As a labor nurse, I saw the whole spectrum of what people packed in their hospital bag. Parents would come in with their stroller packed to the brim (not the most recommended) and others came in with nothing in their arms.
I know it can be stressful, but I promise packing a hospital bag for your stay doesn’t have to be hard.
It is so natural to want to bring lots of things with you to be “prepared” and “just in case”, but really not much is necessary. You just need the essentials to keep you, your partner, and your new baby comfortable during your stay.
But what does the hospital provide for you? And what does being “comfortable” when you are stuck in a hospital really me? I’ve made a list of all the items I recommend bringing with you in your hospital bag.
These items come from both my experience as a nurse as well as having my son just a few months ago. I hope you find this pregnancy hospital bag checklist helpful and it gives you confidence in your birth experience. And don’t forget to download the free printable checklist at the end!
When Should You Pack Your Hospital Bag?
Pregnancy is considered full term when you reach 37 weeks, so it is best to pack your hospital bag around 36-37 weeks. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, or your doctor has informed you of any reasons you may go into preterm labor, you may want to pack it earlier.
I think a good rule of thumb is to pack most of the items about a month before you due date, leaving just the quick last-minute things for the day of (toiletries, pillows, etc.) That way if you go into labor unexpectedly you will be prepared.
I remember when I was having my son we waited until about an hour before we were heading to the hospital to put everything into our bags (I had an induction for medical reasons). I really don’t recommend that. It added unnecessary stress, and we ended up forgetting a few things.
Really there isn’t a wrong time to pack it though. Just get everything together when you feel is right! As long as it isn’t items you use every day, there isn’t harm in packing a quick go bag and leaving it in the nursery.
And after completing this list hopefully you will have your hospital bag packed in no time.
What Will the Hospital Provide for Me?
Before packing your hospital bag, it is helpful to know what your hospital will be providing for you. Every facility is going to be different, but most should provide basic necessities for both you and baby.
For mom this will likely include:
- Hospital gowns
- Postpartum mesh underwear
- Ice packs
- Maxi pads
- Dermaplast (Numbing spray)
- Pain relief medication
- Stool softeners
- Peri bottles
- Hospital grade breast pump
- Birthing ball
For baby this will likely include
- Receiving blankets
- Burp clothes
Some hospitals may have more items than this, others may ask you to bring some items from home. It is best to check prior to arrival so you can be prepared. If your hospital offers a prenatal course they may include this in their education, but you can always call and ask.
You may also have preferences on some of the items listed above that you prefer to bring from home. That is totally fine! I personally prefer to use a nipple butter instead of lanolin, so I always make sure to bring some of my own. These are provided for convenience to you, but if you would rather bring your own be sure to pack it in your hospital bag.
Hospital Bag Checklist
Now let’s get into what to pack in your hospital bag.
First, what do you pack all your items in?
Working in labor and delivery I have seen it all! I’ve seen one too many dads look like poor pack mules carrying everything in their hands with several duffel bags all piled on top of each other. Make it easy on yourself and bring a suitcase with wheels! These ones are my favorite and move down the hallways so easily.
For a vaginal delivery, I think a carry-on size is plenty to fit everything you and your partner will need for the 2-3 days you are in the hospital. Plus I think they are so easy to keep organized using packing cubes. If you are planning a c-section, you likely will stay a few days longer and may need a larger suitcase.
I like to keep baby’s things separate in just in the diaper bag. This makes it easy to carry and stays neatly organized, but you can always consolidate in the larger suitcase if you’d like.
Mom's Hospital Bag Checklist
- Birth plan – If you have taken the time to write out a birth plan be sure to bring it with you! If you’re able to, print out a few copies. That way your nurse can put one in your chart (both labor and postpartum if applicable) and you can keep one handy. I loved to go through birth plans with my patients during admit and having a physical copy made it so much easier!
- Insurance card and driver’s license (or other form of ID) – You will need these when you check in to the hospital even if you have already completed your pre-registration.
- Labor gown – Coming from a labor nurse, this is very much not necessary but if you’d like to bring your own labor gown you can! Just make sure it has easy access to your stomach for monitoring and your back incase of an epidural. And you can pretty much guarantee it will get some form of bodily fluids on it during labor so don’t plan on wearing this later on in your hospital stay. This one is a great option and is made by a former labor and delivery nurse.
