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Hi there! I’m Christina, a mom of two littles, a licensed mental health therapist, and a children’s book author! Thanks for checking out my site. Look around! I’m sure there’s something here for you! This post is about what you actually need when packing your hospital bag for labor and recovery. Hopefully it helps lower your anxiety and overwhelm in the prep stages!

Packing Your Hospital Bag – What You Actually Need!

One of my college besties is pregnant with her first child! Our recent conversation as she preps for labor and delivery was focused on packing her hospital bag. As with all things motherhood, knowing what to pack and what not to pack can be overwhelming. Our chat helped me realize I didn’t have a hospital bag blog post — what was I thinking? — so I am writing it for you now. Coincidentally, I am currently pregnant with our third child, so this is relevant to me also! I hope this helps you all!

Read on to see my recommendations for packing only what you actually need in your bags for giving birth to your baby. Of course there are items that may be specific to you and the birth you’re envisioning that you may want, but this list has the basics that pretty much everyone needs to pack. So use this as your baseline and then add whatever else matters to you!

Pro tip: Once you have packed your bags and feel like you’ve got all you need, have whomever is coming to the hospital with you (e.g. your partner) unpack and repack the bag so they know where everything is. When you are laboring or are in the bed recovering, it is SO helpful if they already know where the items are, in which bag, in which pocket, in which zipper…!

dad carrying baby in car seat. article about packing your hospital bag.

Here is my all-you-REALLY-actually-need checklist for packing your labor and delivery hospital bags!

Note: I say “bags” because it is helpful to have one bag for labor and one bag for the recovery room as you’ll need different things at different times!

Items you’ll need in general:

  • Car seat
    You don’t need to bring this into the hospital with you until it is time to take babe home, but in the US you cannot leave the hospital without proof of having a correctly installed car seat. Install this (and have it checked) ahead of time so that it’s good and ready for use when the time comes.
  • Phone and charger
    This is a no-duh sort of item, but gosh if you forgot it because it wasn’t on my list, I couldn’t forgive myself! You and your partner will likely want to capture so many photos and videos, so this is a must.
  • Drivers License (ID) and Insurance Card
    When you check in at the hospital, likely they will take you through an intake paperwork process. You may also need to know the name and contact of who you’ve chosen as the baby’s pediatrician!

Items you’ll need for labor:

  • Hair ties, clips, or cloth headband
    When you’re laboring, your senses are often heightened, and having rogue hairs in your face may drive you over the edge. Pulling or clipping your hair back can help you keep focus on what you need to.
  • Gum or mints
    Speaking of heightened senses, you may be very aware of the taste of your breath, or — more likely — the smell of your partner’s breath, after several hours of laboring. Gum or mints will be your best friend.
  • Chapstick
    Labor is very primal, and often you are grunting or at the very least, breathing through your mouth more than is typical for you. Having chapstick on hand will help you not end up with dry, cracked, or bleeding lips. You’ll be bleeding enough; let’s keep your lips out of it!
  • Snacks and water for you (if your hospital allows) and your partner
    Labor is (no surprise, I’m sure) long and hard work, so having hospital-permitted snacks can help you continue to fuel yourself along the way. Your partner, though not working nearly as hard as you are, is likely going to get the munchies after some time, so have them contribute to packing snacks for themselves. Side note: your partner may also want to wear comfy clothes and athletic shoes. No one wants to hear their partner complaining about their own discomfort while you’re the one running the marathon!

