I must have googled “what to pack in your hospital bag” approximately one million times when I was pregnant. But no matter how many times I looked it up, or how many different lists of “must haves” I read, I never quite found one that was exactly right. And believe me, I read A LOT of lists. I live for lists! I think that because birth is such a personal experience and so different for each person, no single list is going to be universally right. I do think, though, that there are generally helpful and necessary items that tend to pop up on each of those varying lists – because they make sense! So here is my attempt at a list of items and ideas meant to help inform you, inspire you, and hopefully prevent your partner from a potential back injury after carrying 47 bags of “necessities” into your hospital room. In no particular order:
Phone charger w/ extra long cord: There is never an aptly-placed outlet convenient for the person posted up in the hospital bed, and it’s even harder still to reach one when your arms are full of newborn. The extra long cords are such a game changer, even once you get home!
Comfy clothes for after birth: What’s comfiest is so different for everybody; I live in yoga pants unless it’s socially unacceptable not to wear them someplace (sorry not sorry!) but someone else might prefer flannels or their hubby’s most worn-in sweats. You know what to pack for yourself to be comfy. These are just guidelines! Typically you’re allowed to change out of that [super fashionable] hospital gown fairly quickly. Not much can compare to that potato sack shape with the breezy peek-a-boo open-back concept… but having your own comfy stuff on after all that your body goes through during childbirth is everything. PSA: You’re not going to want anything tight or complicated, especially if you’ve had a cesarean. Stretchy, loose, lightweight stuff is your friend. Speaking of stretchy, stock up on the glamorous mesh undies that the hospital gives you if you deliver at one; those can be a godsend for the immediate postpartum period! Definitely pack some loose, comfy pairs of underwear if the hospital-issue ones aren’t your jam, but there’s no shame in your game if you ask the nurses for a few extra pairs, either. Throw a sweatshirt or robe in your bag too, since you never know how the hospital room temp (or your own body temp for that matter!) will be. If you are planning to breastfeed, investing in a couple of decent nursing bras and tops is a good idea. *Just make sure none of these are your favorite item of clothing, because you’ll likely lose some of them to the fun world of postpartum bodily fluids.
Snacks: Pack a few of your favorite things to snack on in case you get hungry in between meals. I’d like to tell you all I brought was fruit and celery sticks and healthy stuff but that’s unfortunately just not true. Pack what you like (bonus points for items that are yummy and nutritious, stuff that will keep your energy up) and don’t forget to bring everyone’s faves or your partner will be stuck with hospital Jell-O (or worse, they’ll try to steal your goodies!)
Toiletries: Bring travel versions of your usual shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, face wash, lotion, toothpaste, and an extra tooth brush. It’s [usually] not like the movies where you’re running out the door in a full panic yelling, “THE BABY IS COMING! WE HAVE TO GO NOW!” but you just never know. And even if you have all the time in the world to gather your things and saunter off to have your babe, it is just Murphy’s Law that you’ll forget something. So do yourself a favor and plan ahead; have your mini’s packed and stashed and waiting for Baby Day.
A few other accessory/toiletry items that you’ll be happy to have on hand are:
-Flip-flops/non-skid socks/slippers – I brought a cheap pair of flip-flops for the shower and a pair for roaming the halls before + after giving birth. Some may prefer non-skid socks – the hospital should provide you some – or slippers that will also keep your feet nice and warm!
-Elastic hair bands/headband
-Glasses/contacts/contact solution if applicable
-Hair dryer/brush/comb/flat iron or whatever you use when you get out of the shower. For me, that first shower was heavenly even if it wasn’t in the comfort of my own home (or, say, the Four Seasons). But even more than that, I was thankful that I had my everyday-routine stuff on hand. It made me feel more human and like myself while staying in the hospital.
Going home outfit for baby: Whether you hunted Etsy for the perfect Insta-worthy outfit to bring your little love home in or found the coziest, most precious outfit at Old Navy (or somewhere in between), pack baby’s outfit for your family’s Big Going Home Day! Make sure to keep season and weather in mind.
Speaking of going home – Car seat: You’ll need an approved infant car seat to bring home your little bundle! You can find a list of local certified car seat technicians online for assistance with install.
Miscellaneous Things to Keep Handy: Make sure your wallet is stocked with your license, health insurance card, hospital forms if applicable, and a couple of copies of your birth plan (if applicable), plus some single dollars + change for the vending machines (just in case it’s 3am and you just NEED that diet coke!) In addition, make sure you have someplace safe to keep all the things that you will want to hang on to – copies and documents from the hospital, bassinet name tag, baby’s + parents’ ID bracelets, etc. – so they aren’t ruined, lost, or left behind.
WANTS/IF YOU HAVE ROOM TO SPARE
Camera + charger: Don’t forget the battery + charger!
Your own pillow + towel: Hospital pillows leave much to be desired, and the shower towels are usually pretty thin. It’s also completely understandable that you’d prefer to have at least a few of the comforts of home while you’re there. It’s totally a personal preference, just make sure if you do bring your own pillow or towel along that they are anything but plain white, so they can be differentiated from the hospital ones!
Extra baby clothes/swaddle blankets: Another one that’s totally subjective. I actually loved having my own onesies to put my daughter in. Same for swaddle blankets – I was so happy I brought them, mine were so much softer (and way cuter) than the standard issue ones! But there’s plenty of time for that; using the hospital-issue blankets and onesies means less packing and less dirty laundry coming home with you, so there’s no right or wrong here!
It can seem overwhelming, but rest assured, your doula is always available to help narrow down and prioritize your packing list to help tailor your hospital bag to suit your individual needs.
-Meghan Scafati, Labor and Postpartum Doula, Mama to one, and habitual over-packer