Packing your hospital bag for your labor and delivery can be a lot of fun and a great way to use some of the nesting energy that is going to eventually take a hold of you. It is like packing for the most special trip you will ever take and will always remember. It’s also for this reason that it is an important pre-baby task to be super intentional about. Making a good hospital bag checklist will make sure that you have all of the things you want and need to make the experience as pleasant as possible. It will also ensure that you already have your favorite things packed before your mommy brain sets in and causes you to forget the contact solution or booties that grandma sent a couple of months ago.
Most who have gone through it recommend that the hospital bags be packed by week 36. This is both to be prepared in the case of an early delivery and also so that one important task is out of the way before you go into the most intense weeks of your pregnancy. You will NOT want to be packing a bag in between contractions!
It is unlikely that new bags will need to be purchased for packing your hospital bag. Roomy carry-ons with wheels should do the trick. The wheels are important in order to make things as easy on your partner as possible, as he or she will be juggling a lot when the time comes to head to the hospital.
Some women like to pack two bags – one for the labor and one for the rest of the stay. It is up to you whether or not this works the best. To help you decide, we will break our hospital bag checklist into multiple parts so you can see when you will need what.
Keep everything in one place. Remember your pediatrician info, insurance info, birth plan, and who to contact list. If you prefer, this can be something kept in your partner’s bag
Don’t let television fool you! There may be a lot of downtime during your labor. Having a tablet, Kindle, games on your iPhone, or a laptop to watch some Netflix may help to keep nerves calm while you are waiting. It may even help to decide ahead of time what you may like to watch so you don’t have to make too many decisions during this time.
Face wash and body wash
While the hospital is likely to provide some basic toiletries, they will probably not be the most luxurious and they probably won’t include something specific for your face. Pack travel-sized bottles of your preferred products so that you can really enjoy your shower.
Take whatever toiletry bag you take with you on overnight or weekend trips. Have it prepared and put in your suitcase or bag way ahead of time and make sure it has everything: small bottles of shampoo and conditioner, face and body wash, nail clippers, hair ties, etc. If you think forgetting your hair ties is annoying when you go somewhere overnight, imagine how you’ll feel if you need them in the middle of your labor.
A common complaint women have about their time at the hospital is how dry their skin gets. Pack a travel-size bottle of your favorite lotion and face cream.
Even more than dry skin, laboring women experience dry or chapped lips due to the breathing exercises they are practicing. Make sure you have lip balm with you, and plenty of it.
Multiple hair ties or scrunchies
Get easy to use and kink-free hair ties (for the after-birth photos!) and lots of them. Digging for anything in your bags is not something you will want to do when you get sweaty and need to put your hair up.
While you should not bring your most precious dressing gown, you will probably be glad to have something from home with you during your labor and after. If you don’t have one already, this may be a great time to treat yourself to a terrycloth bathrobe. Make sure to wash it at least once before your big day.
Nightgown or nightshirt
The hospital will give you a hospital gown to wear, but you may find that you are more comfortable with something of your own. Pack your sleepwear with you just in case. Make sure it provides easy access for breastfeeding and is easy to take on and off for those first post-baby trips to the loo.
It is very hard to know ahead of time if you will want to eat during your labor, but many women do want or need to, especially if the time starts to drag on. Think about non-perishable, ready-made snacks that you enjoy and pack them along with you. Make sure that they are tried and tested! Don’t pack along trail mix or fruit leather if you don’t enjoy them just because they are convenient. If you do require a snack during your labor you will want a favorite treat. Check the food policy at the location you are delivering. Many hospitals do not allow food during labor.
Portable speaker and Spotify playlists
Music can add a lot to the birth experience. Start adding to your playlists early on and make sure you have a speaker than can be moved to the best place in your room when you want it.
Portable charger for phone and extra long charging cord
Do not assume that your labor and delivery room will have a plug for your iPhone in an area that is at all convenient. Bring a long cord AND a portable charger with at least a day’s worth of backup so that you never have to stress about keeping your phone charged.
Eyeglasses and extra contacts
Even if you always wear contacts, you should bring your glasses along with you. Some doctors require contacts to be taken out if there is an emergency procedure and some women report getting dry eyes during labor. You may end up not wanting to wear your contacts.
A favorite water bottle
This is crucial. Pack a water bottle that is large, easy to sip from, and durable.
