Generally, if you’re going into labor, you’ll have enough time to throw a bag together and get to the hospital. But that definitely doesn’t mean you should wait until the last possible moment.
No one wants to be scrambling to find their slippers and their hospital bag checklist while trying to breathe through contractions!
And since you could be at the hospital for at least 24 hours (for an uncomplicated vaginal birth) or 2-4 days for a c-section, you’ll need a little more than just a toothbrush and overnight clothes.
Hospital also usually provide you with a few hospital bag essentials, but having some extra bits of your own in your hospital bag can make your birthing experience that bit more you.
But what should you pack? And more importantly, what’s absolutely essential? Don’t worry, we’ve got you.
We’re here to help you get set for the big day with our tried-and-tested best hospital bag checklist - a complete list of every single thing you might need or want.
In this article: 📝
- When to pack a hospital bag
- What to pack in the hospital bag for mama
- What to pack in the hospital bag for baby
- What to pack in the hospital bag for your birth partner or support person
- Optional items for your hospital bag
- What not to pack in a hospital bag
- Other things to do before you leave for the hospital
When to pack a hospital bag
The last thing you want to be worrying about when labor kicks in is packing your maternity hospital bag.
To make your birthing experience that bit smoother, we recommend packing your hospital bag between 35-37 weeks.
35 weeks may sound early, but only 5% of babies are actually born on their due date, so it’s always good to be prepared where possible.
So although there’s no telling when your little one will arrive, having your bags packed a few weeks before your due date is a wise decision, just in case they decide to make a surprise appearance.
It’s also a good idea to leave your hospital bag in your car, rather than by your front door, because you never know where you’ll be when labor strikes!
What to pack in the hospital bag for mama
While you don’t want to overpack your maternity hospital bag, it can make things a little easier if you pack three hospital bags: one labor bag, one postpartum bag, and another for your birth partner.
So whether you’re packing your c-section hospital bag or your hospital bag for labor, here’s our ultimate hospital bag checklist:
- Your birth plan and other important documents. Make sure you have multiple copies of your birth plan and labor notes, and don’t forget any hospital paperwork, ID, your (new) pediatrician’s contact details, and your insurance card.
- Phone and charger, obvs. You’re probably going to want to keep your family and friends updated and take those first few sweet pics. Plus, your phone will come in handy for posting an announcement on Peanut. One with an extra-long cable can be doubly useful.
- Your favorite pillow. Hospital pillows aren’t exactly comfortable, so bring your own from home to ensure you sleep like a baby (pun intended!).
- Comfortable clothing. Loose, comfortable clothing is key when it comes to labor and delivery. There will be a lot of action below the waist, though, so leggings or pajama bottoms aren’t necessary. Some light layers are ideal because your body temperature can fluctuate from hot to cold in a matter of minutes.
- Going home outfit. If you want to leave the hospital in a particular outfit, don’t forget to pack it!
- A nursing bra, nursing tank, and nursing pads. Whether you plan to breastfeed or not, you’ll appreciate the support and leak protection.
- Underwear. And lots of it. And lots of it. You’ll probably be given disposable underwear by your hospital, but you can always choose to wear your own - as long as they’re comfortable, big enough for maternity pads, and you don’t mind them getting messy.
- Maxi pads. The extra-absorbent ones are probably a good idea.
- Headband or scrunchies. Trust us, you’ll want something to keep your hair back and out of your face during labor.
- A sports bra. If you plan on laboring in water at any point, a water-resistant bra will come in handy.
- Flip flops and slip-on shoes. Flip flops are essential for hospital showers, and slip-on shoes are ideal to head home in (heads up: your feet will probably still be a little swollen!).
- A robe. Every mama needs a warm, cosy robe to put on after that first post-labor shower.
- Glasses, contacts, etc. You may have a looooong day (and night!) ahead of you, so if you wear contacts or glasses, make sure you bring them along too.
- Toiletries. Throw in all of the essentials you use daily - like a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hairbrush, body wash, shampoo and conditioner, skincare, and makeup.
- Lip balm. You’ll be surprised how dry your lips will feel after labor, so be sure to pack your favorite soothing balm.
- Nipple balm. Planning to breastfeed? Your boobs will thank you for this one!
- Your favorite snacks. Labor is pretty energy-consuming! Take plenty of nutritious snacks like cereal bars and pack a few isotonic drinks to give you a boost, too.
- Reusable water bottle. Trust us, you’re gonna be seriously thirsty after working so hard during labor. Drink up!
- Tote bag. For any gifts from well-wishers or supplies from the hospital.
- Sugar-free hard candies. A must-have for keeping your mouth moist during all that intense breathing.
- Things to keep you busy. Believe it or not, you might have some downtime before the baby makes their big appearance, so bring a book (or audiobook), puzzle book, magazine, earbuds, or iPad. Downloading a film, your favorite TV show, or a playlist can also keep you entertained without the need for (sometimes spotty) hospital WiFi.
What to pack in the hospital bag for baby
So now you know what to pack for yourself, what about my baby bag for hospital? What should I pack for the hospital for baby?
Don’t fret, we’ve got you covered with a baby hospital bag checklist:
- Sleepsuits and vests. Depending on the length of your hospital stay, baby might need a few changes of clothes.
