If your due date is approaching, and you’re wondering whether it’s time to pack your hospital bag, or you’re not sure where to start, you’re in the right place, then welcome to the ultimate hospital bag checklist for you – and your new baby!
I never thought I would have four babies and each experience has been different. Like all new moms, I had to learn that babies don’t come when they’re expected, they come when they’re ready.
Elisha was born the day before her estimated birth date. Elyssa was born right on the day my obstetrician predicted. Eliana was born at 42 weeks (yes, that’s a four and a two – not a typo). With Elydia, I was induced a week earlier to avoid labor and delivery risks.
So I’m sharing my hospital bag checklist so you know what to pack in a hospital bag! My hospital bag checklist will help you prepare and pack all the essentials you’ll need for yourself and your new baby, birth partners well.
And this is not only for moms who plan to give birth at the hospital or birth center. Even with a home birth, it’s a good idea to have everything handy and also be ready to go, God forbid any complications arise.
When to pack your hospital bag
As you get closer you get to your due date, the anticipation of meeting your baby grows. But so can the anxiety of not feeling like you’re prepared. That’s why knowing what to pack in your hospital bag for labor, delivery, and after your little one arrives is essential.
Once your hospital bag is packed, you’ll feel more peace of mind and that will definitely impact the birth experience in a positive way.
So with that being said, it’s never too early to prepare for baby’s arrival. I would say it would be wonderful to aim to have your hospital bag fully packed by the time you’re about 36 weeks pregnant.
What to pack in your hospital bag: Your complete checklist
Hospitals and birth centers are going to have different policies about what you can or cannot bring with you when you’re ready for labor and delivery.
I gave birth to Elisha and Elyssa at a naval hospital and I had an assigned obstetrician, so my birth plan had to fit the rules they had in place. The delivery nurses still tried to be accommodating.
With Eliana’s birth, I was assisted by a midwife and the hospital allowed us both to create our experience the way we preferred, so that was very flexible. With Elydia, I came in for a scheduled induction and because there were risks, I still worked with a midwife but the birth plan was a bit more strict.
In addition, some hospitals and birth centers will vary as to how much space they have in the hospital room. This will impact how many items you will bring in your quest to make the space more comfortable and personal.
What to bring in your Labor and Delivery Bag
Here’s a list of hospital bag must-haves for labor and delivery. These are some items you may want or need with you while in the labor and delivery room.
Hospital bag checklist for mom
If it’s possible to fill out most of the hospital registration forms ahead of time, please do that and bring the hospital paperwork with you. You can also print out your medical records and medical history. You will need to show your ID and provide proof of any medical/insurance. Makes sure you have your insurance card and driver’s license handy for this type of occasion.
Glasses and contact lenses (if you need them).
For many of you, glasses, contact lenses, cases, and solutions may seem obvious. Because I had just recently started wearing readers, I almost forgot to pack them!
If there is any medication you take, make sure to have extra in your hospital bag so you don’t run the risk of forgetting.
Birth plan (if you have one).
I’ve always had birth plans and I’m a big fan of them. A birth plan tells the medical team what you want your birth experience to be like. If you have one, bring a few printed copies so all healthcare providers and practitioners know exactly what your desires are and what is not appropriate from your perspective.
Socks, slippers, and flip flops.
The Happy Feet special. Bring thick no-skid socks because your feet may get cold during labor. I really loved these socks I wore for Elydia’s birth, even though I didn’t get to push (I ended up having an emergency c-section after an 18-hour labor).
Flip-flops are great for use in the hospital shower or just to pace around the hospital during the early stages of labor.
Memory foam slippers can make your strolls around the maternity ward more pleasant, especially with swollen feet.
Water spray and sponge.
A water spray is a life-saver when you are feeling hot and need some refreshing water on your face and neck. A sponge can help apply cool water on your forehead for relief, too. I bought a hand-held fan for the occasion, too.
Eye mask and earplugs.
You’ll need to rest during the downtimes of labor or while baby naps after delivery, and these will help you achieve just that in the middle of a loud and bright maternity ward.
Bring everything you need for personal grooming in a toiletry bag – preferably unscented and all-natural versions to keep baby safe.
Bring your tissues, hairbrush, shampoo (regular or dry shampoo), conditioner, soap, body wash, toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, breath mints, deodorant, lip balm (for chapped lips), moisturizer, and face wipes.
Hairbrush, comb, and extra hair clips, hair ties, and any other hair care products will make your life easier – and so will hand sanitizer and face wipes. Some moms include body lotion and massage oil, too. This small bag of toiletries makes life so much easier!
With all due respect, those hospital gowns are yuck. I encourage you to bring soft and lightweight gowns in your favorite colors. When you are wearing your own hospital gown, the pictures will be cuter (especially if you buy a matching outfit for baby), but it will also help you feel more comfortable and keep your spirits brighter. Dark colors or patterns can help hide any stains.
