The day you have long been anticipating has arrived! Your contractions are getting longer, stronger, and closer together. It will soon be time to head to the hospital where you will get to welcome your new baby! The very last thing you need to be concerned about at this time is what to bring with you when you leave. Using this hospital bag checklist will help you be prepared so you don’t have to stress about it in the moment! This hospital bag checklist is based on over 20 years of experience as a birth doula as well as input from families on the items they felt were most important and which ones they felt could be left at home.
When should you pack?
I recommend that you have your bag pretty much ready to go by 36 or 37 weeks just in case your baby comes early. It gives some families peace of mind to have the beginnings of the hospital bag packed even earlier than that for the rare situation of a premature delivery. There are some items that you may not be able to actually put in the bag until go time, so leaving a printed copy of the hospital bag checklist on the top of the bag can help you remember which items to grab as you are walking out the door. Some people like to keep their bag in the car, but varying temperatures can affect some items so you may want to keep that in mind if going with that option.
The General Hospital Bag Checklist
Extra-long Charging Cables
Hospitals are known for their strange outlet locations, so I recommend the extra-long cables so that they reach you wherever you happen to be in the room! You’ll want to keep your phone charged to make sure it’s ready to capture those first moments. If you plan on watching Netflix to distract you from a long labor, you won’t want your laptop or tablet battery to run out.
These may seem like an extra, but parents report over and over that having these allows you to keep the glaring hospital fluorescent lights off. Creating a more comfortable and relaxing environment makes all the difference! There are LED candles, lamps, or fairy lights that can create a beautiful space.
You can take that spa-like environment even further by diffusing oils that will relax you and take away that hospital smell! Be careful with this one, you may end up with all the staff coming to visit your room because it smells so amazing! Lavender is calming and peppermint can alleviate nausea.
A Bluetooth Speaker or Earbuds
Listening to your playlist in the whole room can add to the mood you’ve created with lights and essential oils. Additionally, if it’s playing on a low volume, it encourages people to speak quietly when they walk in the room. Using ear buds can block out all the extra noises which can be effective for focusing on your coping techniques during labor.
Pillows, blanket, bath towel
If you or your partner are particular about your pillow, you will definitely want to bring your favorite one from home. This is a hospital, not the Ritz, the pillows, blankets, and towels they provide are the opposite of big, warm, and fluffy.
Even if you have already left a copy of your birth plan/labor preferences with your care provider, bring extras. You can tape one to the door so that everyone who comes in sees it. You can also pass out copies to everyone. (Add some treats when passing out the copies to thank them ahead of time for their support!) I recommend against calling it a “Birth Plan” because of feedback from hospital staff over the years. Using names like Birth preferences or Labor Wishes tend to be better received.
Drinks & Snacks
Labor and delivery uses up a lot of energy. Bring lots of protein bars and your favorite snacks for you and your partner. Although the hospital does feed Mom, you may want something more satisfying. Also, the kitchen isn’t open in the middle of the night when you are up with your newborn.
Pack what you and your partner use on a daily basis that will make you feel more at home: deodorant, soap, shampoo, hair dryer, glasses, contacts, etc. Lip balm is a MUST for labor! Hair ties can make all the difference in the world as well.
Long Labor Distractions
Other long labor distractions that can be nice to have are cards, a handheld video game device, a book, or even a craft such as knitting.
Hospital or Insurance Paperwork
You’ll need your ID, insurance card, and pediatrician’s contact information. Check with your doctor or midwife beforehand as to what paperwork you will need to bring. In addition if you have any specific paperwork, such as an organ release form (placenta encapsulation) or a cord blood banking form, bring that as well.
Hospital Bag Checklist for the Birth Parent
- Comfortable clothes – the hospital supplies a hospital gown. However, some women prefer to have their own comfortable labor gown or skirt. Keep in mind that labor and immediately after can be messy when deciding if you will bring your own clothes. Sometimes bringing a robe can be the happy medium. It is homey and comfortable, and it covers up the hospital gown.
- Bring your nursing bras or tanks. In addition, you will want something loose and comfortable to go home in.
- Some kind of slip-on shoes or grippy socks are nice for walking around the hospital. The hospital can provide hospital grippy socks, so this is up to your preference.
- Adult diapers – the hospital provides giant pads and sexy mesh underwear, but many moms have reported they prefer using Depends.
- A portable fan – labor can leave you cold and then hot. A little fan can help you adjust to those changes quickly.
- Sleep mask and ear plugs – a hospital isn’t the easiest place to sleep!
Hospital Bag Checklist for Your Partner
A change of clothes is a must; labor can be messy and long. Partners will also want some layers and their own portable fan. If they will be getting in a birth tub or shower with Mom, a swimsuit would be appreciated by all!
Hospital Bag Checklist for Baby
- Car seat – you won’t be allowed to leave the hospital without one! Have it installed in advanced and checked out by a Child Passenger Safety Technician. Find your local technician at safekids.org.
- Clothing – onesies and sleepers for the hospital and going home. Some hospitals still provide little t-shirts but just in case or to make it more personal, bring your own.
- Something for footprints – if you are doing a baby book bring it! If not, you can bring some card stock or a “foot print card” to get that keepsake!
- Blankets, hats, socks, etc – particularly for the ride home.
- You don’t need to bring diapers! The hospital will provide those for you.
This hospital bag checklist is by no means extensive but can get you thinking about what you need and WANT to bring to help make your experience as smooth as possible. To learn more about how to prepare for your new baby, sign up for Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny’s in-person or virtual Newborn 101 parenting class. If you are wondering what other newborn products you will need once you get home we have a list of our favorites, here.
About The Author
Laura Nance has been working as a doula and educator for over 20 years. She is a trainer with CAPPA and serves on the leadership team as the senior program advisor for the postpartum doula and new parent educator programs. Laura owns a doula and educator collaborative in NC providing services for pregnancy through sleep crises and weaning, called For the Love of Baby. She has been married for almost 30 years and has two children in their twenties who are responsible for helping her to realize how much she didn’t know each stage of the way. She has 4 cats, loves to read on the beach, and get covered in mud and sweat on running trails. Follow her on Instagram @forloveofbaby and @laura_nance_education.