Items you’ll need for recovery and going home:

  • Nursing bra and nursing pads
    You might not be allowed to wear a bra during labor so that the doctors and nurses have full access to you for monitoring and interventions, but once baby is here putting on a nursing bra helps support the weight of your breasts as your milk comes in. Plus, the bra holds your nursing pads in place, which you may or may not need in recovery. Some women begin to leak right away, while others never end up leaking!
  • Nursing Pillow (optional but recommended for your comfort)
    I loved having my nursing pillow at the hospital with my second child because it propped up my arm and baby just right. With my first child, I just used the hospital pillows piled and bent under my arm, but it never felt right and I left the hospital with extra back and neck pain. If you already plan to have a nursing pillow at home, go ahead and bring it for nursing at the hospital.
  • Toiletries
    We all have our favorite toiletries that make us feel good. Bring your go-to shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, toothbrush, lotion, etc so that you can refresh and feel renewed when you are able to shower.
  • Going home outfit for you
    You may know this, but upon birthing your baby, your stomach may not (read: probably will not) go down a lot right away. So when you plan your own going-home clothes, leave your pre-pregnancy jeans at home. Joggers are a win or even some maternity pants (thought they might be a bit loose). Along with your nursing bra for going home, a nursing top is a great shout. If you don’t have a nursing top or tank, a loose good ol’ regular t-shirt over your nursing bra works as well for quick access to feed bubs.
  • Going home outfit for baby
    This is probably the most exciting thing on this list! Taking baby home is such a big moment, after all! You know how your pregnancy is going and what predicted size your baby will be. If you are told you baby will be on the small end, you may want to bring one premie outfit and one newborn outfit. If you expect baby to be average size, a newborn outfit should suit them fine. And if you know baby will be big, you may even want to bring a 0-3 months option!
baby in going clothes home from hospital

Items YOU DO NOT NEED to bring!

  • Loads of baby diapers and wipes (or any, really!)
    The hospital is stocked with diapers and wipes! If you have a specific preference, then by all means bring those, but if you — like most first-time moms — have no clue which diaper and wipes brands are your and your baby’s jam, make use of the hospital’s supply!
  • Lounge clothes or robe for you
    When you are freshly postpartum, you are leaky, milky, and bloody, and usually really worn out and sore. While photos in cute matching lounge sets and robes is super instagrammable, it may be quite low on your priority list. Note: not keeping up with the Joneses on social media is good for your mental health. After pushing a baby out or having baby surgically removed, getting out of bed is hard and contorting your body to change clothes is even harder, so putting on new clothes that you are likely to get bodily fluids on is, generally, not a universal necessity. But if that appeals to you, and those fresh 48 photos need to be *just so*, by all means, you do you!
  • Postpartum pads and underwear
    These are more items that the hospital has in surplus. The mesh undies save your real undies from mess, and actually they are quite comfortable. The hospital provided pads are ginormous, but likely they are just what you need in those first few days. My nurses even recommended doubling them up! You are welcome to bring your preferred pad brand or adult diapers but it’s nice to not have to pack them too.
  • Several outfits for baby
    Nurses are in and out of your room so many times you will lose count! Keeping baby in the hospital-provided diaper and hospital-provided swaddle is all your cherub needs while at the hospital. You will have plenty of time to dress them up over and over again when you’re home (and, ya know, for forever). Again, this list is of necessities for packing your hospital bag, so that’s why I say you don’t need to bring several outfits. But if you want to, then by all means! I am not the boss of you. This is your baby, after all!

Hospital-supplied items to bring home!

I hope my bare-bones list of what you ACTUALLY need when packing your hospital bag is helpful! Make sure to take home extras of what the hospital supplies. My recs are to load up on several items. For example, packs of diapers, wipes, mesh undies, postpartum pads, numbing spray, peri bottle and medicated healing pads. Not only do you not need to pack these for heading to the hospital (unless you have a specific brand you love, like FridaMama’s peri bottle, for example), but you are already paying loads for delivery and the hospital stay. You might as well get to take home some of their standard of care recovery and postpartum items. Other things you can ask for are a sitz bath, nipple shields, and supplemental nursing systems.

Did I miss anything you recommend when packing your hospital bag? I wish you a smooth and uneventful delivery and recovery!

Christina Furnival

Christina is a mom to two wild and wonderful kiddos, a licensed psychotherapist (LPCC), the founder of her website and therapeutic motherhood blog Real Life Mama, and a children's book author of a social/emotional wellbeing series, Capable Kiddos! She and her Scottish husband are raising their family in San Diego, where they love to hike, play soccer, cook, walk around the lake, and go to the beach.

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