Snacks and Drinks
Water is a must. Electrolyte drinks like coconut water are helpful. For Eliana’s birth, I chose not to be hooked up to an IV and brought my own coconut water and vegan chocolate milk to keep me hydrated.
When it comes to eating, make sure you speak to your medical team and find out whether or not you can eat or drink during labor.
Hospital food gets a bad rep, but even with a vegan, plant-based diet, I really enjoyed my hospital meals this last time.
Healthy snacks like granola bars, and unsalted nuts, will come in handy both during and after labor to help you maintain high levels of energy.
A yoga ball will be bulky on your way to the hospital, but I cannot recommend it enough. During your hospital tour, you can find out whether they provide one for you (or if it’s the right size).
I brought my own and that was fine with them and so wonderful for me. I used the yoga ball ever since I found out I was pregnant while managing the pain of contractions, and all throughout the postpartum recovery.
Pro Tip: Something I wish I knew with my first pregnancy as I went to have my first baby was to bring ice packs, a heating pad, and hazel pads. These are must-haves for a first-time mom, especially if you’re anticipating a vaginal birth.
Hospital bag checklist for baby
Now that your hospital bag has everything you need as a mom, you might be wondering “What should I pack for my baby?,” so let’s move on to my packing list for baby’s hospital bag.
You’ll be asked for your pediatrician’s information, so have all the contact ready. This will make it easy for the hospital staff to forward your baby’s medical records.
There are different hospital policies about what newborns can be dressed in. When Elisha and Elyssa were born, the nurses dressed them in “Property of the U.S. Navy” t-shirts. Consult with your healthcare provider in advance about what is allowed, so you can pack accordingly.
I recommend bodysuits that fasten up at the front. They are cozy and comfy, and you can never go wrong with them.
Socks and booties.
Babies’ feet, just like mama’s feet must stay warm and comfortable. Baby socks can also help prevent a cold, so always keep them on. Footie sets are a great outfit option, especially because these outfits include a matching hat, too.
Newborn babies are still regulating their core body temperature and a hat can help them keep their body warm. This is important because hospital temperatures are much lower than inside the womb, and because young children and babies lose about one-third of their body heat through their heads. However, babies should not wear a hat to bed, since it could increase the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) because of overheating or suffocation. These hats with a bow were so cute on Elydia. I love baby girl bows, for sure!
Receiving Blankets and Swaddle Blankets.
This is my favorite item. Even though the hospital will provide baby blankets, they won’t be as soft and pretty as you and baby deserve. These muslin swaddle blankets are my favorite.
Going-home outfit for baby.
Just thinking of baby onesies gives me baby fever. LOL But the going home outfit is such a special one. We overthink this one a bit because we want them to be just right. My best tips for you are:
1. Considering the weather conditions: If it’s a warm month, you will need lightweight clothes, and if it’s winter, you’ll need extras like a jacket and mittens.
2. Pack different sizes: You don’t know exactly what your baby will weigh. Newborn sizes, 0-3 months, may sound like the standard go-to, but my babies were small (like mom), so they wore a preemie size.
Bottles and Burp Cloths.
If bottle-feeding or alternating the breast and the bottle is your plan, you’ll need at least two baby bottles for the hospital. And of course, you will need formula if you’re formula feeding. You’ll also need burp cloths or muslin squares, no matter how you end up feeding the baby. Remember, fed is best!
You may want to set up the baby’s diaper bag all set up and bring it to the hospital with some of these items above, too!
Hospital Bag for Mom: After Delivery
Many first-time moms-to-be ask me: “What do I need to pack for after the birth? You want to keep it simple because having too much can be overwhelming, but here are some ideas for you to choose from.
You’ll need something comfortable to sleep in during your hospital stay, and a soft, loose nightgown is a good option. If you are planning to nurse, choose a front-opening style. And speaking of that, a robe is a great postpartum item to have!
Maternity Pads or Adult Diapers
You will bleed heavily after the birth and will need a good amount of maternity pads. Some hospitals do provide overnight absorbency pads, along with mesh underwear. You may find that you want to bring a certain pad that you feel comfortable in or to wear adult diapers, which often feel more secure. If adult diapers are not your thing, then bring along a few pairs of well-fitting high-waisted panties. These will not only be great to wear over heavy-duty maternity pads but won’t rub the c-section wound if you have one scheduled or end up having one.
Nursing Bra and Nursing Pads
Get a few well-fitting nursing bras that feel comfortable to you. You’ll need nursing pads whether you are planning to breastfeed or not because you’ll be producing milk. They’ll be helpful to protect your bra from leaks, both at the hospital and when you’re settled back at home.
