There’s no one right way to pack a hospital bag when you’re preparing to give birth, but as a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve learned a few things about what you should and should not be packing.
Tip #1: Don’t over think it!
You’re not going on a weeklong vacation to the Bahamas, so please don’t pack your bathing suit! You will only be in the hospital for 1-2 days with a vaginal birth and 3-4 days with a cesarean section; so no need to bring a week’s worth of clothing and other items. Remember, you’re not going to meet the Queen. Also, you just had a baby, no one in the hospital will be expecting you to be wearing high heels. Sweats and pajamas will do just fine!
Tip #2: Pack early!
According to the Centers for Disease Control about 1 in 10 women will deliver before 37 weeks of pregnancy. You don’t need to pack everything in one day, but start putting things in your hospital bag about a month before your due date. Should you go into pre-term labor, all you have to do is grab your bag instead of frantically packing everything last minute.
Tip #3: Less is More
When it comes to your hospital bag, less really is more. I’ve seen some women bring a 5-piece luggage set for a 2 day hospital stay. The key is to consolidate and bring the items you will really use. See tip #4 for a more complete list.
Tip #4: Focus on the Essentials
- Important documents: you will need your driver’s license, health insurance information, and a copy of your birth plan if you have one
- Chapstick/ lip balm: laboring women constantly complain about dry and chapped lips. Bring a chapstick or lip moisturizer to help, preferably something without a strong scent.
- Camera/video recorder: With today’s technology, most people take photos and record video on their phone. This is perfectly acceptable, but you may also want to bring a point and shoot camera or DSLR for higher-quality images. Make sure to charge batteries and bring extra memory cards. And remember to take lots of pictures!
- Comfortable sweat pants or pajama bottoms: please DO NOT bring skinny jeans expecting to fit into them 2 hours after giving birth. They will not fit! Think sweat pants, yoga pants, or pajama pants. Bring something you’ll be comfortable wearing, preferably loose and breathable. Keep in mind if you are breastfeeding, to bring loose tops that you can easily breastfeed in. Layering items can come in handy too, such as a light jacket or robe that can easily be put on and taken off.
- Toiletry items: the nursing staff isn’t expecting you to have your full hair and make-up done. Remember, you just had a baby. We ARE expecting you to look tired, possibly have bags under your eyes, and messy hair. After giving birth you will be able to take a shower and most hospitals provide you with a small ‘sample’ size shampoo bottle. I’d recommend bringing some shampoo and conditioner, a comb/brush, deodorant, hair elastics, toothbrush/paste, and a minimal amount of make-up. Lotion is also a great thing to bring.
- Nursing or regular bra: Whether or not you choose to breastfeed, a good bra can provide support and comfort as your milk comes in. Your breasts will likely be tender and swollen and a bra can help!
- Slippers or socks: you will want something to cover your feet, especially if you’re walking around your room or the hospital unit. You don’t necessarily need to wear shoes, but I wouldn’t walk around in bare feet. A simple pair of socks, slippers or flip-flops will do just fine.
- Car Seat: This is the essential item that you absolutely MUST HAVE before leaving the hospital with your newborn. I do suggest you leave your car seat in your car until it’s time to go home because they are big and bulky and can take up a lot of space in your room.
- Baby items: your baby will need at least one outfit to go home in and a receiving blanket. You can bring more outfits to dress your baby in while at the hospital, but we will provide blankets, hats, and onesies for all newborns during your stay.
Tip #5: Leave the Rest at Home!
Leave the following items at home:
- Lots of cash or valuables
- Diapers and wipes (the hospital will provide these)
- Breast pump (if you need one the hospital can provide you with one)
- Medications/vitamins (the hospital will also provide all of these during your stay)
Optional (But not Necessary) items:
- Your favorite pillow or blanket
- Music to listen to
- Movies, laptop, games, books/magazines
- Phone/laptop chargers
- Snacks or change for vending machines.
Items the Hospital should provide:
- For Baby:
- Baby blankets, hats, onesies/shirts, burp cloths, diapers, wipes, bulb syringe, and pacifier (usually this is provided upon request only).
- For Mom:
- Sanitary pads (both large and small), mesh underwear, toiletry items like shampoo, lotion, soap, non-skid slipper socks, patient gown, pillows, blankets, towels, wash cloths
Most importantly, don’t forget to actually bring your hospital bag! We promise to bring our “A” game and friendly smiles throughout this exciting time.