Becoming a parent for the first time can be pretty overwhelming. Not only do you need to learn how to look after a tiny human, but you also need to figure out everything that comes with that – and when every brand is pushing their product as an absolute must-have, it can be tricky to work out what you need and, well, what you don't.
Luckily we’re on hand to help. We tested 15 of the most highly recommended changing bags on the market to find out which bags are really worth buying. After three months of packing, carrying, wiping and washing, the results are in, here are the best baby changing bags to buy.
1. Best overall changing bag: Skip Hop Duo Backpack
“I've got the Skip Hop Duo and I love it. It clips onto the pram and it has just the right number of pockets!” - Mumsnet user
The Skip Hop Duo Backpack triumphed as our overall winner and was awarded the title of 'Best Baby Changing Bag 2020'.
Styled like a classic rucksack, the Duo has one large zipped pocket at the front and two smaller open pockets at the sides – ideal for stuffing muslins, snacks, or anything else you might need to grab at a moment's notice before leaving the house. As such, we also think it’s the best backpack changing bag to buy right now.
Available in either a strong olive green or the classic grey melange (the latter of which we tested), the Duo’s design is simple and contemporary and will look equally at home on the shoulders of Mum or Dad, particularly as the straps are also wide and comfortable to wear.
The main compartment of the bag zips open right down each side – the whole front of the bag pulls forward, allowing easy access to the large area inside. Our tester found this really useful for reaching those small items, like dummies, that always managed to work their way down to the bottom of the bag.
There are also smaller interior pockets, including one that’s the perfect size for the fold-up changing mat provided, so you can keep the bag organised without there being dozens of different places to lose things. The pockets are really well thought out – there’s even a pocket just for your phone with a soft non-scratch lining.
Overall, the Skip Hop Duo is a very unfussy bag – there aren't any unnecessary features, it does its job really well and it's equally as well made. The main negative is that its bottle pockets aren't insulated, but Becca felt that this was a minor drawback to an otherwise great bag. If you’re not planning to bottle feed anyway, this is irrelevant and, if you are, there are plenty of standalone bottle bags that you can purchase instead.
- Spill test: Pass
The lining and exterior fabric are both water-resistant and easy to wipe clean.
- One-handed test: Pass
The zips on this bag are sturdy, but still smooth enough to be opened with one hand.
- Simple, gender-neutral design with attractive faux-leather trim
- Well made with sturdy zips
- Nine pockets – not too many and not too few
- Wide, soft shoulder straps for comfortable carrying
- Keyring on the front of the bag for attaching keys
- Has a good storage capacity without feeling large on your back
- Shoulder straps have built-in stroller clips for attaching the bag to your pushchair
- No insulated bottle pockets
- A little pricey
- Key features: Nine pockets (including side bottle pockets, front zip pockets and a phone compartment with non-scratch lining); adjustable padded straps; padded pocket that holds most 15-inch laptops; cushioned changing mat
- Colours: Olive and grey melange
- Dimensions: 42 × 15 × 33cm
2. Best budget changing bag: JoJo Maman Bebe Baby-on-the-Go Buggy Bag
“If you're breastfeeding, you just need a little bag for nappies. I bought a teeny tiny one from JoJo Maman Bebe.” - Mumsnet user
As a parent, there will undoubtedly be times when you’re caught out – maybe you forgot to refill the changing bag with reusable nappies or maybe you packed it meticulously and then left it sitting in your front porch. It happens to the best of us and that’s when a changing bag like this can be a lifesaver.
At just 22cm tall and 17cm wide, the Baby-on-the-Go Buggy Bag from JoJo Maman Bebe is significantly smaller than most of the other bags on our list, but it’s still roomy enough to fit all the basics. Our tester found it was able to comfortably hold a full pack of baby wipes, two spare babygrows and six nappies.
While you could use the Buggy Bag as your main changing bag for short day trips, we found it was also brilliant to use as an emergency option – to be used in conjunction with a larger bag.
Our tester stocked up the bag with nappy-changing essentials and left it in the boot of her car, finding its mere existence really reassuring. With a million different things to remember as a parent, it’s always useful to have that little safeguard in place – so even if you leave your main changing bag underneath your supermarket trolley or in a friend’s car, you know you won’t be caught short.
When it comes down to it, JoJo Maman Bebe's Buggy Bag may be small, but it’s very well-designed. It’s just the right size to store those baby essentials without it feeling crammed full, and there’s even a small mesh pocket inside for smaller items.
