What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag for Birth

Are you approaching the big day when you’ll get to meet the little one you’ve been carrying for nine often-grueling months? Have you ever been so excited and so nervous at the same time?

You probably have it in the back of your mind that you need to pack that hospital bag sooner rather than later. After all, Baby could come early, and you don’t want to be caught by surprise. But how can you prepare for the unexpected? What do you pack? Which items are actual must-haves — and which are waste of space? Read on.


1. Lip balm: This may seem silly, but hospitals have a way of draining the moisture (and perhaps other things) from you, most especially felt in your lips. Something as small and simple as applying lip balm to your lips will help you feel rejuvenated during an otherwise arduous few days.

2. Cell phone charger: I mean, duh, but really, it’s worth emphasizing because it’s so easy to forget this. You probably have your charger plugged in somewhere in your home, and it’s the last thing you’re going to remember to grab when your water breaks or you’re contracting and you have to run to the hospital. Your phone will not only be your lifeline to the outside world and your camera for new baby pics, but can also be used as a timer to measure contractions, as a focal point while you’re in labor and, of course, for entertainment should things be progressing more slowly than usual and you’re tired of watching CNN on the hospital TV.

3. Snacks: Hospital food can suck, but it may also not be available while you’re laboring (which could be hours or even days) or after Baby comes and you get out of recovery and into your room (when you’re truly starving). Snacks that are wholesome and packed with energy, like granola bars and packets of peanut butter, are good to bring. Opt for shelf-stable items in small portions, as you likely won’t have access to a fridge. 

Snacks are also helpful to keep your partner/doula/friend/family going. You might not want to eat, but the person in the room not pushing out a watermelon might.

4. Your birth plan: Most people don’t think to do this, but if you have a doula or a midwife, they may guide you through creating a birth plan, which is essentially written instructions for how you would like your birth to go. Of course, things often don’t go as planned, so the birth plan also accounts for that and lays out how you would like things to go if they go if something unexpected happens. Included are things like whether and when you might want an epidural, who should be allowed in the birth room or operating room with you, who you want to cut the umbilical cord if not hospital staff, etc. It’s a health care proxy of sorts. 

It’s not guaranteed that the medical staff will look at your birth plan or abide by it, and there’s never certainty that you won’t want to deviate from it when you’re in the moment, but it’s a helpful way to organize your preferences and could prove quite useful.

More: Identical twins defy "one in a million" odds to give birth only hours apart

5Clothes for you: Be sure to pack comfy clothes to wear in the hospital if you don’t want to flash everyone in your flimsy hospital gown. Don’t assume that you will magically go back to your pre-baby figure and weight immediately after giving birth — your maternity clothes are likely to fit best. 

Don’t bring anything nice or uncomfortable; the last thing you want is to feel even more constricted and in pain than you may already be. Opt for loose-fitting clothes that make you feel at home. Big underwear is dreadful to think about, but a really good idea, as you will be bleeding and uncomfortable down there, regardless of how you give birth. 

Also, it bears mentioning that your partner should pack their bag too, particularly if they will be allowed to stay with you. My wife helped me pack my bag and was so excited and nervous when I went into labor, she realized she hadn’t packed her own bag (and proceeded to pack one lonely pair of pants with no shirt or underwear to accompany it).

6. Outfit for Baby: Remember to bring an outfit for Baby to go home in and think about weather-appropriate attire, particularly if it’s cold out. New babies don’t retain heat well and need to be bundled up (conversely, if it’s hot out, don’t overdress your baby, as they can overheat easily as well). 

Don’t go crazy with the outfits, but it’s OK to bring a couple of different sizes, as you don’t really know how big your baby will be. 

We also brought our own diapers, opting to use organic ones rather than the tried-and-true Pampers the hospital gives out.

More: The No. 1 Way to Survive Being a New Parent

7. Toiletries: Nothing is more depressing than hospital soap (except for maybe prison soap, though I think you have to buy the soap there). That scratchy bar will dry you out in no time. Bring your own toiletries and trust that you will enjoy that first shower you’re allowed to have immensely. Don’t forget your toothbrush as well, as your mouth (and guests) will thank you later.

Don’t Bother

The following items should be left at home. You don’t need them and won’t use them, and you’ll be thankful you left more room in your bag for the essentials.

Follow these tips to get your packing checklist started, and you won’t go wrong. What are you waiting for? Baby could come at any moment!

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