Here's what to pack in your hospital bag for a more comfortable labor, delivery, and recovery. We've included hospital bag packing tips from moms – and advice on what you shouldn't bring.
Having everything you'll need for your hospital stay organized well in advance of your due date can help you feel more secure and prepared. Here's what you need to know about packing your hospital bag.
When to pack your hospital bag
Have your hospital bag ready by the time you're about 36 weeks pregnant, recommends Layan Alrahmani, M.D.Opens a new window, a board-certified ob-gyn and maternal-fetal medicine specialist and member of the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board.
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Dr. Alrahmani, who is an assistant professor at Loyola University in ChicagoOpens a new window, adds that you may want to be packed even earlier if there's a chance you could have preterm labor.
Once you're 37 weeks pregnant, you could go into labor at any time. "Only 5 percent of babies are actually delivered on their due date," says Dr. Alrahmani.
Jennifer Shu, M.D.Opens a new window, FAAP, a pediatrician and member of the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board, says you may want to start the packing process even sooner. "Early in the third trimester it can be helpful to start setting aside some items, so you're not rushed at the last minute in the case of unexpected labor," Dr. Shu says.
Keep your "go-bag" in a handy place such as the trunk of your car or the hall closet, suggests the American College of Obstetricians and GynecologistsOpens a new window. Of course, you'll have to add some items at the last minute (like your brush, phone, and insurance card), but you can pack most of the essentials in advance.
Hospital bag checklist for moms
Essential items and documents:
- A picture ID (driver's license or other ID) and your insurance card. Check with the hospital or birth center ahead of time regarding any paperwork you should bring. Ask if it would be helpful for you to bring a copy of your medical records.
- Your birth plan, if you have one.
- Cell phone and charger. You may want to bring a multi-plug outlet in case you need to charge several electronic items at once. Many moms also recommend an extra-long charging cord, since outlets are sometimes in odd places in hospital rooms.
- A cord blood kit. If you're planning to bank or donate your baby's cord blood, make sure to read the paperwork ahead of time and pack accordingly.
- Toiletries. Pack a toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, deodorant, a brush and comb, hair ties, and makeup (if you're planning to use it). Hospitals usually provide soap, shampoo, and lotion, but you might prefer your own. A hanging toiletry bag can be helpful, since there's usually little counter space in the bathroom.
- Sanitary pads. The hospital will provide sanitary pads to absorb all the blood after delivery, but if you like using a specific brand, feel free to bring your own. And make sure you have a supply of heavy-flow pads waiting at home!
- Glasses and/or contacts, if you wear them. If you'll be using contacts, you may need lens solution and a lens case. Note: If you're having a C-section, you'll be asked to remove your contact lenses before the procedure.
- A robe, pajamas, and slippers with grip soles. "In most cases, it's okay to wear your regular clothes postpartum. You don't have to stay in the hospital gown," says Dr. Alrahmani. Choose a loose, comfortable set of PJs that are either sleeveless or have short, loose sleeves so that your blood pressure can be checked easily. A top that opens in front will allow for skin-to-skin contact with your newborn and make breastfeeding easier, notes Kaiser Permanente. It's fine if you'd rather use the hospital-provided gowns and non-slip socks rather than bringing your own, however.
- A comfortable outfit or two. Some moms prefer changing out of their PJs during their stay in the hospital, especially if they're expecting visitors. "Some things I liked having were a couple of comfy outfits, a nursing bra, and makeup," says Dr. Alrahmani. "It's nice to have a sense of normalcy when you know your world has changed forever." Loose clothing such as maternity leggings and tops are a good option, since your belly will still look pregnant (and if you have a C-section incision, tighter clothing will be uncomfortable). For going home, have something roomy and easy to get into and a pair of flat, slip-on shoes.
- Postpartum underwear. Some women love the mesh underwear provided by the hospital, but others don't. You can't go wrong with several pairs of your own roomy cotton undies.
- Nursing bras. You'll need easy access to breastfeed your newborn. A good nursing bra is a must-have, as well as nursing pads to help absorb leaks.
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Essentials for labor:
- Comfort items. For example, you might appreciate having an eye pillow, a misting fan, or a diffuser and essential oils (check with your hospital or birth center to see what's allowed).
- Massage lotion or oil. These may come in handy if you think you might enjoy a massage while in labor.
- Music. Bring your favorite playlists, headphones or earbuds, and perhaps a portable speaker.
- A book, laptop, or tablet. Entertainment can come in handy in early labor.
Supplies for after labor:
- Snacks. After many hours of labor, you're likely to be pretty hungry, and you may not want to rely just on hospital food. Bring an assortment of easy snacks such as crackers, fresh or dried fruit, and protein bars. (Note: If you have a C-section, you may need to wait for several hours before eating anything.)
- A notepad or journal and pen. You can write down questions for your provider or journal about your baby's birth. Some moms bring a baby book so they can record the birth details right away.
- Nursing pillow. You can always use hospital pillows to get your baby into a good position for breastfeeding, but a nursing pillow can make this easier.
