If you’re pregnant, someone has likely asked: “Did you pack your hospital bag yet?”
I remember feeling a bit intimidated the first time someone asked me. Panicked thoughts included: Are you saying I could go into labor soon? Wait, the hospital doesn’t give you everything you need? How am I supposed to know what to pack; I’ve never done this before?
I imagine that every first time mom feels the same as I did (and currently do) – generally clueless (just about everything), but thankfully, with the help of friends who are recent moms and of course the internet, I was able to figure it out (for the most part). But, despite the million and one internet and pregnancy app lists, there were still items I wish someone would have told me I needed, so here is my comprehensive list of what to pack in your hospital bag.
But first, before we get to the details, when is the appropriate time to get that bag packed? The lists all say somewhere around 36/37 weeks, but why not get things together sooner, especially if baby decides to make an early appearance? To be safe, I’d advise getting together at least your mental checklist and perhaps a bag that you can edit later around 32 weeks (I know I packed and unpacked at least three times before the big day and you won’t be in the right state once labor begins to get these items together (including any purchases you might want to make).
Hospital Bag Essentials
- Birth Plan, Paperwork & Contact Information: I didn’t have a birth plan, but if you do, keep this handy, along with copies of your health insurance card, ID and contact information for your doctor, doula, etc. I printed/copied these documents and put them in the front pocket of my bag.
- Lip Balm: Hospital air can be incredibly dry and once you’re in labor, you won’t be guzzling a ton of liquids, but working overtime, so have your favorite lip balm to keep your lips moisturized during labor and for the days after delivery.
- Hair Ties: Ideally, you can pick up some hair ties that won’t dent your hair (for that super important post-delivery photo-op), but whether you intend to put your hair down or not after delivery, you will not want hair in your face during labor (and no, you won’t care about how you look).
- Toiletries: Think weekend bag essentials – toothbrush and toothpaste, face lotion and wash, travel-sized lotion, shampoo, conditioner and body wash. As an alternative to face wash, I found it really convenient to have face wipes for a quick refresh.
- Hair Styling Tools: If you’re like me, washing your hair is necessary to feeling clean, especially if you’ve endured extended labor. So, packing my hair dryer and brushes was essential. Some moms recommend dry shampoo for a quick refresh. And, if you’re feeling really ambitious (and your bag has some extra room) bring along that flat iron or curling iron (we can all have dreams of looking like Kate Middleton post-birth).
- Slippers: Comfy slippers are a lifesaver for pacing around hospital hallways during labor and after delivery.
- Slides: All the lists tell you to pack a pair of flip flops for showers during your hospital stay, but most of you will experience swelling in your legs and feet (I know I did) and thong flip flops can end up being a bit painful, so opt for a pair of comfy slides instead.
- Bathrobe & Comfy (Cute) Clothes: If you tend to get cold, pack a bathrobe to wear/drape over you during labor and for post-delivery. More importantly, you will want at least two sets of comfy clothes for post-delivery (not because I think this is a time for fashion show, but because being a new mom is messy business – hello leaky breasts and bleeding) to recover in. The reality is that you will likely spend your first day/night post delivery in a hospital gown (because you’ll just be too exhausted or in too much pain to even think about getting dressed), but once you’re ready for that life changing first shower, changing into your own clothes to recover will be essential. Pack some cute pajamas/loungewear that you won’t mind making a cameo in newborn photos or when visited by guests and provide easy access for nursing. Pants with a high waistline or nightgowns are your best bet for accommodating areas that might be experiencing pain or discomfort, especially for c-section deliveries where avoiding the incision area will be critical to your comfort.
- Newborn Photography Outfits for You & Baby: Many lists will tell you to bring a few onesies and receiving blankets for baby, but the reality is your little one will be wearing hospital provided onesies/kimonos and swaddle blankets almost the entire time you’re there. However, most hospitals have newborn photographers and you’ll want to be prepared if you intend to have these photos taken. Instead of packing all that extra clothing for you and the little one, make sure to pack one great outfit, perhaps matching ones, that you’d like yourself and baby to be photographed in and a cute swaddle blanket.
- Post-Partum (aka Incontinence) Diapers: Like I said, having a baby is messy business (and way messier than I mentally prepared myself for). The hospital will give you plenty of maxi pads and disposable underwear to wear post-partum but I warn you they are less than desirable or comfortable. I remember my first morning after delivery when the nurse came in to change me. She folded a giant wee-wee pad/disposable underpads (if you have a dog, you know what I am talking about) as a liner to a giant scratchy maxi pad on my mesh underwear and I was so glad to remember I packed incontinence underwear that my sister bought me for my hospital bag. I know, you probably never envisioned being the one wearing diapers post-delivery, but they were leaps and bounds better than the alternative. Not only did I not have to worry about my three layers of protection shifting, but they were soft, flexible and easy to pull-on, even after a c-section delivery. I had packed a few pairs of high-waisted underwear and maxi pads of my own as well, but never used them.
- Postpartum Wrap or Band: I never expected to have a c-section delivery (not quite sure why I convinced myself it wasn’t a possibility), but the one item I wish I had earlier was a postpartum wrap or band. The hospital provided one a few days into my stay and it helped dramatically with pain and security at the area of my incision, but it quickly stretched out and didn’t mold to the body. I was glad to have a Belly Bandit when I got home. Just one tip – make sure to size up.
- Glasses & Contacts: If you’re as blind as I am, don’t forget an extra pair of glasses and contacts.
- Nursing Bra & Pads: A comfortable nursing bra and disposable nursing pads to soak up any leaky milk are musts unless you intend to go bra-less.
- Phone Chargers: You’ll need your phone for distraction during labor and afterwards, as well as pictures and contacting loved ones, so bring at least two (somehow essentials always go missing) with extra long cords so you can stay plugged in even while in the hospital bed. If you’re bringing other electronic devices, like an IPad or Kindle, you’ll want those chargers too.
- Makeup: You may not be up for it, but it’s always good to have the essentials handy if you’d like to spruce up for newborn photos, guests or just yourself.
- Snacks: Pack some of your favorite snacks – granola bars, chips, pretzels, etc. – hospital food isn’t anything to rave about.
- Towel: There’s nothing scratchier than a hospital towel and for your first shower after delivery, why not wrap yourself in something soft and soothing and you can be sure was washed to your liking.
- Entertainment: Magazines, books or electronic device with access to your favorite shows or movies during labor and for post delivery. I had my IPad fully charged and Netflix equipped.
- Going Home Outfits for You and Baby: Pack a going home outfit for yourself and for baby. You’ll probably still be most comfortable in your maternity clothes (don’t be alarmed when you see the size of your postpartum belly) or at least something you would have worn when about six months pregnant.
- Car Seat: Don’t forget to make sure your car seat is ready to go and installed and that you and your partner know how to use it before you go to the hospital.
- Boppy Pillow: The Boppy Pillow is a registry favorite for a reason – because it’s genius. You’ll likely be nursing your little one around the clock and having it will make nursing so much easier and more comfortable.
- Pillow & Blanket: Although not essential, if you have space or are willing to create some in your bag, bringing your own comfy pillow and blanket can really make your hospital stay exponentially better.
Now that you have your bag packed, where do you put it? Right by the door or in your car. so you’ll be ready to go.