the ultimate hospital bag checklist for you and baby
The good news about packing for your childbirth hospital stay? You don’t need very much in your bag and the hospital will provide a lot of the essentials! The great news? This is the ULTIMATE hospital bag checklist, which will include everything you need…and want…to make your hospital stay as comfortable as possible!
When to Pack Your Bag?
Although no one can predict exactly when you will deliver your baby, you can use your estimated due date to help guide you in getting prepared. Many expectant families find that if they have their hospital bag packed some time in the third trimester, it helps them feel more at ease about the task ahead of childbirth. Preparing before the third trimester may feel too soon, and waiting until the week of your due date may be too late! Need more clarity? Aim to be done packing by your 36th week of pregnancy.
When signs of labor begin for you (which may include stronger and more consistent cramp-like feelings, pain in your belly or lower back, leaking fluids such as bloody mucus, or your water breaking) you’ll be happy that you have already packed the ultimate hospital bag. Review this list and take note of the items that feel like they would make your hospital stay extra special!
What to Pack to Wear?
Comfort is Key
Although the hospital will provide you with a gown, you can bring your own clothing. You may receive push back from the hospital but you do have a right to wear what you want. Be sure to select comfortable, lounge-type clothes that you don’t mind getting a little messy. Another thing to consider is picking something with front snaps, velcro, or a few, large buttons that can make it easier if you choose to do skin-to-skin right after birth or breastfeed/bodyfeed. Your care provider will also need access to your birth canal, so stick to dresses, nightgowns, large button-down shirts, or skirt and shirt. Pack two washcloths to create cold compresses during labor when you may be feeling especially warm.
As you are laboring, it’s a great idea to walk around your room or the hospital floor. Doulas and midwives recommend walking to help your labor progress and manage pain. Make sure you choose footwear that has grips or a rubber sole for your safety on slick hospital floors. You can also bring socks with treads or snag a pair from the hospital. Slip on shoes to go home in after birth are helpful to you as your feet may be swollen if you receive a lot of IV fluids.
Whether you deliver your baby vaginally or via cesarean, you may find that high-waisted underwear provide a snug feeling of pulling everything together in your midsection. This secure feeling can be comforting in the early days and weeks of the postpartum period. We love the Hatch postpartum underwear for example but there are others out there that will fit the bill.
Diapers Are Not Just for Babies
After giving birth you will have bloody discharge, a.k.a lochia, for several weeks. The hospital usually provides large mesh underwear but many people like to have their own which comes in the Bodily kit. While many people use large or overnight menstrual pads, absorbent postpartum underwear like Thinx can actually be more comfortable and absorbent! You can also try adult diapers. If adult diapers aren’t for you, and you’re unsure about the hospital pads they will provide you for free, you might consider bringing 10-20 of your favorite brand of extra-large, extra absorbent, or overnight pads.
Toiletries & Personal Care Items
One way to help make your hospital stay more comfortable is to pack all of your favorite toiletries and personal care items, such as a washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, facial wipes or spray, hair ties, and a brush or comb for when you’re ready to freshen up your appearance after delivering your baby. Other ways to freshen up are with chapstick, lotion, peppermint oil, breath mints, or gum for nausea and bad breath. Be sure to have a few plastic bags for vomiting readily available during your transport, in case nausea strikes while you are in between destinations.
What to Pack For Your Birth Partner?
Your birth partner will also want to be able to freshen up after hours and sometimes days in the hospital. Consider packing extra underwear, socks, a button-down shirt for skin-to-skin contact with your baby, and a sweater (labor & delivery rooms are often very cool). They may also want their own toiletries and many of the personal care items mentioned above.
What to Pack to Eat and Drink?
Most midwives and many OBs say that it is safe and recommended to eat and drink during labor. You will need energy for the hard work you’ll be doing, and you’re just as likely to throw up and poop during labor (which are incredibly common!) whether or not you eat or drink.
