With how much stuff I brought to the hospital when I had my first child, I am still surprised at how much I wished I had packed in my hospital bag. And it was all so disorganized, I couldn’t find anything.
With my second baby, I was way more prepared. Not only did I bring a lot less stuff, but also what I did bring was way more useful.
So, here is everything you need to know when it comes to when and what to pack in your hospital bag. Plus, tips on hospital bag essentials, last minute items and how to organize it all.
When to Pack Your Hospital Bag
You really should pack your hospital bag twice. You should have a basic hospital bag, which will have things you absolutely have to have. As you get closer to your due date, that bag will turn into your complete hospital bag, which should have everything you would want and need.
When to pack a basic hospital bag:
Honestly, I would pack a basic hospital bag the moment you hit your third trimester. You never know what is going to happen. I have had friends who had their baby 6 weeks early. So be sure to have an overnight bag for both you, your other half and baby that is packed and ready to go once you enter your third trimester.
When to pack your complete hospital bag:
I would have your complete hospital bag ready to go when you enter your last month of pregnancy (so four weeks before your due date). However, if you are expecting twins or multiples, then have that bag ready to go a few weeks earlier (so 6-8 weeks before your due date).
Hospital Bag Essentials
Here are things you absolutely have to have. Like I said above, this is what you want to pack ASAP. Since I will cover each item in more detail later, I will just give you a quick list of the essentials you need.
Besides these items, everything else is nice to have. The only other ones you will need to bring are the last-minute hospital bag items.
- Nursing bra
- Going home clothing
- Shower Flip flops
- A few changes of clothing
- Shower Flip Flops
- Going home outfit
- Car seat
Tip: Something I didn’t know is that most hospitals have everything for baby including diapers, diaper cream, wipes, and blankets for swaddling. Our hospital even gave baby a hat. Ask when you go on your hospital tour, so you don’t show up with 30 diapers for baby like I did.
Hospital Bag Checklist for Mom to Be
When it comes to packing your items, you should have two bags: a labor bag and a recovery bag. Depending on how much you decide to put in your labor bag, you can get away with a backpack.
I used a backpack for my labor bag and then I used packing cubes to pack my recovery bag, which was a small wheel suitcase. The packing cubes were awesome because they kept everything organized and allowed me to pack baby items in my recovery bag but in their own separate section.
Labor Bag Checklist
My biggest piece of advice when it comes to packing your labor bag is to pack it for any type of labor, not just the one you are hoping to have. You never know just how long you will be in labor or what will happen.
Paperwork, insurance card, contact list, and paper and pen
I would put all of this in a folder to keep it together and organized. A contact list is nice to have with you if you want your other half to know and remember who to.
Another option is forming a text or Telegram group. We used an app called Cluster to share photos with family and friends. Lastly paper and pen are just really great to have to write down anything that comes up.
Glasses and contact case
If you wear contacts, then at some point in delivery you might want to take them out.
Hand lotion and lip balm
My labor was long. I was in labor for around 22 hours at the hospital. My hands and lips were so dry after using the tub and shower. Having these would have been really helpful to feel more comfortable.
Face wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste
Since I labored through the night, by morning I just felt gross. I would have loved to have cleaned my face with a face wipe and removed all the makeup from yesterday.
I would have also liked to have brushed my teeth but I had all of that in my recovery bag that was still in the car.
Ponytails and Hairbrush
I really recommend putting your hair back asap. I didn’t want to because I like my hair down. At some point a nurse put my hair up because I thought I was going to puke. It is in a terrible messy bun so all of my first pictures with baby, I had probably the worst hairstyle of my life.
Headphones, music, book, cards or anything that brings you comfort
You never know what type of birth you will have or how long it will be. If you end up being induced, then you will have a lot of time in the beginning before you have real contractions. You might want to relax by watching a movie or playing cards.
I didn’t bring headphones for my first birth and really regretted it. Music would have been so nice to help me through.
I would pack dad’s swimsuit and one for you. I ended up laboring in the shower for an hour. My husband popped in and out of the shower to help me through contractions. I knew he would have really appreciated the swimsuit instead of being in his regular clothing. After that I also used the tub and I would have felt more comfortable in at least a swimsuit top.
Anything you want baby’s footprint on
After birth, a nurse will stamp baby’s footprint on a baby for hospital records. I brought a nice piece of stationary and asked if she wouldn’t mind doing an extra print for my baby book. Something I am glad I did.
