As the countdown to your due date goes from months, to weeks, to days you are likely becoming filled to the brim with anticipation and desire to be completely ready for the big day. A key component to feeling ready for your baby’s birth is having a bag ready for the hospital. Your labor could begin at any point from about 35 weeks on and I want to help you to pack a hospital bag that will ease the stress of getting to the hospital, and remove any ounce of doubt from your mind that you may have forgotten something. In all honestly, I feel like the hospital bag I packed was sufficient, but was missing items from home that would have made me feel a lot more comfortable and prepared for my stay. I took all of this into account when putting together this list for you. Don’t make the mistake I did by making your own list, use this as a guide to be sure you will have everything that you need. In addition to getting that perfect bag packed for you, your partner and your baby, I have included ways to prepare your home in the final weeks. I will help you ensure that your home is stocked on essentials with a few fun things awaiting your baby’s transition back home as well.
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When to Pack
I recommend having your hospital bag fully packed and ready to go at 35 weeks (as long your pregnancy is progressing without complications and has a low-likelihood of early labor). You may even want to keep it in your car at this point, or at least bring it to prenatal appointments because there is a chance that your doctor or midwife could send you directly to labor and delivery after an appointment from this point on. By beginning the packing process at around 30 weeks, it will give you time to acquire and order some things that you may not have on hand, but will also mean that should your labor start before your due date, your bag will be ready to grab at a moment’s notice. When labor starts you do not want to be scrambling around to get your bag packed, or possibly worse (depending on your partner), relying on your partner to gather the things you may need. Doing it while you are still feeling good, and when nesting instincts are working in your favor, will result in a more organized and complete hospital bag for everyone.
What to Pack for Mom
Labor and Delivery
When packing your bag for yourself, you need to consider what to pack for labor and during your postpartum stay. Some women find it helpful to actually pack these items in separate bags so that you are not digging through unnecessary things in your hospital bag at different parts of your hospital stay. First and foremost, make sure that you have identification and an extra copy of your birth wishes/birth plan even if you already pre-registered with your hospital. If your hospital provided you with a birth plan template/worksheet, I still highly recommend checking out the one that Trina created by heading here. It will be the perfect resource to bring with you to make sure your partner and nurses understand your wishes, but also for you to use in your postpartum stay for organized note-taking and a place to jot down questions for support staff as they arise.
While you are in labor, the hospital will provide you with a hospital gown but you are not required to wear it. I found that during my labor I was absolutely freezing, despite reading everywhere about how hot I would be. This meant that I labored in the one pair of fuzzy socks that I packed and relied on the hospital for heavier flannel dressing gowns. For my next birth, I will be packing my warm, fuzzy robe just in case. Many women, including friends of mine, have felt more comfortable in light-weight cotton robes. Not only are these easy to move around in during labor, they are ideal for nursing your newborn postpartum. Another popular option is a “labor gown”, which isn’t quite as fancy as it sounds, but is a comfortable slightly more stylish hospital gown. Here is one that I have my eye on. It is designed to provide easy access to your back, has snaps at the shoulders should it need to be undone quickly and has a discreet flap in the front to allow easy access for medical examinations and fetal monitoring. The reviews mention how soft and flattering it is. For something slightly more traditional, but is cuter and provides more coverage than your average hospital gown, check this out. For some other great hospital gown options, consider also checking out Figure8 Maternity. The nice part about choosing a beautiful robe or labor gown of your own is that they will also look gorgeous in any labor and delivery photos that you may take. I think it is also worthwhile to mention that many women find it most comfortable to labor nude, and this is completely normal if it feels best to you
Additionally, during labor you may become sweaty, or if your water breaks while at the hospital, wet and messy. If you are planning to labor in your own clothes definitely consider having a back-up option. Many women, including me, find laboring in a shower or tub to be really effective. When you get out, you will want a warm fluffy towel. Hospital towels are typically rough and thin. I know that I wish I had packed a towel from home to get dry and comfy quickly after getting out of the shower. You don’t want any added discomfort while you are in labor, believe me!
If you are a contact lens wearer, I highly recommend bringing and opting for glasses during labor. I had to switch out of my lenses during my labor and was so glad that I had my glasses. I was much more comfortable because you will be constantly opening and closing your eyes, in and out of water, and possibly dozing or closing your eyes for long periods of time to do visualizations. Additionally, I felt like labor was a kind of daze anyway and didn’t find it prohibitive to not be able to see super clearly when I did not have my lenses in or glasses on.
