When to Pack Your Hospital Bag
What’s the ideal timing to start packing a hospital bag? Of course, every pregnancy is a bit different, but it usually makes sense to start preparing around month eight of your pregnancy. By that point in your pregnancy, you’ll likely be having regular doctor’s visits and can consult with your doctor about how close you are to needing to gather those essentials.
Stash your packed bag by the front door or in the car so that when the time comes, at least one part of the whole childbirth process will feel orderly and planned out.
Hospital Bag Checklist for Mom
Here’s a list of must-haves for a hospital bag for the mom-to-be.
ID, insurance card, and hospital paperwork
This is kind of obvious, and it’s probably something you carry in your wallet rather than needing to pack them in a hospital bag, but make sure you have your ID and health insurance card with you so there are no issues when you’re checking into the hospital. If your hospital has any kind of pre-admittance paperwork, fill it out as early as you can and pack it in your hospital bag.
Finally, if your plan for childbirth includes collecting and storing umbillical cord blood, stem cells, or placenta, be sure to bring the supplies to do so (and make sure your medical team knows about it in advance).
Phone, charging cables, and battery backups
Welcome to the wonderful world of new-parent sleep deprivation! It all starts in the hospital, where not only will your tiny miracle screech nonstop to be fed and held, but nurses will bustle in and out of your room to check on you at all hours of the night.
Having a charged-up phone is a must-have on your list, because it allows you to text with your mother about your breastfeeding attempts at 4 a.m. (it’s fine, she was up anyway) or scroll Instagram as the sun rises and the nurse passes you more ibuprofen.
When it comes to rest and recuperation, hospitals can be surprisingly inhospitable. That means that one of the must-haves for a hospital bag is your favorite pillow, covered in the pillowcase from your favorite sheet set. Even if you’re not getting any sleep, this touch of coziness from home can help you relax. (Consider pre-washing that pillowcase using Dreft Blissfuls In-Wash Scent Booster to get a preview of that great baby-clothes smell.)
At some point in the 48 hours after childbirth, you are going to take a shower, and standing in the hot water in the little hospital bathroom is going to feel like a luxury spa treatment. Enhance the experience by bringing along your favorite shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and loofah.
Hand cream and lip balm are nice additions to thepacking list as well. That’s on top of deodorant, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a hairbrush, and any other toiletries you might pack for an overnight trip.
Socks, slippers, and flip-flops
You don’t want to be barefoot on the hospital floor. Simple as that.
If you have written down a birth plan, make a few copies and pack them in your maternity hospital bag to give to your medical team. (However, if you’re a first-time parent, just know that babies are tiny agents of chaos and might not allow you to follow your birth plan perfectly. Any childbirth that results in a healthy mom and baby is a good outcome.)
Bathrobe, pajamas, and comfortable clothes to wear
Now we’re getting into judgment calls. Are you a bathrobe person? Will nice maternity pajamas help you feel comfortable? Do you feel the need to be dressed in something cozy and cute when you’re receiving visitors?
These clothing items are on many hospital bag checklists, but the fact is that you’ll get a gown at the hospital, and many new moms simply wear the gown for their entire stay. You’ll know which type of new mom you are, and whether you’ll need these extras or not.
Whatever else makes you comfortable
If you need your partner to rub your legs, a massager and some lotion could be essential to you. If you’re an audiophile, a portable speaker to play your “push mix” might be a necessary addition to your checklist. Maybe you’re a gamer, and your Switch is a must-have in addition to your phone. Or perhaps you need a stress ball or fidget spinner to focus on during contractions.
Take a moment to think about what helps you cope when you’re bored, uncomfortable, or stressed, and if anything comes to mind, put it in the bag!
Hospital Bag Essentials for Baby
Remember that in this arena, two people enter and three people (or more) leave! Here’s your hospital bag checklist for the new baby.
The most important item on this hospital bag checklist is something you don’t pack in your hospital bag! A car seat is an absolute essential for bringing home baby. Your doctor might even request to see the car seat and show you how to secure your new precious cargo in it.
