Inside: Wondering what to pack in your hospital bag for birth? We’ve got your covered. Get this FREE hospital bag checklist printable for labor and delivery, so you don’t forget a thing!
A few months ago, I started packing my hospital bag. The fifth time around, you would think I’d know all the hospital bag essentials off the top of my head.
Nope. I still worried that I’d forget some crucial item.
I ran through my mental checklist over and over in my mind.
Still, I didn’t stress too much because we live very close to the hospital. Worst case scenario, my husband ran back home to grab whatever I forgot.
But if you live more than ten minutes away from the hospital, forgetting to pack anything you’d need for labor and delivery can be SO stressful, especially as a first-time mama!
Fresh off that stress and anxiety, I put together this printable hospitable bag checklist for labor and delivery, just for new moms going through all this for the first time.
You can start getting these hospital bag essentials together in your third trimester, though I’ll cover when to start packing your hospital bag more specifically later on (for those who love precision!).
However, you’ll still need to print the checklist and put it in your hospital bag because some of these items are things you use every day.
Unless you have multiple phone chargers or backup makeup bags lying around, then you’ll need to pack those items right before you head to the hospital.
And remembering anything when you’re in labor for the first time is pretty much impossible. You’ll be all over the place.
So seriously, grab the checklist – you’re going to need it!
When to Start Packing Your Hospital Bag
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I always started packing my hospital bag around 34 weeks pregnant. You just never know if you’re going to be one of those moms who goes into pre-term labor.
During one of my pregnancies, I fell down a set of basement steps around 34-35 weeks and ended up in the hospital for monitoring. My contractions subsided quickly, but I was thankful to have my hospital bag packed and ready to go.
My personal recommendation is to start putting your bag together around 34 weeks. If you don’t want to put both sets of clothes in your hospital bag that early, pack at least one set of clothes.
Put together a small travel bag with extra toiletries, and make sure your makeup is all in one makeup bag, ready to be tossed in quickly before heading to the hospital.
The more you already have packed in your hospital bag, the easier it will be to grab it and go right when you need to.
Hospital Bag Checklist (for mom)
As I mentioned, whatever you can get packed ahead of time, absolutely do it. But keep the printable checklist in your hospital bag, ready to go for when you suspect it’s time to head into the hospital.
Here’s what you really need in your hospital bag (from a mom who’s done this whole deal five times now) in no particular order.
1) Phone Charger
You don’t want to be without a fully charged phone at the hospital! Don’t miss those first pictures and texts because your phone is dead.
While it seems unlikely right now that you’d forget your phone, you’d be surprised! I almost did. I had to double, triple check when heading to the hospital a few months ago.
It’s the things that seem the most obvious that you are most likely to forget.
You may want to listen to music or watch a show to distract yourself during labor. Be sure to pack your headphones somewhere you can find them – they get buried so easily!
I recently heard about this cute little case that prevents your headphones from getting tangled and lost in your purse. Perfect for your hospital bag and later, your diaper bag.
4) Magazines/Light Reading
Distraction during the early stages of labor is key, and even if you adore a deep non-fiction book, that’s not what you need at the hospital. If you don’t usually buy magazines, borrow a few magazines from your local library.
I also found that an easy to read fiction book that I’ve read before was always a great addition to my hospital bag. It kept me distracted enough that I wasn’t feeling the contractions, and because I already knew the outcome of the story, I didn’t feel like I needed to pay too much attention to the details.
5) Wallet with Insurance Card/Driver’s License
Make sure to double check your wallet leading up to the big day. Last month, I realized I left my license in the cash envelope I received from the bank. I only noticed when I really needed it.
Don’t let that happen to you!
6) Registration Paperwork
It’s always, always, always better to pre-register, and I haven’t delivered at a hospital yet that didn’t offer that option. This is on my third trimester checklist HERE.
But if for some reason, you didn’t get a chance to pre-register, make sure to bring the paperwork with you.
7) Your Own Socks
Most hospitals provide socks, and some new moms love them. But after delivery, I usually opted for my own comfy socks to get around the hospital room in. Even if you’re delivering in the middle of summer, you’re still going to want socks because hospital temperatures vary so widely.
I also never felt completely comfortable going barefoot on a hospital room floor. You just never know what’s gone on in your room before you got there.
If your due date is during the winter, you could pack slippers as well.
I never wear robes at home, but I bought a robe specifically for labor and delivery. I wore it with every baby since then. You could probably get by with a cardigan if you don’t own a robe already (see next item).
