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I’m a bit of what you call an “over-packer”, which is the last thing you want as you’re trying to get to the hospital while you’re extremely pregnant, probably having contractions, and likely stressed out of your mind.
So I’ve created this list from my personal experience as well as recommendations from other mama’s to help you avoid having to carry in 12 suitcases into the hospital.
You should start packing most of these bags by around 35 weeks to be prepared. But for example, if you’re a high risk pregnancy, you might want to pack sooner. You really don’t want to be stressed about packing your bags last minute if you know you need to get to the hospital!
I would say I packed 80% of these items early then did the remainder right before heading to the hospital. Some of these items I use everyday (like my glasses and phone charger for example) so I didn’t pack those ahead of time but I recommend getting extras of as many of these items as you can just to make it easier.
ORGANIZATION IS KEY
I recommend you separate your things by when you need them. If you’re having a scheduled C-section you might not need as much separation but more organization is always better.
For most situations, I suggest this breakdown for your bags:
- labor bag
- postpartum bag
- toiletry bag
- baby bag
- daddy/support person bag
We took 2 medium sized weekender bags for myself, 1 for laboring and 1 for postpartum. I put my makeup bag in with my labor bag in case I needed something right away (hint: I definitely needed it).
I recommend investing in a nice makeup/toiletry bag that is small enough to throw into other bags but also has enough compartments to keep things organized. They’re great for traveling anyway so you’ll get your use out of it.
I packed one small duffle bag for my hubby (yes, I’m one of those control freaks that packs all the bags…), and the diaper bag (I highly recommend a backpack as a diaper bag). This worked well for us because things were separated and we didn’t have to dig through a giant suitcase to find things.
Luckily, I was getting induced so wasn’t in the midst of contractions so it was totally manageable to carry all this into the hospital.
Some of my mama friends recommend taking a medium/large sized suitcase with smaller bags/separators inside to keep things tidy.
This just comes down to preference or what you have available. Just make things are easy to find, that’s the most important part!
WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR LABOR BAG
ID & INSURANCE CARD
When you get to the hospital, this is probably the first thing they ask you to provide. My hospital had pre-check-in paperwork that you could fill out in advance so when you got to the hospital, all you had to do was provide your name, it was super easy!
However, not every hospital is like this so make sure you have it with you and very accessible for when you arrive.
I wore one of these comfy wrap nursing bras from Motherhood while I was in labor and had an extra one in my post partum bag. Once my milk came in a few days later, I didn’t think they had quite enough support for me so I didn’t wear them much after that. They were great because they feel like they are hardly there which is perfect for labor. They’re stretchy and provided great access for skin to skin without having to completely remove them.
Even if breastfeeding isn’t in your plan, I still recommend these for comfort and skin to skin . They even come in fun prints and colors so you don’t have to only live in nude, white and black once you become a milk machine!
FACE WIPES OR WASH CLOTH
These are a great way to refresh yourself in between showers. I personally used these a few different times while in labor and a few more after I gave birth before I was ready to take a shower. Through all the sweating and pain, it was wonderful to have a cool face refresh in between contractions.
If you aren’t on face wipe train, I recommend bringing a extra soft wash cloth that you can soak in cold water that can do the provide the same refresh.
I love the Burt’s Bees Pink Grapefruit Face Wipes. I used to use the Yes To… brand but randomly tried the Burt’s Bees wipes and I ended up liking them way more! I feel much cleaner after using one than with the Yes To… ones, I just never realized that they were leaving a bit of a residue on my face until I found one that was better!
HAIR TIES & HEADBAND
There’s plenty of easy, effective hairstyles you can use to still avoid looking like a train wreck while giving birth.
I definitely recommend knowing what you’re going to do with your hair ahead of time because you really don’t want to be messing with it once things really get going.
I had been growing out my hair towards my last few months of pregnancy because I knew I wanted the flexibility of just tossing it up in a bun, especially for labor.
I used a wide-band workout headband and a secure top knot to keep everything out of my face. At some point, I ditched the headband because it felt like it was a furnace on my head but I’m glad my bun did the trick to keep the majority of my hair out of the way anyway.
LOTION & LIP BALM
Having a baby is hard and you’ll probably be dehydrated if you went through any amount of labor (hint: make sure you drink lots of water during and after labor).
You should plan to bring a nice unscented lotion (I love Aveeno) and chapstick (erm….lip balm) to help moisturize your skin and lips. I used my chapstick several times during labor and my hubby was giving out lots of massages so lotion was key.
The hospital will of course give you water and maybe other liquids but its also nice to have your own water bottle so you always have water available.
I love my Hydroflask because it keeps things cold and has a straw which was super convenient. I vaguely remember my husband trying to hold my water bottle for me to drink while I was vigorously bouncing on an exercise ball mid-contraction. Now that’s a visual right there.