But perhaps you have heard that hospitals often discourage eating while you are laboring under their care. There is currently no evidence to support not eating and drinking during labor. Many of these rules are left over from the 1940s when laboring folks gave birth under general anesthesia. If you have eaten recently, and in the extremely unlikely event that you needed to go under general anesthesia for a true emergency C-section, you may have an increased risk for aspiration under general anesthesia. However, this is extremely rare today and our techniques for intubating are significantly more advanced than they were when these rules were made. Ask your care provider what you can eat and drink during labor. Light, bland snacks like crackers, honey, bone broth, fruit, or fruit popsicles that will provide you with energy should you want to nibble can be very helpful.
Regardless of your hospital’s eating policy, you should still pack some of your favorite hydrating beverages. More hydrating than plain water is coconut water or labor-aide (water with lemon and salt). Hydration is very important during labor, so pack something you’ll like, as you’re more likely to drink more of it!
DOULA TIP: Don’t forget to pack a bendy straw! It will come in handy when labor becomes so tiring that even tilting your head to drink can feel like a tedious task. Your Doula or support person can simply lift the beverage with the Bendy straw to your lips no matter what position you are in.
PLEASE NOTE: if you are having a planned cesarean, be sure to follow your pre-op instructions carefully when it comes to eating and drinking.
What to Pack for Entertainment and Technical Needs?
There are lots of reasons why you will want to pack entertaining things to do during your hospital stay. If you have an unmedicated birth, you most likely won’t turn to your entertainment during labor. If you have an induction or plan to use an epidural or if you are thinking ahead for the postpartum period of your stay before discharge, you’ll be happy that you packed things to do. Consider some of these items as you pack your bag: a playlist of music, a book, a device to binge movies and shows, headphones, portable speakers, chargers (extra long cords are great in case your bed is not conveniently placed near an outlet), board games, coloring books, or anything else that helps you pass the time.
Be sure to include in your hospital bag any technological needs you may have for virtual doula support such as the video-playing device you plan to use, chargers, and speakers! Not only can they be used to play music but also to ensure that you can hear your support person speaking.
What to Pack to Set the Mood and Manage Pain?
In your laboring experience, there may be different items you need at different times in order to feel comfortable. At some points, you may want activities to distract you. At other points, you may experience your labor in a more inward and intense way and want quiet from your surroundings, instead.
To set a mood for relaxation and concentration, dim the lights and consider packing the following items to help get the oxytocin flowing: pictures of loved ones, images of beautiful places, birth affirmation cards, flameless candles, essential oils, an oil diffuser, a soft pillow, a favorite blanket, a scarf, playlists, speakers and headphones.
For the more intense moments, there are also some accessories to consider packing in your birth bag for pain management that your partner can use to ease your labor like tennis balls, Massage tools, a fine-tooth comb, a fan, and more. To get our essential partner in pain relief list, download our free ebook here.
What to Pack for Paperwork?
There are many small details to keep track of when you get to the hospital, but you’ll want to stay focused on the business of birthing your baby instead. Make sure you pack any of the paperwork and materials you might need like your insurance card and ID ahead of time so that you don’t have to scramble at the last minute. If you are planning on doing cord blood banking or placenta encapsulation, there are materials that you are required to bring with you to the hospital. You will also want to pack a copy of your birth plan or birth preferences sheet (download a sample sheet here) to show to any new providers you may encounter during your labor. If you are meeting your doula at the hospital, you should have their contact information easily accessible, either on paper or saved on your phone.
What to Pack for Your Baby?
Going to the hospital to give birth is probably the one time where traveling with your baby doesn’t require packing much! All your baby really needs is the outfit they will go home in, a hat, socks, and a properly installed car seat (you can’t leave the hospital without one!). The hospital will provide you with all the diapers you will need during your baby’s stay, including the ones that they go home in.
Less is More in Your Hospital Bag!
While this is the ULTIMATE HOSPITAL BAG CHECKLIST
Laura is a doula, a writer, and the mother of two incredible kids. When not supporting new families or her own, you can find her trying out new recipes in the kitchen. Laura is available on the boober platform for matches.