There are so many different lists out there that tell you what you need to pack in your hospital bag for your labor and birth. As a doula, I have helped many clients prepare for their hospital stay, and I have created the ultimate hospital bag checklist that I promise will have everything you need!
NOTE: You’ll want to be sure that you have your bags packed and in your car no later than 37 weeks.
I say to leave it in your car at this time or sooner because you want to be prepared just in case your doctor keeps you after a prenatal visit or sends you to the hospital because of an emergency. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Below I have different lists for not only the mom but for dad/partner and baby! Here is our hospital bag checklist—all the things you’ll need when you’re at the hospital during labor, birth, and immediately postpartum.
Mama’s Hospital Bag Checklist
Your birth plan (if you have one) and your insurance information.
If you wear contacts, you should bring your glasses along with you. If you end up needing a c-section, some doctors/anesthesiologists ask you to take your contacts out before surgery.
What you’re going to wear during labor –
It will probably get a bit messy, so don’t bring anything too nice to wear in the hospital. If you aren’t sure of your options, here’s more information about what to wear at a hospital birth.
Massage oil or lotion –
If you would like to be massaged during your labor, I recommend bringing either of these so that your partner or doula can massage you. (If you hired a doula, she will probably bring this with her in her doula bag.)
I think this is a must in our hospital bag checklist. These can really help you during labor. A peanut ball is particularly great for women preparing to have an epidural. I highly recommend it. Just remember to bring a pump so your birth partner can inflate it for you if you didn’t come with it already inflated. (Read more about the benefits of using a peanut ball HERE)
NOTE: Some hospitals have birth balls and peanut balls for you to use. Ask during your hospital tour if they are available at your hospital.
Lip balm –
Your lips can dry out quickly with all of the deep breathing you will do in labor. Having some chapstick or lip balm will help.
First, make sure that your doctor/hospital will allow this. Most of the time, they will only allow you to have ice chips when you are at the hospital in labor, but they may have sugar-free popsicles there for you.
Things to help you relax and pass the time:
If you are going to have an epidural:
Bring books, magazines, a card game, or your tablet or computer. They also have TVs in each L&D room so you can watch a show or a movie to help pass the time. I also recommend trying to take a nap. It’s great to catch up on as much rest as possible before the baby arrives.
If you want a natural birth:
Bring music, a focal point (for example, it could be your baby’s ultrasound picture), massage lotions, a heating pad, rice socks to heat up so that you can put on your lower back, essential oils, etc.
If you have long hair, you may want it tied up since it can get in the way during labor. I recommend getting the ones that don’t leave a kink in your hair. That way, if you want to take pictures with your hair down after birth, you won’t have a crease in your hair!
Take your Bluetooth speaker, a CD player, and some CDs, or use your phone. Some hospitals provide their own CD players and iPod docks, so I would ask what they will have available in your room.
Camera, charged battery, charger, and a big memory card –
You never want to forget the day you first welcomed your baby into the world. Many parents take pictures with their phones, but if you have a nicer camera that you want to bring to capture this special time, bring it!
Cell phone and charger with a long cord
You don’t know where the outlet is going to be so have an extra long charging cord so you can keep your phone close if it needs to charge.
*Nice to Have But Not Necessities:
Your feet can get cold during labor, so it’s great to have some slippers that you can easily slip on and off. The hospital typically has non-skid socks (super sexy! 😉 ) that you can use if you prefer those instead.
The hospital might not have enough pillows to make you comfortable. Usually, each room has about two. And honestly, hospital pillows are very thin and really uncomfortable. If you do bring your own pillows (I would), make sure that your pillowcase is not white. Otherwise, they could toss your pillowcase and pillow along with the rest of theirs, and your pillow will go missing. I would recommend adding it to your hospital bag checklist.
After your baby’s born, the nurse will get your baby’s footprints, so if you bring your baby book, she can also get those sweet footprints and/or handprints in your baby book too!
Postpartum/Recovery Room Bag:
Going-home outfit –
You’ll need loose, comfortable clothes to wear while you’re in the hospital and for the journey home. You will still look about six months pregnant after the birth of your baby since your uterus still needs time to heal and get back to its pre-pregnancy size. So I recommend still bringing some soft maternity clothes for your trip back home.
If you had healthy labor and birth and your baby is doing well, you will probably only stay at the hospital for two or three days. I suggest bringing two or three nursing gowns or nursing bras to make breastfeeding easier and to stay comfortable during your stay. If you decide to wear your nursing bras, bring front-opening shirts so it’s easier for you to breastfeed.
You want to protect your nipples from chapping and cracking.
Your toiletries –
Having smaller bottles or buying travel versions helps save space in your recovery bathroom. Bring the usual toiletries you need: hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body soap, razor, deodorant, face wash, makeup (if you’d like), makeup remover, lotion, hair ties, contact lens case, and solution, etc.