- Gifts for older siblings. Some parents bring gifts for the new baby to "give" to older brothers and sisters when they visit, such as small toys or a "big brother" or "big sister" t-shirt.
Hospital bag checklist for partners
- Camera or video camera (if you want, to use instead of or in addition to your phone). Someone has to document the big event! Some hospitals and birth centers don't allow videotaping of the birth itself, but there's usually no rule against filming during labor or after the birth.
- Toiletries. Don't forget a toothbrush, toothpaste, and vision supplies (if you wear contacts or glasses).
- Comfortable shoes and a change of comfortable clothes.
- Snacks and drinks or a water bottle.
- Cell phone and charger. You'll be the one keeping family and close friends posted on the labor and birth.
- Money (or a credit card). You'll need it for parking and vending machines.
- Your own pillow. It's important for labor partners to rest during downtimes, too – and you may prefer to use your comfy bed pillow or travel pillow instead of what's provided by the hospital.
Hospital bag checklist for your baby
- Coming-home outfit. Most hospitals provide long-sleeved baby shirts, infant hats, and swaddling blankets for newborns to wear. But you'll want to bring an outfit for your baby to go home in. Make sure it has legs (so not a baby gown) so the car seat strap can fit between them easily.
- Car seat. Well before you go to the hospital, have a car seat installed and ready to go in the car. You can't drive your baby home without one! Make sure your car seat is rear-facing, and know how to buckle your baby in correctly.
What not to pack in your hospital bag
- Jewelry, lots of cash, or other valuables. You won't need it, and you don't want to worry about things getting lost.
- Medications, including vitamins. Any medication or vitamin you bring from home must be approved by the hospital's pharmacy – and the process can take a long time. Ask your provider if the hospital will provide all the medications you'll need, or whether you should bring your own medications and get the hospital's approval before you arrive.
- Diapers and diaper wipes. Your hospital will provide diapers and wipes for your baby while you're there.
- Bottles and nipples. If you're bottle-feeding, the hospital will have bottles and nipples to use.
- Candles. Hospitals and birth centers won't allow you to burn them. You might be able to use a diffuser for essential oils, though.
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Moms' tips for what to pack in a hospital bag
What to pack
"Bring both your glasses and your contacts. You may want to switch back and forth for comfort or convenience. I wore my glasses during labor with my first baby, but it got so hot that the glasses fogged up and I couldn't see what was going on – very frustrating."
"I brought a few changes of clothes. I was sweating like crazy after I gave birth, so it was nice to change into some fresh PJs or sweats during the day, especially with people coming to visit. Just something that made me feel better."
"Bring the baby book. They'll need to get footprints, and while they're doing it for the birth certificate they can use the rest of the ink and make prints for your book!"
"Bring baby nail clippers or an emery board. The hospital didn't supply clippers for fear of liability, and as a result my son gouged his face before he was 12 hours old."
"One thing I didn't realize I would need was nipple cream. I found breastfeeding hard to get used to and had to get someone to buy this stuff for me because my nipples got chapped."
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"Bring flip-flops to wear in the bathroom and shower."
"A box of chocolates or yummy treats for the nurses, left at the nurse's station as you check in, is a nice gesture."
"Bring a big insulated cup with a straw. With my first, all they gave me was tiny plastic cups and a small pitcher with room-temp water. I was so thirsty from nursing!"
"Take a nursing pillow to support your baby during breastfeeding, because it does hurt having a baby on top of your incision if you have a C-section."
"Bring snacks like granola bars, prunes, or anything with fiber, because you'll be hungry afterward."
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"No one ever wants to tell you this, but the hospital gives you giant 1950s pads for the bleeding. I preferred to have my own. Just take one pack of thick, long pads."
What not to pack
"I brought everything on our list with our first child, and my husband had to haul it around. I didn't use half of it. A change of comfy clothes for me, my hubby, and the baby was all we needed. Toiletries were good to have, like my toothbrush of course. But everything else seemed to just clutter up our small room. Even the diaper bag I packed never got opened! If you feel like you need all the extras, I would leave it in the car, just in case."
"I just wore the hospital clothes – less laundry to do once I got home! You never want to make more work for yourself."
"I used the hospital's undies, sanitary pads, and socks. I also didn't bother with my own nightgown or robe – I just put a second hospital gown on backward. Like most women, I bled a lot and I didn't want to mess up my own undies and nightgown. I saved those for when I went home."
"I bought a pair of nursing pajamas to wear in the hospital but never put them on. The [hospital] gown was a lot more comfortable. And after a C-section I didn't want to move around too much."
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Packing Your Hospital Bag
Having everything you'll need for your hospital stay organized well in advance of your due date can help you feel more secure and prepared. It is generally recommended to have your hospital bag ready by the time you're about 36 weeks pregnant. However, if there's a chance you could have preterm labor, it's advisable to be packed even earlier.
It's important to note that only about 5 percent of babies are delivered on their due date, so it's better to be prepared in advance. You may want to start setting aside some items as early as the third trimester, so you're not rushed at the last minute in the case of unexpected labor.
