What to pack in your hospital bag (and what to leave at home)!

Last March was my “postpartum month” … and I had planned on sharing this post then but in the middle of that March 2020 the world shut down due to COVID19 and it felt weird to share this post at that time. Still, I kept this post in drafts for a year because I figured eventually it would feel right to share again and people could still use some help with what to pack for the hospita when having a babyl- especially since somehow, even though it was my third time doing this just before I wrote this, I had forgotten some crucial items and brought some other things that never got used…. so as I said, this was written in pre-COVID times and I’m not sure what hospital rules and norms have changed or when things in maternity wards will go back to some sort of more “normal” but I hope some sweet parents-to-be out there get some use out of this post! And for those who have no use for this information, I hope you will think about passing it on to someone who might! (Or else, you know, just check back in next week…) So instead, consider this my “how… to pack your hospital bag” post…So let’s start with what I got right, the items I brought and am so glad I did that I want to make sure you bring them too!

*Nursing pillow: whether it be a Boppy or my personal favorite though awfully, pun-tastically named- My Breast Friend, these are so valuable during those early days of nursing, or even bottle feeding, because your core and back can be so tired from delivery that the support and positioning help is a game changer!
*Easy to throw out toiletries– for both you and your partner!: Odds are high you are going to forget something in the postpartum haze, so having travel sized toiletries or small bottles or just basic things you don’t care about losing is one less thing you have to worry about. For this birth, my mom actually put together a fabulous Christmas gift of nice travel toiletries and fuzzy socks (See below) in a cute little carrying case and I think I might start putting kits like this together for shower gifts because it was so nice not to worry about having to pack this with my own everyday, full size products.

So in love with this special swaddle and took so many pictures with it during little girl’s first day and several times since then…

*Our own swaddle, a special going home outfit– If you are delivering at a hospital, double check to be sure but odds are good that they provide almost everything you need for the baby (like diapers and wipes) and you are already paying for it in your delivery bill whether you sue the hospital provided materials or not, but odds are good you are going to want pictures of little one’s first day of life and it meant so much to us to have a special swaddle for those newborn pictures and a specific going home outfit. You will want some sort of going home outfit either way because you won’t be bringing your little one home in just a diaper! When you are picking a going home outfit, be aware of the umbilical cord stump which will need about a week to heal- a super tight onesie might irritate this depending on how sensitive baby is, which is why we brought sleep sacks and swaddles over a onesie- but if you want to pack a special onesie just for pictures go for it!
*Phone charger with LONG charging cord: Especially if this is your first birth or you are being induced/you tend to have long labors. You don’t want to worry about your battery dying if you are using your phone for music, pictures, to communicate with loved ones, etc. and you never know where the plus in the hospital room will be-  was so glad we brought the long charger so I didn’t have to get up more than necessary that first day after delivering!
*Extra hairband/hairbrush/headband/blow dryer/makeup if that’s your thing: I don’t think I put on any makeup aside from lipgloss after delivery, but that’s about what I usually wear on a daily basis. I’m so glad I had extra hairbands and a headband for during labor, and the hospital (mine at least) is not like a hotel so they will not provide a blow dryer and you will probably want to shower at least once while there. I also brought a hair straightener this time just to feel a little more human and put together before going home- my two other births I just rocked a pony tail the whole time…
*Contact case/glasses: I forgot this my second delivery because I didn’t have a last minute pack list and these are things I use every day. Boy did I regret it. The hospital is DRY and I was dying to take out my contacts after labor.
*Insurance info: My hospital let me pre-register so they already had my insurance card on file, but I highly recommend bringing all your information with you just in case so that you don’t have to answer annoying questions in triage during painful contractions…
*Sparkling wine: This has been a tradition for hubby and me after each delivery- hubby goes and gets me sushi and then we toast our new family member… not totally sure this is cool with the hospital as we’ve never announced this tradition… but it was extra fun this time to share some bubbly on Valentine’s Day!
*Baby book for footprints: This is something I never would have thought of if a nurse hadn’t suggested it to us during one of our pre-labor classes with my first born- The hospital will take baby’s footprints anyway and their staff is probably way better and getting a good footprint than you will be, so if you ask them to do the footprint in your baby book, that’s one less thing for you to try and remember during the sleepless newborn days once you get home! Plus, having your baby book means you can stick things from he hospital you’ll want to keep right in there so you don’t forget later. (I love the baby book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal because it is so low pressure and fun! I have also used her Bump Book for pregnancy journaling with my firstborn and continue to use her Birthday Book to document responses from each of my kids on their birthdays!)
*Diaper Bag: It was just easiest for us to pack all baby related things into the diaper bag we’d be using all the time once baby came… like the aforementioned swaddle, outfit, baby book… I also packed my preferred nursing aides and a pacifier for the way home. We also put the extra diapers from our hospital room into the bag and left them there for the next few times we were out and about with baby!
*Robe/jacket to throw over nursing stuff: Even if you aren’t nursing, you might want a robe for the shower because people are coming in and out of your room allllll the time that first day… I liked having a jacket to throw over nursing tank tops both so guests felt a little more comfortable as well as to deal with my hormones making me go from hot to cold pretty fast.
*Flip flops/bigger shoes just in case: Your feet can swell during pregnancy, and they can swell even more right after birth (especially with epidurals or lots of IV fluid in longer births) so make sure you have shoes that will fit you post partum/leave some extra space just in case!
*Grippy socks: hospital floors don’t feel great on your bare feet and they are also fairly slippery so socks that have grips on the bottom are the way to go!

