Diaper bags, admittedly, can be a subjective purchase. Some moms may prefer to just use a large purse, and some parents may want something dad and grandparents can also carry. Finally, other parents may be focused on a designer name tag. Still, after looking at around two dozen bags, we'd ultimately buy the Ju Ju Be BFF ($165, amazon.com) because it packs a lot of features into a compact, easy to carry bag.
After 10+ hours of online digging to find the most-loved bags on the Internet, we also spoke with at least a dozen moms to find out what diaper bags they have used and what features they like and don't like. We learned about the importance of proper weight distribution in a bag from the American Chiropractic Association.
Taking all these factors into consideration, we found that the Ju Ju Be BFF was a top choice. While people may first consider style when picking a diaper bag, it's actually the ability to comfortably carry everything you need and be able to access it easily that makes the Ju Ju Be BFF our choice.
Who Should Buy This?
If you're OK with any tote or backpack for the job then you may not want to invest in a diaper bag, although we do think bags specially designed for baby duty offer some significant perks, such as organization that keeps must-haves like diapers and bottles in mind.
Parents can benefit from a diaper bag that's versatile enough to meet a growing child's needs and durable enough to use when your baby becomes the big sibling.
What Makes A Good Diaper Bag?
Diaper bags have gone from utilitarian adjuncts to status symbols. Since celebrity pregnancies have become trendy news coverage, fancy diaper bags have become de rigueur. (You can even find out who carries what at Coolspotters!) No longer do you have to carry a bag covered with bears and bunnies if you don't want to. Now your diaper bag can double as a purse when your kids are older or as a carry-on travel bag for your husband.
Now that there are many, many players on the market, you don't need to choose a fancy brand name to get a good diaper bag. However, it's worth taking the time to learn what separates a good diaper bag from a bad diaper bag; things like organized storage space with lots of well-placed pockets, a lightweight feel, and durability (such as strong zippers and fabric that won't rip easily) really do make a difference. A leather diaper bag may look stylish but can generally be ignored: Nobody needs to carry around an extra 10 pounds in a bag that's already heavy, nevermind what will happen to leather when you spill milk (or worse) all over it. That's why we prefer water-resistant materials, as well as diaper bags with a zipper closure, since inevitably, the bag will be plopped down or knocked over.
Also, try not to be swayed by those little "extras" that come with most diaper bags, such as a changing pad, stroller hooks, or matching bottle and wipes holders. Some bags that seem great may include changing pads that are poor quality or just too small. My personal experience, as well as anecdotal evidence, shows that most parents just throw a pack of wipes into the bag (who has time to stuff them into a designer pouch?) and buy a separate bottle holder instead. Most diaper bags also have straps that are long enough to drape over a stroller handle, eliminating the need for a special hook.
In our approximately 26 hours of research, we found that the baseline cost-of-entry to get a great diaper bag was about $45. You can find diaper bags for around $20 or less, but we are concerned about their ability to last through multiple babies, or even one year of infancy. As mentioned, cheap sewing around zippers will eventually cause them to break or stick, and the bag that's not built of sturdy materials is more likely to get ripped. Spend over $200 though, and we think all you are really getting is the name brand, which you and your baby can live without. (Unless the sole reason you are getting the bag is for the name brand!)
As blogger Candice Williams of Baby Gizmo advises, "Know your needs. Do you like being hands free? Do you prefer a bag that looks like a purse? How much do you need to pack? Figuring all this out before you start looking will help you narrow down your search."
How We Tested
We started our process by speaking with scores of moms to find out what diaper bags they have used and what features they like and don't like. We then researched the highest rated and most popular bags on sites such as Amazon and Diapers.com. We then checked out these top sellers in person at stores including Bed Bath and Beyond and Toys 'R' Us, where we poked, prodded and analyzed when the salespeople weren't watching. We nixed bags that were enormous in person (a common complaint of many of the moms we spoke to), bags that didn't have well-placed pockets, and the ones that didn't seem as well-made as we thought they would be.