Other things to consider are packing items that may be supportive to you during your labor such as lotions, massage oils, music, essential oils, coconut water for electrolytes and energy, a large water bottle, and chapstick. Because you will be doing heavy breathing, and may be quite vocal, chapstick is a must-have! I had Patrick handing it to me repeatedly throughout my labor. I also found coconut water to be easier to stomach than Gatorade while giving me a bit more of energy boost than plain water and ice chips alone. I also wish I had brought my hot water bottle or a rice sock to warm-up. Because I was having back labor, which you can learn more about in my birth story, constant heat was really helpful, but the only way to achieve this once I was in the hospital was in the shower. You should also check ahead of time to see if your hospital or birth center provides birthing balls and consider bringing your own if they do not.
If you are planning to have a natural birth, a motivating picture can be helpful for some moms. This may be a picture of your family and other kids, an ultrasound photo, or photo of a beautiful and special place to you. If you are planning to have an epidural, then it is a good idea to bring some entertainment to pass the time such as a book, magazine, knitting, or movies.
For your postpartum stay, the most important thing is to bring comfy, cozy clothes that are going to be easy to nurse in. During my stay I lived in the light-weight cotton robe that I did pack. I am also a person who needs a daily shower, and did this in the hospital as well. Having lots of lightweight clean pajama pants packed made me feel more comfortable and like myself. I recommend getting some that have a wide and soft waist band for ultimate postpartum comfort. While I didn’t personally use these, here is a robe and PJ nursing set that I’m loving on amazon. I love the fun print, and the fact that the top gives easy access for nursing. I lived in my lightweight cotton robe during my postpartum stay, but the one I have is not currently available.
I also purchased underwear specifically for recovery and recommend that you do the same. You will need underwear that can fit large maternity pads, and that you will not mind if they get stained with blood. Maternity underwear work really well because of their wide waistbands, I loved my Motherhood Maternity ones. The other clothing I could not have gone without in the hospital were the nursing camis, and sleep nursing bras. If you plan on having visitors during your hospital stay, having a nursing cami will not only make nursing very easy and accessible, but also will provide your stomach with coverage and may make you feel more comfortable.
Aside from clothing, be sure to pack things that will make you feel comfortable and at home like pillows, blankets, and a nursing pillow. You also want to pack a toiletry kit for showering, washing your face and other personal care. I also found it beneficial to have a few of my own maternity pads and witch hazel wipes. Definitely bring nipple cream with you, though the hospital may have some samples. Cracked and sore nipples are not something you want to be unprepared for while learning to breastfeed. I liked both lanolin nipple cream and this amazing Motherlove Nipple Cream.
Other things to consider bringing are any resources that you may have printed, purchased, or obtained before your delivery. This may include things to support breastfeeding or newborn care. If you haven’t checked it out already, Trina’s Complete Guide to Breastfeeding is a must read for expectant moms, and the printable cheat sheet and breastfeeding tracker will surely be helpful during your postpartum stay, these printables are included for free in our printable library.
Planning your going home outfit will depend a lot on season and your personality. I went home in maternity leggings, an over-sized t-shirt and a cute, loose and long cardigan. I wore flip flops on my feet. It was nice to feel semi-put together but also really comfortable. Some women like to wear maxi dresses or skirts, and some are most comfortable wearing their pajamas home. You do what’s right for you! For me, maternity leggings with a long shirt over them worked really well because they were comfortable around my waist and they kept my large pad and underwear in place. Because I had the long shirt over it you couldn’t see or notice the bulk at all. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that maternity clothes are a very good option because your stomach will still not have fully contracted and remember that you may be swollen so loose fitting shoes will work best.
If you are looking for some great postpartum and nursing style options, I suggest checking out Stitch Fix. As you probably discovered while shopping for maternity clothes, in-person options are hard to come by and even more difficult when it comes to nursing-friendly clothing. What’s great about Stitch Fix is that for a $25 styling fee they will send you five items of clothing to check out and try on and if you decide to purchase even just a single item, the fee is waived! A stylist will work with you before sending you the five items so your odds of receiving something you like, and is within your desired price range, are really good. They have options specifically tailored to postpartum and nursing mamas as well. This could be the perfect treat for yourself to plan a going home outfit that is comfortable and makes you feel good. Or, because if you’re reading this, it likely means you’re pregnant, so treat yourself to a maternity clothing fix, you deserve it! To learn more, head over to Stitch Fix, or check out some of the cute stuff Trina got in her first maternity fix by checking out her 8 weeks pregnant update.
