You’ve been preparing for months for the arrival of your little one. Picking out names, decorating the nursery and shopping for those adorably tiny baby outfits. It's an exciting and anxious time with a lot of energy focused on your new arrival's needs.
But as any veteran mom will tell you, as delivery approaches, you’ll also want to focus on a few of your own needs. Most moms only spend one to four nights in the hospital (depending on whether your birth is vaginal or via C-section), but bringing a few essentials with you will ensure that this intense time is a lot more comfortable.
And the last thing you want to do is start sorting your packing list out once you go into labor! In most cases you’ll want your hospital bag packed and ready to go between 37 and 38 weeks (or earlier if you have a high-risk pregnancy).
That way you have everything you need in case the baby arrives early.
Before you get started, you may want to call your delivery hospital and ask what they provide for new mothers. Usually you won’t need to bring diapers, wipes and perhaps a few other basics. And anything you can take off your list can save you money and time.
To help you sort out what you need, we’ve put together a list of hospital bag must-haves for labor, delivery and recovery. We’ve also included a checklist for your partner. They may not have to push, but delivery is also an intense time for them.
Lastly, you probably need less for your baby than you think as hospitals generally provide the basics and even samples, but there are a few things you won’t want to leave out.
Alright, let’s get down to the list for packing your hospital bag before you go into labor!
Birth Plan and Other Administrative Items
If you have a birth plan, you’ll want to make several copies and bring it along to the hospital. And of course, be sure that you have your insurance card information with you.
You’ll also need to have your pediatrician's contact info readily available as your doctor and nurses will ask you for this information. Be sure you have the telephone number and email or fax so that the staff can forward your baby’s medical records.
These are the top of your must-have list. Be sure to pack a small case with your toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion.
Many moms choose to bring face wipes instead of face wash as they’re more convenient. And dry shampoo can also be a lifesaver if you don’t have the energy to hit the shower.
You’ll also want to remember your hairbrush and some hair ties to pull your hair back (hair clips might feel a little too pokey and uncomfortable during this time). A stretchy headband is also a great item to throw in your toiletry bag.
As far as a hairdryer goes, skip it! You most likely won’t have the energy to use it.
And remember, travel sizes of everything will save space in your bag for other essentials.
Hospital air is notoriously dry, which is why many veteran moms consider this small item a priority. It will soothe your lips and keep them in good shape for all of those pics with your newborn!
Heather Hoke, mother of two and content creator for Embracing Chaos with Love, also adds, “For my first delivery in a hospital I forgot chapstick and hair ties. I was miserable without them.”
“Your lips get super chapped and I was sweating so much I ended up using a rubber band I found for my hair so I could put it up. Those are the two things I did not want to be without for my second delivery,” Hoke continues.
Slippers or Non-skid Socks
Yes, there will be pacing during your labor. A lot of it most likely. You’ll want something easy to slip in and out of as you wander the halls.
Yes, they do have what some people refer to as food in a hospital. But a few of your favorite snacks will give you a tastier option and will also help to keep your energy up.
Choose non-perishable items like protein bars, trail mix, crackers or whatever else you like.
Marissa LaBuz, founder of Just Simply Mom and mom of two, also adds some insight about the importance of snacks.
LaBuz says, “Hospital food is not very appetizing and you will be starving, especially if you can’t eat for many hours during labor. Pack a few non-perishable snacks of choice (granola bars, crackers, goldfish) in-between meals or as a replacement.”
Labor and delivery involve a lot of sweating. And those tiny paper cups of water that they give you at the hospital may not feel like enough when your mouth is dry.
Extra Long Phone Charger
You’re definitely going to need your phone when you’re in the hospital, and the outlet may be further from your bed than you think. Bring one with an extra-long cord, so you always have enough battery for all those pics and messages to loved ones.
You’re probably not going to want to deal with contacts and solution when you’re in the hospital. Be sure not to forget your glasses if you wear them (you can always take them off for pics).
Comfy Recovery Clothes
After the baby has arrived, you’re probably going to want to get out of that hospital gown asap. Bringing some of your comfy clothes from home will help to put you at ease.
Whatever you choose, make sure it’s soft, breathable and has plenty of room!
Adult Diapers or Granny Pants and Pads
Most hospitals will give you mesh underwear and pads while you’re recovering from birth. But a lot of moms find them to be scratchy.
Instead, some mothers prefer adult diapers (we know you’re still in your childbearing years, but a lot of moms say they’re more comfortable).
Another option is to bring a pair of high-waisted underwear and your favorite pads. Whatever you choose, leave your good underwear at home!
Perineal Healing Foam
Yes, it’s going to be sore down there.
And while the hospital will give you an ice pack, bringing some perineal foam will help jump-start your recovery. This one from Frida provides healing pain relief and helps to reduce swelling.
It also doesn’t have any harsh chemicals.
While you and your baby are learning to breastfeed, your nipples are probably going to get sore. A little soothing nipple cream will help you ease into the routine.