Bonus: Optional items for labor
This is optional because many labor and delivery units now have these so you might not have to bring your own.
Check with your hospital before hand and DEFINITELY bring one if you they don’t have them.
My hospital had several different ones and I certainly got my use out of them. It was one of the few things that alleviated some of the pain during those really long contractions.
I’m considering this optional because not everyone is into essential oils. My hubby setup my diffuser next to the bed once my contractions started to get very intense. It was soothing and helped distract from the pain.
We used eucalyptus and orange just because that’s my favorite combo. Putting a little lavender on a cool wash cloth and placing it on your forehead might also be a good idea.
Except for the small amount of time that I slept once I got my epidural (yes, you heard that right…sleeping while in labor), we pretty much had some type of music or soundscapes playing the entire time we were in the labor unit.
If you’re feeling ambitious, make your own playlist. We opted for an Apple Music radio channel (Chill radio maybe?) that was perfectly soothing and relaxing. I wouldn’t consider this a need to have but I’m definitely glad we had ours.
WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR TOILETRY BAG
I’m putting this next because I put all my toiletries and makeup in my labor bag and used some of them during labor.
I think it’s easier to have them all in one place rather than splitting out labor toiletries vs. post partum items but do whatever you feel is easier for you. Also I didn’t really know what I was going to want while I was in labor, so wanted everything to be easy access just in case.
This is going to mostly be personal preference on how much and what you bring but in general, I recommend simple is always better.
If you’re the type of person that always has to have their hair and makeup done, you’ll probably still want to do it even after having a baby. And if you already have a simple routine, you’re probably not going to want to start doing blowouts and contouring after having pushed a baby out your you-know-what or undergone surgery.
I’m a bit in between where I have certain things I do NO MATTER WHAT (hello, mascara) but in general I have decreased the complexity of my routine and it all started in that one little hospital stay.
Along with face wipes, lotion, and chapstick mentioned earlier, here’s some things I recommend to bring with you to the hospital:
Dry shampoo is one of the best inventions, like seriously. It’s one of my staples in my daily routine so I knew I would want to bring it with me to the hospital.
I definitely used it a few (several?) times during my hospital stay to do a quick refresh without having to go through the whole shower routine.
I was previously a Batiste loyalist but actually recently switched to Acure to get avoid the aerosol cans. I love this stuff though and will never switch back! It’s smells so so so good and comes in colors for dark or light hair! One shaker of this last so much longer than a can of any other dry shampoo I’ve had.
HAIR TIES & HEADBANDS
I certainly defaulted to buns and headbands before I got the chance to take my first shower. I ditched my workout headband that I had for delivery for a smaller, cuter one once we moved into the postpartum room to get the yucky sweaty flyaways off my face. You can find cute headbands at Target or Ulta that still keep things simple but make you look like you put in some effort.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Bring the standard things: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, glasses/contacts, etc.
Similar to hotels, most hospital have the small travel items for you if you need them. But I brought my standard travel bottles because I have sensitive skin and particularly difficult hair. Go with small and compact because you’ll likely only take one or two showers.
I only really used mascara and a little powder foundation while I was in the hospital to feel a bit more presentable. I would recommend a waterproof mascara though(ya know, because hormones and tears and baby loving).
Really, you should be resting and bonding with baby so I wouldn’t worry about getting all dolled up. But if you’re having professional pictures done wile you’re in the hospital you’ll probably want your go to set of makeup.
Go with a more natural look though, you’ll be glowing anyway ;).
WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR POSTPARTUM BAG
I’m leaving off some of the recovery items that hospitals give you because I didn’t use any of my own things until I got home. (Pads, pain relieving spray, mesh underwear, ice packs). Check out the list of things you’ll need at home here or click the link to the post below!
Remember how I mentioned I’m an overpacker? Well, I had a LOT more things with me and didn’t end up using most of it. So when/if baby #2 comes around I’ll really only be bringing these items.
A COMFY ROBE
This was by far my favorite thing to wear while in the hospital and once we got home. I got this advice from one of my mama friends and boy I’m so glad I listened. I likely wouldn’t have thought of this on my own because I never was a robe gal but I will never be without one again!
It was great for breastfeeding and since my hospital had a wonderful lactation consultant, I was constantly pulling my boobs out without having to move around too much. And was cute enough I didn’t even need to change when we had visitors!
I found the softest, cutest, most wonderful robes at Milkmaid Goods (they even have pockets!). They matching and coordinating swaddles so you can make sure you get those perfect mama & baby photos and still be comfortable! I’ll definitely be getting another one once I wear this one out.
This is obviously a big one because you’ll likely be at the hospital for a few days AND will need to eventually go home. And unless you’re a nudist (more power to you!), you’ll probably not want to be naked.
