Instantly I had regular parents, like myself, giving me words of love and support.

Then to my shock, surprise, disbelief, people started offering to send me diapers and inserts they are no longer using. A couple wonderful people ordered clearance deals for me. Some sent me brand new diapers still in packages, some sent me EUC diapers and inserts, some people asked what diapers I lost so they could replace those exact ones. One loving soul even sent me hand made Harlem pants for the new baby and a grow with me tunic for my daughter!

I ended up with more than I lost. And more importantly my "bucket" was filled, my faith was restored and my joy was renewed. 

I've never received so much from a company before. Thank you Lil Helper for designing a product that attracts such beautiful people. Thank you for giving us a space to get to know and care for each other. And thank you fellow Unsnappers. You were there when I needed you 💜

Love and gratitude Jessie and the growing family!🥰

Jessie.