Ultimate hospital bag checklist for moms, dads + babies
When you start nearing the middle of your third trimester, you’re probably starting to prepare more than just your home for your en-route babe. You’re beginning to think about what those days in the hospital will be like — and what you need to stay comfortable and make the hospital room feel like home while you and your little one recover.
It can feel daunting to start packing for such an unknown experience — things like how long your stay will be, what kind of procedures you’ll undergo, and what needs you and your baby will have make the idea of planning pretty impossible. So, how do you pack your hospital bag?
We narrowed this hospital bag checklist down to three different categories: the absolute essentials, the things that will help you feel a bit more comfortable, and the luxurious touches that will make your hospital stay feel just like home. It’s up to you to decide whether you’re just a bare necessities mama, a “this-should-feel-like-a-resort mama,” or just somewhere in between.
INSURANCE + ID CARDS
When you arrive at the hospital, standard procedures will require you to sign in and show your insurance card and driver’s license to verify your identity. Considering you’ll be leaving with a new person in tow, they definitely need to verify that you are who you say you are.
Even if you love to go top-commando at home, when your breasts are super engorged and milk is coming in, you’ll definitely want some support and coverage from a comfortable, nursing-specific bra like this one. Having bras on-hand that are made for nursing will make it that much easier to pull aside or de-clip for your little one. Even if breastfeeding is not in your plan, you’ll still be producing some leakage those first couple days, so having easy access to cleanup will definitely help. Having a bra that easily exposes your chest will also help you to quickly get into position for your golden hour.
Just like any hotel you’d go to, a phone charger will not be provided. However, unless your birth is top secret or you’re planning to go off the grid, you will want at least one phone charger for you or your partner to call family, keep them updated, and take some of those precious newborn pics when that little one makes his grand entrance. Note: you may want to get an extra long one, because your outlet may be far away from your bed.
Most hospitals keep new mamas for at least 24 hours after delivery. During that time you’ll definitely be ready to change into something other than that less-than-comfy hospital gown. We recommend bringing clothes that are dark in color (in case of some blood leakage), stretchy (you won’t shrink back to your pre-pregnancy size immediately), and don’t squeeze around your belly (in case of a c-section). If you’re planning to breastfeed, finding nursing-friendly tops can be great. Pair with a comfy lounge pant and you’re ready to roll.
CLOTHES FOR PARTNER
If you have a partner who will be staying at the hospital with you during your entire stay, you’ll want to make sure they also bring a couple changes of clothes. Unless you choose this time to send him to get a vasectomy, he’ll probably be fine in any old clothes, so just 2-3 outfits of any kind plus sleepwear should suffice.
Right after labor? Wash your face and start fresh. First morning with baby? Take some time to wash your hair and feel like an actual person. Remember to pack your hair + skin essentials, plus deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, and lip balm (you'll find a lot of those things here). And don’t quit on your belly oil routine just yet — fun fact: lavender (a key ingridient in The Oil) is commonly used to relax between contractions.
SLIPPERS OR SLIDE-ON SHOES
Ever thought about what kind of mess the floors of a hospital have seen? A lot. We’ll just put it that way. You definitely don’t want to be walking around your hospital room barefoot, but reaching your feet during or after delivery is also most likely a no go. Some comfortable, slide-on shoes that have some grip (the last thing your body needs is for you to fall!) will help you so much.
If there’s one thing you’ve probably already drilled into your head this pregnancy, it’s that hydration is key — and that goes for labor as well. Staying extra hydrated will help you to not tire out so quickly as well as keeping you cool while you’re doing all the sweaty laboring things. Most hospitals will only be able to bring you little plastic cups at a time, so bringing your favorite big water bottle is always a great idea.
Can’t forget about your plus one! Unless you two share your toiletries or your partner will be leaving the hospital each day to check on things at home, make sure he packs his own bag of daily toiletries — he’s not allowed to use your fancy shampoo at home, so it’s definitely not happening at the hospital!
While it doesn’t go in your bag, the one thing you absolutely must have with you at the hospital is a car seat for the baby. Your care providers will not let you leave with your little one unless you have a car seat installed in your car, so just go ahead and set it up now so it’s one less thing to worry about.
This postpartum band is seriously a lifesaver. Providing you all kinds of support and compression without constricting your mobility, (you’re kinda going to be picking up and putting down a tiny person all the time!) we love this belly band for helping you re-engage your core muscles and get your belly back to feeling like your belly.
While not required, we highly recommend that you write a birth plan if you have specific preferences for your birth. If you feel strongly about your pain management techniques or how bright you want the lighting in the room to be, writing it down on your birth plan keeps you from having to confront any of your healthcare professionals in between contractions. They already know what you want and everyone’s on the same page.
Bring a little portable speaker and make a playlist for your birth! For lots of women, having sounds and songs that feel relaxing and home-y to them can help make labor feel more calm. So, whether your preferred tracks are birthing affirmations, soft acoustics, or your favorite Broadway musical, play it!
