The Hospital Bag

The Hospital Bag

Sunna Ósk Ómarsdóttir
24 minute read

It might be hard to realize what to bring to the hospital. And it’s not only mommy who needs to pack a hospital bag. The birth partner also has a role in all of this and of course the star of the show: the baby! So here is a list with details about each item you might want to bring to the hospital.

The checklist is also accessible at the bottom of this blog, without any details and a free printable checklist is available here.

There are many things that need to be thought of and prepared for before a new person comes into the world. One of the things that many feel is good to prepare in a timely manner is the hospital bag. Especially since this new person doesn't tell us when he/she will exactly be arriving!

We recommend adding as much as you can to the bag early on (for example from week 35) but keeping a note on top of the bag with a list of things you are still using and can't pack already. It's also helpful to tell your partner that it is his/her job to pack those last few items when the moment comes, as you will have enough to think about at that moment!

When preparing what to take to the hospital it can be good to talk to friends that have gone through this process before. Mommy groups (or pregnancy groups) also often share good information and Google and Pinterest can be handy, as in many cases. We also feel that it can be helpful to talk to professionals within your area or preferably within the hospital. It is different between countries and even cities/places what the hospital offers for the mother and the child.

In order to help you in creating a somewhat ready list of what to bring to the hospital, the list below consists of the things I brought myself, what I wished I had brought with me and some additional tips from new moms around me.

The hospital bag

Weekend/duffel bag or sports bag

You’re going to bring a whole lot of stuff to the hospital. It’s definitely better to have too much stuff with you than needing something from home or the store, when you’re already at the hospital. You’ll need a considerably big bag for all that stuff for you, the baby and your birth partner. We recommend using a weekend/duffel bag or a large gym bag.

Duffel bag flower pattern

Diaper bag

It’s good to have the essentials for the baby in a separate bag, especially to carry on the way home from the hospital. You’ll don’t want to go through all your things to find a pacifier or anything you’ll need for the baby on the ride back home. You might want to keep the extra clothes for the baby’s stay at the hospital in the bigger bag, but it’s good to have an extra pair of clothes on the way home, just in case the baby throws up or there is a poppy accident in the car - or typical: on the way out of the door at the hospital!

What mama needs to bring to the hospital

Postpartum underwear

Disposable postpartum underwear are convenient, as you’ll have enough laundry to take care of and you might need to change the underwear very frequently. They are soft, usually seamless and stretchy underwear, designed to keep pads in place in the most comfortable way possible. 

If you don’t feel good using disposable products, and you might want to be more eco-friendly, you can also find other comfortable underwear. Just make sure they are loose, so they don’t push your stomach or are not too tight for your lady area. You’ll also need to place a large pad inside, so you might want to buy one size larger than you usually do.

 

Sanitary pads

No matter if you have a vaginal birth or a c-section, you will bleed postpartum, so you’ll need some sanitary pads and the previously mentioned disposable underwear, unless you know your hospital will provide these items. You’ll need a stack ready at home also. I recommend buying the biggest size possible (it looks ridiculously big but I'm sorry to tell you that you’ll need it!) for the first days, such as size 5 from regular brands, like Always, at the superstore or even larger, if you can buy something larger from brands like Tena. You can then gradually use smaller sizes in the next few weeks.

It’s also a great idea to prepare padsicles/ice pads that will be ready in the freezer when you come home. This is a great trick for helping your lady area healing and it’s very soothing to use after vaginal birth. You can make it yourself with some regular pads, aloe vera, witch hazel and lavender oil.

DIY padsicle

Breast pads

I recommend wearing breast pads after labor, especially if you’re planning on breastfeeding. Perhaps you’ll need those while you’re pregnant also, if you start producing milk early and you already start leaking. You can either buy disposable pads or more eco-friendly washable versions. You can also make your own breast pads if you like DIY projects and you have enough time for that while pregnant.

 

Lanolin cream

Lanolin cream is great for sore nipples. You might be given this cream in the hospital but I recommend buying one to have at home also. You can use this cream for other purposes also, for example for dry lips. I recommend the one from Lansinoh.

