What to Pack in a Bag to Give Birth in a Hospital: The Hospital 'Go Bag' Checklist


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Hospital ‘Go Bag’ Packing List for Moms

For many new moms, the unknowns surrounding giving birth – How will I know what labor will feel like? Will I need to have a C-section? How long will it take to deliver? – can be a source of anxiety leading up to the arrival of the baby. It’s natural to want to control everything you can, and that can lend itself to nesting, reading every single thing on the Internet (even the crazy things) and packing (and repacking) your hospital “go bag” or “birth bag.”

So many things will seem absolutely imperative to include on your hospital checklist that you may find yourself loading three bags and a birthing ball into the car when it’s time to head to the hospital. A labor & delivery nurse who has seen it all recommends bringing in only what you can fit in an easy-to-carry weekender bag, plus an extra pillow if you’d like. Avoid the stress of showing up with a week’s worth of luggage (and having to lug it between the delivery room and the recovery room, then back home) by following our guide to what you absolutely must have in your birth bag when it’s time to meet your new baby.

We surveyed average moms, a labor & delivery nurse and celebrities to find out what was most and least useful, then distilled it to an essential hospital bag checklist. Plan to have yours packed and by the door by about Week 35. (And just for fun, we included the things that real moms still can’t believe they brought to the hospital, in case you’re really torn on whether to pack that 700-page novel.)

What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag: The At-a-Glance Checklist

Here’s the list all in one place; read on for thoughts from real moms and experts, plus their top recommendations for each.

  • A plastic bag and towel you can live without
  • Photo ID, insurance card and birth plan
  • Extra-long phone charger
  • Reusable water bottle and straw
  • A few snacks that don’t smell
  • Dark pajamas or robe (that open in front) or sweatpants
  • Grippy socks
  • Flip flops
  • A small bag of travel-size toiletries (the biggies: toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, face wipes and lip balm)
  • An eye mask and earplugs
  • Your own pillow with a patterned pillowcase you can live without
  • A nursing bra, nipple cream and nipple pads
  • A pumping bra if you plan to try to pump
  • One “going home” outfit for the baby (a kimono-style top, pants and a hat typically will do it)

For the Labor and Delivery

  • Once the whole bag is packed and ready to go, add a plastic bag and towel you don’t care about to the top of the pile. Having them on hand for the car ride to the hospital will protect the car upholstery if your water breaks or you feel sick to your stomach.
  • In your wallet, be sure to have your photo ID, insurance card and a copy of your birth plan if you have one. (Pros advise keeping your birth plan simple and concise, following an easy-to-read template like this one. Parents has good guidelines regarding what you might want to consider when writing a birth plan.)
  • An extra-long phone charger was cited by multiple moms as a godsend from labor to last day, as hospital outlets are often not convenient to the beds (or if they are, they’re occupied by, you know, medical equipment; Hayley, an NJ-based labor & delivery nurse, says the white outlets furthest from the bed are safe to use, while the red ones are no-gos). Your phone will be your go-to for photos, playlists and distracting TV, so make sure it’s got juice.
  • Several moms suggested bringing your own giant water bottle to the hospital, to avoid sending your birth partner on multiple trips to fill up hospitals’ standard-issue flimsy plastic cups, a sentiment echoed by L&D nurse Hayley.
  • Hayley suggests a couple low-mess, no-smell, easy-to-stash snacks like trail mix or energy bars, for the expecting mom (if allowed) and birth partner to keep energy up.

What You’ll Need Once the Baby Arrives

  • Though some liked having their own front-opening robe, button PJs or nursing tanks for photos or to greet visitors, many moms we spoke to said that was the item they most regretted packing (“I realized your life becomes the hospital underwear and that’s all you need,” one said). What everyone does agree on? If you bring your own loungewear from home, make sure it’s dark, for obvious bodily-fluid related reasons. Many moms recommended just packing a pair of black maternity sweats you already own in case it gets chilly or you desire a bit more coverage than the hospital gown provides.
  • Grippy socks (to pad around cold and maybe not sparkling-clean hospital floors) and inexpensive flip-flops for showering were also highly suggested.
  • A small bag of toiletry essentials. On multiple “must lists” were travel sizes of: toothbrush and toothpaste, hair ties, contacts and contact solution (plus glasses) if you need them, face wipes and face mist, dry shampoo, deodorant, mascara, moisturizer, and lip balm. What to leave at home? Your full face of contour products, hot styling tools (a repeat offender on moms’ “dumbest thing I brought” lists) and razors.
  • Your own medication, if the hospital allows it. “Some hospitals will allow you to bring it as long as they label it in their own pharmacy,” Hayley advises, while “other hospitals will say, ‘Just tell us what you’re taking, and we’ll have it sent up from our pharmacy so it’s all charted’.”

What to Bring to Help with Sleep and Recovery

  • An eye mask and earplugs were cited by multiple moms as essential for blocking out bright hospital lights, constantly beeping machines and potentially noisy roommates, allowing exhausted new moms to maximize sleep as much as possible.
  • Your own pillow and pillowcase from home, as hospital pillows tend to be more utilitarian than relaxation-oriented. Pick a pillowcase in a print (to prevent it getting mixed up with hospital linens) you don’t mind ruining.
  • Your own towel (in a dark color). Hospitals often don’t provide one, which you don’t want to find out the hard way when you’re finally ready to shower.

What to Pack to Help with Nursing

  • A comfortable nursing bra, nursing pads and nipple cream.
  • Several moms recommended bringing a hands-free pumping bra to have handy if you’d like to practice pumping, either using a hospital-provided machine or your own if you’ve got space. They appreciated getting guidance from in-hospital lactation experts and said it helped with milk production.

What to Pack for the Baby

  • One cute and climate-appropriate outfit to travel home in (PEOPLE moms love Monica & Andy’s cozy “cuddle boxes”, but any cute kimono-style top, pants and socks will do). That’s it! The hospital will provide everything else you might need, from diapers to formula.

Your ‘Leaving the Hospital’ Checklist

  • If the hospital allows, pack a to-go kit containing the hospital-provided disposable underwear, perineal spray bottles, sitz baths and any extra diapers, petroleum jelly or gauze the baby might need.
  • Loved the nursing staff? Consider sending “thank you” treats to the nurses both in L&D and on the postpartum wing. Hayley, the L&D nurse, says nurses “greatly appreciate any food items” families send to acknowledge their work. She suggests “small snacks” that are easy to “grab and go,” which can include cookies, arrangements of fruit or granola bars; boxes of coffee or bagels are also “so nice.” Drop them off before you go with a note including your name, the baby’s and your room number.
  • A car seat if you’re driving home.

The ‘Dumbest’ Things Real Moms Packed in Their Hospital ‘Go Bag’

  • “My Alexa. (WTF?)”
  • “500 outfits for the baby.”
  • “Fancy pajamas (no freaking way).” “My fancy robe ‘for photos.'” “Cute pajamas (never wore ’em!)” “Underwear.”
  • “A book. When was I ever going to have time to read?” “A book. WTF is wrong with me?” “A book!”
  • “Makeup.” “A hair dryer.” “A hair straightener.” “A curling iron!”
  • “Multiple ‘real clothes’ outfits. I never changed out of my sweats.” “A sweatshirt dress to wear home. Very dumb.” “Anything cute for me. Just dumb!” “Actual clothes for me.”

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