What To Pack in Hospital Bag: What You ACTUALLY Need

A comprehensive list of what to pack in hospital bag – and what you should keep at home! It’s amazing how little you actually need to give birth!
What to Pack in Hospital Bag

What to Pack in Hospital Bag

What you bring to the hospital, when you go to have your baby, is important. However, as I’ve seen some friends (and complete strangers even) post pictures of what they are bringing, it sometimes makes me laugh. Not because I think they are dumb for bringing an excessive amount of items, but because I know I would have done the same, had I not been obsessive about researching the best items to bring to the hospital. Even then, some of those “expert” lists led me astray. Here are some of the things I found most helpful (as well as some things I wish I had kept home!)

One rule of thumb to follow is this: Less is more. Only bringing the necessities will make everything less stressful. And, there’s less chance of you losing something. I had bought one of those postpartum bands that you wear after you give birth that claim to shrink your tummy faster. We took it out, and at some point, one of the housekeepers picked it up (it looked like a towel) and that was the last I saw of it! When you are leaving the hospital, you’ll probably be overwhelmed enough trying to get ready to take your baby home. You don’t want to worry about leaving anything!

You May Also Enjoy: Surviving Labor and Delivery: What to Expect

What to Pack for Hospital Bag for Baby

Toiletries and Medical Supplies

For the most part, the hospital provides any pain medication you will need, hygiene supplies for after birth, and most everything your baby will need (diapers, wipes, shampoo, bulb syringe, sponge, etc.) However, I recommend bringing some of your own toiletries. Here are a few recommendations:

I brought my own prenatal vitamins and TUMS, but you will want to verify with your nurse before you take any of these by mouth. They can be somewhat strict about that!

Memory Supplies

If you are wanting to record anything immediately after birth, here are a few ideas.

  • A good quality camera (if you want a DSLR, the Nikon D3100 is a good entry level one)
  • Video camera
  • Baby Book  – this one is super cute!
  • Journal – great for recording your first thoughts during those first few days 🙂

Entertainment

While I don’t recommend bringing your Playstation and entire DVD collection, you may want to bring a few things. Labor and delivery can be long – and you might enjoy some relaxing entertainment while you are recovering and snuggling your baby!

  • Laptop
  • Chargers (I recommend a portable charger. I found the outlets just aren’t close to beds!)
  • Kindle
  • Portable Speakers (in case you want to listen to music during labor)
  • Card games (Phase 10 is always fun!)
  • A couple DVDs
  • Extra batteries

This and That

Here are just a few other things you may want to consider

Clothes

I think one of the places I see people go overboard when it comes to their hospital bag, is clothes. While there may be a few people who really detest the hospital blankets and robes, for the most part, just go with what the hospital supplies (though I admit, I have seen some rather cute hospital gowns that I may buy next time around.)

  • Going home outfit for mom (something that fit you at six months pregnant)
  • Baby going home outfit
  • Blanket for baby when going home
  • Fuzzy socks or slippers
  • Hospital Gown (if you want one – make sure it is made for easy IV access)
  • Lounge pants or robe for the hospital
  • Nursing bra (if you plan to nurse. If you don’t plan to, bring a tight-fitting sports bra)

You May Also Like: Hospital Bag Packing List for Dad

A Few Other Tips:

Pack 5-6 Weeks Before Due Date: It may seem silly to have everything packed up so early, but you never know if you are going to go into labor early. It’s a lot easier to just grab your bag and go, rather than try and remember everything at the last second. I know some people recommend just having the bag in your car, and that is probably a good idea as well. You might not be at home when labor begins!

Write a List Beforehand: Because some of the items you will want to bring can’t just sit in your bag for five weeks (like a phone!), write a quick list of things you don’t want to forget. I put this on top of my bag, and it helped me to remember some of those essential items I hadn’t packed yet.

Snacks: If you get an epidural, you can’t eat at all during labor, but your husband will probably get hungry! While most hospitals do have some free snacks, bring some of your own, just in case they don’t have something you like.

Husband Bag: Hopefully, your husband will be competent enough to pack their own bag but gently remind them to bring some extra clothes, some entertainment, and their wallet.

Car seat: You can’t leave the hospital without having a car seat to bring the baby home in. So, be smart, and get one ahead of time. Have it properly installed (most State Health Department buildings can help with this) and bring it with you to the hospital. Be sure to check out our guide to buying a car seat! We LOVE the Chicco KeyFit 30. If it’s cold when your baby is born, I highly recommend the Cozy Cover. It’s safe for car seats, and it will keep your baby warm. We are always having people ask us about it!