We also gave thumbs down to the bags that felt awkward or heavy when we tried them on, an important consideration to keep in mind. After all, the American Chiropractic Association recommends that women carry no more than 10 percent of their body weight, meaning that a 140-pound woman should only carry a 14-pound bag at most. We also touched base with Michael Perry, M.D., medical director of the Laser Spine Institute, who had some tips on the best way to avoid back pain when carrying a bag—a very real problem for parents lugging a diaper bag, stroller, and, oh yeah, a baby.
His main advice: "Switch it up. Don't carry the weight of your bag on just one shoulder. Also, go diagonal; try wearing the bag across your body. And add some padding to your straps to help reduce the pressure."
We stuffed our pick, the Ju Ju Be BFF, to the max with everything a mom might need to carry. Following a list of suggested diaper bag essentials from Parents.com, we placed in our bag:
- 3 diapers
- diaper cream
- burp cloths/blanket
- sun hat
- change of clothes
- change of shirt for mom
- cellphone and keys
Plus we added our own additions of bug repellant, stain remover stick, mom water bottle, hand sanitizer, sunglasses, plastic baggies, and a granola bar or two for mom thrown in. We carried the Ju Ju Be BFF through a week of play dates, trips to the park, a street fair, the grocery store, and a trip to Grandma's house. We made sure to treat it as any mom would treat their diaper bag—it was thrown in the trunk, dropped on the concrete, and stuffed with the random extras parents are always throwing in their bag last minute (such as three plastic dinosaurs and a Thomas train).
After a week of testing, Ju Ju Be BFF is our pick for best diaper bag because of its long list of terrific features that we couldn't find all in one bag anywhere else, starting with great organization and versatility in how you can carry it.
This diaper bag has storage galore, absolutely critical in a diaper bag. There were so many pockets, slots, and zippered compartments that we ran out of ideas for what to put in them (and we are a heavy packer.) The extras such as a key fob, sunglasses pocket, and lined cell-phone pocket were unique and useful details. For instance, the sunglasses pocket liner is made of materials that is actually supposed to help keep sunglasses clean! And the key fob, which is located in the bag's "mommy pocket," stretches, which can be handy if you're trying to unlock your front door while holding your bag and baby. The cellphone pocket is located right in front of the bag, so you can quickly grab without digging. The bag is a nice compact shape, and even though we packed the Ju Ju Be BFF with everything we could think of, there was still room left over. On its own, the Ju Ju Be BFF weighs around 2.5 pounds. Packed full, it weighed in at around 6 pounds, which is still within the range recommended by the American Chiropractic Association.
Another must-have feature was how comfortable the bag is to carry. You can wear the Ju Ju Be BFF as a backpack, as a crossbody, as a tote by shortening the strap, or hold it by the top handle like a suitcase. Either way, the bag has enough options to make carrying a heavy load less stressful on your body. With the Ju Ju Be BFF, not only can you switch the way you carry it, the bag has memory foam on its shoulder straps.
The perfect diaper bag also has the ability to make things easy to find. The Ju Ju Be BFF has light-colored linings, as well as a wide zip-open main compartment. The bag's dimensions are 14 inches wide by 12 inches high by 6.5 inches deep. The water-resistant material is easy to clean with soap and water as well.
Some of the well-designed extras include luggage feet for when you're dumping the bag on the ground, pockets that are insulated with Thinsulate (to keep bottles cold), and crumb drains so that junk just falls right out of the bag. Also, depending on the color combination you go for, this bag is neutral enough in design for dad to carry comfortably as well.
If something happens to your bag, Ju Ju Be has a reasonable warranty and will replace broken parts or bags that have defects within 90 days of purchase date.
