Packing Your Hospital Bag

March 28, 2012 Guest Blogger 1 comment

bags-are-packedIf you are planning to birth at home, you don’t need to worry about packing bags (although there is still preparation for things to have at home and in the event of a transfer)! If you are planning on birthing in a hospital or birthing center, it’s a good idea to plan out what you will need during and after labor that you can pack into your bags! It is recommended that you should pack your things around 36 weeks so you will be ready when your baby is. But remember, the essentials of what you and your baby will need are always with you.

I still have a month before I need to actually start packing my bags, but I’m eager to get it all planned out. I rely on making lists and visualizing myself in situations before they happen. I have been putting a lot of thought into what I want to wear during the birthing process. Although I am sure I won’t care what I look like while I’m actually laboring, I will care when I look back at my baby’s first photographs. Pictures are forever!

At 36 weeks, my husband and I will pack our bags together. Your partner should definitely help pack the bags so you are both aware of where everything is. If there is anything you are still using, write it on a note and tape it to your bag so it can be packed at the last minute. You will need to pack 3 bags: one for during labor, one for your partner, and one for after labor. Keep your bags near the front door so they won’t be forgotten. Since there isn’t a lot of extra space in hospital rooms, consider using smaller sized bags to pack your things, bringing only your labor bag into your room, and leave your other things in the car until you need them.

Bag 1: For labor

  • picture ID, insurance card, and any other hospital paperwork
  • birth planMany choose to attach their birth plans to yummy treats for everyone involved to share.
  • toothbrush and paste, lip balm (dry lips are common in labor from all the focused breathing exercises!), deodorant, hair brush, hair bands or barrettes, shampoo, soap, and lotion- Your hospital will likely provide some toiletries, but I always prefer my own.
  • any medications and/or supplements you take regularly (including your prenatal vitamins to continue while nursing!)
  • eyeglasses, contacts, contact storage and solution- Definitely pack these things if you wear them.  You won’t want to squint to see your baby for the first time!
  • clothing for you: bathrobe, nightgowns or comfortable pajamas, socks, slippers or slipper socks- Pack loose clothing that you won’t mind if it gets dirty. Short sleeves or sleeveless allow for easy blood pressure checks.
  • special laboring clothes- nursing tank top, bikini top, sports bra, or even a belly band used as a tube top to wear for laboring in water. Also, Binsi sells birthing tops and skirts and many website sell cute “gowns” like B.Y.O.G., dearjohnnies, Digni-Tee,  and Birth Day Suit Maternity. Keep in mind, some women desire to labor without any clothes, and this is just fine!
  • comforting items: your own pillow (make sure it is in a colorful case), eye pillow, own blanket, music (if a player is needed, bring that too!), books (The Birth Partner is a great one for reminders!) or magazines, massage oil or lotion, exercise ball (some hospitals and birth centers have these available, but be sure to check ahead of time), aromatherapy oils that you know relax or energize you (lavender is a common one most laboring moms like- but some women are too sensitive to any smells!), rebozo (Mexican shawl often used for comfort and baby positioning in labor), a rice sock (long tube sock filled with rice and tied off- warmed carefully in microwave can provide much comfort in labor), flameless/battery-operated tea lights and candles and/or a string of holiday lights to create a calm environment for night labors, a mini battery-operated fan or hand fan. If you are using a doula, they will bring many of these items with them.
  • focal points (like a baby toy , ultrasound picture of your baby, pictures of other children/pets/you and your partner/anything relaxing or inspiring, written out birth affirmations, a spiritual token, beads from a blessingway, a drawn or sculpted labryth to follow with your eyes or fingers for the rougher contractions)
  • snacks, water bottle, hard candy or mints- Hospitals usually have water and ice, juices, crackers, and maybe other things. Check to see what is available to you, and what your provider recommends you eat and drink during labor. Some practices and hospitals have policies about eating and drinking in labor, so just be sure to find out ahead of time.
  • if you are planning to collect and bank your baby’s cord blood for storage or donation, a kit should have been sent to your home; bring that with you.
  • if you are planning to save your placenta for various reasons (encapsulation, to bury with a tree, donate to training rescue dogs, etc), remember to bring something to be able to store it in a cool place and bring it home. Some hospitals can give you bio-hazard bags with ice or clean plastic containers to take this home in.

Bag 2: For partner

  • a few changes of clothes
  • toiletries and any important daily medications/supplements
  • snacks
  • books
  • money for parking and vending machines- Leave rest of cash and valuables at home.
  • swim suit- In case you want them in the tub or shower with you.
  • laptop, camera, extra batteries, charger, memory cards, etc.
  • a folder to keep all paperwork safe

Bag 3: For after labor

  • fresh nightgown or pajamas- Make sure they have an easy front opening for breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact with your baby.
  • additional toiletries like makeup and a hair dryer
  • 2 or 3 comfortable bras like a crossover nursing bra, nursing pads, and nipple cream
  • a breastfeeding pillow like the Boppy or My Brest Friend
  • maternity underwear and heavy flow sanitary pads- Hospitals provide mesh panties and pads, but you may prefer to bring your own.
  • going home outfit- Plan on wearing an outfit you would have fit in at 6 months pregnant and comfortable shoes.
  • list of people to call, cell phone, and charger
  • camera – Make sure it has fresh batteries and plenty of room on the memory card!
  • laptop or tablet and charger – Many hospitals have wireless internet, which is great for sharing those first newborn pictures everyone will be waiting for.
  • snacks
  • books on newborn care or breastfeeding
  • notepad or journal for recording questions, notes, memories, and feeding sessions
  • baby book- Ask for footprints for your book, if they do this at your hospital or birth center. If they don’t, you can even order your own footprint kit to do at home.
  • gifts for your other children so they feel special too
  • going home outfit for baby- Don’t forget socks or booties, hat, and mittens.
  • other items for baby: burp rags, blankets, onesies, your own baby shampoo/baby wipes if you choose, cloth diapers if you plan to use, etc. Hospitals and birth centers will have the basics.

Don’t forget to get the car ready:

  • old towels and garbage bags for easy clean up on the way to the hospital
  • install the car seat- You cannot take your baby home without it! Local fire stations will check to make sure the car seat is installed correctly for you FREE.

If you’d rather not worry about what to pack, there are companies who specialize in prepacked hospital birth bags. Check out Little Stork, Babytime Bags, and Duffle Your Bag.

Also, while you’re packing your bags, it may be a good time to ask your provider if there are any items to be sure to have at home for routine postpartum care like Epsom salts, ointments or over the counter medications/herbs.

Are there other “must haves” that I should add to my list?

*photo from

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