What To Pack in Your Hospital Bag
The baby is coming soon and there is so much to do! You’ve got the car seat picked out, the colors for the nursery, and a newborn photographer has been chosen. But what do you need to take with you to your birth?
The hospital will provide many things but bringing some specific comfort items for you and your partner can provide reassurance when you need it the most. Not to mention, anything that makes your birth experience a little more comfortable is worth the suitcase space.
Here are some of our favorite ideas for what to pack in your hospital bag.
Shower Supplies & Clothes
Water is your best friend and the most natural way to relieve labor pain. Even if your hospital doesn’t feature a laboring tub, almost every room will have a shower. Special supplies that you’ll want to have include:
- A cheap pair of flip flops for standing in the shower or walking the halls. These can be tossed when you leave but if you have any qualms about bathroom floors, you’ll be glad you brought something to cover your feet.
- A string bikini top may sound like an item for a cruise rather than labor, but they are perfect for birthing too. They are easy to labor in, whether in the water or out of it, and you can easily get them on and off even if you have an IV or any other lines coming from you. As an added bonus, if you are filming or photographing your birth and prefer not to be topless, they function well for coverage as well. (Though we firmly believe that women should labor in as little, as much, or no clothing at all. Whatever works for you.)
- An extra top or clothes. If you are going in and out and in and out of the water, having an extra bikini, tank, or sports bra top is a must. They don’t take up much room but will add to your comfort.
- A maxi skirt that you can also pull up and wear as a strapless dress. These are great to labor in, comfortable, and work well for access that your provider may need.
- It may be a good time to embrace “granny panties.” Sure, they aren’t the most flattering things ever created, but they get the job done. And if you don’t care for the throw-away mesh undies provided by the hospital, they are a great alternative that you can re-use in the days following the birth. They work well for the maxi pads that you will inevitably be wearing for the first few weeks after baby as your body heals and you continue to lose blood.
- A robe is a fabulous accessory as well. You can cuddle up if you get cold but they are easy to wrap and unwrap if you are getting in and out of the shower or walking the halls.
- Comfortable pajamas that button or somehow provide easy nursing access are also helpful. When you give birth you will be smaller, but you will likely appreciate clothes that are very stretchy or bigger than your pre-pregnancy outfits.
Toiletries & Pampering
Having your own special things for self-care at the hospital brings the comfort of home to your birthplace. Here are a few ideas that you should pack in your hospital bag. Don’t forget to bring things for your partner too. This means they don’t have to run home and leave you alone when you need them.
- Deodorant is a need because labor is hard work. You may need to apply it more than once!
- Having chapped lips is simply distracting. Bring your favorite lip balm so you can breathe easy throughout labor.
- Not only is brushing your hair a daily necessity, for many women it is incredibly relaxing to have someone brush their hair as they labor. This simple tool may turn out to be your favorite relaxation method as well.
- Soaps and shampoo will be so refreshing when you take your first post-birth shower. Don’t be afraid to splurge on something nice and fancy for your postpartum as well. You’ll love it.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste for you and your partner are a must. There is something about minty-fresh breath that gives you a new start when you need it. Not to mention, you will appreciate not being distracted by your partner’s morning breath as you breathe through your contractions!
- Hospital pillows are lovely in that you don’t have to clean them but they often feel like plastic and leave something to be desired. Bring your own pillow, double covered with two pillowcases to keep it clean.
- Your own big, dark-colored towel. Hospital towels tend to be smaller and scratchy and wrapping up in something warm, soft, and cuddly from home can feel particularly luxurious after giving birth.
Depending on your own nutritional needs and those of your partner, you may benefit from bringing some of your own food to the hospital. While many hospitals have great food, you’ll still want things that you can quickly reach for and that you enjoy. Some ideas include:
- Honey sticks
- Drinkable yogurts or keifer
- Coconut water
- Iced herbal teas
- Single packs of peanut butter
- Anything that you love, is easy to digest, and which fits well in your hospital bag
Don’t forget about the partner. While the birthing mother may not be wanting to eat big meals as she gets to the end of her labor, her partner will have normal food needs. Protein bars, drinks, and more filling foods are appropriate.
Odds & Ends
Packing for the hospital is slightly different than going on a trip out of town. Here are a few things that can come in handy.
- A phone charger, a portable battery pack for your phone and/or an extension cord (electrical outlets are not always in convenient places) can help ensure that you can communicate and capture special moments as needed.
- Adult diapers may not be on your regular packing list, but they sure come in handy after delivery. The first few days involve some significant blood loss, and being able to wear something that definitely won’t leak can make sleeping much more comfortable.
- Movies downloaded to your device can help pass the time in the day or two after birth. You will need to rest and much of your time will be occupied with learning how to breastfeed. Having a few movies that you and your partner enjoy can help pass the time.
- While it doesn’t have exciting action scenes, we also highly recommend you have the Birth Boot Camp breastfeeding video, Breastfeeding: The Ultimate MRE. It’s fabulous, detailed, and helpful. It’s great to watch prior to birth, but you’ll really appreciate it’s value when you’re nursing.
- Sitz bath spray is helpful as well. You’ll likely take a sitz bath or two in the hospital and they will send you home with a peri bottle for rinsing when you go to the bathroom, but the spray is easy to carry in your bag and less trouble.
- Soft toilet paper isn’t a need, but it can be helpful. Sometimes hospital bath tissue is scratchy and you’ll likely be using the restroom frequently as you labor. It never hurts to be gentle with your birthing parts leading up to meeting your baby.
- Hair ties are essential if you have long hair. Few things are more infuriating than having sweaty hair in your face when you are working hard and trying to concentrate. Bring lots of hair ties!
- An extra bag for all the hospital swag. True, the hospital isn’t the Oscar after party, but they will send you home with plenty of swag. It may be so much stuff that you would appreciate a little bag to put it in.
Don’t forget about the partner! We mentioned things that could be helpful for them throughout, but they have needs too. A pair of swim trunks, extra socks, clothes to layer, food and drink, and even a professional doula are all things that can help the partner. Anything that supports the partner also supports the birthing woman.
Don’t forget about postpartum! Some doulas even recommend you bring two bags, one for things you’ll use during the birth and another for things that you will need after, like baby clothes or those fun undies we mentioned.
Don’t forget to look at this list and abandon anything that doesn’t suit you. It’s starting to feel like you have to pack the whole house! You don’t! The hospital will really provide your needs. Don’t stress about this. But if taking a few comfort items helps you relax mentally or emotionally, then do it.
Don’t forget your birth plan. Having a plan of action for your birth is far more important than a special towel and will have a greater impact on your birth experience.
Lastly, don’t forget what this is all about- preparing for an amazing birth and postpartum experience. Do what works for you and forget the rest. Let go of the stress that you don’t need. Ask for help. Then take a deep breath and leap into this next incredible phase of life.
We wish to thank the following Birth Boot Camp instructors and doulas for their contributions to this article.
Heather Whitcomb at Butterfly Doula in northeast Pa. Bevin Caffery Victory at Victory Doula in Texas. Andrea Brannock at Adore Birth Services in Cleburne, TX. Rebekah Lewis in Denton, TX Candiauce Klein in Winters, TX. Shannon Sands in Oamah, NE. Madeline Schulle at Little Birdie Birth in Colorado Springs, CO. Jillian Jolley in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Amber Keller at Kangaroo Doula in Keller, TX. Caren Nugent at Baby STEPS Birth in Arlington, TX.