Ever since I was young, any time I had an upcoming vacation or event requiring travel, my bag was packed weeks in advance. Every day I would just rearrange it slightly or add to it. So you can imagine when it came to having my first child that I had my hospital bags packed from the first Braxton Hicks (which was at 6 months). I added to, I took away, I replaced, I read more lists, I added more… and in the end? I didn’t even look in the bag. I couldn’t tell you what was in that bag. I made my sweet husband fetch everything and got frustrated when he couldn’t find it because I had packed the entire house.
Much like a “birth plan”, it’s so easy to predict how you think things will go. Try as you may, but once this train gets rolling nothing is likely predictable, it’s more like go with the flow, and your body, and your pain level.
So, what should you really pack in your bag? (Printable Hospital Check List)
I’m going to list some suggestions. You aren’t going to listen anyway, but I’m going to try. Any item with an (H) next to it means it was provided for me by the hospital. It’s a great idea to check what your room will be stocked with while on your Hospital Tour.
Pajamas: 3-4 pair
- Consider Gowns. You’re going to feel vulnerable down there, pants are only going to be a pain when the nurses want to check your bleeding or incisions. Which is ALL the time.
- Breastfeeding? Get a nursing gown or one with buttons. I found a cute button front, stripe number at Target in multiple colors that I love to this day. You’ll wear it after if it isn’t stained. And to that, don’t spend loads of money.
- If you want to spend money on cutesy birthing gowns, go ahead, but do realize you are birthing a tiny human… things get messy. Just use the hospital gown and save the presentable material until after you’re cleaned up.
- If opting for shorter gowns, go for at least a mid-length or longer robe so you feel covered up when company arrives or when your shuffling to the bathroom.
- Hospitals are COLD, so choose a cozy one. (This is the coziest robe of all time.)
- If you’re not lucky enough to receive beige, grippy bottom socks by the dozen via your hospital, those very homely, fuzzy chenille socks are perfect for the occasion. Again, it’s cold, you’ll be under covers and overly swollen feed hide well under them.
- Don’t get attached. My principle is if it’s used in the hospital, it stays in the hospital (trash can).
- Buy at least 4 pair of really soft, loose, full bottom undies. The pads they give you after birth are the size of a boat, so they’ll need to fit in something. And if you have a c-section, you won’t want anything even remotely close to fitted.
- A nursing tank, leggings and wrap sweater make an excellent combo. As does a maxi dress. You look put together but can be a hot mess underneath.
- If you plan on nursing, consider the shelf nursing tanks, they are so easy and comfortable and you can skip the nursing bra all together.
- If you do pack separates, pack a nursing bra. (FYI Nursing bras with underwire are horrid).
- My favorite nursing pads are the Lansinoh ones. You can go the organic cotton reusable ones, but you have to be diligent on washing them to make sure bacteria doesn’t form leading to infection.
- Nipple Cream. MotherLove.
- I’ve seen some people suggest bringing your Breast Pump. I was always allowed to nurse baby on demand and I simply didn’t need my pump, but instead of lugging it in, maybe have it in your car just in case there are any complications with nursing.
- Sandals, Toms, Uggs, anything loose. You never know how your swelling will be, so don’t bring anything fitted or heeled to head home in.
- Cheapie flippies are great for the shower, and you can toss them.
- The ones at the hospital feel like sand paper and who knows how many times they’ve been used. Don’t want to take a good one? Grab a cheapie.
Some people will say bring a Pillow. I, for one, didn’t want what I sleep on every night at home to be brought into the hospital. (If you’re sensing that I’m becoming an increasingly eccentric germophobe, you might be right.) But I honestly had about 12 pillows on my hospital bed of every different shape and size, so you should be fine. Same goes for your nursing pillow. You will have plenty to choose from to prop you and your baby up, so save your Boppy, Breastfriend or whatever for the comfort (and cleanliness) of your own home.
- Pads (H), for after vaginal birth. You’ll want to use the ones provided while you are in the hospital because they work and they’re going to charge you for them anyway. I also had plenty to take home.
- Once the bleeding slows and you want less bulk, I highly recommend switching to an organic, non-toxic pad. Never have your nether regions been more susceptible to the invasion of chemicals. Honest Company, Natracare or Organyc have some suitable versions.
- Hemorrhoid Treatment (H). You may giggle at this thought, or you may be a pro, but after this amount of pushing… you may be in major search of relief. My hospital provided me a conventional brand, however, I came prepared with my Mama Bottom Balm. It’s the only brand I’ve found completely toxin free.
- Body wash. Nothing too fragrant for a precious little nose.