It also features a built-in wipes dispenser that allows you to grab a wipe without bothering to undo the zip, and the small strap is perfect for looping around your pushchair handle.
- Spill test: Pass
The slightly plasticised exterior fabric is really easy to wipe down and ensures that the bag doesn’t get grubby even when it’s left in your car boot. The inside fabric is also plasticised and easy to wipe clean.
- One-handed test: Pass
It might be a little tricky to completely undo the bag with one hand, since the zip turns a couple of corners, but you will be able to unzip it enough to pull out a nappy or a muslin. The wipes dispenser can also be easily opened one-handed for those emergency spit-ups.
- Plasticised fabric is very practical
- Design is simple but attractive, and gender-neutral to boot
- Feels sturdy and well made
- Despite its small size, it still feels roomy inside so can fit the essentials without feeling like too much of a squeeze
- Price is reasonable and you can justify buying this product even if you already have a more substantial changing bag
- Doesn’t come with a foldable changing mat (though there would be room to put one in yourself if you wanted)
- Too small to use as an everyday changing bag for longer trips out of the house
- Key features: Elasticated mesh pocket inside; strap with a popper for hanging the bag over pushchair handles; built-in wipes dispenser
- Colours: Navy and white stripes
- Dimensions: 17 × 22 × 11cm
3. Best changing bag for baby and toddler: Mia Tui Sydney
“I have the Mia Tui Sydney and absolutely love it.” - Mumsnet user
In terms of its appearance, the Mia Tui Sydney falls somewhere between the understated Ergobaby Take Along and the eye-popping Pink Lining Wonder Bag, both of which we also loved.
Available in 13 different colours, including purple, mustard, berry and cobalt (the latter of which we tested), this faux-leather bag offers a bit of personality without being too garish.
But even if you opt for one of the more neutral colour choices, you’ll still be wowed by the bright turquoise lining, which occasionally peeps out from inside the side pockets and stops things from getting lost.
The main compartment contains several well-thought-out pockets, including a padded laptop pocket, pen holder and keyring. There’s a large second compartment in front as well as a generously sized front pocket with a zip.
Our tester found this second compartment really handy for trips out with both her baby and toddler. She was able to use the main compartment for baby essentials (nappies, wipes, clothes and baby bottles) and the smaller front compartment for her toddler – this held a couple of snacks, a toy and a box of crayons.
Storing her two children's items separately helped to keep things organised and the bag also comes with an interior plastic pouch which she found ideal for soiled clothes.
While our tester wasn't keen on the overall shape of the bag and its lack of a designated buggy strap, the fact that it was able to cope with the belongings of more than one child means that it's well worth its price tag.
- Spill test: Pass
The faux-leather exterior is easily wiped clean and the interior fabric was also able to handle a small milk spill without hassle.
- One-handed test: Pass
All the zips are smooth and easily opened with one hand.
- Faux-leather fabric is vegan-friendly and water-repellent
- Comes in several fun colours, as well as neutrals
- Cheaper than some of the changing bags we tested, such as the Pink Lining Wonder Bag, the Babymel Cara Ultra-Lite, and the Skip Hop Duo, which all retail at £65
- Comes with a clear plastic pouch – useful for smaller items or for soiled clothes
- The shoulder straps could do with more padding – our tester found it a little uncomfortable to wear for long periods
- Changing mat would also benefit from more padding
- No stroller straps included
- Key features: Padded laptop section (fits a 13.5-inch laptop); insulated bottle holder; clear accessory bag; elasticated key clip
- Colours: Black; berry; chestnut; metallic grey; true purple; graphite; Air Force blue; mustard; aubergine; chocolate; cobalt; tan; navy
- Dimensions: 40 × 32 × 12cm
4. Best changing mat: Skip Hop Pronto Changing Station
“The Skip Hop Pronto is great. I had a changing bag with DS1 and realised that it was bulky and not always necessary. With my next (twins), I never took one out, just the Skip Hop and whatever bag I was carrying anyway.” - Mumsnet user
Sometimes when you leave the house with your baby, it'll feel like you’ve packed for a fortnight’s holiday. Other times, you just won’t need much at all.
If you’re going out for a walk round the park or a quick trip to the supermarket, you won’t need to pack for every possible eventuality. You probably won’t need bottles of milk or snacks or multiple changes of clothes… just a nappy, a pack of wipes and maybe one spare babygro.
