Are you planning a hospital birth? Packing your hospital bag is a bit like packing for vacation. Maybe you’re the kind of person who is tempted to pack anything you might want or need during your stay. Or, maybe you’re the kind of person who prefers to keep it light. Whatever your preference is, we have a list for you!
In this article, you’ll find our recommendations for:
Whether you’re a minimalist or a maximalist, here are our tips to help you decide what makes the cut:
The hospital is going to have many of the traditional essentials you will need while you’re there. Don’t worry about packing things like diapers, wipes, pads, mesh underwear, etc. Most hospitals even have a labor ball. Try to stick to those things that the hospital won’t have, the necessities that are uniquely you.
Delivering a baby is likely to be the hardest (and probably longest) workout you’ll ever do in your life. Afterward, you’ll be tired, sore, and still looking about 5 months pregnant. During recovery, you will also have care providers coming in to check on you throughout the day and night. Bring comfortable clothing that you feel good in. If you’re planning to breastfeed, choose clothes with easy access as well!
If you don’t usually wear a robe at home, it’s unlikely you’ll suddenly wish you had one in labor and delivery. That being said, if there’s something cozy that you LOVE, you’ll likely want it at the hospital, too. This includes items such as robes, toiletries, cosmetics, slippers, blankets, pillows, etc.
You may want to use packing cubes, smaller bags, or various pockets to help keep things separated by category. For instance, you may want a separate section for labor, recovery, and baby. Having things well organized can make it easier for you to find them. Plus, it’s to give directions to your partner or doula if you need them to retrieve something for you.
Keep in mind, it may be a trek from the parking lot to your room and back again. Also, you may need to transfer rooms once (if not multiple times) while you’re there. It might feel excessive to head into the hospital with a large, rolling suitcase, but it’s a great option. They can be easier to manage and hold than a duffel-style bag. If you’re a “maximalist” packer, consider what “just in case” things can be left in the car until they’re needed.
Worried your hospital won’t have something? Call the hospital and ask! Better yet, see if they offer a free hospital tour for expecting parents. These tours are a great opportunity to ask questions, get a lay of the land, and learn what to expect while you’re there.
If you don’t like the idea of hauling a bunch of luggage around the hospital, this list is for you! Here is our minimalist packing list of the “essentials” you’ll need to have ready to go when labor starts.
This list is also a great starting point for anyone who wants to get a jump on packing their hospital bag. We recommend having these things packed and ready to go by your 37th week of pregnancy (if not sooner).
About to give birth? This list is for you!
Your baby truly doesn’t need much. You can likely pack their items alongside your own.
When it comes to partners, you’ll want to remember that care providers and other staff will be coming and going throughout the day and night. So, with that in mind, you’ll want to pack:
The bare necessities truly may be all you need in your hospital bag, but here are a few additional things to consider if you have space:
Partners: keep in mind, you’ll likely be sleeping on a couch or reclining chair. The hospital should provide pillows and blankets, but they can be scratchy and thin. You may want to strongly consider bringing your own, even if you just keep them in the car until you’re ready for some Zzzs. Depending on how far away from the hospital you live, you may also want to put some extra clothing in the car in case your stay is longer than expected.
Pick a bag that’s bigger than you need or bring an extra empty bag so you can take any leftover supplies from your hospital room (such as pads, wipes, or diapers). Some hospitals will even send you home with a care package of additional supplies. If there’s something you want more of, you don’t need to be sneaky or try to hoard it. Just ask!
When it comes to packing for a birth center birth, your checklist will look a lot like those listed above. The biggest difference is that you don’t need to plan to stay as long. Just like with hospital birth, you’ll want to call ahead or schedule a tour so you can get a rundown of what will be available to you, what to expect, and answers to your questions.
For a home birth, we recommend you round up the essentials you may want during labor and the immediate postpartum period so you have everything in one place. Pack a basket or bag of snacks and hydrating drinks to set out in the kitchen. Fill a travel kit with any personal care items you might need someone else to grab for you. Gather any coping aids you may want to use. Set of a set of clothing for labor and another for the immediate postpartum period. You’ll be glad to have everything in one place, and it will make it so much easier for your team to help retrieve something for you!
You should also consider having a small hospital bag ready to go just in case. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it, right?
Unless you’re planning to have a scheduled c-section, there’s no telling when your baby will arrive. According to an article by The Bump, “6% of babies were born late (week 41 and after), 12% arrived early (before week 37), and 82% showed up on time (between weeks 37 and 41).” It’s a good idea to have your bag ready to go by week 37 so you’re ready when your baby is.
If you’ve already “been there, done that” we’d love to hear what you didn’t need and what you wish you had brought in your hospital bag. Was there anything your partner had to run home for? Anything you should have left at home? Share what you packed or any questions you have in the comments below!
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Richelle’s passion is supporting growing families through the unpredictable and transformative journey of pregnancy and the first years of parenthood. In 2019, she set out with a vision to create a modern-day parenting village: From Pregnant to Parent. In addition to being our founder, she is a certified doula, childbirth and lactation educator, sleep coach, and RETAIN parental leave coach. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kiddos around their home in Marin County (San Francisco Bay Area).
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