Packing for your delivery can be a bit daunting. You’ll need clothes, snacks, and of course your phone to capture the important moments! If this is your first baby, you may be wondering what essentials you need to pack and what the hospital will provide.
Your labor could be over in a few hours, or you could be in labor for ten to twelve to even twenty-four hours before it is time to push. Additionally, you’ll likely spend 36-48 hours in the hospital or birthing center post-delivery before you head home.
To help you prepare for the big day, we’ve put together a list of essentials for mom, baby, and partner and comfort items to consider. We’ve also included a list of the items you probably won’t need during your visit.
When Should I Pack My Hospital Bag?
According to data from the CDC, only 6% of babies are born on their predicted due date. The data also shows that roughly 10% of babies are born before the 37-week mark and 26% between weeks 37 and 38, meaning one-third of all babies are due before their due date.
Therefore, the current rule of thumb is that you should have your hospital bag packed midway through your third trimester and at least 4-weeks before your scheduled due date.
While there are no hard and fast signs, other than regular contractions, that you are about to give birth, your ob-gyn can give you some signs and symptoms that labor and delivery is approaching. If your doctor indicates you are a candidate for preterm labor, you may wish to have your bag packed even earlier than four weeks in advance.
You should keep your bag near the door or in your car if your work is more than thirty minutes from your home. Or, you may wish to keep a smaller backup bag in your car with the emergency essentials if you need to head to the hospital from work or while you’re away from your home.
What the hospital usually provides
- Hospital gowns
- Grip socks or slippers
- Water and ice chips
- Disposable mesh underwear
- Thick sanitary pads and perineal ice packs
- After-care items, like witch hazel pads and peri bottles
- Standard pillows and blankets
What Should Mom and Partner Pack?
The hospital will provide you with some essentials like mesh underwear, sanitary pads, newborn diapers, and a disposable hospital gown, but having some personal items can make your hospital stay more comfortable.
Essentials to pack
- Photo identification
- Copy of insurance card
- Hospital paperwork
- Copy of your birthing plan
- Cash for vending machines. Cafeterias may be closed or limited depending on when your birth is taking place. Some vending machines take credit cards, but not all do so best to be prepared.
- Going-home outfit for mom. You will still look pregnant for a few weeks postpartum, so pack a comfortable going home outfit (leggings, loose clothing).
- Cell phone and phone charger
- Breastfeeding pillow
- Nursing bras. If you are nursing your baby, you will want to bring these along so you can begin working with the lactation consultant.
- Washable or disposable nipple pads or nursing pads to prevent leaks.
- Nipple cream or lanolin. Learning to nurse can be challenging; it can leave mom with cracked or sore nipples until the latch is perfected.
- Perineal cold packs. The hospital will give you a handful of perineal cold packs, but having your own supply can be a lifesaver. Be sure to have some stocked at home too!
- A novel, word puzzle books, kindle, etc., to help you and your partner pass the time.
Most hospitals don’t have basic toiletries you may wish to have. Having your favorite face wash and lotion can help you feel more like yourself after giving birth. Other items like a headband and hair ties can keep annoying hairs out of your face during labor, and a refillable water bottle can save you cash.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Shampoo and conditioner. You will probably be able to take a shower about 24-hours after giving birth.
- Make-up if you wear it or you plan to have a photoshoot in the hospital.
- Lip balm
- Hair ties and a headband
- Massage oil or essential oils
- Refillable water bottle
In addition to the supplies listed above, some home comforts can make labor and delivery easier for both you and your partner.
- Your favorite pillow or pillowcase
- Comfortable shoes or flip flops for the shower
- A Bluetooth speaker and music playlist
- Large bath towel
- Snacks for your partner
- A change of clothes for your partner
- Contact lenses and solution
- Extra pair of glasses
If you are having a planned c-section, you will need comfy clothes for postpartum that don’t cut into your mid-section. For example, loose-fitting sweat pants or a maxi dress, depending on the weather.
What Does Baby Need?
Your new baby will also need some supplies to make the transition from hospital to home go smoothly. It is required by law that you have a car seat installed before taking your baby home. It is a good idea to install the seat a few weeks before your baby’s arrival and practice taking the seat in and out of the car.
Items for Baby
- Mittens and booties to keep your baby from scratching themselves and to keep their feet warm.
- Onesie or nightgown. The hospital will give your baby an outfit to wear after birth, but if you want you can bring your own onesies for them to wear.
- Receiving blanket or swaddle. The hospital will provide swaddling blankets, but you may wish to have a blanket or two of your own to tuck around your baby for the trip home.
- Pacifier. Some hospitals supply them, and some don’t. Lactation consultants usually advise you to wait for 4-weeks before introducing a pacifier to avoid nipple confusion.
- Infant car seat (pre-installed in your car).
- Going-home outfit for baby. It’s a good idea to pack two sizes since you won’t know your baby’s size until post-delivery.
- Contact information for your pediatrician. Your partner should give them a call within twenty-four hours of your baby being born.
- Nursing pillow. If you are breastfeeding your baby, a comfortable nursing pillow offers needed support.
What Not to Pack
While there are plenty of items you will want to or need to pack for the hospital, there are quite a few things you should leave home.
- Diapers. The hospital will supply you with the diapers. However, you should pack some wipes since not all hospitals supply them. Hospitals typically give you disposable washcloths you can use, so the wipe decision is up to you.
- Jewelry or other valuables. While it is likely that you will want to have your phone, camera, and possibly a laptop, you should leave all other valuables at home. If you are rushed into an emergency c-section, they may remove all your jewelry before surgery, or your fingers may become so swollen that the jewelry will have to be cut off.
- Too much clothing. Don’t overpack. A change or two of comfortable clothes for yourself and two different-sized outfits for your newborn are all you need. If you end up needing more clothing for some reason, your partner or a friend or family member can bring them for you.
- Clothing or items you don’t want to be ruined. Giving birth is a messy process, and you will be leaking fluids and blood for a few days, so don’t pack anything you don’t want to be ruined.
- Candles. Candles will not be allowed in a hospital room or birthing center. Instead, consider an essential oil diffuser or lotion.
- Bottles. If you choose to bottle feed, the hospital will provide you with formula and bottles during your stay.
Packing your hospital bag is exciting because it means it is almost time to meet your baby! When packing your bag, a small carry-on piece of luggage is typically adequate for mom, and a second bag, such as a backpack for your partner, should do.
If you decide to pack a backup emergency bag for your car, a change of clothes, a phone charger, cash, a water bottle, a book, and a copy of your essential paperwork is adequate.
When packing, use this article as a checklist to ensure you have all the necessary items and your favorite comfort items ready to go, and be sure to be packed and ready to go by week 36!