Your due date's approaching. You've taken childbirth classes. You've figured out your birth plan.
You’ve stocked up on cute onesies, diapers, and every other item you might conceivably need for your new baby – and you may want to bring all those purchases to the hospital or birthing center with you!
But most of the things you think you'll need at the hospital won't ever leave your labor and delivery bag. 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 go-bag that could be used for bringing all your hospital goodies back home (think postpartum pads, diapers for baby – and for you!).
Check out the following advice on what personal belongings you really need – and don’t need – for the first few days with your baby (and it's a good idea to check your hospital’s policies too).
What Not to Pack in Your Hospital Go Bag
Tons of food and drinks
For my first delivery, my bag was stuffed with nuts, granola bars, peanut butter crackers, teas, and Gatorade. “What if they don’t let me eat?” I worried. “What if the vending machines are terrible?”
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’ll have 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 bedhead and tired eyes that would never close as soundly again.
These days, many phones take high-quality photos and videos, so you'll be able to capture everything without lugging around another bag.
I brought diapers and wipes to the hospital for my first baby. When I held the cloth 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 my 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 received. 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.
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 dressy outfit. The next time around, I packed clothes that were both cute and functional for resting and frequent nursing sessions.
What to Pack: Your Hospital Bag Checklist
Okay, so what to bring to the hospital when having a baby?! What do you really need to pack in your hospital bag? 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.
Though most hospitals will provide the bare necessities, don't forget to pack the following must-haves:
1. Car seat
A car seat needs to be present in order to take your baby home from the hospital. Whether it's an infant car sear or a convertible car seat, make sure you know how to properly install it in your vehicle.
2. Phone and chargers
Having your cell 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 film as many of those first moments together as possible!
(Pro tip: If you meet with a hospital lactation counselor or IBCLC, you might want to film your session so you'll remember pointers when you get home.)
Bring an extra charger in case your birth partner needs one.
3. Driver’s license, insurance card, and pen
These are hospital bag essentials! You’ll likely need them 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.
It’s the simplest thing, but using a nice pen can make it a little more pleasant, especially when you're filling out your emergency contact information for the tenth time!
4. Comfy delivery gown
Rather than wearing a stiff, scratchy hospital gown that has been worn by many people before you, check out the super-soft Universal Labor & Delivery Gown, which is perfectly loose fitting.
The shoulder snaps make everything so easy, from being monitored during labor to breastfeeding after delivery. In addition to Velcro down the front, it has Velcro down the back too for easy epidural access. No uncomfy, revealing ties, so you won’t have to worry about anyone seeing your backside as you walk down the hall.
5. Ultra-soft sleepwear
There's no substitute for comfy clothes – like a few good pairs of pajamas – to wear during recovery. You may not want to wear anything else! What’s great about the Jane Maternity & Nursing Pajamas is that they look nice enough to lounge around in all day. I’ve even worn the Jane top with a pair of jeans.
I actually felt – dare I say – sexy in the Eleanora Maternity & Nursing Lounge Dress. I have to admit it felt so, so good to be able to see my (non-swollen) feet again. The dress was really soft (it's made from bamboo), feminine, and flattering – and you can even use it for your going-home outfit (provided that it’s not snowing and 19 degrees outside).
6. Breast pads
When your milk comes in, you’ll want washable 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 Organic Bamboo Nursing Pads are soft without being bulky. Some other washable nursing pads dimple and show through shirts – but not these! The carrying case is also a nice touch for organizing your nursing pads.
7. A super-comfy nursing bra
The first time around, I was so busy thinking about my baby that I completely forgot about my own comfort. The second time, I was better prepared and brought a couple of comfy nursing and maternity bras.
The French Terry Nursing Bra was soft, seamless, and easy to use when I was abruptly snapped out of slumber by the sound of my wide-eyed wonder looking for a late-night snack. Even if you normally sleep bra-less, you may feel more comfortable with light support nursing bras once your breast 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.
For a glorious combination of the two, check out the Sublime® Adjustable Crossover Bra.
8. Cozy and supportive tops and bottoms
During the day, visitors may pop in to see you (if permitted by your hospital). With my first, wearing the hospital gown made me feel sick and sloppy. With my second, I brought the Simply Sublime® Tank. I loved the clip-down cups and the fact that it was both stretchy and supportive with an extra long cut to cover my postpartum belly.
For a great going-home outfit, pair this nursing tank or the Bamboo Nursing Tank with leggings. The ultra-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 during my first couple of months postpartum. Invest in the perfect pair made specifically for mamas.
The Postpartum Panties are another hospital must-pack! You’ll be so glad you don’t have to rely on the mesh underwear the hospital gives you.
Hospital socks aren't super cozy, so I loved that I had my favorite pair of socks with me. You'll also want flip flops when you're taking a shower or pacing the halls. Some moms like having slippers for an extra touch of home. Whatever you choose, bring at least one pair of footwear that's easy to slip on; you won't want to bend to buckle or tie anything.
10. Breast pump and pumping bra
Post-delivery, you’ll probably meet with a hospital lactation consultant if you're planning to breastfeed. Bring both your pump and hands-free pumping bra with you to get some professional tutorials! Your lactation consultant will teach you the ins and outs of your particular breast pump model, and you’ll leave with the confidence to use both your pump and bra correctly whenever the need arises.
Check out our hospital bag essential collection! These essential pieces will take you from the hospital to home, bringing supreme comfort to those first moments with your new bundle of joy.
*If your birth partner or coach will be staying overnight with you, they should also pack a small bag including a couple of 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, especially if you'll be staying in the hospital for a few days.
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. (Pro tip: Consider bringing a nursing pillow too!)
The hospital gave me packets of lanolin, but I didn’t like its stickiness. Instead, use an organic nipple cream like this one. In addition to helping heal sore and cracked nipples, the cream can be used as a diaper ointment.
The hospital may supply you with basic items like travel sized shampoo and a bar of soap (maybe even a toothbrush and toothpaste), but you’ll likely want to bring your own brush, hair ties, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, lip balm, chapstick, face wash, glasses, contact case and solution. (Pro tip: Dry shampoo will be your new best friend in the early days!)
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 their arrival, I recommend having your bag packed and ready to go by the time you hit 35 weeks pregnant. 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 packing tips? Click here!
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!