 

Nursing bra and tops

If you plan on breastfeeding you should definitely bring a nursing bra and tops/tanks. You might also find a to-in-one tank that suits the purpose of being a bra also. You’ll be wearing these during the next months perhaps, but you’ll probably only need 1-2 for the hospital.

 

Toiletry

If you won’t be able to wash after birth for some reason, it’s a good idea to bring some dry shampoo and wet wipes just in case. I then recommend filling small bottles of shampoo and conditioner, so you’ll don’t have to bring too heavy or large items with you.

I found that a good lip balm was CRUCIAL when I gave birth. Breathing through contractions and pushing during birth will very possibly make your lips very dry. And although you’re going through something much bigger, there’s no use in having to deal with more issues at the same time. It really might disturb you in focusing on the birth although it sounds like such a small thing to worry about at this moment.

Eucalyptus lip balm

Facial wipes or other cleaning products for the skin and some hair products might be useful, especially if you use these on a daily basis already. Hairbrush and hair ties are also necessary, especially if you have long hair or hair that might interrupt you during birth.

You’ll also need to have a toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant. I recommend using unscented products as much as you can, as the baby is getting to know you from birth and you’ll don’t want to confuse them with scents that aren’t “mommy’s natural scent”. It’s also important for breastfeeding, as it’s important for them to smell the milk.

 

Hand sanitizer

Just as we recommend buying sanitizer for keeping at home after the baby arrives, we also recommend bringing a small bottle to the hospital, especially during the flu season. You might receive some visitors at the hospital (unless you or the hospital forbids that, which is totally okay) and you’ll want to sanitize your hands after touching areas that are touched by many people at the hospital.

Water bottle

You’ll most likely become very thirsty during labor and it’s normally recommended to hydrate. I recommend bringing a reusable water bottle, preferably BPA free plastic or stainless steel and it might be convenient to purchase a bottle with a straw lid.

Water bottle with straw

Slippers and cozy/warm socks

Hospital floors can be cold. Slippers that are easy to put on are probably the best option. You might even want them to be slide sandals, something like this, so you can wear them into the shower. If you’re not planning on wetting them I recommend cozy slippers that keep your toes warm, or even soft socks.

 

A nursing nightgown and/or bathrobe

It’s very convenient to wear a nightgown postpartum at the hospital, especially if you’ll need to have a catheter in (which you will after having a c-section). It’s cozy and convenient when you arrive at home too, as well as wearing a bathrobe you can throw on easily. It’s also easy to breastfeed in it and it’s loose around the stomach and open at the bottom, not tightening at areas that will be sensitive postpartum.

Comfy clothes for the trip home

It will definitely be nice to wear some comfy clothes on the way home. You don’t want anything to be too tight after you’ve given birth and you have to make sure that you don’t get cold. You don’t want to become sick just after having a baby. A nice cardigan or cozy sweater might also be nice to have during your hospital stay. I recommend wearing a comfy top and maternity leggings or perhaps some training/yoga pants or any stretchy pants that are not too tight over your belly (preferably with high-waist) on the way home.

Towel 

Some hospitals provide towels. You should get information from them regarding what they’ll provide and what you’ll have to bring yourself. If you bring your own towel, I recommend bringing a dark towel, as you’ll be bleeding postpartum. It can be hard to get blood out of white towels.

Necessary papers and birth plan

Don’t forget your papers and birth plan, if you intend to make one. I recommend keeping all necessary papers in one place, for example a pocket plastic folder.

Make sure that you have your insurance card and ID with you. You can also use the folder to keep any paperwork or receipts you might receive at the hospital, especially if you have to claim back medical expenses.

Massage oil

Your birth partner can help you in some ways during labor. One way is using cook counter pressure and regular massage wherever you feel you need it or want it at the moment. You might not want to be even touched when the moment comes, but you still might want to be prepared and ask your partner to learn some techniques before labor. A lot of massage tips can be found online, but you might also be able to attend a massage course for partners or get some information from your midwife.