This one from Mother Love is organic and lanolin-free. Good for you and safe for the baby!
La Buz from Just Simply Mom also shares, “Once I got home I bought Ameda Gel pads and they were a life saver. They provided a cooling feeling in between feedings and helped me recover faster.” You can find Ameda ComfortGel on Amazon.
Nursing Bra or Tanks
Another good item to have if you’re planning on breastfeeding is a nursing bra. But if you prefer, a tank can be another comfortable option. Some mothers prefer to go au natural and just wear a loose-fitting top.
It’s all about whatever makes you comfortable!
The battle to keep from staining everything you own is just beginning. Do yourself and your clothes a favor and bring along a few nursing pads if your hospital doesn’t provide them.
An Outfit to Go Home In
Again, you’ll probably want something loose-fitting and comfortable for the car ride home. That includes shoes!
Other Nice-to-Have Items
While many moms consider the above items must-haves, there are also a few items that aren’t exactly basics but are still nice to have. It’s all about you and what makes you comfortable.
Here are a few extra things to consider:
If bathing in the hospital shower gives you the heebie-jeebies, bring along a pair of cheap shower sandals or flip flops to put yourself at ease.
Your Own Pillow
Hospital pillows are pretty flimsy in general, so bringing your own could give some much-needed comfort. Just be sure to put it in a colorful pillowcase, so the staff will know it’s yours!
A Cozy Blanket
Baby isn’t the only one that needs a blankie sometimes. If it helps you feel better, bring it along!
Your Own Towel
Yes, hospitals have towels, but they're usually pretty scratchy. Again it’s up to you, but a nice fluffy towel could be just the thing for your first shower after delivery.
Some moms just need their jams. If it helps to relax or inspire you, come prepared with a list of your favorite songs.
Again it’s not an absolute must-have, but if you’re into aromatherapy, some soothing scents can also be very comforting.
What To Pack For Your Baby
You won’t need to pack nearly as much for your baby as you will for yourself as most hospitals will provide things like diapers, wipes, onesies and other samples. Still, there are a few basics that you will need.
A Car Seat
This is an absolute must-have item as the hospital won’t allow you to drive your baby home without one. Be sure yours is installed well ahead of time in case your new arrival shows up early!
A Going Home Outfit
You won’t need to pack a lot of clothing for your little one’s first few days, but he or she will need something for the ride home. Be sure you pack an outfit that’s appropriate for the weather as babies are sensitive to the cold.
A Warm Blanket
Although the hospitals will provide you with a swaddling blanket, you may want to bring an extra warm one in case it’s cold outside.
Hindi Zeidman, mom, infant mental health clinician and founder of the Ollie World, also shares why she thinks swaddles are so important to bring!
Zeidman explains, “Since a good swaddle mimics the womb environment, it can help baby with the transition to the outside world right after birth, helping them feel safe and secure just the way they did inside the womb.”
“A moisture wicking swaddle even helps their tiny bodies regular their temperature better making sure they do not overheat. And maybe best of all, it calms and soothes babies and helps them sleep better and longer,” Zeidman continues.
A Few More Tips
As mentioned, hospitals provide diapers and wipes, so don’t bother to pack them. In fact, you may want to save some extra space in your baby’s bag for all the items that the hospital gives you for your newborn.
Take as many of the items as you can as they can be expensive, and the hospital is charging you for them anyway!
What Your Partner Should Pack
Ultimately your partner will have to decide what their must-haves are during your delivery and recovery time. But in case your partner needs a little help organizing, here are a few things to remind them about.
Cell Phone Charger
Your partner will probably be your contact with the outside world, so be sure that they never run out of battery for all those important messages.
Change of Clothes
You may be doing all the work, but partners often get sweaty and nervous around delivery time. Be sure they bring a change of clothes!
Snack and Drinks
Like you, your partner will need to eat and stay hydrated. Bringing their own snacks will keep them from raiding your own supplies and save them from having to go on hospital food foraging missions.
There’s going to be a lot of waiting around before push time, so be sure your partner has something to pass the time (other than tracking your contractions!). A Kindle or an iPad to watch a movie on will help.
Again, hospital pillows aren’t so comfy. When your partner has a chance to catch a few z’s having a nice pillow will help them rest better. And a light sleeping bag wouldn't hurt either!
Check, Check, Check
Although for some expectant mothers the last few months of pregnancy may seem to drag on forever, you’ll be meeting your little one before you know it. So whatever you decide, your hospital essentials are, be sure to make a hospital bag checklist and gather your items early.
Of course, there may be some things that you can’t put in your bag until the last minute. That’s why it’s a good idea to write a post-it with all the items you’ll be putting in just before you go and leave it on top of your bag. You never know, your due date might sneak up on you!
They say nothing will prepare you for motherhood. And that may be true. But with your handy checklist, at least you’ll be prepared with your hospital bag essentials to spend a few nights in the hospital after the big day.
Congratulations to all you new mommies!
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