The Best Hospital Bag Checklist
For most women, having a baby means you’ll be away from home for a day or two – maybe even longer, in some cases. Your hospital or birthing center will provide you with the basics for both you and your baby during and after birth. However, you’ll probably have a more comfortable experience if you bring a few things from home. Taking time to thoughtfully pack your bags in advance will help ensure the process runs even more smoothly for yourself, your partner, and your baby.
When to Pack Your Bag
According to the National Institute of Health, only five percent of babies are born on their predicted due date. Most are born somewhere between two weeks before and two weeks after. Packing your bag at least three weeks prior to the baby’s expected arrival date should give you plenty of time to prepare. If there’s a possibility you may go into labor sooner, start packing earlier.
What to Include in Mom’s Bag
While you’ll have everything you really need at your healthcare facility, it’s nice to have a few items from home. Here’s what we recommend:
- Your insurance card and ID. If your wallet is in your purse, be sure to grab it, along with any other documentation your healthcare provider gave you for admission.
- List of current medications. Take the time to write this out and put it in an easy-to-reach place inside your bag to give to the check-in nurse. It can be really difficult to remember what you’re taking if you’re also trying to breathe through contractions.
- A little cash or credit cards. Don’t bring a pile of money, but you or your partner may want to snag something from the vending machines or gift shop during your stay.
- Medications. If you’re on regular prescription medication, it may save you some hassle to bring your own supply in case the hospital doesn’t have them in stock.
- A copy of your birth plan. You may or may not get to follow every bullet point on there, but it’s nice to have.
- A nightgown. Things get a little messy after birth so you may just want to leave the hospital gown on. If you bring your own, opt for one that allows easy access to the monitors used during labor and delivery, as well as breastfeeding access after birth. Pro tip: choose a dark color to hide stains.
- Toiletries. Bring the basics or your whole make-up kit. We absolutely adore the Earth Mama Organics A Little Something For Mama-To-Be Gift Box Set. It features travel-sized versions of their soothing belly butter and belly oil, deodorant, lip balm, and Castille soap.
- Magazine or book. Sometimes labor takes a while, and you may want a distraction.
- Cell phone and charger. You’ll want to share photos and updates.
- Underwear. Those mesh undies from the hospital are pretty great in the messy aftermath of the delivery. But after the first day or so, you may want a pair of your own underwear before heading home. You’ll likely be wearing a giant pad so consider bringing undies in a slightly larger size.
- Glasses or contact lenses. Easy to forget, but you’ll definitely need them.
- Nursing bra or camisole. Even if you’re not planning to breastfeed, there’s a good chance your milk will come in while you’re still in the hospital. Wearing a supportive bra will help ease the discomfort and give you easy access to feed the baby. We like the Medela Maternity and Nursing Comfort Bra, designed to deliver optimal comfort, fit, and function to ensure a successful and enjoyable maternity, nursing, and pumping experience.
- Nursing pads. As your milk comes in, your breasts will begin leaking milk. To avoid having a wet bra or shirt chafing your skin, pack some nursing pads. The Ameda NoShow Premium Disposable Nursing Pads are designed to discreetly and comfortably fit into your bra and have excellent absorbency.
- Nursing pillow. You may even want to bring along a nursing pillow for additional support as you and your baby learn the skill of breastfeeding. We especially like the ERGOBABY Natural Curve Nursing Pillow.
- Pads. The hospital will give you some, but bear in mind they’re about the thickness of a metropolitan phone book. If you prefer thinner ones, bring some from home. Don’t bother with tampons – you can’t use those after delivery.
- Loose clothing for going home or wearing around the hospital. We recommend dark, loose-fitting clothing. Nursing blouses, button-down shirts, or yoga pants are all great options. If you have a scheduled cesarean delivery, a loose-fitting day dress that doesn’t rub against your incision might offer more comfort.
- Breast pump and nursing supplies. Though it’s really not necessary for your hospital stay, it’s great to have on hand if you want the facility’s lactation consultant to show you how to operate it. We love the Medela’s Freestyle Flex™ Double Electric Breast Pump. Its light, compact size and rechargeable battery offer the flexibility to express wherever and whenever you like, with no compromise on pumping performance.
- Support underwear or a compression wrap. We love the Medela Postpartum Support Belt for gentle abdominal support and extra control as your body adjusts after delivery or surgery. It’s made from a super-light, breathable nylon, spandex, and cotton blend that’s designed to be ultra-gentle against your skin. Check with your healthcare provider on when you can start wearing a wrap like this.
- Flip flops and/or slippers. The floors are cleaned frequently in a hospital, but some people are just more comfortable with a little something between their feet and the floor.
- Special snacks. Your digestive system may be all out of sorts after delivery, especially if you had a C-section. Pack a few high-fiber snacks, like dried fruit, trail mix, or instant oatmeal.
What to Pack for Your Baby
You’ll want to include a few things for your new bundle of joy as well:
- Car seat. You won’t be allowed to leave the hospital without one. Using a car seat for the first time can be a little overwhelming with a tiny baby so practice installing it before the big day. Take a look at some of the fantastic options available for infant car seats.
- Diapers and wipes. The hospital will send you home with a few, but it’s best to just bring a pack with you of whatever you intend to use. That includes newborn cloth diapers if you plan to do cloth from the start.
- A “going home” outfit for baby…and a backup. Have a little fun and pick something cute. Whatever you choose, make sure you’ll still be able to buckle them into their car seat and take the weather into account. Pack a backup outfit as well since there’s a really good chance your baby will poop or spit up on the first choice.
- Swaddle or receiving blankets. Pack a few of your own to practice wrapping the baby. We adore these silky soft swaddling blankets from Aden & Anais Infant Boutique. Ask your nurses for tips – they are expert swaddlers!
- Your baby book. Get your baby’s footprints and write down a few notes about the first couple of days. The Baby Keepsake Book and Planner is an all-in-one guide and personal record that takes parents from those first thrilling moments of pregnancy all the way through their child’s fourth year.
What to Pack for Your Partner
Your partner will need a few items to stay comfortable, too! Make sure they’ve got a comfortable change of clothing and a pair of slippers. They’ll also need their own toiletries, glasses or contacts, medications, a water bottle, cell phone, and charger. They’ll also want to have some snacks and something to keep themselves entertained in case the process takes longer than expected.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, what you pack for your birthing experience is up to you. Take a few days to make a list, jotting down things you feel would help make you comfortable during the experience. And if you forget something, just take a deep breath – you’ll likely have most of what you really need and you can send someone out to get the rest after the baby arrives.
Need a little help? Take a look at these hospital maternity bags that are already packed for you!
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