- A going-home outfit. Pro tip: bring a few options in different sizes as you can never be too sure how big your little peanut will be. Don’t forget to pack a baby hospital outfit depending on the weather!
- A hat, socks, and booties. Babies can get cold easily, so you might want to pack some extra layers.
- Newborn mittens. A must-have to stop baby from scratching their face.
- Warm blankets. The hospital might give you one for the ride home, but bring an extra just in case.
- Burp cloths. The hospital will provide you with baby blankets that you can use for spit-up, but burp cloths are about to be a big part of your life, so get used to bringing them everywhere!
- A car seat. Although it won’t fit in your actual hospital bag, you should have your car seat installed at the same time you’re packing for the big day.
What to pack in the hospital bag for your birth partner or support person
Now what about a hospital bag checklist for your partner or whoever else you choose to have in the room?
If your birth partner is allowed to stay overnight, or they’ll be staying for a few hours, it’s worth them packing their own labor hospital bag.
- Comfortable shoes. A must-have for someone who might be pacing the corridors!
- A change of clothes. Some hospitals will allow your birth partner to stay overnight, some won’t. But either way, it’s good to be prepared.
- Swimwear. Just in case you’d like them to join you in your birthing pool.
- Snacks. No one likes food from a hospital vending machine.
- Phone and charger. For even more sweet pics and announcing to the world.
- Any daily prescription medication for both parents.
- A pillow. In case they want to try and grab some sleep in a chair, a pillow will make things more comfortable.
- Things to keep them busy. Your partner will probably have downtime too, so throw in some light reading or an iPad to keep them occupied.
- List of people to tell. Having “the text” ready to go can make your birth announcement that bit easier and quicker.
- A hand-held fan. Your birth partner can help keep you cool during labor.
Optional items for your hospital bag
Since this is the ultimate hospital bag checklist, we’ve also got a few nice-to-haves in your labor hospital bag:
- Portable speaker. If you want to introduce baby to some of your favorite jams or relax with a meditation playlist, a speaker is a good idea.
- Birthing playlist. Birth can sometimes be a lengthy experience, so it can be useful to create your own birthing playlist ‒ songs that relax you, perk you up, or songs that you want baby to hear.
- Bath towels for both parents. The hospital will provide some, but you might prefer a home comfort.
- Breast pump. A lot of hospitals have lactation consultants to help if you’re new to breastfeeding and you’d like to try it. It’s handy to bring your pump with you so they can show you how best to use it.
- A hairdryer. Ideally a small, travel-size one.
- Low-rise postpartum underwear. If you’re packing for a C-section birth, low-rise underwear is ideal for your stitches.
- A breastfeeding pillow. The Boppy is a fan favorite.
- Massage oils. When it comes to having a baby, anything that helps you unwind is worth packing in your hospital bag.
- Pacifier. While a lot of hospitals do sell pacifiers, they can be quite pricey, so it’s worth bringing your own, if you’d like to use one.
- Peri bottle. A peri (as in perineum) bottle is a little bottle that can help clean and soothe your vagina after birth.
- A basket of goodies for the staff and nurses. A great way to show your appreciation for their hard work and support.
- Gift for older children. A ‘gift from the baby’ can be a sweet way to introduce your little peanut to your bigger peanut(s).
- Peanut ball or birth ball. A birth ball (or peanut ball) can be a comfortable way to sit while you’re working through labor pains.
- Baby book. After your baby’s born, the nurse will get your baby’s footprints, so if you bring your baby book, she can also get those sweet footprints and/or handprints in your baby book too!
What not to pack in a hospital bag
There is such a thing as packing too much in your hospital bag.
So here are our suggestions of what not to include in your hospital bag checklist:
- Expensive jewelry. You wouldn’t want to accidentally lose anything sentimental or pricey while you’re… busy bringing a baby into the world.
- Incense and candles. Most hospitals are scent-free due to people’s allergies
- More than one outfit for baby. Just pack for the weather, there’s no need for more than one going home outfit for baby.
- Diapers. Hospitals usually provide you with a few newborn diapers, so you shouldn’t need any until you get home.
Other things to do before you leave for the hospital
Just like having your hospital bag ready for when you go into labor, there are a few other things you can do before you leave the house to make your return from hospital that bit easier.
- Prep food for when you get back home. Freezing prepared meals, or getting your favorite takeaway menus ready so you have something to eat when you get back home.
- Wash burp cloths, crib sheets, and baby clothes. You certainly don’t have to pre-wash everything in baby’s new wardrobe, but a few essentials (especially burp cloths) ready to go can save a little time later on.
- Set up baby’s crib or bassinet. Complete with bedding.
- Prepare for your birth announcement. If you wanted to do an ‘official’ birth announcement, you can get your photo props ready before you leave.
- Install baby’s car seat. It can be tricky to get it right, so getting some practice in and getting things set up to take baby home is a good idea.
- Stock up on household essentials. Check that you’ve got all you need in the house for everyday life ‒ an online grocery shop is quick and easy, and you won’t have to trek through the shopping aisles.
- Check someone can pet-sit. If you have any pets, check, ahead of time, who can look after your fur-baby, especially if you’re staying overnight.
And there you have it, your hospital bag is all set!
Once you’ve got your hospital bag and pre-birth checklist ready to go, why not share it with your community of mamas-to-be on Peanut?