Every woman is different in how fast they recover from baby, however, most of us still look and feel a bit pregnant in those first few days (weeks? months?) so I would play it safe and bring stretchy, comfy clothes.
- Leggings – I wore my maternity leggings from Target and they worked just fine, they’re snug but stretchy so they weren’t tight or too loose. I brought 2 pairs, one for sleeping/lounging around and extra pair I wore home.
- Nursing tank tops – I bought a few nursing tank tops from Amazon and those worked great. I mostly lounged in my robe, a tank top or nursing bra and leggings. I would be 2 or 3 depending on how long you plan to be in the hospital
- Nursing friendly shirt or 2 – I brought a couple nursing friendly t-shirts I got from Motherhood but only wore one to go home. If you’re not planning on nursing, I would just bring a stretchy maternity shirt so you’ll be comfortable.
- Socks/slippers – I wore socks pretty much the entire time because I didn’t bring any slippers (oops) and even though it was the middle of August in Nevada, my feet were cold anytime I had to walk around in the hospital. Bring a few pairs because, you know, floors are dirty.
- Underwear – bring just a few pairs. I recommend getting a cheap pack of high rise undies in a bigger size than you would normally wear. You’ll likely bleed on them (even if you have a C-section) and want to throw them away in a few weeks so don’t break the bank! If you’re having a vaginal birth, you probably won’t wear them because the hospital will likely give you the stretchy mesh undies while you’re still bleeding profusely. I have recently heard that some hospitals are less generous with these though so I would definitely check with the hospital where you plan to deliver. If you’re having a C-section, you’ll want some that are soft and comfortable for your incision.
- Cardigan/sweater – even if it’s warm outside, you might get cold while sitting in the hospital. I would bring a soft cardigan or an open front sweater that you can easily slip on if you get cold.
Your doctor will probably recommend you continue to take your pre-natal after you give birth, especially if you plan on nursing. I’ve seen some post-natal specific vitamins that you can transition to but I would still continue to take your pre-natals so they don’t go to waste.
If your hospital as a lactation consultant resource, you can ask them about additional vitamins and supplements you can start for lactation support. Of course, always check with your doctor and/or healthcare professional.
PHONE CHARGER (FOR YOU AND FOR DAD)
This one is probably more important than just keeping your phone charged so you can check twitter (I won’t judge you if you want to do that too). If you’re like me, you use your phone to take all your pictures so this one was super important to make sure I (and my hubby) could snap those first pictures once we got to meet our little babe.
It’s also likely going to be important for you to contact your friends and family. My husband did most of the contacting and picture taking at first but later on I did want to take and send pictures and connect with some people and was glad it was charged.
Pro tip: If you’re the type of person that wants to be the first person to post on social media about your bundle of joy, I would recommend doing that right around the same time you start sending pictures to your family and friends. I was pretty sad when one of my family members posted a picture of Maya that I had sent them before I had the chance to post her birth announcement on my own page.
But if this does happen to you, try not to take it personally even with all those hormones running through your veins. In general, most friends and family are just really excited about the new addition and probably aren’t thinking about whether or not they’re overstepping.
Definitely bring snacks for after you’ve given birth because you’ll probably be starving. You’re not going to want to wait around until they serve another meal so definitely bring something with you!
I totally forgot to bring my Boppy pillow and I had to make due with an extra hospital pillow (they were nice enough to find me an extra). There’s a lot of other nursing pillows out there other than Boppy pillows so I would check out the different styles before you settle on one.
I actually didn’t have great luck with my Boppy because I’m a bigger gal and I thought it was always a little awkward to get comfortable with a newborn. I used it more once Maya was bigger but I just had a little throw pillow that worked well once we got home. I’ll probably be getting a different one when/if we have another.
WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR BABY BAG
You would be surprised at how little you need for baby in those first few days at the hospital. Most hospitals provide you with diapers, wipes, a blanket and a hat so you likely don’t have to bring those. I would check with the hospital just in case.
You’ll eventually need a fully stocked diaper bag but for now bring just the essentials to keep it light. Here’s the list of things you need for baby:
I wouldn’t go crazy with the clothes because you might not actually need many (or maybe any) of them other than a going home outfit.
Baby should spend a lot of time swaddled or in skin to skin so if you have a few onesies that’s all you need!
You might consider bringing a preemie size and/or a 0-3 month size depending on if you know how baby is measuring.
GOING HOME OUTFIT
You’ve probably seem a billion cute options if you’ve spent any amount of time on Pinterest or Etsy while preparing for baby. I got a super cute onesie, pant, and hat set from Etsy and it was just what I wanted. I put Maya in this outfit right before leaving the hospital and took some cute pictures. I also use these for her newborn pictures 2 weeks later!
You’ll probably get plenty of pacifiers at your baby shower so definitely bring a couple ones suitable for newborns. Most moms I’ve talked to really liked these Soothie pacifiers for newborns. I packed 2 of them for our hospital stay.