That’s where a portable changing station can come in handy. Just pop it in your pushchair's storage basket or strap it onto the handle and you’re good to go – no bulky bag to carry around.
At just 22 × 29cm, the Skip Hop Pronto is small and compact but incredibly well designed. It has a full-size fold-out changing mat, which Becca found ideal for putting onto those pull-down changing tables you find in public toilets, plus a small detachable clutch for independent use.
The bag contains one main zipped pocket and a large mesh pocket for storing your nappy-changing essentials, plus a keyring and zipped pocket at the front for your phone and keys.
Even though the Pronto does fit a decent amount, the more you cram inside the more the bag will inevitably start to bulge. We'd recommend filling it with one spare outfit, one pack of wipes and up to four nappies – you’ll just need to remember to top it up regularly with replacements.
All-in-all, the Skip Hop Pronto isn’t over-engineered – just like the Skip Hop Duo backpack, it’s simple in design but does its job really well. While this kind of changing station probably won’t completely eradicate your need for a ‘proper’ changing bag, it should make a great addition to your baby inventory.
- Spill test: Pass
It’s made from the same fabric as the Skip Hop Duo and is equally as easy to keep clean.
- One-handed test: Pass
It’s simple to unclip the bag and unfold the changing mat with one hand. Once you’ve put the baby on the mat, you’ll need both hands to unzip the pouch if you want to detach it.
- Satchel-style design with faux-leather details
- Comes in several colourways – we tested the classic textured grey melange fabric, which matches the Skip Hop Duo Backpack
- The changing mat is slightly padded at one end so it’s comfortable under the baby’s head
- Measuring 56 × 53cm, the extra-wide changing mat is noticeably larger than the other changing mats we tested (the mat supplied with the Pink Lining Wonder Bag, for example, only measures 50 × 29cm)
- Comes with a refillable wipes case if you don’t want to carry around a whole pack
- The bag closes with a sturdy clip so you can fill it with nappies and wipes without worrying about putting strain on a zip
- It has a handy loop that clips around a pushchair handle
- Compact enough to keep in the car, under the pushchair or for emergencies
- Only useful for short outings
- Needs refilling regularly
- Price is a little high for what it is
- Key features: Removable wipes case; zip-off changing pad; built-in head pillow; large interior pouches
- Colours: Grey melange; grey chevrons; black; black chevrons; red and blue triangles
- Dimensions: 22 × 29 × 3cm
5. Best small changing bag: Ergobaby Take Along
“I love my Ergobaby. It's had heavy use every day and still looks new. The changing mat in it is a decent size and it has insulated pockets which are handy for weaning or bottles.” - Mumsnet user
If you want a small changing bag but still need all the functionality of a full-sized one, the Ergobaby Take Along may well be an ideal choice.
More compact than most of the bags we tested, the Ergobaby may be small but its storage capacity is more than decent – so if you’re planning to pack bottles, nappies and wipes, but don’t need 10 changes of clothes or enough snacks to feed an army, then this could be the bag for you.
The Take Along is simple yet attractive to look at and comes in a textured grey (which we tested) or a creamy linen. The exterior fabric is rougher to the touch than some of the other bags we tested (such as the Skip Hop Duo backpack, which comes in a similar textured grey design made from a softer fabric), but certainly not unpleasantly so. The wide padded straps and padded back also provide comfort on those busy days out.
There’s a decent-sized pocket at the front with a large magnetic flap closure and two open pockets on the side. Inside, there are two insulated bottle pockets, a zipped pocket for valuables and a large pocket that’s perfectly sized for storing the changing mat provided.
You'll also find an additional pocket hidden in the back of the bag. While this initially won't seem like the most practical of pockets, since it'll be pressed up against your back when you’re wearing the bag, it's nevertheless useful for thin or flat items such as nappies or tablets.
Granted, the Take Along isn’t huge, but the pockets are well thought out and make great use of the space. Its smaller size means it will easily fit underneath most pushchairs, even when full of gear, and when you’re wearing it on your back you won’t feel like you’re about to hike the Himalayas.
- Spill test: Pass
The Take Along is made with water-repellent fabric – as well as being easy to wipe clean after a spill, you can also wear it during a downpour without the entire contents being soaked through.
- One-handed test: Pass
The main zip is very smooth and easy to open with one hand.