OK, now some additional things that I FORGOT to bring to hospital and really wish I would have had with me:
*My own pillow, blanket, towels: I actually had a pillow on my last minute packing list and somehow it just didn’t make it into the car- we came home to see it sitting on the couch and it was just overlooked in the moment. I seriously regretted that because the hospital pillows are SO thin and the bed is pretty uncomfortable as it is. I’d recommend a pillow for any birthing partner who will be staying in the hospital with you too. I had completely forgotten how thin and small the hospital towels were and that wasn’t even on my list but I want to make sure friends know they should consider bringing their own! And I ended up using warmed hospital blankets, but I know friends who are SO HAPPY they brought their own blankets to help them feel more cozy and relaxed during and after labor.
*SNACKS: Many hospitals won’t let you eat during labor in case you end up needing a C Sectio. My first birth we made sure to pack snacks for my hubby as we knew it might be a while. My second labor went so fast we didn’t even have time to think about eating. This third time was longer than my second but still pretty fast so you’d think snacks would not have been on our mind… except I delivered at 12:29 AM and hadn’t had the stomach to have more than a few sips of smoothie for dinner and nothing was open for food again until after 6AM… so for about six hours after labor I was STARVING and trying to stave off the hunger with saltines and juice from the hospital galley and wishing we had been smart enough to pack some snacks for post partum!
*More socks: For some reason I was FREEZING during labor and post partum… mostly just my feet even though I had warm fuzzy socks. I ended up putting two layers of hospital provided socks on over my own and if I had it to do again I’d have packed more than one pair of socks for labor and one for post partum.
*Dry shampoo: I wasn’t up for showering immediately after labor but it would have felt really good to at least dry shampoo my hair. This is helpful to have during the newborn days anyway, right?
*Sleeping mask: Seriously, why did no one mention this to me and how did I not remember this after two previous births?! The hospital is SO bright (we had a light in our room that just NEVER went off) and people are always opening doors and letting more light in etc. and it made it very VERY difficult for me to get what little sleep I could have… a sleeping mask would have been a game changer.

