The Hospital Bag Checklist: What To Pack For Yourself & Your Baby
Written by Erin Feher
It’s almost go time! One of the more surreal moments in late pregnancy is packing that precious little onesie into a bag, and knowing that a real baby will be sporting it any day now. While it’s important to be prepared and pre-packed, keeping it simple is key. If you’re notorious for over-packing, now is the time to test your willpower. This is a bring-only-the-essentials situation if there ever was one. Limit yourself to one bag (a duffle or tote, not a suitcase) and have it packed with things that will stay zipped up inside until the big day, versus things you use every day and will have to scramble to re-pack once your water pops. That being said, don’t procrastinate on packing your bag, as babies have been known to surprise even the most prepared parents-to-be far earlier than expected. We suggest having a bag packed by 34 weeks.
We asked the creators of Milkit (which stands for Mothers In Labor Kit, and offers a gorgeous pre-packed hospital tote filled with necessities) to tell us their insider tips for packing, as well as any hospital hacks mamas-to-be need to know about. Between them, Lauren Heath, Ali Hollon, and Kaylee Fitzpatrick have seven births under their belts, so they know their stuff! Must haves? “Healthy snacks and hydration (hello electrolytes!) are a must. The hospital food just doesn’t cut it—who can we talk to about changing this?! A comfy robe or breastfeeding-friendly outfit that you can basically live in the entire time you’re in postpartum care. And skin hydration—the whole experience can be incredibly drying, so it’s a good idea to have lip balm, lotion, and a face oil or moisturizer on hand.” Our expert mamas also had suggestions for what to leave out of the bag: “Skip the books, laptop, and iPad. Whoever says you’ll need some form of entertainment has never had a baby. I can guarantee you will not be finding yourself bored! No need to pack numerous different baby outfits—the one you plan on having baby wear home is really all you’ll need.”
And then there’s what you should pack on your way out of the hospital: “Those mesh panties provided by the hospital are everything. Absolutely ask for lots of extra pads and mesh undies before you leave—they are better than anything you can find at the store! We also highly suggest seeing the lactation consultant before leaving the hospital—they can help shine a whole new light on breastfeeding. It is also a great time to become an expert swaddler and ask all of the seemingly silly new parent questions at all hours of the day and night. The nurses are pros and love helping navigate new motherhood, so use them to your full advantage!”
Check out our full hospital bag checklist below. And make sure to check out Milkit, which can be a fun and easy way to get prepped for the big day (and a good baby shower gift that several of your friends can chip in for!). Plus, we love that a portion of every sale goes towards the Black Mamas Matter Alliance.
- Your pre-registration papers (filled out), identification, and insurance cards. Keep these things in an accessible spot so your partner can easily find them and deal with reception, while you concentrate on your contractions.
- A modernized hospital gown, robe and/or a nursing nightgown. Avoiding those typical hospital gowns will keep you feeling more like “you” throughout your stay. To note: chances are anything you bring will get a little dirty or even ruined, so opt for dark colors and don’t invest too much in pricey pieces.
- Thick socks or slippers. You’ll most likely be walking up and down the hospital hallways and you’ll want something on your feet.
- Nursing bra or easy-access tank tops. If you are breastfeeding, you will basically be bare-chested during the bulk of your stay. We found stretchy tanks to be easier to navigate during those first few days, rather than learning the ins-and-outs of a nursing-bra clasp, but opt for whatever you feel most comfortable with.
- Lanolin or nipple cream. If you’re breastfeeding, apply this stuff before and after every time you nurse or pump. It’s safe for baby to ingest and will make your breastfeeding experience a bit easier.
- Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, hair ties, travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. The hospital will supply you with these if you’re in need, but that first shower after birth is going to be an important one, so it can be nice to have your own products. We would even suggest splurging on a favorite brand. Good smells will go a long way.
- Some lip balm and a good body lotion. The canned hospital air does a number on your lips.
- Phone and charger.
- Camera, memory card, and charger. If you don’t have a high-quality camera phone or you want better quality photos, make sure an official camera is packed and fully charged.
- A Bluetooth speaker. Having a soundtrack to zone out on can help with any birth. Save a white noise track on your phone, too, to drown out any hospital noises overnight.
- A few changes of comfortable clothes and slip-on shoes to return home in. Think elastic waistbands, comfy cotton, or loose caftans.
- An arsenal of your favorite healthy snacks and electrolyte-rich drinks. A personal craving that kicked in big time immediately post-birth was ice-cold coconut water. Most hospitals discourage eating during labor (and forbid it 12-hours before a C-section), so once baby arrives, the thirst and hunger will, too. And even the best hospital food is still hospital food.
- Infant carseat. You will not be able to leave the hospital without one. Make sure the base is rear-facing and installed into the backseat of the car beforehand.
- An outfit to go home in, complete with hat and booties.
- A warm blanket. The hospital will provide you with receiving blankets, but it’s a good idea to bring along a warmer blanket incase the hospital is chilly or the weather outside is cold.
For more on prepping for baby, check out 15 New Breastfeeding Products We Love, 20 Pregnancy Essentials for the Minimalist Mama-To-Be, and Baby Etiquette 101: The Dos and Don’t’s of Visiting Newborns.
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Perfect timing! I’m packing my hospital bag now for my 2nd baby coming in late Sept. Don’t forget a pillow with a non-white pillowcase.
This couldn’t be more perfect as I’m packing my hospital bag as we speak! First baby coming in late Sept, so I was a bit overwhelmed as to what to bring. This helped sooo much!