What to Pack for the Hospital When You’re Having a Baby

Those two rounds of contractions (contractual episodes? contractisodes?) last week made it ever so clear that this baby will come whether or not I’ve packed my bag for the hospital. Already she has a mind of her own. Babies.

So I’ve given in to reality, on this point at least. I will fill that suitcase that’s open and waiting on my bedroom floor. Because I’m a compulsive list-maker, I consulted many “What to Pack” lists, then pared them down to a “What I Really Need to Pack” list. That’s one of the benefits of this being Babyhaving: The Sequel. I know that wearing the hospital’s disposable undies is better than ruining my own, and that between visitors and sleep and babygazing, I will not have time to tackle a little light magazine reading.

Here is what I think I need…

To pack ahead of time:

  • Copies of birth plan (in case they don’t have the copy my doc sent over ready and waiting)
  • List of phone #s to call (even if Clint can remember the list of five people now, he may not have his wits about him when the time comes, due to sleeplessness and baby excitement)
  • Notebook (Birthing thoughts? Final baby-name narrowing down? Returning home to-do list? You never know.)
  • Birthing skirt/2 tanks/zipper sweatshirt (aka stuff to labor in that allows me to regulate my temperature and allows the hospital staff to access my lady region. An extra tank in case I want to wear one into the birthing tub.)
  • Two pair nonslip comfy throwaway socks (For labor. There will likely be dripping. Gross, I know.)
  • Nursing bras
  • Bella bands (Nice to pair with nursing bras, for the discreet & ladylike, such as myself.)
  • Breast pads (In case my milk comes in. Oh, the leakage.)
  • Lanolin (At first, your nipples hurt. A whole lot. Lanolin helps.)
  • Lotion
  • Arnica (My awesome friend Laura, a homeopath/pharmacist, recommends 200C post-delivery, and again 12 hours later, to promote overall healing.)
  • Ponytail holders
  • iPod/speakers (I prefer silence to birthing tunes, but we have HypnoBirthing scripts and affirmations on there.)
  • Breastfeeding-friendly PJs/hangout wear (Better than a hospital gown. You’ll probably want options that allow easy access to Down There and/or your post c-section tummy. Make it something you won’t mind being photographed in.)
  • Pantry snacks that may be tolerable during labor, such as electrolyte jelly beans, granola bars (sprung for fancy raw Pashen bars for the occasion), nuts, emergenC (Keep that energy up!)
  • Have cooler ready
  • Present for Roy (From the baby. So when they meet, she has it ready for him.)
  • Cash

For baby:

  • A few sleepers (Those long gowns with the elastic at the bottom, to make frequent changes easier. Might as well have her wear her own clothes, washed in our detergent, from the get-go.)
  • Socks & hats
  • Blanket
  • Super cute going-home outfit
  • Car seat with BundleMe (Essential for a winter baby in Minnesota—no bulky, hard-to-regulate snowsuit necessary.)
  • Baby book (Get those footprints!)
  • Boppy, or other breastfeeding pillow (Might as well start in the manner you intend to continue.)

To pack the last minute:

(Again, a list containing even the obvious is nice. It’s hard to make decisions while in labor.)

  • Laptop
  • Camera (batteries, charger)
  • Phones & chargers
  • Makeup bag
  • Lip balm
  • Toothbrush/paste
  • Deodorant
  • Vitamins & allergy medication
  • Hair products
  • Brush
  • Hair dryer
  • Slippers
  • Pillows
  • Stock cooler (ice, drinkable yogurt, hard cheese, fruit)
  • 12-pack fizzy water (It’s my jam.)
  • HypnoBirthing scripts (On paper. For Clint to potentially read to me.)
  • Towel to sit on in car (if my water hasn’t broken)
  • Wallets/insurance card/ids
  • Calendar (I’ve not yet gone electronic on this. Rockin’ it old skool style.)
  • Glasses

 For Clint:

(Just a loose reminder list for him…)

  • Food (If he’s gonna support me, he needs to maintain energy as well.)
  • PJs (The hospital is not the place for underwear-only sleeping.)
  • Toiletries
  • Camp mat (To make a crappy hospital sofa more bearable.)
  • Blanket (See above.)

Questions? Additions?

POST-DELIVERY UPDATE: What I ended up using, not using and forgetting.

Image: Pregnant Woman Is Getting Ready for the Maternity Hospital via Shutterstock


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  1. by Darcie

    On January 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    I promise I am not stalking you Berit… I forgot to bring baby shampoo/soap and was kind of sad when we had to use the Johnson and Johnson soap they had at the hospital. Otherwise, it looks like a great list. I would also recommend trying to get everything into one big rolling suitcase so Clint can roll with one hand and support you with the other is need be. We ended up leaving stuff in the car because we had too many bags. I’m really excited for you!

