Packing your Hospital Bag
What do you really need and what is nice to have?
The Joy of Expecting
How do you prepare for one of the biggest days of your life? Well, if you are like me, you read a lot of blogs, watch a lot of YouTube v-blogs, re-read your pregnancy book over and over, and search Pinterest for any tips and pieces of wisdom that make you feel just a little bit more prepared for the anticipated day.
With my first son, I packed everything I thought might help me cope with labor and make recovery a little bit more comfortable but when the day came, my labor was so quick I didn't even get a chance to grab my hospital bag from the car until after the delivery.
With my second son, I revamped my list slightly but still ended up packing quite a bit. Since I was induced the second time around, I labored longer at the hospital and was thankful to have some extra items packed to help pass the time.
In the end, the hospital will provide you with all the essentials you need while you are there. You really only have to worry about what you need to get home! However, having a well-packed hospital bag can make you feel more prepared and comfortable during your hospital stay.
I hope the checklist and recommendations below help you as you prepare for your little bundle of joy! The checklist is a full list of essential and non-essential items. In the recommendations section, I explain why or why not you might want to add the items listed.
The Hospital Bag Checklist
The Complete Packing List for Mom, Dad, & Baby
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Packing your Hospital Bag
Baby Clothes: For most of the hospital stay, we just kept our boys swaddled and didn’t worry about putting an outfit on them. With the constant diaper changes and checkups, it didn’t seem necessary. We did have a special outfit packed for coming home. You might want to take more than one outfit just in case your baby spits up on one or has a diaper leak. Your outfits should be loose-fitting and soft. Your baby will have delicate skin and you also do not want to irritate their umbilical cord stump (it takes a few weeks to fall off). Sleep and Plays are a great option or a cute set such as this girl set or boy set.
Blankets: The hospital will provide blankets but you can bring your own if you want a special one for pictures or prefer to use your own. I just made sure we had blankets for coming home.
Diapers and Wipes: The hospital will provide diapers and wipes but I packed some of my own just for good measure. I packed a few newborn diapers and size 1 diapers just in case the newborn diapers didn't fit. Click here to read more about our diaper recommendations.
Pacifiers: The hospital did provide us with a couple of pacifiers for our first son. Typically, they don't recommend pacifiers until you have established healthy breastfeeding (or taking a bottle well), but since he was fussy, the doctor recommended he have one to help with the stress.
Car Seat: Of course, you’ll need a car seat to leave the hospital. We installed ours a month before I was due just in case I went into labor early. At the hospital, they checked to make sure we had it installed correctly. You can also visit your local fire station or police station for installation assistance. Click here for more car seat safety information and to search for car seat installation help in your area. To read more about our car seat and baby gear recommendations, click here.
Clothes and Toiletries: Depending if dad is planning to stay at the hospital or not, you'll want to make sure he has one or more change of clothes packed and a pair of pajamas. How many just depends on how long you anticipate being at the hospital.
Quick note: For my second delivery, I asked my husband to wear a soft shirt that would be comfortable for me to rest my head on when I need his support through contractions. I also asked him to wear one of my favorite colors and cologne. Lastly, I asked him to wear his contacts instead of his glasses, so it was easier for eye contact during contractions. It might all sound picky but it created a comforting environment for me and he didn't mind.
Shoes: I would recommend some comfortable shoes or slippers.
Pillow/blanket: The hospital beds are not always the most comfortable. We didn't take any extra bedding items but my husband would have liked his own pillow.
Items for Mom
Clothing: For both of my deliveries I wore the gown the hospital provided for labor and delivery. After having my boys, I heard of more moms taking their own hospital gown. Well, if you stop and think about what's happened in the hospital gowns, you might want to take your own! Plus, there are some super cute options. Click here to see one of my favorites.
Once I was in recovery and felt well enough to get up and move around, I changed into a comfy nursing camisole and shorts. During the night when I knew there weren't going to be visitors I just wore my robe which was easier for breastfeeding and skin-to-skin time.
So whatever you decide to wear, you'll want something that allows you to easily breastfeed, have skin-to-skin time with your baby, and allows the doctors and nurses to check you.
Socks: Socks are a must-have item for a lot of moms but I didn’t end up wearing any socks. I was way too hot and a preferred slipping on my flip-flops anytime I got up. I have heard moms recommend non-skid socks to make it easier to walk the halls and pace the room without the fear of slipping. Here are some fun options.
Flip-flops/slippers: Keep in mind that your feet might swell after delivery (I had huge swollen feet). So you'll want to think of what shoes will fit the best if the swelling does happen.
Flip flops are great because they are easy to slip on and off when you getting in and out of bed. I would recommend packing a pair that can get wet so you can wear them in the shower if needed as well.
Clothes for going home: You’ll still feel pretty pregnant when you leave the hospital and you are also going to be sore. You’ll want to pack a loose-fitting, preferably dark (to hide any accidents), maternity outfit for going home.
Nipple Cream: I wasn't prepared for how painful breastfeeding can be in the beginning. Thankfully, the hospital provided some sample nipple cream. As soon as we got home, I sent my husband to the store to buy more (I am sure he loved searching the aisles for it!). The second time around, I packed some nipple cream but I wasn't sore at all. I would still recommend having some on hand just in case. I used Earth Mama Nipple cream which is lanolin-free and organic.