Complete Hospital Bag for Mom:
Here is a complete list for the average labor + 3 day hospital stay:
- Extra copy of your birth wishes/birth plan
- Any breastfeeding/newborn printable resources
- Labor Robe/Gown
- Massage Oils or Lotion
- Large Water Bottle
- Coconut Oil
- Hair Ties
- Birthing Ball (check if provided)
- 3-5 Pairs of comfy, loose pants for postpartum
- 3 Nursing camis
- 1-3 nursing bras
- Light-weight robe or zip-up hoodie for nursing
- 7 Pairs of maternity or recovery underwear
- 3-5 Loose fitting shirts
- 3-5 Pairs of socks
- 1 Pair of warm socks
- Flip flops for shower
- Toiletry bag:
- Body wash
- Maternity or overnight pads
- Witch Hazel Wipes or Spray
- Nursing Pillow (may be provided)
- Nipple Cream
- Snacks for postpartum stay
- Going home outfit and shoes
What to Pack for Dad/Partner
Making sure that dad is comfortable and well-prepared will ensure that he is more able to support you and bond with your new baby. Dad will need clean clothes for throughout his stay, more food and snacks because often hospital food policies do not include him. If the postpartum rooms at the hospital/birth center do not have double beds, consider his comfort with things like pillows, blankets and sheets. You will also want to make sure that he has money for vending machines.
I found it helpful to put Patrick in charge of all things electronic since these are likely things that you need to grab at the last minute. I had a notecard with all of these items written and in my packed bag so that I could just give it to him as we were getting ready to leave and he was able to round up things like the camera, chargers, phones, laptops, wireless speaker, external hard drive and more.
Another nice idea is what’s known as a “push present”. This is a gift given to the birthing mother from their partner in the delivery room or during their postpartum stay. I absolutely love this idea and think it is so sweet. I had never heard of this when I was giving birth, but would have loved to have some memento to remember this extraordinary day.
Complete Hospital Bag for Dad/Partner:
- Clothing for 3-5 day stay
- Warm sweatshirt
- Push Present
What to Pack for Baby
Most importantly you need to have an approved and properly installed car seat for your baby to leave the hospital in. You can install the car seat and have it checked to ensure proper installation. Usually, this can be done at your local fire station or town hall, call or check online with your town hall to find out where and when to get this done.
You will want to plan a going home outfit for baby. When planning this, considering the weather is most important. I chose to make N an adorable, light-weight, knitted cap to wear home with a simple pretty t-shirt onesie. I have seen many friends make and purchase adorable custom outfits as well with their baby’s name or a cute saying.
Most hospitals will provide you with everything you need for baby. This is something that you will want to find out when choosing where to give birth, which you can read more about in my article about Choosing Where to Give Birth. However, if you are particular about using certain blankets, diaper-type or will feel more comfortable using your own products then don’t hesitate to pack some of your own things. For example, our hospital provided size 1 diapers, but N definitely fit better in the newborn diapers that we had waiting for her at home. I also was told by everyone that 0-3 month clothes were the way to go (and largely I do still agree with this!) but having one or two newborn size options for wearing home from the hospital would have benefited our long, but slim newborn.
Other things to consider are your wishes about cloth diapering, but be sure to check with the hospital or birth center about their policies for this. You should bring your baby book, and/or something to get your newborns foot print on. This is something I forgot to pack and so wish I had. I do have N’s prints on hospital letterhead, but it isn’t quite the same. Check out what Trina and Cole did with their daughter’s footprint in our article about Expecting Date Nights.
Complete List for Baby:
- Approved car seat
- Receiving blankets
- Going home outfit
- Hat or bow
- 2-3 body suits (in newborn and 0-3 month sizes)
- Clothing diapering supplies (if applicable/check with hospital)
- Newborn sized diapers (check with hospital)
- Baby book
- Burp cloths
There are a few other things that you may want to bring with you, but are dependent on your birth place and personal preference. I have a friend who was really disappointed that she had no control over the lighting in her labor and delivery room and wound up under bright fluorescent lights the entire time. The hospital where I delivered gave me control over lights and had many different lighting options, which I kept dim almost the entire time. That being said, check if it is possible to bring Christmas lights or a small dimmable lamp. It might sound strange, but it definitely won’t be the craziest labor request they have received and may make for a much more pleasant experience.
A pen, paper/notebook, and empty folder is a must. You will undoubtedly think of questions for support staff when they are unavailable to you. You will also want to take notes (or have your partner do this) while you are meeting with the nurses, pediatrician and lactation consultants on staff. Having an empty folder ready to go will mean that all of the handouts and paperwork you receive won’t go missing, get damaged, or be difficult to locate the moment you need them.