You’ll still need maternity clothes to wear during your hospital stay and an outfit to wear home. Remember that anything you bring could get messy, so it’s not necessary to buy anything luxurious. The most important thing is to wear loose-fitting clothes. Pants with a drawstring or an elastic waist are amazing to accommodate your new tummy and recovering body.
When you breastfeed after delivery, sore nipples are guaranteed. A nipple cream containing Lanolin can help soothe your nipples.
Whether you choose to bring your breast pump to the hospital or not, I recommend having one ready by the third trimester. I gifted my sister this Medela pump because it’s truly a dream.
Hospital Bag Checklist for Birth Partner
If you have a birth partner, then they should be responsible for their own packing for the hospital or birthing center. Here’s a quick checklist to answer the question “what should my birth partner pack?”
Travel size toiletries.
Reusable bottles and hydrating drinks.
A few changes of clothes.
Essential items that don’t fit in your maternity bag
Of course, there’s more to packing for the hospital than putting together your hospital bag. You’ll need an extra bag (or two), depending on how much stuff you want to bring for the big day. Some will need to be carried separately and won’t fit in a large bag. Let’s talk about those extra items you need!
An infant car seat.
In the United States, in order to take your baby home, you need an installed car seat. This was a subject that brought me so much stress during Elydia’s pregnancy.
I didn’t know just how I was going to drive myself to the hospital if I went into spontaneous labor. Thankfully, it was scheduled and my brother-in-law installed it in his car when he picked the girls and me up at home and brought up the carrier when we were ready to leave the hospital. If you are a pregnant single mom or don’t own a car, you can ask someone to help you with this step.
Yes, of course, there are pillows in the hospital, but in my experience, hospital pillows can be uncomfortable. And if you have a favorite pillow that you’re allowed to bring, then it would make your stay more comfortable. Or if you can’t bring your own pillow, bring along pretty pillowcases with soft fabrics in your favorite color. During my last birth experience, I brought along my C-shaped pregnancy body pillow (and pillowcase) and a breastfeeding pillow (and liner) so I can nurse the baby. I’ve used a nursing pillow with each of my four babies.
Your own sheets.
Hospital sheets and pillows are often thin – and not at all inspiring. You want to create comfort during labor, and also create a beautiful atmosphere before and after the baby’s birth. I brought two warm blankets for myself and bassinet bed sheets, for the baby.
Your own bath towels.
Yes, hospitals will have towels you can use, but hospital towels can usually be threadbare, scratchy, thin, and small. If you are able to and think it will help, do bring your own.
Ideally, labor, delivery, and postpartum could be more of a digital detox time; however, there is added convenience in having electronics and devices handy.
You’ll definitely need your cell phone, phone charger, a battery pack, and an extra-long cord (because your hospital bed might be far from the closest electrical outlet). These will assure your phone is ready to take all the sweet first moments of baby on Earth, send updates to friends, family, and followers, and even use apps to track contractions or anything else that you might need to make your laboring easier. Of course, you can bring a digital camera and memory cards, if applicable.
Your phone or tablet can also be used for entertainment purposes, to make your hospital stay more enjoyable.
With Eliana’s birthing experience, I brought a portable Bluetooth speaker to play soothing music and practice hypnobabies. Music can be a wonderful aid during labor and can create a peaceful environment for the baby after birth. Preparing a playlist of songs that soothe or energize you ahead of time can be a fun project, too!
What not to bring
Do not stuff your hospital bag with diapers or wipes! I have mostly used cloth diapers and inserts, but f you are using disposable diapers, they will be provided to you at the hospital. I also used washcloths at this stage, but if you are using wipes, go for the ones that are alcohol and fragrance-free. These are best for baby’s delicate and sensitive skin.
Be mindful of the entertainment advice. Many people think that bringing your favorite book to read is a great idea. I’m a bookworm word nerd, and in theory, it sounds amazing. However, for me, it’s like setting myself up for disappointment or regret. You will be in labor, then you’ll be caring for baby. You will need to rest. Don’t bring anything that requires you to do more, even if it sounds fun.
Printable Hospital Bag Checklist
I created a downloadable and printable hospital bag checklist so you don’t forget any of the hospital bag essentials you need. Following a checklist is a great way to avoid the stress of having to get your labor bag items at the last minute.
Running around trying to remember what to bring or wondering if you have every single thing you need is the last thing you want to do.
Have your packed hospital bag accessible
When you’ve packed your hospital bag (or bags), make sure you have them by the front door or in the car.
Being prepared and ready to go at a moment’s notice is going to help you feel more prepared, reduce your anxiety, and enjoy the birthing experience. I was so blessed that so many of my friends bought all the items on my baby registry and I really didn’t have to worry about much at all. It was not my first time, but with everything I was dealing with at that time, that truly felt like true love.
What items do you already have on your hospital bag checklist and which ones do you still need? Share with us in the comments below.
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