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 packing hospital bag essentials, 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 during your hospital stay.”
Things to Take
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. Don’t forget to also have the name and number of your child’s pediatrician on hand, plus your preferred pharmacy if anything needs to be picked up before bringing baby home.
Birth plan–Bring plenty of extra copies for health care workers on all shifts.
Hair ties or headband.
Sugarless candies or lollipops to keep your mouth from feeling dry.
Notepad and pens to jot down questions, tips from the nurses or memories for the baby book or even baby’s feeding and changing times.
Toiletries, including toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, deodorant, face wash/wipes, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, lip balm … and whatever else you need to feel refreshed after pushing a tiny human out of your lady parts. (Don’t forget the nipple cream if planning to breastfeed—trust us.)
Snacks for your partner—and for you after delivery, when the cafeteria could be closed, and vending machines aren’t cutting it.
Cellphone and phone charger—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—if you don’t want to sleep in the provided hospital gowns. Choose sleeveless or short/loose sleeves to make blood-pressure monitoring a breeze.
Maternity or nursing bra—go up a cup size, so the girls (likely swollen and tender when your milk comes in) can get some relief.
Nursing pads—once postpartum, your milk will come in whether you plan to breastfeed or not, and you’ll appreciate the leak protection either way.
Comfortable clothes for the ride home. (You’ll still look about six months pregnant, so think maternity leggings you can wear with mesh underwear.) Make sure to bring a weather-appropriate going-home outfit for your bundle, too.
Foldable tote to fill with all the extra stuff you have to bring home (diapers, formula, gifts).
Things to Leave
Forget toting these un-necessities. They’ll just take up space, and your partner’s got enough to carry without them.
Diapers—the hospital or birthing center will have plenty, so leave your stash at home. (Your facility will likely also provide baby mittens, pacifiers, burp clothes, swaddle blankets, and onesies for your newbie.)
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 you really like … because, real talk, they will get ruined.
Hair dryer—chances are your recovery room will have one available.
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 sanitary pads, so think granny panties. (Some ladies are fine with the mesh undies that hospitals have on hand, but you can opt for your own roomy cotton briefs.)
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 the hospital pillows in your room.
Bath towel for that glorious first post-baby 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).
A mini bottle of bubbly (be it champagne or sparkling grape juice) to celebrate your newest family member.
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 motherly 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!”
By Chantel Newton