Hospital Bag Checklist: What To Pack For Mom & Baby

Whether you’re a first time mom or not, remembering all the things you may need or want at the hospital after your baby is born is a chore in and of itself, and we all know the “mommy brain” only makes that harder. So, we’re here to share with you this all-encompassing hospital bag checklist.

There are thousands of blog posts online titled “hospital bag checklist”, but this one is different.

In this article, you’ll find a “Minimalist” checklist for low-maintenance women and home birthers, a “Prepared for Everything” checklist, a “Planned Cesarean Birth” checklist, and even an “Emergency” checklist for things you should have on hand if you’re nervous about the possibility of giving birth in the car.

You won’t find anything quite like this anywhere else, so keep reading and get ready to take some notes!

When To Pack Your Hospital Bag

It doesn’t help to have a hospital bag checklist if you don’t know when to pack it. So, when is the best time to get that bag together?

If you have a history of preterm labor or any health condition that could cause you to go into labor early, it’s recommended you pack as much as you can around 33 weeks. For most women, though, this will be far too early.

If you’re having a normal and healthy pregnancy, start packing after 36 weeks, but get it done before 38 weeks, just in case. Remember, the average pregnancy goes to 41 weeks.

Many of the items on these lists can be packed early on, but you’ll have to do a quick, last-minute pack of daily essentials like toothbrushes, phone chargers, drivers licenses, etc.

Now that you know when to pack, let’s move on to talking all about what you should pack!

Minimalist Hospital Bag Checklist

Minimalism is a huge buzzword these days, and some mamas-to-be are no doubt using these “downsizing” principles to make their impending (or current) parenthood easier to deal with.

If minimalism is your thing, this list is for you.

It’s also ideal for a woman planning to give birth at home, but who still wants to be prepared just in case her birth experience leads her to the hospital.

You’ll want a cute, small bag (like a backpack or drawstring bag) to carry these items.

  • A single change of clothes (bottoms and tops and undergarments) for you (nursing friendly if you plan to breastfeed).
  • A going-home outfit for your baby (the hospital usually gives you at least one).
  • A blanket for your baby (extra warm if it’s cold where you live).
  • Wallet with insurance card and ID, like your driver’s license.
  • Phone charger (these days this is considered essential, but if you don’t care about taking pictures or contacting anyone right after your baby is born then it’s technically optional).
  • Carseat for your baby (doesn’t fit in the bag, but it’s essential!).

You’ll notice we didn’t include a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, diapers or wipes, etc…

For one thing, if you ask, the hospital will provide you with sample sizes of most hygiene items, including a toothbrush, so these items would be redundant to bring along.

They also provide you with newborn diapers and wipes for changing your little one during your stay, and all essential items for postpartum recovery.

If the hospital doesn’t have something you prefer, then most likely you live within driving distance and can ask a family member or friend to bring the item to you after the birth.

We also didn’t include any comfort items like music, your own pillow or blanket, a birth ball, a massager, etc…

The truth is, you only need yourself to give birth to your baby. Other things are nice to have, but if you have a doula then she most likely has a bag of tricks that she brings with her to births containing most of the items you would need for comfort during labor.

You can also call your hospital in advance to ask if they have birth balls in the labor ward; you might be surprised when they say yes!

If you still want ideas for comfort items to add to your bag, move on down to the ultimate “Prepared for Everything” checklist.

Prepared for Everything Hospital Bag Checklist

You like to be comfortable, and you vastly prefer well preparing and over-packing to packing light and missing something important.

This list is so large we had to divide it into different categories.

You can bring some or all of these items along with you, but remember that most women will only be at the hospital for two days, and that you might look a bit crazy carrying half your house through the hospital corridors!

Aim to have a nice, large suitcase or duffle bag, and make sure that your partner can carry it all themselves, since you’ll be in labor and not wanting to carry anything when you check in.

If you’re a single mom (or mom-to-be), having a friend or family member alongside will be of tremendous help in these times.

At minimum, plan for two days at the hospital.

What To Pack For Mom

  • Two changes of loose-fitting (bottoms, tops and undergarments) for you. Make sure they’re nursing-friendly if you plan to breastfeed.
  • Pajamas or nightgown (to wear instead of hospital robes).
  • Your own clothes to labor in, like a sports bra and/or a Pretty Pushers Gown or similar (if you prefer not to wear the hospital gown, you don’t have to!).
  • Wallet with insurance card and ID, like your driver’s license.
  • Phone charger for yourself and maybe your birth partner.
  • Cash (for vending machines, if you give birth after the cafeteria is closed you might BOTH be famished!).
  • Camera (if your phone’s camera isn’t really good and you want to take photos).
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Contact lenses and solution
  • Travel-size shampoo and conditioner
  • Hair Brush
  • Lip Balm
  • Hair ties
  • Mirror
  • Make up
  • Face creams
  • Face wipes (in case you can’t shower right away)
  • Water bottle
  • Robe
  • Comfy socks and/or slippers (hospital floors are SUPER cold, and, well, gross).
  • Shower sandals (for those squeamish about using the hospital shower).
  • Bath towel
  • Nursing bra
  • Nursing tank top (very optional)
  • Your favorite pillow and/or blanket
  • A small, extra bag to bring things home that the hospital gives you

Doula Tip: Hospital blankets are thin and scratchy and their pillows are so thin they almost crunch when you lay on them. We definitely recommend bringing some (freshly laundered) comforts from home so you can make your sleeping experience the best it can be.