Postpartum underwear or disposable underwear.
Don’t bring your nice, cute undies with you. You need big, cotton, breathable underwear. Some people even get Depends Silhouettes, so they can easily toss them after using them. The hospital will have disposable mesh undies with a large pad, which some women find handy, and others find gross.
It’s nice to be able to bundle up and feel covered and warm when getting out of bed or having guests in your room.
Snacks and drinks –
Some hospitals have good food, and others don’t. If your hospital doesn’t, and you don’t have someone to bring you food, be sure to bring some beverages and snacks to keep you nourished.
*Nice to Have But Not Necessities:
You don’t need to bring these with you. However, if you have some latching issues or if your nipples start to hurt or have inverted or flat nipples, the lactation consultant may recommend a nipple shield. You may be able to purchase them at the hospital as well.
If you received any booklets or handouts about how to get breastfeeding started, you can bring them with you as a reminder. The lactation consultants aren’t always there to see you so these can help.
Bath towel –
The hospital does have towels, but they are small and pretty thin. If you prefer to have your own thicker towels, you can bring your own.
Heavy flow pads –
The hospital also has large pads for you to use after birth (since you will be bleeding for several days, sometimes weeks, after giving birth). If you are picky about what type you want to wear, bring the brand you prefer with you.
Extra changes of clothes –
I have had some Dad’s/partner’s change their clothes even when their partner is still in labor. For example, they may think the room is too cold, so they put on a jacket or a long-sleeved shirt, or they sweat too much because they’re nervous or working hard too, so they need new shirts. So having some extra pairs of clean clothes is good to have on hand.
Comfortable shoes –
They may be walking up and down the halls with you or running to get you ice chips or going to find and talk to family. So having comfy shoes are important.
For the same reason as you, they need something comfortable to sleep on. The pull-out couches aren’t the most comfortable, so it’s at least nice for them to have a good pillow.
Cell phone and charger –
Your partner should have been keeping track of your contractions on their phone with a contraction timer app, so be sure they have that downloaded as well. There are plenty of free ones.
Group text or list of people to call –
Have the conversation before you go into labor about all the people your partner needs to notify once you are in labor. Some people do a group text, and others just keep a list of names to get in touch with.
Snacks and drinks –
You don’t want a dehydrated, hungry birth partner looking after you. If they bring some snacks and drinks with them, they can stay with you rather than leaving the room to search for food! If they leave the room to find food and eat, they may not come back quickly to help you. This is why I tell my doula clients to bring a cooler with them to carry the drinks and snacks they want.
*Nice to Have But Not Necessities:
You may get overheated in labor, so it’s great if your partner has a fan to help you cool down. It may even have a mister, which can be nice.
Money/spare change –
If you didn’t have time to bring snacks with you, you will want to have some spare change for the vending machines. You both will probably be really hungry after labor, and the hospital cafeteria might not be open once the baby is born. If no one can bring you food (which I would see if someone can pick something up for you), then having some change is helpful to get some snacks from the vending machine.
Pen and paper –
If documenting things in a note on your phone is not your preference, bring something to take notes on. This will really help if your nurse, doctor, or lactation consultant gives you any recommendations or advice. Also, you just gave birth and are recovering, so put him in charge of documenting important things.
Gifts for other children –
Make sure to have these ready when big brother or big sister comes into the room. A gift “from the baby” is always a good thing.
This way, they have it with them to give to you after the birth of your baby 😉
Baby’s Hospital Bag Checklist:
Approved car seat –
Hospitals won’t let you leave without one, and the base needs to be installed properly in your car.
Think about what the weather might be like when your baby is born. Their outfit needs to be seasonally appropriate. Babies are sensitive to cold weather, so if it’s cold outside, bring a hat, snowsuit, or jacket to keep your baby warm. Don’t forget socks or booties. (Remove the snowsuit or jacket before placing your baby in a car seat.)
The hospital will provide you a baby blanket or two to swaddle your baby with, but if you prefer a particular type of blanket, bring your own.
Announcement items –
If you have a name badge or personalized blankets with your baby’s name on them, don’t forget to bring them so you can document and share with the world (or just your family) that your little one has arrived.
*Nice to Have But Not Necessities:
The hospital will give you some Gerber onesies while you are in the hospital. So all you really need is a going-home outfit for your baby. But if you prefer that your baby wear something else, bring two or three options.
If you decide to give your baby a pacifier, bring your own. Otherwise, they will charge you for theirs at the hospital, which is usually a little higher in price.
In case you need to clean up any milk, your baby spits up. But you can use the baby blankets that they give you.
I will also say, make sure there is extra room available in your bags. Then you can bring home everything that you get at the hospital. They are going to give you diapers, wipes, and more. Take as much as you can! They are charging you for it anyway. I hope this hospital bag checklist helps!
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