What You Don’t Really Need:

Diapers and Wipes: The hospital provides these. Well, technically you do have to pay for them, but just use the ones provided rather than bringing your own. It’s just added weight, and useless. Make sure to take any leftovers home!

Pacifiers: The hospital provides these as well. Unless you hate the way hospital pacifiers look, feel free to bring a “cuter” one. We certainly love the WubbanubUpdate: The hospital I delivered Oliver at did NOT have pacifiers. They are what is called a “breastfeeding friendly” hospital, and they don’t give pacifiers out, as to not encourage nipple confusion.

Blankets: Maybe your mom made your baby a brand new blanket, and she’d be devastated if the baby wasn’t wrapped in it immediately after birth. In that case, bring a blanket. However, for the most part, leave those 15 blankets you got at your baby shower home. The hospital has tons and they work just fine.

Written Birth Plan: Okay, I know some people will fight me on this, but really, don’t bring a birth plan. At least not one that you plan to give to the nurse and expect her to abide by it, word for word. I’ve seen some online that are about 10 pages long, and I think that is silly. The nurse who taught the hospital class I attended said they really don’t like when they are handed a list, because giving birth is SO unpredictable, and it is only setting yourself up for disappointment. If you have a doula, give it to her. But nurses have more than one patient typically, and they change shifts every 12 hours. It’s hard to expect them to memorize your every wish. However, if there are certain things you are passionate about happening, just vocalize them. When I got to the hospital, I made my wishes known pretty quickly — I wanted the epidural ASAP, my baby would sleep in the nursery at night (and yes, he turned out just fine,) and I wanted Forrest to cut the umbilical cord. If you want a birth plan for your reference, that’s great, but instead, expect the unexpected, and let the nurses know if there’s anything you are really passionate about.

I hope this list has helped you decided what to bring! Everyone is different and may have different needs, but I think this is a good outline of what you should, and should not, bring to the hospital when you are about to give birth!

What did you bring to the hospital that you couldn’t have done without? What turned out to be useless?

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Originally posted in April 2013; updated July 2018. 

What to Pack in Hospital Bag

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10 Comments

  • I don't remember all my husband thought to bring anymore, but it was way too much stuff! Chapstick, nursing bra, and flip flops (Houston in the summer, so the hospital wasn't quite as freezing) were what I really really needed. And stretchy pants to wear under my gown especially while leaving the recovery room. Even with an episiotomy the nurses didn't need to check *that* often. I don't care how long a robe or dress I have on, I just feel kinda naked without pants/shorts on and was so much more comfortable that way.I know I'm packing my hands-free pumping bra next time. (More useful than most other things since the hospital won't provide one for you. Sure we all have preferences when it comes to clothes/toiletries/etc. but overall they have something that will work.) While normally you aren't pumping in the hospital and technically you don't "need" one, they are handy if you must. I was so tired while pumping for my daughter while in the NICU and unable to nurse (minor blip, came home when I went home) that one time I accidently spilled what little colostrum I managed to express after dosing off a minute.... So frustrating!
    • I never thought about using a hands free pumping bra at the hospital, but I could definitely see that being helpful in different situations. I think that having shorts or stretchy pants under your robe is great!
  • Just a side note from a Physician Assistant here.. You really shouldn't bring any of your own medications to the hospital (especially pain meds- you can risk being over medicated). Missing 2 days of prenatal vitamins is not a huge deal, and the hospital can supply anything else you might need for acid relief. It is critical that you do not take anything by mouth (unless instructed otherwise) in the event that you end up needing an emergency surgery, the general rule for anesthesia is nothing by mouth for at least 6 hours- no matter how small a few Tums may seem! Also, have your partner or family bring a snack for you to have after you deliver to avoid the temptation while actively laboring (especially if the hospital kitchen is closed)!
  • This isn't a comment to post necessarily, but at one of my prenatal classes they used the term "coach" or "birthing coach" for the person you bring into the hospital with you so you can avoid the husband/boyfriend/doula/mother/etc disclaimer at the end of your post. Just a thought!
  • Just came across this on Pinterest. I am pregnant with my second and brushing up on some things I've since forgotten with my first. I over packed on a few things the first tie but did not pack any food. I delivered at 10pm and didn't get anything til the next morning :( Great refresher list, thanks for sharing.
    • I'm glad you liked the list! I can't imagine not being able to eat that long; I was starving after having Jack! Good luck with your second :) how exciting!

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