What To Pack For Baby

  • Two outfits for your baby and one for them to go home in
  • A blanket for your baby
  • Mittens (the kind that keep your baby from scratching him/her self)
  • Outdoor gear (like a winter hat, warmer mittens, socks, etc. if it’s cold weather. Remember a baby should NEVER wear a coat underneath car seat buckles.)
  • Boppy pillow
  • Pacifier (if using)
  • Burp cloths
  • Carseat for your baby (doesn’t fit in the bag, but it’s essential!)

Labor Comfort Items

  • Copy of your birth plan (if you have one)
  • Hard candy (to keep your mouth moist)
  • Protein bar or other preferred labor food for energy

Doula Tip: Most hospital staff still insists you eat nothing but ice chips during your labor. This is an outdated practice that is NOT evidence-based. Some hospitals have moved to having flavored shaved ice or jello for laboring women, but sometimes you need more. Talk to your doctor and do your research, but make sure to have something on hand in case your labor takes longer than expected.

  • Birth ball (check with the hospital first, they might have one)
  • Hand-held massager
  • Music (prepare playlists in advance)
  • Headphones
  • Unscented Lotion
  • Bendy straws
  • Essential oils

Doula Tip: Don’t apply essential oils directly on your skin during labor. Your sense of smell can be crazy strong and an oil you start out enjoying could end up making you light-headed, nauseated, or annoyed. Bring a bag of cotton balls and apply a few drops of essential oil to that instead.

  • Cotton balls (for essential oils)
  • Rebozo
  • Hynobabies or Hypnobirthing soundtracks and scripts
  • Misting fan

Be sure to ask your doula what she has in her bag so you don’t double up and bring extra stuff. There’s being prepared and then there’s bringing a bunch of redundant items you never use or need. Save the space, collaborate!

What To Pack For Dad

Your husband or partner may or may not stay at the hospital with you, depending on hospital policy and your individual situation, but it’s best to be prepared.

Some hospitals will have a cot available for your husband to sleep on. Other hospitals only have armchairs, not full cots, and sleeping in one of those would be miserable without some extra comforts.

Because your partner isn’t a patient, the hospital won’t be able to give him basic essentials that they have on hand for you. So, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for this kind of stuff beforehand.

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Contact lenses and solution
  • Phone charger
  • Change of clothes and undergarments
  • Full water bottle
  • Snacks (so he doesn’t eat yours!)
  • Prescription medications
  • Tylenol or Ibuprofen (the hospital won’t give him ANYTHING)
  • Blanket and/or pillow

Boredom Busters

With smartphones in nearly every pocket nowadays, getting bored is pretty unlikely – but if you think you won’t start feeling antsy staring endlessly at your sleeping newborn, you should probably take a reality check.

Newborns sleep a lot, and believe it or not you’re going to want to put them down before too long. That leaves you sitting in a hospital bed twiddling your thumbs as you flip through outdated hospital films about caring for your baby (true story) or daytime TV reruns.

Here are a few extra items to consider bringing along with you so you don’t start pulling your hair out on day two at the hospital:

  • A book or e-reading device, such as a kindle
  • Music or movies on a tablet, ipad, or phone (remember to bring your charger with you too!)
  • A card game to play with your birth partner
  • Plan to have family and/or friends visit

Doula Tip: This may or may not be your thing, and that’s okay. Some women don’t want to see anyone until they are home, or even until a few days or weeks after. Just make sure that you communicate your expectations with any potential visitors and with your nurses, who can make sure Aunt Sally and Uncle Joe don’t barge in while you’re learning how to breastfeed and bare from the waist up. They’ll safeguard your postpartum time if you ask them to and allow only those names jotted down on your “guest list” to visit.

Postpartum Recovery

The hospital should have everything you need for recovery, from adult diapers and super pads, to peri bottles and ice packs. With that being said, here are a few other things to consider bringing along yourself when packing for the hospital.