One thing isn't great about the Ju Ju Be BFF though: the price tag is on the higher side at $165. The cost admittedly may be a deal breaker for some. However, the quality of this diaper bag is obvious. From durable metal hardware that's unlikely to get stuck, to the Teflon protective coating on the bag as well as the luggage feet on the bottom, every little detail seems well thought out in a way that we didn't see in most other bags. This bag is built to last for many years, which ultimately could make it a more cost-effective purchase than choosing cheaper in the beginning and then going through multiple bags, which is what happened to some members of the mom group we spoke to.
Who Else Likes It?
On the forums at Whattoexpect.com, the Ju Ju BE BFF got high marks, with a user
saying, "I love it. It holds a lot of stuff and keeps everything really organized". Other shoppers talked about how easy it is to clean the bag; "Love it! So many pockets and it cleans up real easy," said one buyer.
On Amazon, the Ju Ju Be BFF has a score of 4.5 out of 5, with over 200 reviews. One customer says, "The Ju Ju Be BFF has so many pockets that make everything so handy and I love the gusset opening of the bag so you can see inside for what you need." A critical reviewer does say that the changing pad isn't as good as they thought it should be, but still gives the Ju Ju Be BFF 3 stars.
On Nordstrom.com, reviewers also really liked the bag. "The best part is you can see everything in the bag and get to the stuff on the bottom," said one shopper. "I am an organizational freak and really picky with the bags I use. And this one seems so functional. I love the mommy pocket," says another. And yet another buyer says, "I have tried many, many diapers bags over the last 6 years with my two boys and this is far and away my favorite (Kate Spade is my other favorite). The washability is HUGE and I've really needed it on several occasions. This particular bag is a perfect medium size and very comfortable to use."
We know that bags can be a fairly subjective, personalized purchase. So while we have one overall selection that we think will be a great option for most, here are a few others that we think are great options.
If you prefer to keep your hands free
Some moms and dads may want to stay hands-free, which might make sense for you if you like wearing your baby in an Ergo or Baby Bjorn. If the cost of the Ju Ju Be BFF is out of your range, we also really liked the Jeep Perfect Pockets Backpack Diaper Bag, which is available for around $45. It doesn't have the versatility in ways to carry it—you can only wear this diaper bag as a backpack. It also doesn't have some of the other unique extras we mentioned in the Ju Ju Be. However, it has some other really cool features, such as an easy pop-open wipes case on the side of the bag. Simply reach around a grab a wipe—no digging! There's an attached wet bag on the inside for gross, soggy items, a compartment that's perfect for snacks, an insulated bottle pocket and stroller loops. This backpack is sized well for both moms and dads, and the padded straps are very comfortable. The 11 pockets in the bag are pretty perfectly placed (hence the name). If you need comfort and great storage capabilities over cutesiness, we think you'll love this backpack too.
If you need a work-friendly bag
Some moms may need their diaper bag to double as a work tote because they don't want to deal with switching bags back and forth between work and other kid-free activities, and family time. That's why we liked the JJ Cole Satchel Diaper Bag ($70) as a great multi-purpose work/kid bag. It has a ton of pockets and is also stylish enough to carry to the office without looking like you have a diaper bag at your desk. This tote has 7 interior and 4 exterior pockets, as well as a removable crossbody strap for those hands-free moments.
If you have 2 or more young children
Are you the head of a big family? Then you need a bag that's just for the seriously bogged down with baby supplies. The Skip Hop Duo Double, which retails for $80, is designed with double the kids (and then some) in mind. Firstly, it is designed to fit across a double side by side stroller, making the conundrum of what to do with your diaper bag a little bit easier. Second, it has a whopping 16 pockets, which should comfortably house must-haves for multiple little ones. It also has a cellphone pocket so you don't lose your link to the outside world amongst all the diapers, binkies, and snacks.