Lastly, and something I wish I had done, bring an extra, empty, bag! You will be sent home with lots of extras. I ended up using a trash bag to bring home maternity pads, witch hazel wipes, size 1 diapers, and a few receiving blankets and burp cloths that they provided among other things. It would have been a lot more organized and better to have had a large tote ready for loading.
List of Extras:
- Alternate Lighting
- Pen and paper
- Empty Tote Bag
What to Prepare and Have at Home
Once you’ve got your bag packed and ready to go, this time frame is also ideal to making sure that you and your home are fully prepared. Think of it as an “abstract hospital bag”, if you will, that is waiting for you when you arrive home. All of these things are non-perishable household items or personal products that can be stocked up on well in advance. The benefit to doing this kind of bulk shopping is that it will be less time needed for anything other than caring for your baby once they arrive. You and your partner’s time will be your most valuable resource so any errands and food prepping that can be done ahead of time will, quite literally, save your sanity when you transition back home.
For household products it is a good idea to have a stash of everyday things like paper towels, cleaning supplies, trash bags, dish soap, dish washer detergent and toilet paper. You should also be well-stocked on a sensitive skin, fragrance-free detergent for washing all of you and your baby’s clothes and linens. While there are many products and detergents out there specifically for baby, I found that any detergent meant for sensitive skin and fragrance-free was fine for your newborn. I also recommend buying paper plates, disposable utensils, crock pot liners and paper napkins. Believe me, I’m normally all about reducing waste, but the weeks after arriving home with a new baby are the time where you need to be ready to cut yourself some slack and make your life easier in whatever way you can. If you have furry friends at home, make a point of stocking up on food and whatever else they might need as well.
Definitely stock your pantry with non-perishable foods and healthy snacks such as granola bars, trail mix, dried fruit, nuts, and healthy cereals. Breastfeeding hunger was far more intense than I could have ever anticipated so having high-calorie and easy to grab snacks is key. In addition to non-perishables, the 30-35 week window of your pregnancy is the perfect time to stock your freezer with healthy meals ready to be dumped into a crockpot or baked in the oven. For even more food-related tips that will help you prepare for your baby, head here.
I absolutely swear by the easy and healthy crockpot freezer meals created by Kelly and her team at New Leaf Wellness. Even to this day, I do weekly or monthly meal prepping using her complete freezer bundle. They are so easy to make and will save you so much valuable time. You don’t want to be caught up in cooking or relying on expensive, and not so healthy take-out to fuel you postpartum. I highly recommend giving your postpartum-self this gift of a freezer stocked with delicious meals. Using this Complete Freezer Recipe Bundle could not make the process easier! She even has pre-made grocery lists and plans to make up to 30 meals at once. The $30 cookbook will pay itself off really fast as the pre-made grocery lists really cut down on the amount of food that goes to waste due to poor planning. Stocking your freezer might be impossible to plan out and execute on your own, but with this resource it’ll be a breeze.
Be sure to have personal products on hand. This includes things that you typically use like toothpaste, shampoo, hand soap, bar soap, but also products that are going to be important to your recovery. Post-care products include things like maternity or overnight pads, panty liners for when the bleeding has gone down dramatically but spotting remains, witch hazel wipes, and witch hazel based spray. I used this Sitz Spray from MotherLove that I absolutely loved. While I have not used every product in their Nurturing Life Giftbox, I have used the belly salve, sitz spray, and nipple cream and loved them all. This could be a great treat for yourself that will also ensure a more comfortable recovery for yourself. Be sure to have nipple cream and a good quality hand or body lotion to help with skin itchiness you may have associated with your weight loss, retracting uterus, or expanding boobs when your milk comes in. I used a pure shea butter because my midwives advised me that this was safe to have on my skin and boobs for a nursing baby. I still use and love this today. Nursing is also very dehydrating, so it is likely that you will have dry lips, and dry skin from that as well.
Nursing Supplies and a Nursing Station
Breastfeeding your new baby will be your new full-time job. Instead of realizing what you need to make it more comfortable and easy for you as you go, take the time to prepare a well-equipped breastfeeding station for yourself in baby’s nursery, or a ‘breastfeeding basket’ that can be easily relocated (or grabbed by your partner) to wherever you are nursing your baby at that moment. This basket should include things like burp cloths, a large water bottle, reusable nursing pads (I used and love these), nipple cream, snacks, and a good book or magazine. I recommend investing in a good insulated water bottle because when I was nursing all I wanted was ice cold water at all times. I love my S’well Water Bottle and think you will too.