  2. by A.

    On January 18, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Great list!

    Witch hazel pads were a soothing lifesaver for me those first few weeks after birth. I didn’t have them at the hospital though (and my hospital didn’t offer them…), so next time I’d bring those along!

    I also forgot the boppy and that was a HUGE mistake, so glad to see it on your list. It didn’t even occur to me to bring that along. Pillows just don’t work as well!

    I never thought to bring your own clothes to labor in either – great ideas! Especially the sweatshirt. It’s always chilly in hospitals and there’s no rule you can’t throw something like that on.

  3. by Berit Thorkelson

    On January 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Both great tips, Darcie. Definitely tossing our carefully selected paraben-free babywash into the bag. Thanks!

  4. by Berit Thorkelson

    On January 18, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Right on, A. Witch Hazel pads are a must. (My hospital provided them, but that’s probably atypical?)

  5. by Sara

    On January 19, 2012 at 10:38 am

    It seems like a nice list, but as a postpartum nurse I can tell you that you are probably not going to use all of it. Assuming your a normal vaginal delivery, I myself do not recommend patients laboring in their own clothes unless you plan on throwing them out after words. Labor is a wet messy process and leaking amniotic fluid is a hard smell to get out of clothes not to mention the stains from blood, possible stool, and maybe meconium from baby. Also assuming your only there 24-47hrs for a vag delivery. I recommend spending at least the first few hours in a hospital gown as you never know what your bleeding is going to be like after delivery. And once true labor starts I don’t think your going to care whether there is silence or music, your just going to want to get baby out. As far as meds and vitamins, most hospitals will not let you take your own without 1) your doctors approval, 2) having them approved by pharmacy, 3) probably will not stay at bedside and you run the risk of them getting lost. Just some helpful observations from someone who sees this everyday.

  6. by Berit Thorkelson

    On January 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Thanks for your expert input, Sara! I’m actually bringing the exact same laboring outfit I wore last time around (huge stretchy cotton skirt included). Believe it or not, they weren’t in bad shape at all, even after laboring in them for many, many (many) hours. Though I should mention that I did eventually switch to the gown, toward the end (and for the first few+ hours, as you recommend).

  7. by Mommy 2 princesses

    On January 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Do NOT forget the lip balm. Seriously! No one told me with my first labor and after all the heavy breathing, after 32 hours of labor, my lips hurt and were cracked. During my second labor, my husband alternated lip balm and back rubs. I do feel the list is a little much, especially for new moms to get overwhelmed by reading. I suggest lip balm and extra heavy duty pads/fresh underwear. Those are the essentials!

  8. by New Mommy JB

    On February 1, 2012 at 1:48 am

    I had my first 5 months ago.  I packed a brand new carry-on full of the stuff recommended in various articles and “What to Pack” lists.  I barely opened the thing.  Despite some initial drama with my daughter’s heart rate dropping shortly after I arrived at the hospital, I went on to have a text book, natural delivery. Even though I packed socks, the hospital provided them and as many extra pairs as I wanted.  I was extremely grateful for the mesh panties packed with those pad-like ice packs.  Ahhh, so soothing and with all the fluids that came out of me and with all the messiness that went on down there (I was shocked and amazed by it all), I’m even more grateful that I didn’t buy one of those expensive delivery gowns and saved my grungiest panties (the “period panties”) for future use.  We were in the hospital for a little more than 24 hours and the only things I used were my brand new robe (I went with my little one for her tests) and my new flip flops.  My husband didn’t change clothes, the hospital served us a celebratory meal and family brought us food too.  I am glad I packed more than one choice of a going home outfit for my baby, as well as my glasses, but the other stuff was excess.  I didn’t use any of the travel sized toiletries I packed for us and being that I wear little make up on a regular basis, I knew better than to pack that. Should I have another kiddo, next time I’ll pack a lot lighter…and bring a my nursing pillow too. Regular pillows didn’t do it for us.

  9. by Berit Thorkelson

    On February 1, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Great input — thanks! I admit I am a somewhat *comprehensive* person. If it’s overwhelming, use it as a starting point, and use your instinctual judgement to accommodate your own needs…

  10. by Berit Thorkelson

    On February 1, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Thanks & congrats, New Mommy JB. Lovin’ the firsthand input.

  11. by Hospital Bag Envy | Fearless Feisty Mama Blog

    On August 6, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    [...] who shares my same due date (though mine is moved up due to a scheduled C-section) has posted about what she is taking to the hospital. Good god is she organized. All I have packed so far are earplugs so I can [...]