If you need to just grab and go
Sometimes you just don't want to lug a diaper bag to do little things like visit the post office or grab a quick bite. Or maybe you are one of those parents who prefers to leave all the extras in the car and just step out with the small necessities. We like the Skip Hop Soho Diaper Clutch, which is $30, for this purpose. It looks like a chic little crossbody bag, but the pockets are designed to hold diapers, ointment, wipes, and your phone and keys. Basically, just the essentials. The material is waterproof, which is a plus beyond your regular purse. Also, the clutch will fit nicely into a bigger diaper bag if you want it to be your go-to when you don't need it all.
If you need a travel diaper bag
When you're on the road or in the air, you are most likely going to need more for your little one than you would carry day to day, i.e. more snacks, more toys, and more diapers, to start. Okkatots Travel Depot Diaper Bag, at around $110, is the creme de la creme of travel diaper bags. This mega backpack can hold 16 diapers, has a removable wipes dispenser, has a pocket that holds a DVD player for viewing, and then zips it back in when done, and a waterproof pouch that holds any damp mishaps from travel. The backpack can zip fully open, sort of like a book, or just unzip on top like a regular backpack. The size and design work equally well for moms or dads and the padded shoulder straps have a key hook and cellphone pocket for easy access while wearing the pack.
We considered these other diaper bags, but they just didn't beat the features offered by some of our other picks.
- Skip Hop Duo ($58)—While a popular best seller, this crossbody bag doesn't seem to have any special "diaper bag" features that a really good messenger bag wouldn't have.
- Timi & Leslie "Charlie" bag ($158)—Sooo heavy, and that's when it's empty!
- Coach Baby Bag Tote—At almost $400, we see no reason to spend that much for a bag that will carry spit-up covered clothing and spilled milk.
- Vera Bradley Convertible Baby Bag ($109)—Not waterproof. (We certainly wouldn't enjoy carrying a sopping wet bag all day after the bottle inevitably spills in it.)
- Fisher Price Fastfinder Diaper Bag ($30)—We doubt the durability of this bag to last through multiple babies.
- Le Sportsac Ryan Baby Bag ($138)—Not enough pockets on the inside, and the thin fabric means the bag falls over when not packed.
Care, Use, Maintenance, and Repair
When it comes to keeping the BFF clean, Ju Ju Be has it covered. The bag is machine washable (just air dry it), but with great features, such as crumb drains to keep those squished animal crackers from getting stuck in the bottom of the bag, hopefully it will rarely see the inside of your washing machine. We also like how the bag has an antimicrobial lining that kills germs, mold, mildew and fungus, as well as a teflon fabric protector that keeps stains from sticking.
The Ju Ju Be website also offers tips for how to keep your diaper bag in perfect condition, and they will replace parts on your bag should you need it (we are guessing you probably won't, unless you accidentally run over your diaper bag with your car…).
Wrapping It Up
From the Thinsulate pockets to durable germ-proof material, plus the way it performed in our testing through a week of daily use, the Ju Ju Be BFF is our diaper bag of choice for now. It's such a well-organized diaper bag, it almost makes us want to delay potty training our toddler just a little bit longer...which we're sure he's just fine with.
- Kathy Barnes, "What to Keep in Your Baby Diaper Bag", Parents.com.
- Interview with Michael Perry, M.D., Medical Director of Laser Spine Institute. November, 2014
- "Today's Fashion Can Be Tomorrow's Pain", American Chiropractic Association
- Candice Williams, "How to choose the perfect diaper bag for you," Baby Gizmo. August 18, 2012
- "Diaper Bag Buying Guide," Consumer Reports. Updated November 2012
- "2014 Mom's Pick: Best Diaper Bags," Baby Center.
- "Diaper Bag Reviews," WeeSpring.com.
- Reviews, Amazon.com.
Katie Parsons is a freelance writer, editor and "mommy blogger" with a background in news media. She has five children through a combined family and enjoys running (alone) and singing in a community choir (together).
If you enjoyed this guide, find more at TheNightlight.com.