- Slipper or non-slip socks – I personally don’t love walking around on the hospital floors with bare feet (yes, they clean them but I have seen too many things on those floors to ever want to touch them). I like to bring a pair of slippers that I can easily slip on when getting out of bed. You can totally wear socks too, just make sure they have grips on the bottom so you don’t slip on the slick floors (the hospital can also provide you with a pair of these, they aren’t the cutest, but they work great!)
- Hair scrunchie or clip – I hate having hair on my neck while I am laying in bed so a good hair scrunchie or claw clip for labor was a must!
- Camera – Make sure you bring a camera (or use your phone) to take all the pictures before, during, and after delivery! You’ll want to make sure all the batteries are charged ahead of time, and you have any cables or extra equipment with you.
- Phone charger – You will definitely want your phone charger for your hospital bag, especially if you are planning to use your phone to take pictures. I recommend purchasing one of these 10ft long charging cords so that it will reach from the outlet to your bed. An absolute lifesaver!
- Toiletry bag with all the essentials – This all depends on your personal preferences but you will want to have some key items like a toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, hair brush, face wash, lotion, and your own shampoo and body wash. Speaking from my own experience, my hospital did have small travel sizes of all of these (except a hair brush) but they aren’t the best so I would recommend bringing your own. You can also bring your own cosmetics or hairstyling products if you would like to freshen up before visitors or before heading home.
- Glasses/Contact lenses – Don’t forget these if you wear them! You will want to bring a carrying case and extra solution for your contact lenses as well.
- Nursing bras (2) – Some ladies don’t like to have anything on underneath their labor gown but I personally found that uncomfortable. I just wore a night-time nursing bra while laboring and it allowed for easy skin-to-skin post-delivery. I’ve also seen moms wear nursing bras that unhook between the two cups for easy access. I would recommend bringing one set for labor and at least one (if not two) for postpartum. (Your nursing bra during labor will probably get a little dirty)
- Pajamas or nursing friendly outfits (2-3) – You are welcome to stay in the hospital provided gown as long as you’d like during your stay, but I preferred to get out of it as soon as I possibly could. Plus depending on the style your hospital provides, they can be pretty difficult to nurse a baby in. You don’t need to buy specially made nursing pajamas; any button down top or PJ set should work just fine for breastfeeding. I also bought two nursing gowns and they were probably some of my favorite postpartum purchases. In total I had 4 nursing friendly outfits that I rotated between for probably the first 3 weeks home with my newborn. They were so comfy to sleep in and made feedings a piece of cake.
- Pillow – It is a well known fact that hospital pillows suck. They are hygienic, but really just terrible and not comfortable! Really the best advice I could give you to increase your comfort significantly is to bring your own pillow. You can bring a blanket as well if you prefer but I don’t recommend using it after your water is broken, for obvious reasons.
- Postpartum supplies – Your hospital will likely be providing all that you need in this category (see the list above) but if there is anything additional you want be sure to bring them with you. If you don’t bring anything to the hospital, be sure you are all stock up at home with all the postpartum must-haves.
- Going home outfit – You will want to pack a comfy outfit to go home in! Make sure this outfit is weather appropriate because you will be headed outside for the first time in likely a few days. I loved wearing a cozy lounge wear set that I could just go home and relax in. And keep in mind you may want to snap a few pictures on your way out!
- Bath towel – this is totally optional, but I hate the hospital towels. I equate them to hotel pool towels; you need like 4 of them to even get dry! I personally brought my own towel to use after showering postpartum that I just hung up in the bathroom and just washed it at home. I didn’t have a lot of bleeding after my delivery, so this didn’t gross me out, but it is up to you. My husband preferred to just shower at home, so he did that instead.
- Shower sandals – I recommend bringing a pair of waterproof sandals to use in the shower at the hospital. You can buy a cheap pair of flip flops that can be tossed afterwards, or use a pair that’s easily cleaned. I also wore these walking around the room during labor, so I didn’t have to touch the floors with my bare feet.
- Snacks – The hospital will provide you meals, but it can take time for your food to arrive. Plus after laboring you will want to have some of your favorite snack on hand! I liked to pack things such as protein bars, snack mixes, dried fruit, and of course some chocolates to treat myself.