You can make your own massage oil or just buy regular massage oil. Just make sure you like the scent of the oil. I recommend something with lavender scent as it’s relaxing, stress relieving and a natural pain reliever. It can help reduce lower back pain and other pain associated with labor. You can mix coconut oil, or other carrier oil with lavender essential oil to make your own simple lavender massage oil.

Lavender massage oil

Birthing ball

Some hospitals provide a birthing ball today, so you might want to check your hospital before purchasing a ball and going through the effort of bringing it the whole way. You can just buy a regular exercise ball for this purpose. It’s also great to sit on it during your pregnancy, especially during your third trimester and postpartum. The ball can help the baby settle into an optimal position and strengthens the lower back. During labor it helps open the pelvis, helps reduce stress and might even reduce pain.

Your own birth playlist

If you know that special kind of music or special songs make you feel good or help you focus or relax I definitely recommend creating your own playlist for the labor. If you’ve been practising maternity yoga you’ll probably like to listen to that music to help you focus on breathing through the labor and relax or you might even want to play jolly songs to get into your happy place (especially in the beginning). You can bring your own portable speaker and play the music through your phone or you can contact the hospital to check if they have any speakers or music players available.

Headphones

If you’re going to stay at the hospital while recovering postpartum you might want to consider bringing headphones and ear plugs. It’s not always an option getting a private room, so if you’ll have to share a room with someone headphones might be great, for you to get some privacy and also to not disturb your neighbour if you want to listen to music or watch something.

Beads heaphones

Photo by Alexunder Hess on Unsplash 

What does the birth partner need to bring

Bathing clothes and towel

If you are planning a water birth or you might want to go into a birth tub in the hospital it might be good for your birth partner to bring bathing clothes and a towel. You might want support in the tub and your partner probably doesn’t want to be naked in front of the hospital staff, although you’ll most likely be yourself.

Extra clothes

You might have to stay at the hospital for a couple of days and if you get a private room your partner might be able to stay with you. In that case he/she will need extra clothes. We recommend bringing 2-3 t-shirts, sweat pants and perhaps other extra pants, a hoodie/sweatshirt and 2-3 pairs of socks and underwear.

What you’ll both need at the hospital

Drinks and snacks

It’s good to buy some drinks in time and keep them in the fridge until you go to the hospital. You might want to bring them in a small cooler bag, if you want to keep them cold for as long as possible. The private rooms at your hospital might contain a fridge.

I recommend Powerade or coconut water for both you and your birth partner, as it’s refreshing and good for the energy. Energy drinks might even be a good option for the birth partner to stay awake throughout a long labor, but coffee is probably also available at the hospital.

I also recommend buying snacks you like, as the vendor machines are not always very exciting or you might not always have time to leave the hospital room. Snacks you can purchase in a timely manner, and keep ready in the bag for some time, are for example protein or cereal bars, cookies and biscuits, chips and nuts. Make sure you’re allowed to eat nuts at the hospital before you open the bag, in case someone is allergic. Other snacks you can keep in the fridge until you leave home or buy on the way to the hospital (if you’re not in a hurry) are mini cheeses, fruits and vegetables (preferably cut down in small bites) and sandwiches. You might want to bring some gum also.

Phone and phone charger

Make sure you don’t forget your phones at home when you’re rushing to the hospital. Especially if you or your partner intend to keep your family updated or you’ll be using the camera on your phones to document the birth.

Don’t forget to pack a phone charger also in the hospital bag, in case you’ll have to stay at the hospital for some time or your phone is not fully charged when you leave home. You might need a long cord to reach the plug from where you sit/lie or you could bring a power bank.

Power bank pink

Camera or video recorder

If you have an additional camera or video recorder you like to get quality photos/videos from I recommend bringing those to the hospital. It might sound scary to watch a video of the birth, but it is just so beautiful to have and it might even help you get a clearer picture of the process afterwards. Sometimes we feel that we missed out on something or the birth didn’t go as we liked, and watching the birth might help getting through that emotional time. If you don’t like to watch it or own it, you can always delete it afterwards. Don’t forget to bring a charger and perhaps an empty/new memory card for the camera/recorder.

