- Be flexible about what you might want in labor. While music may sound relaxing now, when you’re in the midst of labor it may become irritating or just background noise. Expect your needs to change throughout labor and pack accordingly.
- It’s best not to pack away all your comfort items—such as a tennis ball for massage or a rice sack for soothing heat—as you may need these while you labor at home. If you are planning a home birth, keep a list of the items you will want to take along if you transfer to a hospital in labor.
- Think about practical items you may need—such as a brush and hair band to keep your hair off your face—and also include a few luxuries, like your most comfortable pajamas or your favorite pillow. Massage oil will also help your support person provide soothing touch during labor.
- Consider items that support movement throughout labor, including soft slippers to pamper your feet while walking on bare floors and a birth ball for sitting, leaning or rocking.
- Depending on the place where you plan to give birth, you also may want to pack some food. Miso soup, chicken broth or a smoothie can boost your energy in labor; or try crackers with peanut butter, banana or apple slices. Pack energy bars, fruit snacks or other quick foods for your support person.
- To make searching for packed items easier, use a separate bag for after the baby’s birth. This bag will contain your toiletries, a loose-fitting outfit for your trip home, an outfit for your newborn to wear home (including socks and hat) and a receiving blanket.
No matter what you pack, know that while some of these items may support you during birth, none of them are necessary. Remember that all you really need is encouragement and the freedom to listen and respond to your body’s cues. The power to give birth is in you.
Below you will find a hospital bag checklist from experienced parents:
For Gestational Parents
- Outfit/gown/skirt/bra/oversized shirt to birth in if you’d prefer not to use the standard hospital gown.
- Socks or slippers.
- Lanolin for breastfeeding nipple TLC.
- Nursing bras or tank: Some people prefer to go without while learning.
- Nursing pads: You will most likely not leak until your milk comes in, which may not happen until you are at home, but if you have an extended hospital stay beyond 2 days, you may need them.
- Nursing pillow: If you forget it, extra hospital pillows work fine, too.
- Toiletries: Shampoo, soap, brush, make up, hair dryer, lotion, Chapstick, tooth brush and toothpaste.
- Towel: Hospital towels are notoriously small and scratchy, but you may not care!
- Personal pillow or pillow case: Hospital pillows are thin; if you bring your own, be sure to use anything but a white pillowcase so as not to get it mixed up with the hospital's.
- Clothes/robe/night gown for recovery period: You'll most likely want out of the awful hospital gown ASAP!
- Clothes to go home in: Something loose fitting, like the maternity clothes you wore at around six months pregnant.
- Underwear: If the thought of hospital-provided mesh undies makes you cringe, bring cheap cotton, stretchy, dark-colored underwear that you won't mind throwing away in a couple of weeks.
- Flip flops for showering (if showering in a public place bothers you).
- Snacks for labor and postpartum.
- Small fan or white noise machine: This may be helpful if you are in an especially noisy part of the hospital.
- Baby book.
- Folder for baby's paperwork.
- Electronics: Phone and charger, camera and batteries, iPad and laptop.
- Before you leave, ask for more supplies to take home: Mesh underwear, peri bottles, witch hazel, baby wipes, diapers and whatever else that is provided by the hospital for "free."
- Blanket: The hospital should have one, but it may be small, scratchy and thin.
- Pillow: The hospital should have extras, but they may be small and thin.
- Change of clothes: Labor can get messy, even for co-parents!
- Change for vending machine snacks.
- Air mattress: Many hospitals have a pull-out couch, but some do not.
- Toiletries: At least a toothbrush!
- Token “thank-you” gifts—like sweets or muffins—for nurses (not necessary, but always appreciated).
- Going-home outfit: Hospitals offer outfits for your baby during your stay; best to use them as they tend to get messy!
- Going-home blanket: Hospitals provide blankets during your stay.
- Car seat.
Do Not Pack
- Sanitary pads: The hospital will provide these during your stay.
- Diapers and wipes will also be provided.