Around the time you’re packing your bag, make sure to sort out your car seat situation by having it installed in whatever car is likeliest to bring you home from the hospital. If you’re unsure whether you’ve installed it properly, call your local fire department and ask if you can bring it in for a safety check.
Your new baby will be provided with everything they need in the hospital, but when it comes time to leave, they’ll need something to wear on the way home! Be sure to pack something simple, like one-piece footie pajamas (pre-washed in Dreft, naturally), and a warm blanket to tuck around them if the weather is cold.
Receiving blankets and swaddle blankets
This is another item that really falls under the “optional” category. The hospital is going to provide swaddle blankets or swaddle sacks, so you won’t need to bring your own items for swaddling.
The real reason to bring cute blankets is, well, to look cute. Did great-grandma hand-crochet a banket she’d love to see the baby wrapped in on your FaceTime call? Did your sister give you a set of swaddle blankets in your favorite colors?
Don’t feel any pressure to “dress up” your newborn for others, but if you’ve got a few cute blankets, you might as well stick them in for the benefit of visitors and video callers. Make sure to pre-wash those blankets in Dreft so they smell as awesome as they look!
Keepsakes or accessories for photos
A new baby means lots of pictures, and we’re not just talking about poorly angled camera phone shots of beaming new grandparents cradling tiny bundles. Many hospitals arrange for professional photographers to come into maternity rooms and offer to do a newborn photo shoot. (The shoot is free; the photos, of course, cost.)
Like pretty blankets, it’s totally optional, but if you have something you want your new baby to be photographed with (a sweet hat, a meaningful stuffed animal, etc.), an easy way to make it happen is to add it to your hospital bag checklist and offer it to the newborn photographer at the hospital.
Hospital Bag Packing List for Support Person
If you’re going to the hospital to support your wife, partner, relative, or friend who’s having a baby, here are your must-haves for a hospital bag.
Depending on when mom-to-be goes into labor, you could be at the hospital for three days or more. A change of clothes will be much appreciated. Your hospital bag essentials include comfortable outfits and pajamas for spending the night.
As you would for any overnight stay, you’ll want to pack deodorant, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and anything else that will make you feel presentable.
Pillows and blankets
During your hospital stay, you’ll most likely be sleeping on a couch. When you’re packing a hospital bag, add your own bedding to make it as comfortable as possible.
No one wants to have to rely on cafeterias and vending machines. Pick a few snacks to add to your hospital bag checklist, and don’t forget a reusable water bottle so you can stay hydrated even 36 hours into labor.
Phone, camera, charger
As the support person, you’ll be the one deputized to document the birth (to the extent that mom wants) and make announcements to friends and family. Keep your phone at the ready for this responsibility by adding cables and chargers to your hospital bag checklist.
Books, video games, and other boredom-banishers
During the earlier hours of labor, you might not have much to do. (Mom-to-be might even decide to take a nap, if she gets an epidural and isn’t bothered by the contractions.) During this time, you’ll need something to keep you busy, whether it’s Sudoku on your phone or a few rounds of Super Smash Brothers.
As you’re looking over these lists, remember: Almost nothing on a hospital bag checklist is set in stone. It’s all about prioritizing the items that will make you feel most comfortable and prepared. Here’s a general rule to follow: If an item listed here isn’t something you already own or have registered for, you probably don’t need it.
In the end, it’s important to remember that while your stay in the hospital for childbirth can be stressful, it’s likely only a few days out of your life. What’s more, you can always send your partner or any willing friends or family to pick up any hospital bag essentials you forgot.
Copy for printable checklist:
Hospital Bag Checklist for Mom
Hospital paperwork (if any)
Cord blood/stem cell kit
Placenta storage kit
Phone charging cables
Phone battery backup
Hospital Checklist for Baby
Receiving blankets/swaddle blankets
Keepsakes/accessories for photos
Hospital Bag Packing List for Support Person Clothes
Phone charging cables
Phone battery backups
Books/video games/things to keep busy