Money/change

It’s useful to bring some money, preferably coins, for vending machines at the hospital. Most machines offer a card payment today, but it’s better not to assume it’s an option everywhere. You might also need to pay for parking with coins.

Extra blanket

If you have space in your hospital bag you might want to consider bringing an extra blanket from home, either for your birth partner to use or even yourself. It will give you some comfort from home and make your hospital visit more cozy.

Computer and reading material

If things go slowly after you arrive at the hospital or you’ll stay there for a couple of days you might want to bring something that kills time. You might need to use headphones for the computer, so if you plan on watching something together we recommend buying a splitter for your headphones. Remember also to bring a computer charger.
If you don’t know what to read, I recommend Little Women, which will bring you back in time (if that’s what you like) or simply bring a book about parenting, which either one of you can read. Magazines are a good option as well.

Little women book

What does the baby need when newborn

Lulla doll

Obviously I feel that the Lulla doll is an essential item for the hospital bag. It was originally designed for preemies that had to be away from their parents and caregivers during their time in the NICU. Lulla’s unique design is based on multiple scientific research that shows how closeness improves sleep, wellbeing and safety. The research we base the Lulla design on shows the effects of closeness, kangaroo care, the effects of heartbeat and breathing sounds and the effects that smell, sight and touch have on babies and small children. We also relied on advice from a team of doctors, nurses and psychologists during the development. These positive effects of closeness suggested by multiple scientific research are:

  • Longer periods of uninterrupted sleep
  • More stable heartbeat and breathing rhythm
  • Increased well-being and lowered stress
  • Healthier sleeping patterns

I of course think that you should spend as much time close to your baby as you can, bonding with skin to skin and enjoying your first moments together. Unfortunately that’s not always possible though, as some babies might have to spend some time at the NICU. Also, it’s a good feeling knowing that Lulla is at least there with your baby when you need a little time for yourself, showering or taking a nap. The other parent can also bond with the baby with skin to skin, but he/she might have to go home soon after the birth, to take care of siblings or even go to work already.

Lulla doll can also be a beautiful gift to or from sibling(s). Exchanging gifts is a great way to help older children create a bond with the baby.

Lulla doll sleep companion

Diapers and wipes

Some hospitals provide diapers and wipes for the baby. You might want to contact your hospital to make sure you don’t have to bring this yourself. If you bring your own diapers I recommend purchasing 2 different sizes and take both packages with you (you can keep the larger one in the car) in case the baby is born larger than the average birth size. Some mothers want to use cloth diapers and in that case you’ll definitely want to bring a few of them to the hospital. You can also make your own baby wipes at home and bring them to the hospital in a suitable box.

Burp cloths

You’ll defInitely use burp cloths a LOT in the coming months, already at the hospital. You can also bring muslins instead, which can not only be used as burp cloths, but also as swaddles and a light blanket if it’s chilly at the hospital.

Muslins

Extra clothes

As you don’t know the size of the baby yet, you should bring clothes in at least two sizes, for example for newborn and for 0-3 months old. Seriously though, my son was born 12 pounds, 2 ounces and 22 inches, and didn’t fit into any of the clothes brought to the hospital!

One-piece clothes are the easiest to put on the baby when it’s newborn, so I recommend bringing 2-3 onesies and 2-3 sleep suits in the hospital bag. If you use a sleep sack you might not need as many sleep suits though, although it’s great to use them whenever, not only during sleep. It’s good to bring a few pairs of socks also, especially if the sleep suits are not closed over the feet, and/or tights/leggings to wear with the onesies.

Most people like to bring special clothes for the trip home, an outfit you’ll love to put on your baby and take some photos of. You’ll cherish this moment every time you take a look at these photos and although it’s probably unnecessary to have a special outfit for this purpose you can hopefully keep on using it for the coming weeks or you can use it for other babies’ trip home as well. Remember to consider weather conditions when you choose the coming home outfit.

Mittens and hat

Some of the newborn one-suits have built-in mittens but if the ones you are bringing to the hospital don’t have ones built in you might want to pack a pair or two of baby scratch mittens, so your baby doesn’t scratch it’s face at the hospital. Newborn babies usually have very sharp nails and you might not be able to shorten them already.