Despite my best efforts, Maya never liked pacifiers even as a newborn but we still used these every now and then. If/when baby #2 comes along, I’ll be getting another pack of these to take to the hospital to try again.
We mostly used the flannel baby blanket from the hospital for swaddling while we were there because it was nice and warm. But I received a lot of these soft muslin swaddle blankets from Target at my shower and brought one of those too.
I used mine while doing skin to skin, nursing, holding, and pretty much doing anything with baby. I also used it to cover the carseat since it was hot and bright out while we were leaving.
SOCKS & MITTENS
Newborns can have very sharp nails so you’ll want to bring the little newborn mittens to cover up their hands to protect them from scratching themselves.
Since they’re so little and need extra layers, I would recommend keeping socks on them most of the time too. Babies are magically talented and getting these off somehow, so you’ll be constantly trying to put both these back on.
But they’re be so cute that you won’t even mind.
This is another item that the hospital probably has plenty of options for you but it’s also recommended to have a couple extra in your diaper bag.
My all time favorite are these ones from Burt’s Bees. They’re soft and absorbent and are great for everything. I ended up buying a couple more packs of these ones and used them much more than any other ones I had.
The hospital actually has to confirm that you have a car seat installed and that you’re strapping in baby correctly. So to make things easier, I recommend getting an infant carrier + a base to install in your car. You can install the base a few weeks before having baby then you just click in the carrier when the time is ready.
Once you’re ready to go home, you can grab the carrier from the car and load baby up in the hospital room. The nurse will then follow you out to your car to make sure you’re putting the carrier in correctly. Easy peasy.
If you’re a convertible car seat type, just make sure you install the car seat ahead of time (they usually take at least 20 minutes and a lot of instruction reading and maybe some swearing).
DIAPERS & WIPES
The hospital definitely has diapers and wipes for you while you’re there and I would definitely recommend using as many of theirs as you can. They’re probably not charging you per diaper and wipe so take advantage while you can!
But I recommend putting a pack of wipes and a few diapers in your diaper bag anyway to be prepared.
WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR DADDY BAG
This one is a bit simpler because they’re not going through labor or surgery. I’ll mostly be referring to this as what dad would need but only because it’s easier to type it that way. This should mostly hold true for ANY support person whether that be husband, wife, significant other, mom, friend, etc. We are inclusive here 🙂
CHANGE OF CLOTHES
The amount of clothes to bring definitely depends on how long you’re anticipating being at the hospital. A vaginal delivery stay is usually 2 days and a C-section can be around 4 days. My husband had more opportunities to freshen up so he used more clothes than I did while we were there.
PAJAMAS / SWEATS
Dad also wants to be comfortable while sleeping but should also keep in mind that nurses might be coming and going from your room. I recommend sweats or something similar that can be comfortable to lounge and sleep in while still being able to walk down the hallway to the vending machine without having to change.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS AGAIN
This one should be easy because it should the standard list of things you would bring while traveling.
You know the list: toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, razor, contacts, glasses, etc.
The pillows in hospitals aren’t very comfortable. We forgot to bring one and Zach definitely regretted it. The hospital was pretty full while we were there so they didn’t have many extras either.
A travel pillow probably isn’t going to cut it so definitely plan on bring one with you! You also might want a small throw blanket.
CASH & CHANGE FOR VENDING MACHINES
You’ll definitely want the option to get stuff off hours or without having send dad to the cafeteria. We didn’t bring any change but luckily the vending machines took cards and very crumpled bills so we got by. Ideally, you’ve brought snacks and water so hopefully you won’t need much!
COMPUTER OR TABLET
Now, this one might seem crazy because what husband in their right mind would be on his tablet or computer while is wife is either giving birth or just had a baby?? But we actually watched videos together while we were waiting around. I got induced so the first 5ish hours of my labor was pretty uneventful. I’m so glad we packed a computer so we could stay entertained in those first hours.
Same reason for mom. Baby pictures and constantly contacting family and friends on the new arrival? Absolutely.
SNACKS & WATER BOTTLE
Dad will also want to stay hydrated so a full, insulated water bottle is a must. Even though mama can’t have snacks while in labor, dad probably should. I certainly wouldn’t encourage eating in front of a woman in labor, but it’s probably necessary to eat something. Also great for after the baby has arrived since most hospitals don’t provide meals to anyone other than mom.
WHEW! That’s the list of things you’ll need! What did I miss?? Send me a message or comment with your favorite items you used for your hospital stay!
Now that you’re done with your hospital bag, make sure you prepare your postpartum kit too! Check out the list here. You don’t want to be without it!
You can also subscribe to get my free Hospital Bag Checklist printable so you can check off each item as you pack them. You won’t regret it, you know, because pregnancy brain is a thing!