A nice camera, memory card and chargers
We only used our phone cameras for the birth of our first child and to this day, I still regret it. We bought a nice camera when we had our second and it was completely worth it. Not only did we get fantastic photos but also we now have the camera to take photos of our kids whenever.
If you don’t have one or don’t want to buy one, then see if a family member or a friend will let you borrow one. We contemplated having a photographer at birth and to do photos in the hospital after but decided our money was better spent buying a camera that we could use again and again.
Food for dad/partner
At most hospitals, they feed you but not your other half, since only your meals are covered under insurance. While in active labor, I didn’t want my husband to leave me at all. Having food packed for your partner in the labor bag is so crucial if you have a long labor like I did.
Labor Tip: Don’t wear a nursing bra or any bra during labor. At some point you might need to get an IV and then you won’t be able to get the bra off. Instead, when you change into the hospital gown, ditch the bra.
Recovery Bag Checklist
On average women spend 48 hours at the hospital after a vaginal delivery and up to 96 hours after a C-section. Plan on that time frame when considering what to pack.
Even though it was summer, the hospital was freezing. I regretted not bringing a jacket. If you are going to nurse, don’t bring a hoodie, instead grab a zip up jacket so you can easily nurse in it.
You will need this during recovery. In fact, I really wish I had splurged and grabbed a cute one with a matching swaddle for baby for hospital pictures of me and baby. Instead all of my pictures are of me in the hospital robe. During recovery, it is a great way to make you feel put together and cute. Pink Maternity has some really cute ones.
Slippers and socks
I did wear socks while I was there. The floors are pretty cold. Additionally you could bring slippers as well.
A going home outfit
So I had this idea that I would be wanting to get dressed everyday so I brought way too much clothing. Instead I should have brought a really simple outfit to wear home such as:
- maternity leggings paired with flowy shirt
- maternity leggings and a nursing tank top with a sweater.
- comfortable dress
The reason I stress leggings is that you will be very swollen down there and you will not want to get dressed in something like jeans. I spent so much of my time in the hospital with a perineal ice pack (buy a pack of these for home) that the idea of getting dressed sounded awful.
They will have some at the hospital, but I really highly recommend grabbing some mesh underwear yourself. Even if you don’t use them at the hospital you will want some at home. They are the best.
Nursing bras or sports bras
If you are going to nurse then you will want nursing bras. If you are not going to nurse, then you want to be wearing sports bras.
At my hospital, they had nursing pads, nipple cream and a nursing pillow. I would ask about what type of nursing supplies they have at your hospital so you can save yourself space.
Your breast pump
If you get your breast pump before, then bring it to the hospital. Otherwise, see if they will provide you with one and bill your insurance for you. The reason I recommend bringing your breast pump even if they have a hospital one for you to use, is so you can learn how to use your pump.
The lactation consultant did this with me and it was so helpful when I got home. She also showed me how to hand express and to feed baby breast milk with a syringe for when I couldn’t get her to latch.
Toiletries, Makeup, Hair Supplies and Shower flip flops
This includes everything from shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, ponytail, clips to face wash, razor, shaving cream, toothbrush and toothpaste. I decided to bring some makeup because I wanted to put myself together for pictures and when we left the hospital to come home. Lastly, shower flip flops.
Pillow, sleeping mask and ear plugs
You will be up a lot at night. At least every 2 hours to nurse baby but probably more because the nurses check on baby every so often and I swear it was always like 15 minutes after I had just fallen back asleep after nursing.
Be sure to bring your comfy pillow to get better sleep but put it in a pillowcase that looks different than the hospital pillows (aka not white).
Additionally, bring a sleeping mask and ear plugs to take naps during the day. I only recommend using ear plugs when someone else (like your partner) is going to stay awake and watch baby sleep.
Tip: If you have some extra time, then spend it downloading a baby app for tracking breastfeeding, diapers, and sleep. It will be nice to start using it right away while in the hospital because it will keep you from going too long between nursing sessions. It is also great data to have when you see the lactation consultant or pediatrician.
Last Minute Hospital Bag Items
These are all of the items that you will not want to forget but can not pack early.
Phones and Chargers:
You won’t want to pack these items early, but you definitely won’t want to forget them.
iPad/Tablet and Charger:
Either to watch shows or to do FaceTime. If you have one, then be sure to bring it.
Wallets and Car Keys:
Be sure you grab both sets of wallets and car and house keys before you race out the door.
If you can’t pack them early, then add them to your last-minute hospital bag items.