A lot of hospitals put standard knit hats, owned by the hospital, on newborn babies to make sure their head is warm. You might want to use a particular hat you own or perhaps you feel it’s too warm for wearing a knit hat the whole time at the hospital. In that case you can bring one from home, perhaps a thin hat for wearing inside. In some stores you can purchase a whole set of clothes, including a hat, or just a pair of sleep suit  and hat or swaddle and hat in the same look. Remember to have a hat for the trip home that is suitable for the weather conditions.

Swaddle set

Pacifiers

As with so many other things, there are benefits and also some risks in using pacifiers. Some midwives don't recommend using pacifiers until the baby has successfully latched on and settled into an effective nursing routine, as the baby’s sucking patterns might change when a pacifier is introduced. This is called a nipple confusion. There is some research to suggest that use of pacifiers can reduce the risk of SIDS and it might help your baby feel more secure.

If you decide to offer a pacifier to your baby from birth, we recommend that you bring more than one in your hospital bag, even different brands, as they’re easy to lose, they are always falling on the dirty ground (seriously) and your baby might prefer one type over another.

Baby blanket and swaddling blanket

A blanket from home might be nice to keep your baby warm at the hospital, especially if you don’t bring a swaddle or muslin to wrap them with. Make sure you don’t leave your baby lying alone in the hospital bassinet with a blanket on unattended though.

Some like to get the baby used to being swaddled already when newborn. If that’s something you’d prefer you should bring a swaddle blanket, or a large muslin you can swaddle your baby in, to the hospital. If you’re not comfortable learning the swaddling techniques so early you can also bring an easy-to-use velcro swaddle.

Infant car seat and cover

Last but not least, you need a car seat suitable for an infant and don't forget to place it in the car before going to the hospital! Installing the base (if you have one) in the car before going to the hospital is also a good idea.
You might be planning on using a car seat cover, a baby pram sack or pram sleeping bag, especially if you live in a cold country, but make sure you read these Winter car seat safety tips from the AAP first.

The list

This list is just for support. You might not feel that you need to bring all of these items and perhaps you know that your hospital provides a number of them. But it’s a very useful list to go through and to think about what you might have to pack. Perhaps you’ll see some necessary items you even forgot to buy!

For mama

  • Postpartum underwear
  • Sanitary pads/pants (if not provided at the hospital)
  • Breast pads
  • Nipple cream (can be used for more than the breasts, for example dry skin)
  • Breastfeeding clothes, including a bra
  • Dry shampoo and wet wipes
  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Lip balm
  • Facial wipes or other cleaning products for the skin
  • Hairbrush, hair ties and other hair products
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Other cosmetics, such as deodorant and makeup
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Water bottle
  • Slippers and/or cozy socks
  • Bathrobe and nightgown or pyjamas (if you don’t get clothes to wear at the hospital)
  • Comfy clothes for the trip home
  • Towel (if the hospital doesn't provide that)
  • Necessary papers and birth plan
  • Massage oil (good to prepare some helpful massage tips for the partner)
  • Yoga ball/roller (some hospitals provide this today)
  • Your own birth playlist (might want to find out what kind of player is available)
  • Speaker
  • Headphones and ear plugs

For the birth partner

  • Bathing clothes and towel - if you’re planning a water birth
  • Extra clothes

For both you and your partner

  • Powerade and/or other drinks and food
  • Charger for the phone and other electronics you’ll bring
  • Camera/video recorder if you own one
  • Money/coins
  • Blanket
  • Computer or reading material

For the baby

  • Lulla doll
  • Present for sibling(s)
  • Diapers and baby wipes
  • Burp cloths
  • Extra clothes
  • Sleep sack
  • Coming home outfit
  • Baby scratch mittens and thin hat
  • Pacifiers
  • Baby blanket and swaddling blanket
  • Baby car seat (and car seat cover)

Have fun packing!
- Sunna, at RoRo

Hospital bag checklist

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