In addition to having this ‘station’ set up, there are some other nursing-related products to stock up on like nursing bras and camis, night nursing bras, and a nursing pillow. Because your body will still be learning to regulate milk and building supply during the first 3 months postpartum, you will likely have leaky and possibly sore boobs. One thing that can help prevent this, at least a bit, is by heaving light pressure on your nipples anytime they are not being nursed. This is why sleeping in a nursing cami or night bra will be key to your comfort.
To ensure your success in your breastfeeding relationship with your new baby, preparing before baby comes is very important. Trina has written an excellent Guide to Breastfeeding, as I mentioned earlier in this article, and I highly recommend checking it out. Additionally, you can better prepare for your breastfeeding journey and have you partner more involved in understanding their role to support with breastfeeding from Day 1 by watching these amazing video courses put together by two women who are certified lactation consultants and nurses. Don’t wait until you are home with baby and possibly struggling with breastfeeding to start learning. This class will provide you with tons of information to aid in your success, from videos to printables and additional resources about specific topics. The full course (Simply Breastfeeding) is $40, which may seem steep, but it provides you with such a great foundation of knowledge that I think it’s more that worth it. Additionally, they have a free intro course (Getting Ready to Breastfeed) that you can watch to determine if you want to purchase the full course. You can learn more about both courses by heading here.
Another great resource to learn about breastfeeding is one that Trina and I developed. We feel passionate about helping other new mamas thrive on their breastfeeding journeys. We both experienced firsthand how difficult it is to find support and information that gives specific tips and advice to make breastfeeding successful. This is why we decided to write our own handbook that is a COMPLETE guide to breastfeeding. It is full of advice that you can start using immediately.
Extras for your home
In addition to all of these essentials, having some fun things awaiting your arrival are important too! Consider getting a birth announcement sign for your yard or a birth announcement wreath for your door. Maybe treat yourself to a new set of extra-soft sheets and blankets for your bed where you will likely be spending a lot of time nursing your baby. You can also get yourself some luxurious bath products for a soothing postpartum bath when baby is snoozing on dad. My sister-in-law loved the Birth Song Botanicals Healing Herb Sitz Bath and Soak for soothing postpartum hemorrhoids.
Complete List to Prepare your Home:
- Paper Towels
- Toilet Paper
- Dishwasher Detergent
- Dish soap
- Paper Plates
- Disposable Utensils
- Sensitive Skin, Fragrance-free Laundry Detergent
- Pet Food
- Pantry Items
- Freezer Meals
- Hand Soap
- Body Wash
- Face Wash
- Postpartum Care
- Maternity or Overnight Pads
- Panty Liners
- Witch Hazel Wipes
- Sitz Spray
- Nipple Cream
- Shea Butter (or other high-quality moisturizer)
- Nursing Supplies
- Insulated Water Bottle
- Reusable Nursing Pads
- Nursing Night Bras
- Nursing Cami
- Nursing Pillow
- Birth Announcement Sign
- Birth Announcement Wreath
- Post-Partum Bath Herbs
- New Sheets and Blankets
After reading all of this advice you are ready to get even more organized for your baby’s arrival. By using this guide, you can rest assured that no preparation will go undone. This will be invaluable to your comfort and will allow you to focus on your new baby during your hospital stay and during your transition to home.
If you are reading this and getting ready to pack your hospital bag, or perhaps are even a little ahead of this point in your pregnancy, remember that it is never too late to take a class to prepare you for labor and delivery. Online childbirth classes are an excellent option because you don’t need to worry about scheduling, can complete it in your free time with your partner, and can revisit any parts that seem particularly important to you! Hilary, a labor and delivery nurse, created this Online Prenatal Course for Couples which is most like your typical hospital childbirth class and is full of great information to ease any worries you may have. If you are interested in a natural birth, I highly recommend looking into a hypnobirthing class, Hypnobubs, Online Hypnobirthing Class, is an exceptional resource. Read my full article, Reviewing Four Online Childbirth Classes, for even more information and suggestions.
If you are looking for more ways to prepare in your final weeks we have a ton of great resources for you. Definitely read Trina’s Breastfeeding Guide. I also highly recommend filling out our 3 Part Birth Plan with your partner which includes sections about reflecting and goals, as well as postpartum care. You can read more about decisions you will need to make in the hospital regarding your newborn’s care by reading Trina’s very informative article, here.
It is also valuable to take some time out in the month before birth and really connect with your partner. We have some great and productive date ideas to inspire you in this article. And lastly, because I know I couldn’t get enough of them when I was nearing birth, you will both enjoy and learn from reading my, and Trina’s birth stories.
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