One of the final steps in preparing for your new arrival is packing your hospital bag. You’ve spent the last several months stocking up on cute onesies, diapers, and every other item you might conceivably need for your new baby. Likely very excited to meet your little one, you may be inclined to bring all your purchases to the hospital with you! Although your newborn will probably go through a couple wardrobe changes each day, and far more than a couple diaper changes each day, you don’t need to bring tons of baby outfits and diapers – or really many other baby items.
There are quite a few things that you may think you’ll use during your hospital stay but will probably remain in your bag the entire time. Whether a certain item is supplied by the hospital or simply isn’t necessary during your labor or recovery, some things will take up valuable space in your bag that could be used for bringing all your hospital goodies back home.
Check out the following advice on what you really need – and don’t need – for the first few days with your baby.
WHAT NOT TO PACK IN YOUR HOSPITAL BAG
Tons of food and drinks
For my first, my bag was a squirrel’s hoard of nuts, granola bars, peanut butter crackers, teas, and Gatorade. “What if they don’t let me eat?” I fretted. Now that I’ve been there and survived it, I can tell you they feed you surprisingly well at the hospital. When you’re pregnant and constantly foraging for snacks, it’s really hard to imagine going three – let alone 12 – hours without eating, but you’ve got a lot of other matters to attend to during labor, and that mound of snacks in your bag is likely to remain there.
I bought a fancy HD video camera for the express purpose of capturing all the precious moments in my new baby’s life. But when I saw my son’s tiny face, I just wanted to be cuddling and visiting with him, not striking a pose with my bedraggled bedhead and tired eyes that would never close as soundly again. Besides, most phones these days take high-quality video, which should suffice unless a cinematic keepsake is a must – like when my parents videotaped my sister’s entire 20-minute C-section back in the nineties. They’ve watched it…more than once.
I brought cloth diapers to the hospital for my first baby. When I held the reusable diapers next to my newborn, it was like trying to dab a flea with a cotton ball. Fortunately, the hospital provided an ample supply of disposable diapers that were surprisingly soft and absorptive – and had an indicator line to let me know when the baby had wet himself.
Lots of cute baby clothes
I couldn’t wait to dress my first baby in all the cute clothes I had purchased or been gifted. Little did I know that keeping him in a diaper and onesie provided by the hospital was much more convenient for skin-to-skin time, feedings, and seemingly constant diaper changes. All you really need is one weather-appropriate outfit for your baby to wear home.
I imagined there would be all this free time at the hospital, that it would feel like sitting in a waiting room at the doctor’s office. I brought magazines and my Kindle, which sat untouched in my bag the entire time. Some people may have an extended stay during which they may feel relaxed enough to do some reading, but that definitely wasn’t the case for me.
Dressy clothes for yourself
I packed a dressy outfit to wear for pictures in the hospital, but it didn’t fit me, and I really only wanted to wear super-comfortable clothing. In addition to that, I was still heavily bleeding and didn’t want to ruin my fancy outfit. The next time around, I packed clothes that were both cute and functional for resting and frequent nursing sessions.
ESSENTIAL ITEMS FOR YOUR HOSPITAL BAG
So what should you pack? Whatever will make you as comfortable as possible! Pack things that will make you feel great because once you’ve delivered, you’ll be doing everything you possibly can to make your newest love feel great. Rather than making do with what you’ll be given to wear (a rough, irritating hospital gown), bring super-soft clothes that make you feel and look good. When all sorts of unexpected things ache, you’ll want to feel cozy. Though most hospitals will provide the bare necessities, make sure to pack the following items:
A car seat needs to be present in order to take your baby home from the hospital. Make sure you know how to properly install it in your vehicle.
Phone and charger
Having your phone will allow you (or your support team) to keep family and friends updated throughout your labor and delivery. When you’re not snuggling and staring at your new love, you’ll probably want to photograph as many of those first moments together as possible to look back on and share with loved ones!
Driver’s license, insurance card, and pen
You’ll likely need these items for admission and for filling out forms after delivery. Although paperwork won’t be top of mind when you have your precious newborn to cuddle, some items must be completed before you’re allowed to leave the hospital. Using a nice pen can make it a little more pleasant.
Comfy delivery gown
Rather than wearing a stiff, scratchy hospital gown that has been worn by many women before you, check out the super-soft Bravely Labor and Delivery Gown. The Velcro front and shoulder snaps make everything so easy, from being monitored during labor to breastfeeding after delivery. In addition to that, you won’t have to worry about anyone seeing your backside as you walk down the hall – the gown doesn’t open in the back! It also has pockets so you can keep your phone on you.
There is no substitute for a few good pairs of pajamas to wear during recovery. You may not want to wear anything else! What’s great about the Davy Nursing Pajamas is that they look nice enough to lounge around in all day. I’ve even worn the Davy top with a pair of jeans, and the general public was none the wiser.