9) Open Front Cardigan or Sweatshirt
If you are planning to breastfeed, make sure to pack a layer that can easily open in the front. Learning to breastfeed isn’t always easy, and cumbersome sweaters or top layers can make it even more frustrating.
10) Nursing Tanks
Pack at least two nursing tanks in your hospital bag, three if you want to play it safe. See below why I do NOT recommend packing nursing bras.
11) Comfy Pants
Whether or have a vaginal delivery or a c-section, comfy pants are a must-have for after labor and delivery. But make sure to choose pajama pants that are dark-colored – black, navy, or brown – just in case of stains from leaking postpartum discharge (if that grosses you out, sorry, that’s labor for you!).
12) Breastfeeding Tops
These aren’t essential, but I discovered them with my last baby and really loved having these at the hospital! I purchased two types: crossover tops like this one and sweaters with front zippers like these.
They can be a great alternative to an open-front sweater or sweatshirt.
Not much is provided for you at the hospital as far as toiletries go. Every hospital I’ve delivered in provides the bare minimum, usually a small bar of soap and a tiny bottle of mediocre shampoo.
You’ll want your own toiletries, either the full bottles or travel size versions.
Two things I forgot last time around were a razor and nail clippers. If these are must-haves for you, don’t forget to pack them! I’ll add them to the hospital bag checklist just in case.
14) Toothbrush & Toothpaste
I’m listing this separately from toiletries because it’s so easy to forget these! You’ll need to pack them just before heading to the hospital.
Even if you’re not a big make-up girl, makeup can make you feel more human after the unspeakables of first-time labor. Pack it.
16) Extra Towel(s)
Hospital towels kind of suck. You can get by with them for the first day, but sometimes, they forget to provide you with new ones.
The towels can also get kind of gross with everything going on down there. Also, your spouse will likely stay at the hospital with you and will need a towel, too.
17) Your Own Pillow
Again, it’s a hospital we’re talking about, not a hotel. Their pillows aren’t amazing.
You are absolutely going to want your own pillow for the little sleep you get.
18) Vitamins & Medications
Don’t forget to pack any current medications, including your prenatal vitamins.
19) Glasses/Contact Lenses
Make sure to bring your glasses case and contact case and solution. You may want both at the hospital.
What’s NOT on This Hospital Bag Checklist (for mom)?
There are a couple things that I personally don’t think you need to pack in your hospital bag, and here’s why you don’t need them.
You can pack your own underwear if you want, but why ruin your good underwear? Postpartum is messy down there, so I highly recommend you stick to disposables for the first week at least.
Hospitals provide mesh underwear and pads to wear after birth.
2) Nursing Bras
I have NO idea why every hospital bag checklist I’ve seen recommends a nursing bra! Even if I had the most comfortable nursing bra in the world, my postpartum boobs just weren’t ready for a nursing bra for at least a few weeks.
Nursing tanks, on the other hand, are hospital bag essentials. They are a life-saverl for those first few weeks when your breasts are engorged and sore and their size is fluctuating. They are much more forgiving than nursing bras and open more easily to ensure a proper latch.
Plus, nursing bras can put you at risk for developing mastitis. If they are too tight or don’t open fully enough for baby to get a good latch, they can cause plugged ducts, which can lead to mastitis. Trust me – I just developed mastitis from this very issue (a nursing bra that was just slightly too tight) and it is NOT something you want to get.
Quick Side Note: Have you seen this awesome breastfeeding course? It’s dirt cheap for everything it covers, plus it gives you so much more information than the tiny breastfeeding segment in the typical childbirth class (need an online version of that, too? Check out THIS course). Plus, you can watch it at home on your own time, and you’ll have access to it forever for troubleshooting after birth!
What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag for a Planned C-section
If you are having a planned c-section, you’re probably wondering what to pack in your hospital bag for a c-section that’s different from a mom having a vaginal delivery.
With a c-section, you will typically stay in the hospital four days, instead of two. Therefore, you will definitely need more clothes than suggested in the original checklist. You may also want to pack larger toiletries than the travel-sized versions for that length of hospital stay.
You will also want to be absolutely sure that your pants have a stretchy and comfortable waistband, since your incision site will be tender after the c-section.
What to Pack in Your Car for the Drive to the Hospital
Just in case your water breaks before or on your way to the hospital, be sure to put a towel and a large plastic bag or sheet in your car. Also pack a swaddle blanket and soft towel for a baby.
