Is your due date coming up? Are you experiencing early signs of labor? Your baby may arrive earlier than expected, so make sure your hospital back is packed and ready to go! Learn what to pack with this free printable hospital bag checklist that includes everything you need plus optional items that may make your stay more comfortable!
When I was pregnant with my first kid, I packed everything under the sun in my hospital bag. It looked more like I was going on a month-long trip to a foreign country than an overnight stay at the hospital. Better safe than sorry right?
It turned out I only NEEDED a fraction of what I packed, and the rest just took up precious space in the postpartum recovery room. That said, I do think that packing everything we could possibly need did give me peace of mind as a new mom. For my second pregnancy, I went the minimalist route and packed only the essentials.
Things to do Before Heading to the Hospital
Before we jump into the hospital bag checklist, I want to go over some important tips to prepare for your baby’s arrival and help decide what to pack in your hospital bag.
Install the Infant Car Seat
The infant car seat is technically not something you pack in your bag, but you need it properly installed before you arrive at the hospital so that you can take your newborn home safely. To make sure you installed everything correctly, you can take your car to a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
For our second kid, labor came on fast and furious and we did not get to install the infant car seat until after I gave birth! So make sure you do this at least a couple of weeks before your due date.
Contact Your Hospital
Every hospital is different in what they provide after delivery. I had my two kids at different hospitals and I received mostly the same things with a few differences. Give your hospital a call so you know what NOT to pack in your hospital bag.
Here is a list of what you may receive:
- Peri bottles (You definitely need these for your tender lady bits after delivery)
- Super thick and long pads
- Sexy disposable mesh undies (haha)
- Breast pump
- Witch hazel pads
- Pain medications
- Stool softener
- Bulb syringe
- Diapers & wipes
- Baby blankets
You never know when your baby decides that it’s time for the world to meet him/her. Both of my kids came early at 38 weeks. I would say have your hospital bag packed and ready no later than 36 weeks, but earlier the better.
Pack Separate Bags
Since you will be busy contracting and pushing out a baby, most likely your partner will be the one who will be shuffling through the hospital bag. You don’t want to have too much in one bag, or else your partner will be spending his/her time digging through the hospital bag instead of spending time with you.
Consider packing separate bags instead of one huge bag so that things are easier to find. Plus, you can throw the labor and delivery hospital bag in the car after giving birth so that people are not tripping over it in the postpartum recovery room. I recommend packing 5 separate hospital bags for:
- Labor and delivery
- Postpartum recovery
- Electronics (you don’t want to be searching for nipple cream in a mess of tangled wires!)
Below I separated the lists into the categories listed above. I also separated the items that I believe are “essentials” versus “nonessentials” but you can use your judgment to determine which items are must-haves for you.
Labor and Delivery Hospital Bag for Mom
- Hospital paperwork, ID, and insurance card.
- Birth plan (if you have one) – You may not get the same doctor you have been with throughout your pregnancy in the delivery room. Having a detailed birth plan will help the doctor and nurses carry out your birthing goals.
- Cord blood kit (if you decide to bank your baby’s cord blood).
- Lip balm – Hospitals are very dry, and you will be doing a lot of deep breathing during labor. A lip balm will keep your lips moisturized.
- Socks – You may be walking around the hospital halls to help your baby move down and induce labor naturally. My hospital provided me with a huge pair of non-skid socks which kept falling off, so you may want to bring your own. You also want to make sure you bring a few pairs that you don’t mind throwing away because labor is messy and you may want to chuck these bodily-fluid-soaked socks in the trash afterward.
- Entertainment – Labor may be a long process and you will want entertainment to help you pass the time. You may want to put on some music or read a book to keep you relaxed. My husband and I watched Netflix
tokeep my mind off the painful contractions.
- Hair ties – Pushing a baby out is not easy and I sweated as if I had just ran a marathon. Bring some hair ties to keep your hair out of the way during labor and keep cool.
- Snacks and drinks – First check with your hospital if they allow snacks during labor. Mine limited me to
just icechips, water, or ginger ale. However, your partner may get hungry or you may want to have some well-deserved treats after labor.
- Hard-Candies or Gum – If you are not allowed to eat snacks, at least hard candies or gum will keep your mouth moist and curb your hunger.
- Eyeglasses (if you wear them)
- Bathrobe – You may get cold in the hospital and want a robe to walk around in. I packed a robe for my first childbirth but never used it, so I left it at home for my second.
- Pillows – You may want to take a nap while waiting for labor to progress along and having the right kind of pillows will help you relax and rest.
- Birth ball – Similar to walking, bouncing on a birth ball helps the baby’s head onto the cervix. I bounced on the birth ball the entire morning while watching Netflix because I wasn’t dilating.
- Massage oil or lotion – A nice back massage from your partner or your doula may be exactly what you need for pain relief.
- Eye mask and earplugs – Light sleeper? You may need these to nap during labor and the earplugs are great to block out the screams (contractions are painful!) coming from neighboring rooms.
- A big water bottle – It’s important to keep hydrated during labor. While the hospital will provide you water, the cups are small and my husband had to keep running out to get me water.
Postpartum Recovery Hospital Bag for Mom
- Toiletries – Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, hair ties, lip balm, deodorant, skin care items, moisturizer, etc. When you can bear to let go of your newborn, you may want to freshen up and wash all the dried up sweat and blood from your body.
- Nursing bra – After I gave birth the first time, I did not put on a bra. During a nursing session, I soaked through my hospital gown and my blanket with breast milk. Oops.