- The straps are soft and comfortable, and the back of the bag is well padded for comfort – and to protect your back from items you put in the back pocket
- Front pocket contains a small compartment for your phone and keys as well as a built-in key clip
- Versatile – can be worn as a backpack, carried like a tote, or clipped onto a pushchair with the loops provided
- Carry handles on the top of the bag are soft and comfy to hold
- Its compact size means it’s best for short trips out of the house but not that useful for longer periods of travel
- The stroller clips are built-in and not removable so they occasionally get in the way when not being used
- Price is comparable to a larger changing bag so a little on the expensive side (it can, however, often be found on sale)
- Key features: Adjustable padded shoulder straps; two insulated bottle holders; pushchair attachment; breathable mesh back
- Colours: Grey; linen
- Dimensions: 33 × 31 × 16cm
6. Pink Lining Wonder Bag
“I bought a Pink Lining bag and it ticked all the boxes.” - Mumsnet user
While lots of baby changing bags are designed to be discreet, this isn't a word you'd use to describe the Pink Lining Wonder Bag.
With several flamboyant designs to choose from (we tested the ‘parrot black’), this bag certainly won’t go unnoticed. And just in case the striking patterns on the exterior weren’t enough, the interior, if you hadn’t already guessed, is a seriously vivid pink. After a particularly tough day of childcare, we found that this pop of colour was just the thing needed to provoke a smile.
The plasticised fabric on the outside of the bag doesn’t feel quite as pleasant as the material on some of the other bags we tested (such as the Skip Hop Duo, which is relatively soft to the touch), but it's nevertheless practical when it comes to mopping up spills.
When it comes to compartments, the front of the bag boasts a large pocket with a sturdy zip. We found this a great size for storing smaller items like loose snacks for a toddler or a box of crayons. It also contains a pen holder, key clip and miniature compartment for your phone.
The bag’s main compartment, however, can be zipped open nice and wide for easy access. There are two additional pockets within – one zipped pocket for valuables and one large pocket to store the supplied changing mat. The bright pink mat is small (only 50 × 29cm) but well padded. There’s also a detachable insulated bottle holder, which attaches to the inside of the bag with Velcro. This means that the bag can later be used as a normal backpack.
The Wonder Bag’s shoulder straps are thick and comfortable, but if you’d rather not wear it like a backpack the straps fold away neatly so it can be used as a tote bag instead.
- Spill test: Pass
The exterior fabric of the bag is plasticised, making it incredibly easy to wipe down should you have a spillage.
- One-handed test: Pass
The zip to the main compartment is smooth and easy to open. And, unlike some of the bags, it’s easy to close with one hand too.
- The changing mat provided, though small, is thick and well-padded so very comfortable for the baby to lie on
- Several fun designs to choose from
- Plasticised fabric is fuss-free to wipe clean
- Comfortable padded backpack straps
- Stroller clips (to attach the bag to your pushchair’s handles) are sold separately
- A couple of smaller internal pockets would be useful for keeping things organised
- Although we’re sure there are plenty of dads who would rock this bag, the design isn't intended to be gender-neutral
- May not be within budget for some families
- Key features: Detachable insulated bottle holder; foldaway shoulder straps; padded changing mat; phone pocket; pen holder; loops for stroller straps (sold separately)
- Colours: Cream with parrots; black with parrots; navy apples and pears; Dalmatian; hummingbird
- Dimensions: 36 × 30.5 × 13cm
7. Babymel Cara Ultra-Lite
“I have a Babymel Cara and I really like it. I don't feel silly using it as a regular bag when I don't have DS with me and it holds huge amounts for a day out.” - Mumsnet user
Halfway between a handbag and a holdall, the Babymel Cara looks smart but is still practical for use as a changing bag. It’s pretty large, but not so huge that you’ll feel like you’re going away for a week every time you leave the house with your baby.
The bag can be carried in three ways. Firstly, it has a messenger-style shoulder strap to allow for hands-free cross-body wearing. Secondly, there are two black handles that allow you to hold the bag like a tote and, thirdly, we found that the handles were just about long enough to sling the bag over one shoulder, as long as you’re not wearing a really bulky coat. These three different options make it a versatile and practical option for a variety of circumstances.
In terms of pockets, the Babymel Cara hasn’t gone overboard. There are a couple of good-sized internal pockets, two external pockets (one on each end of the bag), and one fairly small zipped pocket on the side of the bag, which could be used for your keys or your phone.