  • Nipple cream – for those poor, chapped, newly-nursing nipples. The hospital may have some, but if you prefer a brand or want to make sure it has more natural ingredients, bring your own.
  • Prenatal vitamins – Yep, even though you already had your baby, you’ll want to keep taking these for a few months to help your body recover from pregnancy.
  • Tucks pads – the hospital will probably give you some. Take the extras home with you!
  • OLD underwear – It’s highly likely you’ll still be wearing stylish mesh underwear and super pads or an adult diaper as you leave the hospital, but if you prefer your own then make sure they’re old. You’ll still be bleeding significantly and don’t want to stain your favorite pair.
  • Make sure your going home clothes are either loose-fitting or maternity clothes. Your body may not have a baby in it anymore, but your uterus is still shrinking down and you may look and feel pregnant for a while after delivery. Leave the skinny jeans, bring the sweatpants or leggings.
  • Eye mask and ear plugs (in case it’s difficult to sleep in the maternity ward).

Planned Cesarean Birth Hospital Bag Checklist

In addition to the items listed above, here are a few “Cesarean specific” items you may want to bring if you are planning to give birth by cesarean section.

  • This belly binder with ice pack pocket
  • Extra sets of clothing (hospital stays for Cesarean are 1-2 days longer than for a vaginal birth).
  • Extra clothes for baby
  • A breast pump

Doula Tip: if your baby has health issues and you can’t see them immediately, it is ideal to start pumping milk for them as soon as possible. The hospital often has breast pumps ready for you to use, but you may want to bring your own just in case.

  • LOOSE going-home clothing – you’ll be in a hospital gown throughout most of your stay, but you’ll want something comfy to wear home that won’t irritate your cesarean incision. Loose-banded sweatpants or leggings and a large, flowy t-shirt might be ideal.
  • High-waisted underwear (to avoid rubbing your cesarean incision).
  • Peppermint tea (after surgery you can get bloated. Peppermint tea or essential oils can bring relief).

Emergency / Car Birth Bag Checklist

Whether you live a few hours from your chosen hospital or are concerned you’ll give birth super fast before you ever get to a hospital near you, an emergency bag packed specifically for car birth is a great way to ensure that you have all you need if birth strikes fast on the road.

Here are the top essentials you should have to prepare for giving birth in the car.

  • Chux pad or plastic shower curtain (get one at the dollar store) to lay down and protect the car.
  • An old blanket or a picnic blanket with plastic backing (as a soft place to give birth, especially if you get out of your car to give birth).
  • Headlamp or flashlight/torch (in case you’re giving birth at night and it’s too dark to see).
  • Newborn diapers
  • Newborn clothes
  • Baby hat (for warmth)
  • A light blanket or old towel (that can get bloody)
  • Clean scissors (This is to cut the umbilical cord, but it’s important to note that your baby will do far better still attached to you and/or the placenta until you reach the hospital. So this item is technically not necessary, but nice to have on hand in case there’s a need to detach baby early on)
  • 2 Gallon-size Ziploc or plastic bags (for the placenta! Your doctor or midwife will need to examine this to make sure it is whole and nothing is left inside you. A bit gruesome, but necessary.)
  • 2 large garbage bags (for cleaning up after the birth, either to store items that will need to be washed later or to throw away)

How To Pack A Hospital Bag

You might be tempted to just throw things in and be done with it without spending too much time, but that’s not the best of ideas.

Here are some tips for packing that will keep things organized so you can find your items and accessories without digging through a giant, mess-filled bag, having to spend a lifetime looking for what it is you want.

  • Consider rolling all clothing and blankets instead of folding them. Rolling makes clothing easier to pack and takes up less space.
  • Put sets of clothing into their own plastic/Ziploc bag. Pants, shirt, undergarments, socks for you, etc .. should all go in one bag. Baby’s clothes should go in another seperate bag. It will be easier to find if you label the bags with a permanent marker, too.
  • Keep snacks in a specific place, like a small outer pocket for easy access
  • Put all toiletries into a plastic bag of their own. You don’t want shampoo leaking onto your clean clothes!
  • Bring a garbage sack for dirty clothes. Sometimes the hospital has a bag they will offer for your personal items, but don’t count on it being available to you in all hospitals alike.
  • Bring an extra bag, or use a bag that’s larger than you need, so that you can bring home anything the hospital gives you.
  • Make sure your bag isn’t too heavy for you and/or your partner to comfortably carry.
  • Keep in mind the extras you bring along. A blanket, a pillow, a birth ball, a duffle bag, a nursing pillow, etc. will require a lot of hands or multiple trips to the car. Make sure you’re only bringing what you feel is essential so that you can preserve valuable space, and call the hospital before you give birth to see what they have available.

You’re Ready To Go!

Whether you’re packing as a minimalist or being uber-prepared, this hospital bag checklist has you covered from all sides.

If you’re past 38 weeks, get packing! If you’re still early in your pregnancy, pick a bag and start slowly adding items to it. Be sure to go through the bag around 36 weeks in and double check to make sure you have everything you need.

Before you know it, it will be time to zip it up, put it in the car, and drive to the hospital to have your baby.

With this checklist, you can rest easy knowing that you’re fully prepared for your and your baby’s stay at the hospital.

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