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What to pack in a hospital bag

Your hospital bag checklist for labor and delivery

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Written by Jessica Render
Edited by Justin Martino

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    As your due date approaches, you’ll probably want to put together a bag to take with you to the hospital when you go into labor. This “go bag” should include everything you need for the most comfortable and enjoyable labor possible. To make it easier for you, we’ve put together a list of all the hospital bag essentials that could come in handy.

    What to pack in a hospital bag for mom

    Use the list below as a guide to help you pack your bag for the hospital. What you take with you is up to you, of course, but there are a few essentials you won’t want to forget (like photo ID, insurance forms, etc., for the hospital).

    Hospital bag checklist for mom

    Things the hospital will need
    • A photo ID such as your driver's license
    • Insurance information (if the hospital doesn’t already have it on file)
    • Hospital forms and any paperwork you’ve filled out in advance
    • Your birth plan
    Personal care items
    • A travel kit filled with all your essential toiletries, like a hairbrush, deodorant, face and body wash, shampoo, conditioner, your toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Lip balm and lotion to help combat the dry hospital air
    • Glasses, contact lens case, contact solution and an extra pair of contacts
    • Ponytail holder
    Comfort items
    • A plush pillow with a cheap case in case it gets dirty or torn at the hospital
    • A warm blanket (the hospital will have blankets on hand, but they’re usually thin)
    • Slippers or nonskid socks that keep you comfortable while you walk around the room
    • Eye mask and earplugs to make sleeping easier in the hustle and bustle of the hospital
    • Loose, lightweight pieces, including a few nightgowns
    • A warm sweater in case your room is chilly
    • Comfortable maternity bras and nursing pads for leak protection
    • Comfortable underwear
    • A going-home outfit (but don’t pack your pre-pregnancy size just yet — we recommend sticking with a maternity outfit for now)
    • Nursing bras or clothing that supports breastfeeding (if you plan to breastfeed)
    • Earbuds
    • Books, magazines or something else to read — consider packing a baby or parenting book or two
    • A laptop or tablet if you’d like to stream shows and movies or browse the internet
    • Pen and paper
    • Your favorite snacks — you’ll want some for before you start the labor process and on hand after you deliver
    • Some hard candy or lozenges
    • Change for the vending machine
    Other necessities
    • Camera with plenty of memory
    • Cell phone and charger
    • Prescription medications you’ll need at the hospital
    • Your cord blood banking kit (if you're banking your baby's cord blood)

    What to pack in a hospital bag for baby

    You don’t want to forget to pack a few special items in your bag for your baby. The hospital will provide several things for the baby while you’re in the hospital, and you’ll want to take advantage of that as much as you can (because, hey, free stuff!) — but you might want to pack a special outfit or blanket to personalize your first few days with your baby.

    Hospital bag checklist for baby:

    • A car seat installed in the vehicle you plan to go home in. You can’t leave the hospital with your baby without a car seat.
    • Onesies. Hospital policies may prevent you from dressing up your new little one exactly how you’d like right away, and they’ll likely provide a bodysuit or t-shirt for your baby after delivery, but onesies that are easy to get on and off are generally acceptable attire in the hospital.
    • Socks or booties to keep them warm. The hospital will likely provide a stocking cap.
    • Breastfeeding pillow (if you plan to breastfeed).
    • A going-home outfit. Even if you were unable to dress your baby in anything other than a plain white onesie during their hospital stay, what they wear home is totally up to you. Pack your favorite cute newborn outfit so they can go home in style.

    What to pack in a hospital bag for dad or partner

    We don’t want to leave dads, partners and birth coaches out — if you’re accompanying the mom-to-be to the hospital and plan to stay in the delivery room with her during labor, you’ll want to pack a few items of your own. Here’s what we recommend.

    Hospital bag checklist for dad/partner:

    • Snacks and drinks. You can also get food from the hospital cafeteria, but you won’t want to leave for long periods of time.
    • Clothes and essential toiletries, in case of an overnight stay.
    • An extra pillow and blanket so you can stay comfortable on a less-than-ideal hospital room sofa or chair.
    • Something to keep yourself entertained during downtimes. Consider books, music, laptop, cards, a handheld gaming device — or all of the above.
    • A call list of names of people you don’t want to forget to notify after the baby is born.

    Hospital bag FAQ

    When should you pack your hospital bag?
    You’ll want to have your hospital bag packed and ready at least a few weeks before your due date — and even earlier if your chances of an early delivery are high. You’ll want to keep the bag readily accessible. Consider placing it by your front door or leaving it in your car.
    What do you wear during labor?
    In most cases, you can wear a hospital gown or your own clothing during labor, but you’ll want to check with your hospital or birthing center to see if they have any specific policies that would prevent you from wearing your own clothing. The benefit of wearing a hospital gown during labor is you won’t have to worry much if it gets messed up or stained. You will also have easy access to an endless supply of replacements if something does happen to it and you’d like to change.

    If you choose to wear your own clothing, it needs to be something that allows full access for your medical team and doesn’t restrict your movements. A t-shirt or nightgown often works well, but you can also buy specialty birthing wraps or custom hospital gowns for the occasion.

    Can you drink water while in labor?
    In the past, eating and drinking during labor was considered a nonstarter, but in recent years studies have shown it to be safer than originally theorized. According to Lamaze International, restricting access to food and fluids during labor stems from outdated information and methods. Getting support during labor through nutrients and staying hydrated may actually help your body.
    Do you wear a bra during delivery?
    Short answer: If you want to. Unless you plan to have or end up needing a C-section, where you’ll need to wear a hospital gown only, you should be able to wear whatever you’re comfortable in during labor. If you want to wear a bra, we recommend choosing a comfortable one. Consider a sports bra or another bra without underwire.
    What does the hospital give you after birth?
    Your hospital might be different, but common supplies sent home with mom after birth include:
    • Disposable underwear
    • Doughnut pillow
    • Maxi pads
    • Nipple cream
    • Pain medication
    • Peribottle
    • Sitz bath
    • Skin numbing spray
    • Waterproof pads for the bed
    • Witch hazel pads
    • Baby bottles
    • Baby thermometer
    • Bodysuit
    • Diaper cream
    • Diapers
    • Disposable changing pads
    • Formula samples
    • Hat for baby
    • Nasal aspirator
    • Pacifier
    • Baby body wash/lotion
    • Swaddle blanket
    • Wet wipes

    Bottom line

    As you pack your go bag for the hospital, feel free to customize it as much or as little as you’d like. Some parents-to-be want to be prepared with everything they could possibly need, while others prefer a more minimalist approach. Your birthing process is your own.

    When packing your birth plan, it’s always a good idea to have multiple copies on hand and make sure your birth partner has a copy and knows your wishes too.

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