While another internal pocket or two wouldn’t go amiss, we actually liked how unfussy this bag was – it’s essentially just one main compartment with a few dividers. With a £65 price tag (comparable to the Skip Hop Duo backpack and the Pink Lining Wonder Bag), however, it may not suit everyone's budget.
But, overall, it's a well-designed product that'll last you right from the hospital delivery ward through to that first year and beyond.
- Spill test: Pass
Both the internal and external fabric are simple to wipe clean.
- One-handed test: Pass
The main zip on the Babymel Cara is incredibly smooth and very easy to open with one hand. When the zip is fully opened, however, it can be tricky to do it back up with one hand as the end of the zip overhangs the end of the bag – you need to hold the zip taut with one hand and pull the tag with the other. But since you’re more likely to need to get into a bag quickly than to zip it up again, we still considered this a pass.
- The long messenger-style shoulder strap can easily be removed when not required
- Large main compartment offers a good amount of storage space
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- Pushchair straps are built into the main shoulder strap so the bag can easily be hung from a stroller
- One insulated bottle pocket
- Versatile – can be worn in different ways and then used as a regular tote once your child has outgrown the need for a changing bag
- The handles aren’t particularly wide, so can be uncomfortable to hold if the bag is heavy
- The cross-body strap has no additional padding
- Key features: Detachable long shoulder strap with integrated stroller straps; insulated bottle pocket; ultra-lightweight design
- Colours: Navy scuba; black scuba
- Dimensions: 33 × 45 × 16cm
8. PacaPod Hartland
“I love my PacaPod Hartland. I can use it as a backpack or a shoulder bag and I love all the separate pods. I’ve used it most days for 14 months and it looks like new.” - Mumsnet user
If you’re looking to spend a bit more for a premium changing bag, the PacaPod Hartland could be a good fit. It’s significantly more expensive than most other bags on the market, but does offer a sleeker, more stylish design – it looks so much like a classy handbag that nobody will know it’s actually full of nappies, half-drunk bottles of milk and soggy bibs.
The vegan faux-leather exterior looks chic and the bag is available in several classic colourways (we tested the navy).
Far from being a case of ‘style over substance’, the Hartland bag is also really functional. The exterior is simple, with just one zipped pocket, and there are a further two zipped pockets inside. The main compartment zips open right down the sides of the bag allowing the bag’s contents to be accessed easily. But the really handy part is the special removable ‘pods’ that come inside – they’re essentially zip-up pouches which can be removed from the bag and folded flat when empty.
There are two pods provided with the Hartland bag – a feeding pod and a changing pod. The feeding pod is fully insulated and can fit up to four bottles (or, when your child gets older, cutlery, snacks, etc), and the changing pod has several pockets to store nappies and wipes. Both pods are a good size and help to keep the bag’s contents organised.
In particular, our tester found the pods really handy when out for lunch with both her children. With some changing bags, it can be hard to find exactly what you need when the bag is stuffed full. But with the Hartland, Becca was able to easily grab the feeding pod when food arrived, which contained her toddler’s bib and cutlery. If you’ve ever tried to make a toddler wait more than a few seconds for their lunch, you’ll know how valuable it is to be able to get these things ready as quickly as possible.
The PacaPod Hartland is well made and practical. However, despite all these handy features, there’s no denying that it carries a pretty hefty price tag and, at £110, it may well cost more than most families will be willing to spend.
- Spill test: Pass
The faux-leather exterior is water-resistant and the lining is also easy to wipe clean.
- One-handed test: Pass
The main zip can be open and closed with one hand.
- Sleek and classy design
- Main zip extends right down the sides of the bag allowing the bag to open fully for easy access
- Pods are well-designed and fold flat when not in use
- Versatile – can be worn as a backpack or carried like a messenger bag
- Small removable coin pouch attaches to the bag with a popper
- The pods come with clips to attach them to your pushchair if you don’t want to carry the full bag
- Main bag also comes with pram attachment straps
- You can choose to buy the Hartland with custom pods (e.g. toddler pod) to tailor the bag to your family’s specific needs
- With the pods removed, the bag functions as a regular bag so can still be used when a changing bag is no longer needed
- Only one exterior pocket
- The pods mean you have to open two zips to access your nappies, rather than one
- Changing mat is thin and not particularly well padded
- Shoulder straps are quite thin and aren’t overly comfortable when the bag is heavy
- Key features: Feeding and changing pods; additional mini pod for small items; convertible backpack/messenger straps; changing mat; pram attachment strap; leather varieties available for a higher price
- Colours: Navy; camel; gunmetal; black
- Dimensions: 41 × 31 × 20cm
How we chose which products to test
We asked writer Becca Heyes to test a selection of changing bags and let us know her thoughts. As a mum to a boisterous two-year-old and a three-month-old baby, Becca was able to offer insight into what makes a really great changing bag that will grow with a family and last for years to come.