Essential Items and Documents
When packing your hospital bag, there are several essential items and documents you should include:
- Picture ID and insurance card: Bring your driver's license or another form of identification, as well as your insurance card.
- Birth plan: If you have a birth plan, make sure to bring a copy with you to the hospital.
- Cell phone and charger: It's important to have your cell phone with you, especially for communication and capturing important moments. Don't forget to pack a charger as well.
- Cord blood kit: If you're planning to bank or donate your baby's cord blood, make sure to read the paperwork ahead of time and pack accordingly.
- Toiletries: Pack essential toiletries such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, deodorant, a brush and comb, hair ties, and any other personal care items you may need. While hospitals usually provide soap, shampoo, and lotion, you might prefer to bring your own.
- Sanitary pads: The hospital will provide sanitary pads, but if you prefer a specific brand, feel free to bring your own. Additionally, make sure you have a supply of heavy-flow pads waiting at home.
- Glasses and/or contacts: If you wear glasses or contacts, make sure to pack them. If you'll be using contacts, you may need lens solution and a lens case. Note that if you're having a C-section, you'll be asked to remove your contact lenses before the procedure.
- Clothing: Pack a robe, pajamas, and slippers with grip soles. It's generally okay to wear your regular clothes postpartum instead of staying in the hospital gown. Choose loose and comfortable outfits, especially if you're planning to breastfeed. Maternity leggings and tops are a good option since your belly may still look pregnant. Don't forget to pack postpartum underwear and nursing bras for easy breastfeeding access.
- Comfort items for labor: Consider bringing comfort items such as an eye pillow, a misting fan, massage lotion or oil, music, and entertainment options like a book, laptop, or tablet.
- Supplies for after labor: Pack snacks to keep you energized, a notepad or journal and pen to write down questions or record birth details, a nursing pillow for comfortable breastfeeding, and gifts for older siblings if you want to involve them in the process.
Hospital Bag Checklist for Partners
If your partner will be accompanying you to the hospital, here's a checklist of items they may want to pack:
- Camera or video camera: If you want to capture the labor and birth, bring a camera or video camera. Check with the hospital or birth center regarding their policies on filming.
- Toiletries: Don't forget essentials like a toothbrush, toothpaste, and any vision supplies (glasses or contacts).
- Comfortable clothes and shoes: Pack a change of comfortable clothes and shoes for your partner.
- Snacks and drinks: It's a good idea to bring some snacks and drinks for your partner to stay nourished and hydrated.
- Cell phone and charger: Your partner will likely be the one keeping family and close friends updated on the progress of labor and birth.
- Money or credit card: They may need money for parking or vending machines.
- Pillow: It's important for labor partners to rest during downtimes, so bringing a comfortable pillow can be helpful.
Hospital Bag Checklist for Your Baby
Lastly, don't forget to pack a few items for your baby:
- Coming-home outfit: Most hospitals provide basic clothing for newborns, but you can bring a special outfit for your baby to go home in. Make sure the outfit has legs so that the car seat strap can fit between them easily.
- Car seat: It's crucial to have a car seat installed and ready to go in your car before you go to the hospital. Make sure it's rear-facing and that you know how to secure your baby properly.
What Not to Pack in Your Hospital Bag
There are a few items you should avoid packing in your hospital bag:
- Valuables: It's best not to bring jewelry, lots of cash, or other valuables that you won't need and could potentially get lost.
- Medications: Unless approved by the hospital's pharmacy, avoid bringing medications or vitamins from home. Check with your healthcare provider to determine if the hospital will provide all the necessary medications or if you should bring your own and get approval in advance.
- Diapers and diaper wipes: The hospital will provide diapers and wipes for your baby during your stay.
- Bottles and nipples: If you plan to bottle-feed, the hospital will have bottles and nipples available for use.
- Candles: Most hospitals and birth centers do not allow burning candles, but you might be able to use a diffuser for essential oils.
Moms' Tips for What to Pack in a Hospital Bag
Here are some additional tips from moms on what to pack in your hospital bag:
- Bring both glasses and contacts if you use both, as you may want to switch for comfort or convenience.
- Pack a few changes of clothes for yourself, as you may sweat and want fresh pajamas or sweats during your stay.
- Bring the baby book to record footprints and other birth details.
- Consider bringing baby nail clippers or an emery board as the hospital may not provide them.
- Nipple cream can be helpful for breastfeeding, so it's good to have it on hand.
- Bring flip-flops for the bathroom and shower.
- Consider bringing a small gift for the nurses as a gesture of appreciation.
- A big insulated cup with a straw can be useful for staying hydrated during nursing.
- Snacks like granola bars and prunes can help satisfy hunger after labor.
- Bring your preferred brand of thick, long pads for postpartum bleeding.
Packing your hospital bag well in advance of your due date can help ensure a more comfortable and prepared experience during labor, delivery, and recovery. Remember to tailor your bag to your specific needs and preferences. The items mentioned in the article should serve as a general guide, but feel free to add or remove items based on your personal preferences and the recommendations of your healthcare provider.