I know that might sound like a LOT to pack for the hospital, but here are a few things that either I didn’t pack and didn’t miss, or did pack and did not need:
*Don’t bring anything that you don’t want to get dirty: We don’t bring up the diaper bag until post-delivery because labor is messy, but even after delivery odds are good that something will get spit up or other bodily fluids on it- babies are messy and so is post partum.
*Don’t bring clothes that are too tight: I’m so incredibly grateful that before my first baby someone warned me that you do not immediately go down to pre-pregnancy size… And that gets even more true the more kids you have! I still looked 20-30 weeks pregnant when leaving the hospital and boy was I glad that I had loose fitting sweatpants and a jacket with extra room instead of trying to fit into a pre-pregancy dress of some sort.
*Fancy nursing outfit or “labor gown”: If you want to get all dolled up for newborn photos then maybe DO bring a nicer outfit, but we were happy with newborn photos that either featured the gritty realness of how tired/not put together I was or else only featured my hands holding baby… I also can’t imagine spending a ton of money on a fancy labor gown because not only will it likely get really dirty, I’m not even sure my hospital would have allowed me to wear my own stuff once I was admitted!
*Diapers/wipes/ other baby basics: Once again, they have almost all the baby stuff I needed at hospital and we were already paying for it anyway… you can always double check with your labor and delivery wing, but I think this is pretty standard practice. I can’t speak to what they do or do not provide at birth centers!
*Meds/vitamins/jewelry: If you are in the hospital you have to get all your medicines and vitamins from the nursing staff and it is logged in the system. This is really annoying because they are charging you 10-100 fold for a Tylenol, but it is also for your safety so they know exactly what is in your body when and can make sure not to give you anything that would react adversely with anything else! I also choose not to wear any jewelry to the hospital including my wedding rings. Partially because I didn’t want to worry about it if I had to go into unexpected surgery and partially because I the swelling I mentioned earlier can also effect your hands and I didn’t want to worry about my rings feeling uncomfortable. It’s just easier not to think about keeping track of valuables!
*A “sibling gift”: I know a lot of people who have older children bring a “sibling gift” to the hospital and give it to their kids as a gift “from the baby” but we’ve found it is just as easy to do this at home and then it is one less thing to remember to bring there and back again. (Also, this time around we stuck with super simple and just gave the kids some Valentines chocolate since their sister was born on Valentines day! Just as well received as if we’d have splurged on some sort of fancy toy!)
*Underwear/regular bras if nursing: If this is the first time you are hearing this, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news- but the hospital is going to give you some really unattractive mesh underwear to deal with the post partum pads they make you use… If you are nursing then it probably isn’t worth it to bring a regular bra either… I packed a nursing bra this time but ended up just using nursing tank tops as they were more comfortable!
Headphones/speaker: These were recommended to us at our birth class, but we did not use them at all because out labor and delivery room was more or less sound proof and we just used the speaker on my phone the whole time when we wanted music.

BONUS LIST: If you are planning to do an unmedicated birth or to labor without an epidural for any substantial period of time, I also recommend these items:
*An Ice pack- this helped to distract from some seriously contraction pain, and also helped cool down the top part of my body that felt like it was overheating while the bottom half of me still felt super cold. (hormones…) we actually brought the two nursing hot/cold packs I already had and having two was great because one pack could chill again while we were using the other one. I wish we could have used the heated element to them as well, but out hospital did not allow that.
*Chapstick: our hospital was SO DRY and between that and chewing ice chips, chapstick was a must.  I used my favorite pomegranate chapstick, but I’m told that peppermint chapstick is also great to help those mamas who get extra nauseous during labor (I’d been nauseous pretty much my whole pregnancy so I didn’t notice much of a difference during labor…)
*A Focus item- we just used my phone and had a picture of my two kids I’d already birthed as a reminder I could do this and had done it before! Others I know use a baby outfit, a picture of a nursery, pictures of mothers or grandmothers or saints, a baby toy or baby blanket… something to focus on visually during the hard contractions!


Mamas who have been through this: Is there a favorite thing you had with you that I missed? Are you more minimalist when it comes to your hospital bag? If you used a birth center were there more or less things you needed? I’d love to hear from you in the comments so we can help other mamas to be who might stumble on this blog post!



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