Truth is, there are all sorts of options out there and if you’re new to parenthood you won't always know what features will really prove useful. So Becca chose a wide variety of bags to test, ranging from the minimalist – essentially just changing mats with built-in pouches – to the extravagant, with special pockets, insulated bottle holders and a multitude of different strap configurations.
She spent six hours researching which bags we should take a look at – most of the bags we tested were either recommended by Mumsnet users, featured on online bestseller lists or popular products among parents from some of the UK’s most well-respected baby brands. We also looked at new releases to ensure that we gave newcomers a level playing field when competing with old favourites.
Over the course of three months, Becca rigorously tested a shortlist of 15 bags before narrowing them down to a top eight for inclusion in this list.
Whether you’re a stay-at-home mum or work full-time, have one child or six, live in the city or in the middle of the countryside, there’s bound to be a bag here that'll work for you and your lifestyle.
How we tested the best changing bags
To make sure we were as thorough as possible, we tested the changing bags in two ways.
Firstly, we used each bag in real-life situations – Becca took the bags with her when out and about with her two children to see how they fared day-to-day. She tested each bag for up to a week each, stuffing them in the storage basket of her pram, using them for dozens of nappy changes, and filling them to the brim with baby toys and snacks.
While one bag may look more attractive than another at first glance, real-world testing offers a better insight into how practical a bag truly is – especially how it performs in those spontaneous ‘we-never-could-have-predicted-this’ moments (always more likely to occur when you add a runny poo to the equation).
We asked Becca to check that the bags were straightforward to use (what parent of a newborn has time for instruction manuals?) and that there were no nasty surprises – stains after just a couple of hours' usage, hard-to-reach pockets, or ripped seams after a long day out.
Secondly, we conducted two specific tests on each bag – the spill test and the one-handed test.
- The spill test: We spilt a small amount of milk onto each bag, both inside and out (something that’s sure to happen in the lifetime of any changing bag), then cleaned them up as best we could. We assessed how easily the bag was able to be wiped clean and whether there were any stains or smells left behind.
- The one-handed test: Could the main compartment of the bag be unzipped with one hand? This is vital for those panicked moments when you’re holding the baby but urgently need to grab a muslin or a pack of wipes – those spit-ups always seem to come without warning.
With just one person testing each bag in exactly the same ways, we were able to ensure consistency in our ratings and give the most accurate comparisons.
After thoroughly testing each bag, we then scored them on several criteria, including comfort, aesthetics, value for money, practicality and cleanliness.
These scores allowed us to compare the bags as objectively as possible and to award our favourite bags with coveted Mumsnet Best awards. Any bags that failed our tests were not included in our recommendations.
How do I choose a baby changing bag?
A changing bag is one of the most important items in your baby arsenal; your defence against the dark arts of poonamies and toddler tantrums.
Having a single bag designed with parenting in mind, and always packed and ready to go, can make your life that little bit easier.
Most changing bags have an insulated pocket or pouch for a baby bottle, and are made from wipe-clean materials. They often have a changing mat included with the bag and a handy zip pocket for your keys, phone and wallet. The right bag can be an all-in-one solution that you’ll be carrying around for years to come.
While you’re obviously not going to want to buy all eight of our recommended baby changing bags (well, maybe you will), there are several bags listed here that would complement each other well.
Our tester, Becca, would recommend choosing one main bag, which you can use on a day-to-day basis for most of your baby needs, plus one smaller bag or changing station. The smaller bag can be left in your car boot for emergencies, or quickly grabbed from under the pushchair for on-the-go nappy changes.
What are the different types of baby changing bag?
Backpacks vs messenger-style
Most full-size changing bags fall into one of two categories: backpack-style bags (worn on your back with two shoulder straps) and messenger-style bags (worn on the hip with a long cross-body strap).
Some bags, like the PacaPod Hartland, can be converted from one to the other depending on what’s most appropriate for the occasion. It’s up to you which style of bag you decide to go for.
Both types of bag leave you with your hands free for carrying babies, but our tester had a strong preference for backpack-style bags.