Take it from someone whose water broke before going into labor with my first – when you’re gushing fluids every other minute, pads don’t hold it all. You’re going to want to protect your car seat.
The blanket and soft towel are just in case you don’t make it to the hospital and end up delivering in the car. Not likely, but it has happened!
Hospital Bag Checklist for Baby
What should I pack for the hospital for baby? Almost everything your baby will need is provided by the hospital. So, unless you have something against Pampers diapers, you aren’t going to need much to pack much for your baby.
The two things I packed were:
1) A Going-Home Outfit for Baby
Make sure to choose something seasonally appropriate. You don’t want baby to be too cold or too warm in her car seat on the way home from the hospital.
2) A Baby Blanket
You can either pack a sentimental blanket or a swaddle blanket, depending on the season and whether or not your car set has an additional zipped liner.
If you want to use only organic diapers or have specific pacifiers you want to use, you can pack those as well.
Hospital Bag Checklist for Birth Partner
I already mentioned that you need to pack extra towels for both you and your birth partner, but here are a few more suggestions if you’re wondering, “What should I pack in a hospital bag for dad (or birth partner)?”
1. Pillow and Blanket
Your birth partner is probably going to want his/her own pillow and blanket for naps and possibly sleeping at the hospital overnight after delivery. Accommodations for birth partners vary from hospital to hospital, and you never know what you’re doing to get. At least having your own bedding can help him/her sleep better.
I don’t know what it is about men, but I frequently hear stories about first-time dads forgetting to eat before going to the hospital. My husband did! Then, they’re freaking starving (and therefore, useless as a birth coach).
Pack some snacks for your birth partner. If your hospital allows you to eat during labor (most of mine did not), throw in some snacks for you, too.
3. Two Sets of Clean Clothes
During your first labor, your spouse or birth partner is likely going to stay with you until you are discharged.
Especially now that many hospitals are moving away from encouraging moms to send their babies to the nursery at night (or eliminating nurseries altogether!), you are going to need someone there to care for your baby so you can get some sleep.
4. Toiletries & Medications
Your birth partner will also need any toiletries, medications, toothbrush, etc.
5. Headphones and/or Reading
After the baby is born, there will definitely be periods of downtime for your spouse or birth partner. Make sure to pack a book or headphones for movie watching, so the baby won’t wake up.
6. Phone & Camera
If you plan on taking nice photos, make sure to pack your camera! Most phones these days, however, have a great camera built in with easier sharing features.
We didn’t bother to bring ours and saved nice photos for home.
3 Best Hospital Bags (if you don’t have one)
If you don’t already have a small travel bag that can double as a hospital bag, now is a great time to invest in one.
I didn’t have one with this last baby, so I purchased one specifically for the occasion and have used it for additional hospital stays and short trips.
You don’t want your hospital bag to be too small if you are having a planned c-section and need to pack extra clothes and full-sized toiletries.
The best hospital bags will be any bag you would pack for a short vacation. Having a couple sections to separate clothing from toiletries and your baby’s items is also helpful.
These 3 bags get the best reviews on Amazon and are very affordable!
This bag has an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. A few reviewers out of 150 mentioned it had a slight chemical smell when it arrived, and they also mentioned being disappointed that the bag did not stand up on its own as pictured when not filled.
However, the majority of reviewers were positive about the look and size of the bag and the variety of pockets to store different sized items.
This bag gets nearly all 5-star reviews. And the 4-star review doesn’t mention any negatives!
One buyer writes, “Guys I’m soooo impressed with the quality of this bag!!! It’s a thick canvas material. The inside is well lined the leather is good quality!! It looks super high end for the price!!”
Of 39 reviews, only two women gave it four stars. One mentioned not receiving the free cosmetic bag as described. The second had nothing negative to say, simply noting it was a nice quality bag.
Printable Hospital Bag Checklist for Labor & Delivery
Don’t forget to grab your free printable hospitable bag checklist to put on top of your hospital bag. That way you can check everything off right before you head out the door.
Are you a second or third-time mama reading this article?
What essentials on this hospital bag checklist did I miss? Share in the comments!
Owner of Growing Serendipity, June could talk to you all day about homeschooling, parenting, and minimalism, which she does at This Simple Balance. When she’s not homeschooling, decluttering, or blogging, she loves to enjoy perfect silence while sipping a hot cup of coffee and thinking uninterrupted thoughts—which, of course, with five kids, doesn’t happen very often.