Slippers and flip flops
Both are among the most popular hospital bag items for mothers. Slippers will provide some much-needed comfort during and after your delivery, and flip flops will be useful for showers, venturing out after your baby arrives, and going home in (If the weather is warm).
Multiple pairs of underwear
“Comfy” (i.e. big) enough to wear with maternity pads. You can also find some lovely mesh postpartum undies online. These are nicer versions of the ones many hospitals provide post birth.
A LOT of women report that they preferred to just throw on and toss out adult diapers in the aftermath of the birth. Pack some along so that you have the option. The Silhouette briefs by Depends are the most popular for post-birth moms.
You may not want to shower right after you deliver, but you may want to freshen up. A pack of nice face wipes will allow you to do this easily. A lot of moms report loving having these on hand after they deliver.
If you plan to breastfeed, you will be very glad that you packed something to wear after birthing that is both comfortable and clean but also allows you to very easily feed your little one.
Nursing bras and pads
You may decide to remain bra-less, but having a couple of nursing bras with you will provide an option you may find yourself glad to have on hand, especially if you start having visitors.
Bring nursing pads with you even if you don’t plan to breastfeed to protect against leaks.
Going home outfit
A maxi-dress, sweat pants, and a clean t-shirt are all popular options. Don’t bother with anything that requires zipping, buttoning, or pulling!
Towels, blankets, and pillows from home
Sure, the hospital might supply these items, but they probably won’t be the quality and comfort needed for restful naps or fully enjoyable showers. Pack towels for both of you and enough bedding for your partner to have a restful sleep.
Portable phone charger and extra-long charging cord
For the same reasons as above, your partner should be fully equipped to keep his or her phone fully charged, regardless of what is available in your birthing room.
Hand-held fan to fan you with
Many women have reported that a hand-held fan was a lifesaver during their births. Because someone else will need to assist you, have your partner pack it in their bag for quick access when and if the time comes.
One change of clothes
Your partner should bring a change of clothes so that they do not need to leave until the next day following the birth.
A lot of labor and delivery rooms will be chilly for those who are not in labor. Be prepared!
Everyone should be prepared for some downtime either during the labor or when one partner is napping after.
Camera with an extra memory card
Having something other than a phone to take photos of the precious moments after the baby arrives is a good idea, and don’t leave without backup storage!
Make sure to pack onesies that fasten in the front to make things as easy as possible, especially if you aren’t getting out of bed frequently. Bring two sizes, a newborn size and a 0-3 months size. It is near impossible to anticipate which size your newborn will fit into.
While the hospital will supply you with at least one blanket, you may have found one that you really love already. Go ahead and bring it along. This is when the fun of trying out all your new baby things can begin! Muslin swaddle blankets are a favorite for many.
If you think you may use a pacifier as a coping option for your baby you may want to bring some from home. The hospital may supply them, but they may not be the type you’d select on your own, and they will add them to your final bill as well.
Socks and booties
Newborns get cold easily. Plus, baby booties are so adorable! Let the fun begin. The booties are truly optional but very cute.
Seasonally appropriate going home outfit
You may enjoy dressing your little one up in a fun outfit for the trip home, or in one that grandma has sent. Whatever you decide to do, take special care that it is seasonally appropriate as babies are very sensitive to extreme temperatures when they are new to the world.
Make sure the carseat is properly installed well before the big day arrives. You won’t be able to leave the hospital without it, and the moment before leaving are not the ones you want to spend figuring out how to get it safely in place. Get this out of the way early on, as it can often be more involved than new parents expect.
Some optional things that might add more fun or comfort to your stay:
Headphones: will help with catching up with family while holding the baby.
Letterboard: want to play a part in the Instagram letter-board trend? Letterboards are small, convenient to pack, and may be a lot of fun to use in the exciting aftermath of the birth.
Heating pad: Many women enjoy using a heating pad for pain relief during labor. If there is one at home that you prefer, you may be glad you’ve tossed it in your bag.
Nursing pillow: Some women say it’s invaluable at the hospital and some say it’s not needed. If you are brand new to nursing if may be especially helpful.
Massage oil: Some women love massage during labor and some don’t. If you foresee a massage being a part of your experience, pack your preferred oil along to make sure it’s as close to perfect as can be.