Breast pads: You don't know when you'll start leaking even though it might take a few days for your milk to come in. With my first son, I used disposable pads. With my second, I decided to try washable pads. Why didn't anyone tell me about these before?! They are one of my favorite buys. Click here to view them.
Nursing pillow: I didn't take a nursing pillow either time but it would have been really helpful with my first son when I was trying to get the hang of breastfeeding for the first time.
Items for Mom - Toiletry Bag
I did pack all my normal shower and cosmetic items. Taking a shower and putting on a little makeup after delivery made me feel refreshed and slightly more normal. Delivery and labor is a lot of work and sweat! However, you might not feel like showering or if you have an epidural and c-section you might not be able allowed to take a shower for a while. If you think this might be the case for you, you might consider packing some dry shampoo.
Towel: Some moms recommend taking your own towel. The hospital towels are a little rough so I can see how this would be nice to have but I opted not to take one.
Chapstick: Make sure you have your chapstick accessible during labor. All the deep breathing and hospital air can make your lips feel pretty dry.
Hair items: Also, make sure your hair items are accessible. You are likely to want to keep your hair back during labor and delivery.
Postpartum Underwear: Whether you want to think about it or not, labor and postpartum are a messy business. My hospital provided me with the biggest pads I’ve ever seen and some mesh underwear to go with them. For the most part, they did the job, but a friend suggested using Depends for the first couple of days. In my opinion, the Depends were much more comfortable and I felt less likely to leak everywhere. If you look around, you may be able to find free samples on the Depends website site or other similar websites. Always Postpartum Underwear is also another great option.
After the first couple of days, I was able to switch over to super-absorbent pads. I had to wear pads for a few weeks after delivery. Eventually, I was able to go to liners. You can bleed or have spotting up to 6 weeks postpartum.
Witch Hazel Pads/Liners: For the first week or so, I placed Tucks in the postpartum underwear or on top of the pads to soothe and help with pain relief. Earth Mama offers witch hazel cooling pad liners and a postpartum spray which I think are great options as well.
Peri Bottle: You don't necessarily need to pack your own peri bottles but I would recommend having them on hand for when you get home. The hospital may provide you with a peri bottle or two to take home but peri bottles such as this one are much easier to use than the standard ones.
Medications/Vitamins: Check with your doctor before taking any medications or vitamins. The hospital did not allow me to take any vitamins or medications without their permission. That even included a Flonase nasal spray I was using. They gave me a prenatal vitamin from the hospital pharmacy.
For the Hospital Stay
Paperwork: Our hospital allowed us to register beforehand so we did not have to worry about bringing all the paperwork with us. I also decided to not have a formal birth plan and just go with the flow. In the end, I am glad I didn't have one because my deliveries went so different than what I expected. However, I would recommend being educated on the labor and delivery process and knowing your options regardless if you have a birth plan or not!
Cash: Cash is good to have on hand for the vending machines or food from the cafeteria just in case it can't be charged to your room.
Electronics: We, of course, had our cell phones with us and a list of who to call and text announcing the arrival of our little one. Make sure you don't forget your charger.
We also brought our laptop. Although we didn't need it for with my first son, we did have a lot of downtime when I was being induced with our second son. We ended up watching a few episodes of the Great British Baking Show which was the perfect show to keep me calm while we were waiting! We were also able to play music on our computer during the delivery. Note -you may want to put a playlist together beforehand. We just picked a playlist from Amazon Prime Music and a few of the songs drove me nuts but I was in too much pain to tell my husband to change it!
We also had our camera to take some newborn pictures and pictures of our little ones with visitors.
Other Optional Items: I didn't take many additional items but you may want to take things such as a sound machine, earplugs, an eye mask, games, books or other labor tools such as message items or essential oils.
The one thing that would have been nice is my own pillow. The hospital pillows weren't very comfortable. If you do take your own pillow, make sure you put a pillowcase on it that isn't white so it won't easily get mixed up with the hospital pillows.
For the Car
Waterproof Crib Sheets or Disposable Bed Mats: Because you never know when your water might break, I bought some disposable bed mats to sit on in the car just in case my water broke. A waterproof crib mattress protector would have worked great too. You can also use the disposable bed mats under your bed sheets in case your water breaks while in bed or afterward in case you have any leaking during the night.
Extra Towels/Blankets/String/Hand Sanitizer: To be on the cautious side, my doctor recommended having a few extra things in the car in case there was that slight chance of having the baby on the way to the hospital.
Baby book/Journal: I didn't take a baby book with me but if you think you want to record things as you go, you may want to take it with you. You can also take a journal or notebook to jot down memories and then record it in your baby book at a later time.
Nurse gifts/thank you cards: You can either take something with you to give the nurses or you can always send something more personal after you get home.
Sibling gift: I didn't even think about having a sibling gift until after the fact but I think having a gift that the baby "gives" the older sibling(s) is a great idea that helps include the older sibling(s).
Picture props: Our hospital offered in-room photographers you could hire to take newborn pictures. If you decide to use the hospital photographer or just take your own pictures, you may want to take a special blanket, outfit, hat, booties, etc. for the newborn pictures.
A Final Note
If you are like me, you may be excited yet anxious as the big day gets closer. Birth is an amazing experience though and meeting your little one will be a memory and joy you will never forget. Congratulations, Mamma! Enjoy every moment!