The hospital will provide everything your body needs to survive your first couple of days postpartum. But by this point, your body has seen some things. And the hospital is wanting to keep you alive, but they’re not always the most concerned with your comfort. To jumpstart your healing process in a comfortable way, you may want to invest in your own easy-to-use peri bottle, a refreshing perineal spray and postpartum reusable underwear to make sure your care under there is extra gentle.
The absolute best clothing piece to help you feel comfortable is a soft robe. Because no one really expects you to be in regular street clothes right after labor, it’s totally acceptable to be in your pajamas or even just a bra and shorts all day at the hospital. However, after all those pelvic exams, feedings, and other things that require you to be pretty close to naked, it’s totally easiest to just wrap up in a robe when you’re walking up and down the halls.
Breastfeeding mamas, your nipples are going to take a beating from day one. Get ahead of the chafing and cracking by having nipple balm on hand from the get-go. You may even be able to avoid the hurting altogether if you’re committed enough to your applications.
It can be nice to have some distractions while you’re in labor. Even if you are planning on having a medicated birth, there is typically some time that you will be laboring pre-epidural when you need to figure out how to cope with the pain. Reading books, bringing an exercise ball to bounce on, or a comb to squeeze for counterpressure can help you to get through those contractions (If you’re lucky enough to have a birthing partner, here’s what they can do). The average first-time labor lasts 12 to 24 hours from start to finish, which means although in some ways the time flies because of your intense focus, some women end up needing something to take their mind off the super hard thing they’re doing.
PILLOW + BLANKET FROM HOME
Want to know what hospitals don’t splurge on? The bed linens. Want to know what you’re going to desperately need after hours of contractions and pushing a baby out of your body? Quality sleep. Help yourself feel just a little more at home and get that shut-eye you need by bringing little pieces of your bed to the hospital. It seriously makes all the difference.
Know what comes after a prenatal? A postnatal! After your pregnancy is over, your body continues to undergo huge changes and will basically be begging you to continue providing it with all those good vitamins and nutrients it needs. Adding in a postnatal from the start can help with your energy levels, recovery speed, and protects your body from nutrient deficiencies.
If you’re breastfeeding, a nursing pillow can be a gamechanger in helping you and babe figure out how to get comfy with each other — without killing your back. Plus, your nursing pillow gets your baby’s weight up and off your now very tender stomach which is so nice, especially if you’ve had a c-section.
Bad news for dads everywhere: most healthcare professionals only provide food for the patients. AKA mama and baby are covered for all their major meals. Bring some protein bars, trail mix, and snack foods, plus, a couple of special foods for mom because all those months of cravings don’t just immediately go away.
COMING HOME OUTFIT
For the duration of their hospital visit, most babies are dressed in basic, white onesies so that your doctors and nurses can easily undress and check them every few hours. Once you’re all cleared to head home, that’s your moment to put your little one in a more personal outfit. Whether you pick out and buy something super special, like a matching footie, mittens, and hat, or just put them in one of your hand-me-down onesies, the outfit will always feel special because it was their first outfit of their own.
You’re not like regular moms — you’re a fancy mom. You want your hospital experience to feel like nothing less than a luxury hotel and you’ll do anything to get there. We get you.
ESSENTIAL OIL DIFFUSER
If having your fav essential oil floating around in the air will help you to feel relaxed during contractions then by all means, go for it! Most hospitals are okay with these (although candles are a hard no for obvious reasons).
Remember what we said about hospital bed linens? Their towels aren’t that different. Bringing your own plush, large bath towel (and maybe even hair towel if you’re into that) can help your much-needed shower feel extra luxurious and cleansing.
Did you know you don’t have to give birth in a hospital gown? Most healthcare professionals will want you to be in an outfit that gives them easy and quick access to all your vitals, your chest, your pelvis, and your back. There are plenty of labor and delivery dresses on the market that have snaps and strategic cuts (like this one from NOM) so that doctors have all the access they need and you aren’t in a stiff, cheap, open-butt gown for 24 hours.
If right before you start pushing you’d like to put on a fresh coat of mascara and highlighter for that dewy, fresh new-mom pic of the baby in your arms for the first time — no one’s stopping you. If doing your makeup and putting on a lil’ jewelry will help you to feel more like yourself after the hard work of labor, then by all means — bring it. The hospital is a no-judgment zone.
Because most newborns feed every 1-3 hours, you’ll most likely be waking up on-and-off throughout the night. Which also means you’re going to want some shut eye during the day. If you’re sensitive to light and know that strapping on a sleep mask will help you sleep while the baby sleeps, then this could be a lifesaver.
This may go completely unused because most moms are kept pretty busy by the constant visits from doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, that person who's in charge of the birth certificate. However, in the off-chance that you find yourself with ample downtime, you may want to come equipped with some entertainment. You can spend some time reading your favorite book, playing a card game, or even watching a movie.
That’s all we’ve got for you! Just keep in mind, most first-time moms are known to overpack. Aside from all the things you should get done before labor hits, this list will help you be ready for those crazy moments right before your child enters the world, and the hours following it.
When it comes down to it, the most important thing is that mama and babe get to come home safe and sound from their visit to the hospital. Whether you’re a chronic over-packer or more of a “just-wingin’ it” mama, you’ve got this.