Backpacks help to keep the weight of the bag centred across your shoulders, rather than all of the weight being held on one side – a lifesaver for parents with back issues or those using baby carriers.
With messenger-style bags, leaning forward can sometimes cause the bag to swing around in front of you. While they definitely have their uses, they could be uncomfortable in the long-run.
As well as large backpacks and messenger bags, there are also smaller changing units on the market, such as the Skip Hop Pronto changing station and the Jojo Maman Bebe Baby-on-the-Go Buggy Bag. These are designed to just carry the essentials – a few nappies, wipes, and a change of clothes.
We think it’s a great idea to get one of these smaller bags in addition to a full-size bag, either to use for emergencies (just leave it in your car boot) or for quick trips out of the house when you don’t want to pack everything but the kitchen sink.
Of course, some people may argue that you don’t actually need to buy a changing bag at all and that any ordinary backpack will do.
For some people, this may be true – we’re certainly not claiming that it would be impossible to use a bag that’s not explicitly marketed as a changing bag. But changing bags are specifically designed with a parent’s needs in mind, and they generally have certain useful features that you won’t find in a standard rucksack, such as baby changing mats, insulated bottle pockets and wipes dispensers.
What makes a good baby changing bag?
It might seem like a case of ‘the more the merrier’ when it comes to your bag’s pockets, but we’ve actually found that this is not always the case.
If every item in your bag has its own special pocket, it can actually be tricky to find anything when you inevitably forget which pocket it’s in. Plus, if you’re ever planning to send the bag away to a grandparent’s house or a childminder, be prepared for everything to inevitably come back in the wrong place.
Our tester found that her favourite bags were the ones with one main compartment and just a few interior pockets for keeping things in place. Larger items, like changes of clothes and packets of wipes, can just be stored in the main section of the bag.
2. Convertible straps
Several bags on the market, such as the PacaPod Hartland and the Babymel Cara Ultra-Lite, are able to be worn as backpacks or messenger bags, depending on how you attach the straps.
If you think you’re likely to use both carrying methods, then a bag that offers convertible straps will be a must-have.
3. Insulated bottle pockets
Most changing bags come with insulated pockets for keeping your bottles of milk fresher for longer – they can then be heated as needed. But if you’re planning to exclusively breastfeed, this feature won’t be that useful.
All parents are different, so make sure you give some thought to your specific lifestyle and which features you will truly need before splashing out.
A note about milk safety – although some bags are marketed as being able to keep bottles of milk warm for hours on end, we have questions about the safety of this practice. Bacteria loves to grow in warm environments, so keeping a bottle of milk warm for a long period of time seems questionable at best, especially when it’s going to be fed to a vulnerable infant.
There seems to have been limited research in this area, but it’s probably better to view insulated bottle pockets as a way to keep fridge-cold milk fresh for longer, rather than keeping warm milk warm – and of course, don’t feed the milk to your baby if it’s no longer cold to the touch. You can still heat the milk to the appropriate temperature before feeding.
4. Material and design
Several of the bags we tested had vegan faux-leather exteriors as opposed to the polyester that many other bags are made from.
While being vegan-friendly, these types of changing bags are also very practical as they’re easy to wipe clean if milk or juice gets spilt (or if your baby has one of those dreaded poo-splosions).
Because faux-leather is water-resistant, you can also wear your bag in light rain without worrying about all your belongings getting wet.
Think, too, about overall design – what colour options are available and are there any extra features that make the bag stand out? Is it the sort of bag that you would be proud to wear out and about?
What should you carry in a baby changing bag?
If you’re a new mum and you’ve never packed a changing bag before, here’s a little checklist of things you might like to pack:
- Clean nappies
Nappy bags for disposing of used nappies (also great for soiled clothes)
A couple of muslin cloths
Spare babygros and clothes
Basic health supplies, such as a bottle of Calpol, a tube of Bonjela teething gel and some antiseptic cream
An extra cardigan or hat for baby in case you get caught in the cold
Baby snacks, when they’re old enough for solids (packets of rice cakes or puffs are a winner)
Bottles of milk – either pumped breastmilk or recently-prepared formula
A bottle of liquid formula (for emergencies, in case you forget to pack a fresh bottle)
A toy or book to keep baby entertained
Spare bibs, either for dribble or eating out
Baby’s water cup, once they’re at least six months old
A spare t-shirt for mum or dad
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All prices correct at time of writing