- Never have I ever wanted moisturizer so bad, especially as much as I was washing my hands.
- Stay loaded up, showers aren’t easy to come by.
- Toothbrush & Toothpaste
- Lip Balm. I actually chose a tinted balm, it covered the lip gloss and hydration aspect without looking like I was trying. Not that I could have tried. But you’ll be so parched after the experience, choose one that lasts. (Kari Gran Lip Whip, cannot live without!)
- Hair Brush
- Hair Ties/Clips. Unless you’re super woman and you feel like getting up and blow drying, curling, straightening your hair or get a blow out before going in and don’t break a sweat or have a breeze of a labor, find a cute way to put your hair up. It’ll be out of yours and the baby’s way, yet you still look put together.
- Hair Dryer. Standing in the bathroom while trying to dry your hair with that terrible hospital wall-mounted hair dryer is like running a triathalon after birth, bring your own and have your Mom/Friend/Hubs help you.
- Face Lotion/Oil. Something gentle yet hydrating, your skin is about to enter a freak out zone, so head off any extra dryness while you can.
- Contact Case, Solution, Glasses – if you wear them.
- Makeup Bag. Everyone wants to look like they didn’t just give birth… but you did, and you’ll feel like it. I packed my whole kit and laughed out loud when I looked at it. Contouring? Eye Shadow? Hey, if you’re up for it sister. But tinted moisturizer, a little bronzer/blush and eyeliner/mascara. Whatever you need to look presentable and feel good about yourself, but with minimal effort.
- Health Insurance Card
- Registration Forms
- Pain reliever of choice. Hospitals ration it like it’s in short supply. I’m sure they’ll offer you the strong stuff, but once you feel like downgrading, don’t rely on them for enough OTC painkiller.
- Medications you may be taking and a few days worth of prenatal vitamins.
- Cash/Change. Some hospital cafeterias don’t take debit/credit, and you just never know when you think you might die without a Frozen Caramel Mochaccino.
- Phone Charger. Ipad Charger. Kindle Charger.
- Camera & Camera Charger. Nothing like your camera dying during the most momentous occasion!
- Magazines, books, etc. I had enough company and things going on that I couldn’t focus on anything else, but if you have downtime, which you may, you won’t necessarily want to concentrate on pain – bring an escape.
- Gifts for your birthing staff. Nail polish, chocolates, lip balm. Pack a few little bags of favorites just to say “thank you”. You have no idea how much these women help until you’re trying to get out of bed or sit on the toilet and it’s impossible without a team.
- If you have other kids, I’d say hand them over to the grandparents or the sitter, but if you must have them there with you, bring plenty to occupy their attention.
- I never knew when I was going to get food and when I did it sure didn’t look appetizing. Bring some snack bars, fruit, small nibbles to tie you over until you can get someone to bring you the good stuff.
- Extra bag (not like a luggage bag, but those handy, reusable shopping bags that fold so nicely) because you’ll get some gifts and loads of stuff from the hospital.
- Cozy Blanket. You’ll have a million hospital provided blankets, but it’s nice to have something warmer and cozy.
- Swaddle Blanket. Learning to swaddle takes practice, and oddly enough, baby doesn’t swaddle like one of his cute stuffed animals waiting for him at home.
- Sleeping Gowns. These little numbers are great and it makes it easy to change diapers, most have cute little mitten fold-overs so they don’t scratch, too.
- I say “jammies” but I mean those little footie pajamas that my child basically wears every day. They are perfectly warm if you don’t want to use sleeping gowns or the little hospital issued shirt and diaper. You can sub this for one of the million cute outfits you have for them, just remember, baby just arrived to this big ol’ world and longs for comfort, and they’ll be checking on baby often so easy access is nice.
- Outfit Home
- Pacifiers (if you’re allowing)
- The hospital has plenty, but it never hurts to have a few on hand, especially if you want a different kind.
- Bottles (H). Our hospital gave us so many bottles to match our pump, but bring a few in case, especially if you are formula feeding.
You have to remember; the hospital is in the business of birthing so they have just about anything you can think of. This isn’t their first rodeo; most likely it’s yours, so keep it simple. It’s an overwhelming experience all together, so you don’t want keep track of anything you don’t really need. It goes by SO fast, and hopefully you’ll be in the comforts of your own home before you know it. If you don’t want it ruined, germy or heaven forbid stolen – leave it at home.
Amanda Reade is the Editor of ABP and often also a Contributor. With a long career in Public Relations & Communications, Amanda turns her love of writing and talking towards some of the best (and safest) products on the market – for she’s also acquired a scrutinous eye working as a Makeup Artist and Stylist for some of the music industry’s biggest stars.