- Nursing pads – Wearing just a bra is not going to help with the leaking breast milk! During the early days of breastfeeding, I recommend either using disposable nursing pads or these organic waterproof reusable pads because you will be soaking through them in no time once your milk comes in.
- Nursing pillow – I did not bring a nursing pillow when I gave birth the first time and oh my gosh my arms were so sore from holding the baby all night breastfeeding. If you are not sure if you are going to need this, it doesn’t hurt to throw it in the car for just in case.
- Nipple cream – Keeping your nipples moisturized is so important, especially in the beginning stages of breastfeeding. Nursing a newborn with chapped nipples is no fun.
- Going-home outfit – You may be disappointed to learn that you will still look like you are 5-6 months pregnant after giving birth. Therefore, stick with maternity clothes or loose-fitting outfits for the hospital stay and the car-ride home.
- Perineal Spray – Using this spray plus the peri bottle made post-baby bathroom trips so much less painful.
- Socks – It’s just easier to walk around in socks than taking shoes on and off. Plus, they keep your feet warm!
- Flip-flops – To wear in the shower.
- Eyeglasses and/or contact lenses
- Underwear – If the disposable mesh underwear isn’t your style, then pack some underwear that you are more comfortable in. However, make sure they are big enough to handle the gigantic pads you will be wearing.
- Comfortable changes of clothes – I found it easier to just stay in the hospital gown, especially with the nurses coming to check on my uterus and bladder every couple of hours. However, you may be more comfortable in your own clothes and want to change. Make sure your tops are nursing-friendly!
- Nursing cover – I could have cared less about covering up while breastfeeding. You are going to be surrounded by medical professionals after all. However, if you have visitors, you may want to use a nursing cover to make yourself and your visitors feel more comfortable.
- Pillows – If you didn’t ruin the ones you brought for labor and delivery, then you can use the same ones! Well, maybe at least change out the pillowcases.
- Makeup – You may want to have cosmetics around in case you want a nice picture with your newborn or if you have friends and family visiting.
- Baby memory book and pencil/pen – You may want to write down all your emotions, thoughts, and experiences during labor and delivery so that you can read them with your kid once he/she grows up. *cue the tears*
Hospital Bag for Dad
- A Change of Clothes – My husband worked up a sweat performing double hip squeezes during labor to help relieve some of my pain. The baby and I definitely appreciated him changing into some clean clothes.
- Toiletries – You can share toothpaste and conditioner with your partner, but he/she probably prefers his/her own toothbrush and deodorant.
- Snacks and drinks – While you may not be able to eat any snacks during labor, it doesn’t mean your partner has to go hungry. They are getting a workout too massaging and supporting us!
- Contact list – Chances are you are too busy bonding and breastfeeding your baby immediately after birth to worry about updating people with the good news. Your partner can handle notifying everyone that the baby is here.
- Eyeglasses and/or contact lenses
- Cash – You may be up in the middle of the night nursing without any food available. Have your partner keep some cash handy for the vending machines for times when the hospital cafeteria is closed.
- Entertainment – Between taking care of the baby and trying to catch some sleep, I can’t imagine your partner having time to relax and read a book. But you never know.
- Pillows – Your partner deserves to be comfortable too!
- Gift for the Older Sibling – We had our newborn daughter “give” her older brother a gift so that he associates the birth of his sister with something positive. In our case, Thomas the Train!
Hospital Bag for Baby
- Going-home outfit – Depending on the weather, you may want to pack a winter jacket, booties, mittens, and hat for the journey home.
- Bodysuits – I highly recommend putting your newborn in one-piece bodysuits that zip up in the front. Don’t get the snap front ones, because it’s really difficult to get the snaps to close when you are dealing with a squiggly baby! Not only do these bodysuits keep their feet warm, but they are also easy to take off and put on.
- Warm blankets (for both the hospital and car ride home)
- Swaddle – The nurses will show you as many times as you want how to swaddle your baby with the hospital blanket. I, unfortunately, could never get the swaddle tight enough. Bringing swaddle blankets with Velcro closures helped keep my baby snug and warm.
- Pacifiers – Your baby may prefer a different pacifier than the ones the hospital provides.
- Diapers – The hospital will provide you with as many diapers as you need, but you may have a preference when it comes to brand. We did end up bringing out own diapers because we prefer chlorine-free diapers.
Bag of Electronics
- Cell phone and charger
- Camera, charger, and extra memory cards – You will want to capture the first moments you spend with your newborn. Make sure the camera is fully charged before you leave for the hospital.
- Bluetooth speakers – We did bring Bluetooth speakers so that we can watch Netflix shows with quality sound. It’s also good if you want to play music to pump you up for labor. Some people prefer relaxed, classical music. I prefer Eye of the Tiger, but that might be just me.
- Laptop and charger – While YOU really shouldn’t be working right after giving birth, your husband may need some time to catch up on work emails.
For a FREE PRINTABLE copy of the checklist, click here. I listed out all the essential items while leaving you space to add any nonessential items you may want with you at the hospital.
With this comprehensive hospital checklist, you have one less thing to worry about when it comes to childbirth. This checklist is also helpful if you are giving birth at a birth center or at home.
Enjoy the last few weeks of pregnancy before you start experiencing signs of labor. Then when the big day comes, your hospital bags will be ready and off you go to the hospital for your baby’s arrival!
Anxious about the big day? Here is my natural hospital birth story so you know what to expect!
If you have given birth before, what items are must-haves for you at the hospital? Or what items did you regret bringing? Let me know in the comments!