I actually felt – dare I say – sexy in the Angelina Nursing & Maternity Nightgown. I have to admit it felt so, so good to be able to see my (non-swollen) feet again and shave my legs. The dress was really soft, feminine, and flattering – and you can even use it for your going-home outfit (provided that it’s not snowing and 19 degrees outside). I still wear my Angelina!
When your milk comes in, you’ll want breast pads. Some pads can irritate sore nipples and stick to YOU more than to your bra. Since you’ll be wearing them every day and night of your life for a while, why wouldn’t you want to be comfortable? Kindred Bravely’s reusable bamboo nursing pads are soft without being bulky. Some other washable pads dimple and show through shirts – but not these! The carrying case is also a nice touch for organizing your nursing pads.
A super-comfy nursing bra
The first time around, I was so busy thinking about my baby that I completely neglected to think about my own comfort. The second time, I was better prepared and brought a couple comfy nursing bras. The French Terry Bra was soft, seamless, and easy to use when I was abruptly snapped out of slumber by the sound of my nurse wheeling my wide-eyed wonder into the room for a late-night snack. Even if you normally sleep bra-less, that life will become a thing of the past once your milk comes in.
Another great option is the Simply Sublime Nursing Bra. It allows easy access as you and your baby learn how to breastfeed and provides the support and shape you want throughout the day. The stretchy fabric is very useful since your breast size fluctuates in the early days.
Cozy and supportive tops and bottoms
During the day, visitors will likely be popping in to see you. With my first, wearing the hospital gown made me feel sick and sloppy. With my second, I brought the French Terry Tank. I loved the racerback and the fact that it flowed loosely over my postpartum belly.
For a great going-home outfit, pair this loose-fitting nursing tank with leggings. The high waist on these provides the comfort you’ll need post-delivery while also giving you extra coverage for breastfeeding sessions. I lived in leggings my first couple months postpartum. Invest in the perfect pair made specifically for mamas.
While I wouldn’t recommend bringing your favorite pair of underwear to the hospital, the Postpartum Panties are a must-pack! These support undies provide just enough compression for your abdominal muscles, and you’ll be so glad you don’t have to rely on the mesh underwear the hospital gives you.
Breast pump and pumping bra
Post-delivery, you’ll probably meet with at least one hospital lactation consultant. Bring both your pump and pumping bra with you to get some professional tutorials! Your lactation consultant will teach you the ins and outs of your particular pump model, and you’ll leave with the confidence to use both your pump and bra correctly whenever the need arises. Check out Kindred Bravely’s new and improved hands-free pumping and nursing bra!
*If your partner or coach will be staying overnight with you, he/she should also pack a small bag including a couple changes of comfortable clothing, toiletries, and some snacks – that way you won’t be left unattended when hunger strikes.
OPTIONAL ITEMS FOR YOUR HOSPITAL BAG
Your own pillow
Having my own pillow from home helped make me more comfortable in the hospital bed. Since this is where the majority of your time is spent, you’ll want to be as cozy as possible. Pillows provided by hospitals are often thin, and you may have trouble sleeping well – when you really should try to sleep as much as possible while you have the amazing support of a team of nurses.
New babies love feeling snug and secure, so super-soft swaddle blankets, like these from Aden & Anais, really come in handy. The hospital had standard swaddle blankets we were able to use during our stay and take home, but since you only see your baby in swaddled form for the first few weeks, it’s nice to have some different options with cute designs.
The hospital gave me packets of lanolin, but I didn’t like its stickiness. Instead, I used an organic nipple cream from Motherlove. In addition to helping heal sore and cracked nipples, the cream can be used as a diaper ointment! Earth Mama is another good cream we used at home. It smells like fresh-baked cookies, but you have to use it up in a timely fashion or it might congeal.
After taking my first post-delivery shower, it felt so nice to shave my legs and put on my own lotion. The hospital will probably supply you with basic items like shampoo and a bar of soap, but you’ll likely want to bring your own brush, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, and face wash.
I love recording every important moment in my children’s lives, so a baby journal was a must-have for me. There are many cute journals to choose from, but I liked this one. It had just the right combination of prompts and wide-open space to let me jot down thoughts as they came to me.
A FINAL TIP FOR PACKING YOUR HOSPITAL BAG
Since there’s no way to predict exactly when your baby will make his or her arrival, I recommend having your bag packed and ready to go by the time you hit 35 weeks. That way, if the unexpected happens, you’ll already have everything you need for the best possible start to your amazing journey into motherhood.
Want more hospital bag must-haves? Click here to see what our Instagram Manager brought with her. Do you have any other tips for what you should or should not pack in your hospital bag? We’d love to hear them. Please comment below!