There are plenty of lists (even lists of lists—yes, we’re looking at you, Pinterest) that aim to run down every possible item you might want to have with you in the delivery room. But what’s really worth hauling to the hospital, and what’s better left at home? We’ve done the legwork and compiled the only checklist you’ll need when it comes time to pack your hospital bag, so you can get back to more important things, like resting up for the big day.
“In general, with a labor bag, I am of the ‘less is more’ approach, but some parents want to pack the kitchen sink—and that’s OK,” says Cara Terreri, LCCE, childbirth educator and doula in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “It’s about what eases your anxiety going into birth, even if you never use half the items in your bag.”
If you’re traveling light, these are the must-haves you won’t want to forget.
- Photo ID, insurance card and any other hospital paperwork.
- Birth plan—bring plenty of extra copies for nurses on all shifts.
- Ponytail holder or headband.
- Sugarless candies or lollipops to keep your mouth from feeling dry.
- Notepad and pens to jot down questions, tips from the nurses, memories for the baby book or even baby’s feeding times.
- Toiletries, including toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, deodorant, face wash, shampoo, lotion … and whatever else you need to feel refreshed after pushing a tiny human out of your lady parts.
- Snacks for your partner—and for you after delivery, when the cafeteria could be closed.
- Cellphone and charger—plus, a prepaid phone card if your facility doesn’t allow cellphones, so you can let loved ones know your little one is finally here.
- Who-to-call list, so you don’t forget anyone when you’re exhausted and preoccupied with the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.
- Camera, memory card and charger for that first family portrait.
- Socks and/or slippers.
- Nightgown or pajamas—choose sleeveless or short/loose sleeves to make blood-pressure monitoring a breeze.
- Nursing or maternity bra—go up a cup size, so the girls (likely swollen and tender when your milk comes in) can get some relief.
- Nursing pads—your milk will come in whether you plan to breastfeed or not, and you’ll appreciate the leak protection either way.
- Comfortable outfit to wear home. (You’ll still look about six months pregnant, so think maternity clothes not prebaby skinny jeans.)
- Foldable tote to fill with all the extra stuff you have to bring home (diapers, formula, gifts).
Forget toting these un-necessities. They’ll just take up space, and dad’s got enough to carry without them.
- Diapers—the hospital will have plenty, so leave your stash at home. (You’ll need it later!)
- Extra absorbent maxi pads—see above.
- Breast pump—they’ll have a hospital-grade model for you to use should you need one.
- Stopwatch—no need to time contractions, a monitor (or nurse) will track those for you.
- Any clothes or nighties you really like … because, trust us, they will get ruined.
These maybes are entirely up to you. Some mamas love having a few added comforts; some prefer sticking to bare essentials.
- Birthing ball and pump.
- Heating pad, lotion, oils or massage tools (tennis balls work wonders) to help with labor pains.
- Extra (cheap) pairs of underwear—you’ll be sporting those supersized maxi pads, so think granny panties. (Some ladies are fine with the mesh unmentionables that hospitals have on hand, but you can opt for your own roomy cotton briefs.)
- Water bottle.
- Robe, if you want something cozy or if you plan on walking the halls during labor.
- Favorite pillow—pick a patterned case, so it doesn’t get mixed up with hospital laundry.
- Towel for that glorious first postbaby shower—you’ll have one to use at the hospital, but it won’t be as plush as your at-home options.
- Flip-flops or some other shower shoes.
- Stool softener (because pushing out the baby was hard enough).
- Nursing pillow.
- A mini bottle of bubbly (be it champagne or sparkling grape juice) to celebrate your newest family member.
- A photo of your other children, so they know you were thinking of them—or a gift for older siblings “from baby” to kick-start the bonding process.
- A small basket of goodies to share with the staff. (You’ll be seeing a lot of each other for a few days, so showing gratitude early on never hurts!)
Whether you choose to surround yourself with the comforts of home or you’d rather get in and get out with minimal fuss, trust your mama instincts to create the birthing environment that suits your family. No one knows you—or your baby—better than you do.
“Packing the hospital bag is often a fun and exciting task during a woman’s pregnancy—it signals that baby’s arrival is coming soon, and all of a sudden the idea of meeting your baby becomes more real,” says Terreri. “Try not to get caught up as much with the ‘when’ and ‘what’ of packing, but rather relish the time spent being able to complete a task with both hands free—something you will miss once baby comes!”