What You Really Need to Pack in Your Hospital Bag for Labor
While most births aren’t as fast and frantic as they are presented in movies, there is no reason to wait to pack a bag for your birth until you go into labor. Even if you have decided on a home birth, having a small bag packed will ensure you’re prepared in case a hospital visit ends up being necessary. And though it seems like you might want that superplush robe you just got as a gift, what do you really need for a hospital stay during labor and delivery? We’ll help you sort through what to pack in a hospital bag, how many days to pack for, who to pack for (you’re bringing home an extra person, after all!) and what to plan for in case you need to stay longer.
When to Pack Your Hospital Bag
Most advice suggests you pack your hospital bag at around 36 weeks pregnant, but there is no harm in starting to put together your packing list early, in case your baby decides to come earlier than expected or if there are items you don’t already have that you want to order (a personalized baby blanket, perhaps?!).
What Expecting Moms Should Pack in their Hospital Bag
Essentials for Moms
Some hospital rooms are small. And with you, a birth partner, and your baby all sharing space (plus any additional people there supporting you, visitors and gifts!), you may only want to bring the bare minimum with you to the hospital and use as many of the supplies that the hospital provides as you can. If you’re a minimalist who would prefer to travel light, make sure you have these essentials for your hospital bag:
- Documents, such as your photo ID, like a driver’s license, vaccination card, and insurance card. If you have a birth plan, print out a few copies to bring with you.
- Your phone and a charger. Some hospitals also now have apps for services like postpartum food delivery, so many moms recommend getting an extra-long charging cord to ensure their phone is within reach as they recover.
- Keep any items you may need up until you go into labor (like your hairbrush or insurance card, for example) listed on an index card so you can grab them easily on your way out the door.
- A copy of your birth plan, knowing that it all might not go exactly as planned.
- If you wear contacts, make sure to bring both contacts and eyeglasses, as well as saline solution and a lens case.
While many toiletries are provided by the hospital, some are not. You will probably want to pack your regular travel kit to have your favorite toiletries and skincare products just in case you end up staying a few days, but also pack:
- Lip balm. Your lips can get chapped during labor.
- Hair tie and/or headband.
- Comfy, roomy pajamas. You will likely not want to wear a hospital gown unless you absolutely have to. Consider packing a few of your most comfortable pieces of pajamas or loungewear.
- Clothes for heading home. While you may still fit into your maternity clothes, don’t count on being able to wear home what you wore in, it likely won’t be clean.
- Pack an outfit, something comfy from your maternity or transitional wardrobe.
- Pack a light sweater or sweatshirt to have layers to regulate your temperature
- Comfy underwear and a nursing bra or nursing tank
- Slip-on shoes. Try flip flops or mules since your feet might swell
The Deluxe Packing List for Moms-to-Be
In addition to the essentials, these items might make your hospital stay a little more home-y – and help you feel better prepped for life with a newborn.
Comforts from Home
- A cozy robe and slipper socks, unless you feel best in your old sweats.
- Your favorite toiletries. While the hospital likely provides shampoo, toothpaste, and the like, bringing your own favorite toiletries can help you feel more comfortable.
- In case you don’t feel up to showering right away, face wipes and dry shampoo can help you feel a little cleaner in just a few seconds.
- For when you are ready to shower, consider bringing your own towels, as hospital towels have a reputation for being thin and scratchy.
- If you are planning to breastfeed, nipple cream may not be provided by the hospital and can be a savior as you and your baby both learn to latch properly.
- While hospitals typically provide mesh underwear and pads, if you think you might prefer your own pads or even adult diapers (you will essentially continue to have a heavy period after delivery), you should bring your own.
- Consider bringing a pillow (in a pillow case that isn’t hospital white, so it doesn’t get mixed up with provided pillows), family photos, a Bluetooth speaker for playing music, or a portable aromatherapy diffuser.
- Eye mask, earplugs, and white noise machine to help you sleep, especially if you have trouble sleeping in new surroundings.
- During labor you’ll likely only be allowed to consume clear liquids, but you can bring your favorite electrolyte drink and/or a water bottle that may be easier to drink out of than a cup.
- If you give birth in the middle of the night, you may not be able to get food immediately after delivery, so packing some nonperishable snacks will give you options to help replenish your hungry body!
What to Pack in Case of a C-Section
In case of an unplanned Cesarean birth, you may end up being in the hospital for several days, so if you don’t want to overpack, consider having a second bag in the car with:
- A few additional changes of super comfy clothes like loose leggings and stretchy shirts.
- A light postpartum belly band to help protect the abdominal area and support it.
- Another set of loungewear or pajamas. You will be in the hospital for a few days and a change of even the most casual clothing can be nice.
Packing Ideas for a Partner or Support Person
Partners often forget to pack for themselves for the hospital stay. Being a support person isn’t easy. A few things to stay comfortable can make a world of difference. Most hospitals will also allow a partner to stay overnight in the hospital room and even shower there, so pack a few things to settle in:
- Clean change of clothes
- Snacks. Instead of being hostage to the hospital vending machine, pack nutritious snacks that you and your partner will enjoy eating. Think sandwiches, pretzels, cut fruit or vegetables, plus a refillable water bottle. While many vending machines now accept credit cards, some small bills are a good bet just to be safe.
- Devices and Entertainment. In case you have some downtime, bring a book, a laptop or an iPad and headphones, or your favorite source of entertainment to keep you occupied. Also make sure to have a phone charger for your partner too!
- Blankets and Sweaters. Prepare to be cold. Hospitals are notoriously cold so bring comfortable, warm layers plus a travel blanket.
- Toiletries. The most important toiletries to remember for your partner are a toothbrush and toothpaste, so their breath doesn’t smell like the lunch they just ate while you are unable to eat anything besides clear liquids!
- Medications. Don’t forget both prescription or over the counter, that you may need while at the hospital. Pain killers like ibuprofen may be nice to have on hand for backaches, headaches, or the like (hospital furniture is notoriously not comfortable). The last thing a mom wants to hear about while she’s in labor is your discomfort!
What to Pack in Baby’s Hospital Bag
So, you’ve got everything you’ll need – time to start thinking about your new addition. The only non-negotiable is a car seat, properly installed, to take baby home in. But, of course, there are a few other things that you should have on hand for your new bundle of joy:
- Going-home outfit. We are living in an Instagram world, after all. You may even want to pack two different sizes, one outfit in newborn size and one in 0-3 months.
- Birth announcement outfit. You also might be inspired and up for taking the photo for your baby’s birth announcement. If you have a special outfit planned for that, be sure to pack that, too.
- Hats and booties are weather-optional, but just ensure the outfit has legs (not a gown) so it works with your car seat.
- Baby blanket. Especially helpful to gently drape over the baby if sunny our cold out.
- Formula and bottles. If you plan on formula feeding, you may want to pack some of your preferred brand so that you don’t need to switch from the hospital-provided brand once you’re home.
- Baby toiletries. Many first-time parents are surprised that newborns often have long, sharp nails! Pack your baby nail clippers or file and enlist the help of a nurse to trim them for the first time. The hospital will likely provide diapers and diaper cream, though you can bring your own if you opt to use cloth diapers.
Take Home The “Freebies”
Don’t forget to take home all the baby essentials the hospital provides. You are paying for it, after all!
- The blue nasal bulb syringe
- The two-sided comb (which will be great for eliminating any cradle cap later)
- And, of course, the little hat.