When packing these items you can choose to pack them all in one bag, or in two separate bags; one for labor and delivery and one for postpartum. That way if you have to switch rooms after delivery you won’t have to carry all your stuff room to room.
Baby’s Hospital Checklist
- Baby’s going home outfit – Bring something special and cute for your little one to go home from the hospital in. If you are likely me, you probably have several outfits in mind and that is ok! Pack a few in varying sizes and you can choose the day of. I personally recommend bringing a preemie and newborn size outfit, so you have something that fits your little one.
- Baby book – If your baby book as a spot for footprints you’ll want to bring that with you. After your baby has his or her first assessment, the nurse will do their footprints and you can ask them to put them in your baby book as well. Just make sure to put a piece of paper inside the book over the prints to make sure they don’t smear while the ink dries.
- Nursing pillow – This one is a hard one for me because I am torn if you actually need it in the hospital or not. As a first time mom, learning to breastfeed can be really difficult and I think a nursing pillow really is just in the way. Asking your partner or nurse to help you tuck pillows in where you need support I think is more helpful while you are learning. I recommend brining it but leave it in the car until you are sure you want it. If this isn’t your first baby and you’ve used one before it can be helpful but not necessary.
- Photo props – Now this one is a wide range of products. You can bring colorful swaddles, a cute knotted gown with matching hat or bow, a name sign, really whatever you would like to take some cute photos of baby in the hospital. Be creative and have fun with it!
- Car seat – This might seem self-explanatory, but make sure you have your car seat installed and ready to go for your new little one! If you need help with safe installation check with AAA or your local police/fire department for help. Don’t put it in your car until right before you go to the hospital to avoid getting in a car accident and needing to purchase a replacement.
And that’s really it for baby! Like with the list above if there is anything specific that you want when it comes to products for your baby feel free to bring them, but the hospital should provide everything you need to care for them during your stay. You don’t even have to dress your baby or wrap them in anything other than the hospital receiving blanket until you go home if you want.
Dad’s Hospital Bag Checklist
For Dad’s or partners, a hospital bag really is pretty simple. Just pack whatever they need for an overnight or two. This should include:
- Change of clothes (2)
- Phone charge
- Pillow and/or blanket
I feel bad not going into super great detail with the dad’s hospital bag but you get the point. It really is what will make him the most comfortable in the hospital environment. My husband always packed super light because he preferred to go home to shower and change once everything settled after birth (and I was very ok with that!). If you live close to the hospital that might be an option for you.
What Should You Leave At Home?
Now that we’ve gone over what you should include in your hospital bag, here are some items that are better left at home:
- Your medications – For safety reasons, the hospital won’t let you take anything that they don’t administer directly to you. You will want to bring a list of any medications you are taking with you, however, to make sure you get everything you need. If you have any uncommon medications, you should verify ahead of time that they can provide that during your stay.
- Your entire makeup bag – I know I mentioned bringing makeup above as an option, but you really don’t need to bring your entire collection. Just bring a few thing that will help you feel more like yourself and put together after pushing out a baby. Remember you won’t have your full bathroom set up and likely will be getting ready just at a small sink.
- A blow dryer or any hot tools – I guess you could bring a blow dryer if you wanted to but no one expects you to look like you just walked out of a magazine after having a baby. Air drying work great! And rock those natural waves girl!
- Underwear – The hospital will be providing you with mesh undies that are disposable so you won’t need to pack any extra pairs with you. If you prefer not to wear the mesh undies, then I recommend bringing with you some disposable underwear like Depends. These were a lifesaver for me the first few weeks postpartum and so comfy!
- A stroller – I feel like this is self-explanatory, but I have seen more than one set of new parents bring this with them to labor and delivery. A lot of them use it to carry all of their bags from the car, which I get. But if you are needing a stroller to carrying everything you packed then you are bringing way too much stuff with you! Less is more girlfriend! Those hospital rooms are not big and a stroller is just going to get in your way.
- Your breast pump – the hospital will have one for you to use if you need it while in patient so save the space in your bags.
- A birthing ball – Your hospital should provide this for you to use during labor. If you are concerned they wont just call ahead and ask if they have them.
Well, that completed our hospital bag checklist. Hopefully this gave you a pretty good idea of what you should be packing to bring with you for your labor and postpartum.
Make sure you get your copy of our free Ultimate Hospital Bag Checklist below so you don’t forget a thing!