Tip: When you are packing, write down these items on a post-it note or a piece of paper and leave it with your bags. That way when the time comes, your other half can quickly gather all the items on the list.
Hospital Bag Checklist for Baby
You can pack baby in a separate bag but I recommend instead adding baby to your bag and separating using packing cubes.
A noise machine
A noise machine helped us all sleep through the noise of the hospital. I highly recommend bringing one with you.
Hat and socks
Babies get cold easily so be sure to bring a hat and socks. Sometimes hospitals will have these, but I wanted to bring them just in case.
Swaddles and blankets
They had blankets there and we definitely used them. I liked having our blankets also. While the nurses would swaddle baby in the blanket, I just couldn’t manage it. I preferred using an actual swaddle. I brought three different types of swaddles and by the end of our hospital stay, I knew which one both baby and I liked the best.
Going home outfit
In addition to packing that cute going home outfit you picked out, be sure to bring a few backups. You have no idea how big baby will be. My first was swimming in her outfit and my second barely fit into newborn.
I suggest having your newborn going home outfit and then two extra onesies (one in preemie and one in 0-3 month). Be sure to leave tags on most of your newborn clothing until you get baby home from the hospital. If your baby is like mine, then you will be exchanging most of that clothing for a bigger size.
Baby’s car seat
You can’t leave with baby without a car seat so buy it and get it installed.
I also recommend spending some time on learning how to check if baby is correctly fastened such as the top bar is level with baby’s shoulders. We were definitely the parents who were asking the nurses if baby was in correctly and they told us they weren’t allowed to answer those questions.
In addition to installing the car seat, we also got car shades up in the car to protect baby from the sun.
Tip: Once you know when you are leaving, have your husband grab the car seat out of the car so it can warm up or cool down depending on the weather outside. I gave birth in summer and after sitting in the hot sun for a few days, it took a while to cool down so we left later than planned.
Hospital Bag Checklist for Dad to Be
I would pack your significant other’s bag in a separate bag from you and baby. I would also leave this bag in the car until you are in recovery. At that point, your husband can make a trip to the car and grab it.
While you will most likely spend your days in the hospital in a robe, your partner will spend those days in normal clothing. I would aim for clothing that is comfortable but also what would be good for pictures, since you will take so many at the hospital.
Pajamas, pillow, sleeping mask and ear plugs
Hospitals are noisy so make sure your partner brings anything he needs to try and get a nap in the day or at least decent sleep at night.
Again, if you decide to bring your own pillows, then make sure they are not in a white pillowcase, so they don’t get mixed up with the hospital pillows.
Toiletries and shower flip flops
Bring any and all toiletries such as shampoo, razor, shaving cream, toothbrush and toothpaste. Additionally, you will want those shower flips flops so don’t forget to pack them.
Have a plan of either bringing frozen meals or leaving to grab take-out for dad, because most hospitals only feed mom during recovery because that is what is covered.
It is really nice to bring a bag for laundry so you can keep clean clothing separate from the dirty clothing. I completely forgot to do this the first time around.
A push present
I mean who doesn’t love presents! I got a beautiful heart necklace and every time I wear it, it reminds me of my baby girl. If this is something you would like, then definitely let your other half know how much it would mean to you.
Snacks for hospital bag
While you might not be able to snack during labor, your other half will appreciate snacks. Additionally, you will want snacks for recovery. Here are some of my favorite snacks.
- Trail mix
- Granola bars, Lara bars, Clif bars or Kashi bars
- Cheese and crackers
- Protein Shakes
- Yogurt or pre-made parfaits
- Almonds or another type of nut or seed
- Crackers, graham crackers or goldfish
Tip: When you are on your hospital tour, ask outside of meals what type of snacks they have. Our hospital had juice, coffee, tea, oatmeal, fruit, granola bars, bagels and cereal and milk always available. If I had known this, then I wouldn’t have brought mini orange juices and fruit.
Pack your Hospital Bag Today
Giving birth is a big event and as such, you need to pack and prepare for it. I hope by providing some insight into what I forgot, what I packed and what I wish I had packed will help you decide what to pack in your hospital bag.
Be sure to keep items organized by packing labor and recovery separate and by using packing cubes.
Next, check what your hospital will have so you aren’t bring extras that you won’t need.
Lastly, get packing! You never know when that baby will decide to make their grand entrance.
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I am a wife and mother to two awesome girls. After having my babies, I wanted to create a space to help moms since motherhood doesn’t come with instructions. With a background in teaching, I put my love of to-do lists and action items into creating bump, birth and baby resources for my readers.