The Do’s and Don’ts of Packing Your Hospital Bag for Birth
Updated: Jun 14
Packing your hospital bag is a milestone of pregnancy. Once that bag is packed, you’ll be one step closer to welcoming your baby. Learn what to expect, what to pack, and what to leave at home so you can prepare confidently for your birthing experience in the hospital.
Do draft up a checklist in advance and pack your hospital bag when you’re around 36 weeks pregnant, give or take a few weeks depending on when is convenient in your schedule. Once packed, show your partner where the bag is so it can be grabbed easily in case of emergency. Make sure your driver’s license, insurance card, and contact information for your baby’s pediatrician are all stashed in your wallet to bring on the big day as well.
Don’t pack your hospital bag too early because when the time comes, you might forget or second-guess what you packed. Also, try not to wait until it’s too late. Once you’re in labor, your mind will be in no state to follow a packing list, and your partner might let some essentials slip through the cracks!
Do check with your hospital in advance if you’d like to wear your own labor and delivery gown, as some hospitals require that you wear the gown that they provide. If you’re interested in natural labor methods, check with your hospital if a birthing ball will be available. Avoid being bothered by long hair in your face while in the throes of labor by packing a ponytail holder or headband. If your labor stalls for hours, have a good book or magazine on hand to divert your attention.
Don’t worry that you’ll be bored and need a large supply of activities like games or devices. (Speaking of devices, don’t forget your chargers!) Between answering texts and calls from loved ones and greeting a steady stream of healthcare professionals, you probably won’t have much downtime before the real action starts.
Do bring easy slip-on shoes or non-skid socks for walking around your postpartum room, as well as flip-flops for the shower. After childbirth, your body will most likely look and feel five months pregnant for a while, so pack maternity clothes or forgiving pants with an elastic waistband. A cozy bathrobe is a good choice since you can wrap it around your baby during skin-to-skin time.
Don’t pack pants that might put pressure on the lower abdominal area, which is where an incision would be in case of a C-section. Don’t bother packing underwear or pads since the hospital will give you an ample supply of disposable, stretchy, gauze-like underwear that holds monstrous pads and ice packs in place. Regular period pads won’t cut it in the first few days postpartum!
Do decide in advance if you plan to breastfeed so you can pack accordingly. If breastfeeding is your goal, you’ll want to bring comfortable nursing bras and tops with stretchy necklines. Though they won’t be filled with milk yet, your breasts might begin to leak colostrum in the days after delivery so be prepared with breast pads that will soak up drips and prevent stains. Pack a nursing pillow to support your little one’s head and your arm while breastfeeding.
Don’t bring your breast pump. If you find that you need to pump during your hospital stay, the staff will provide you with a hospital-grade breast pump, which is much more efficient than most at-home models.
Do pack the same cosmetics as you would for an overnight stay. Pick hydrating skincare products to combat the dry, sterile hospital air, as well as a lip balm to soothe chapped lips from heavy breathing during labor. You might want to bring a little makeup so you feel confident about how you look in photos. If you struggle falling asleep in foreign environments, pack your own pillow (in a non-white pillowcase to set it apart from the hospital-issued pillows), a sleep mask, and earplugs. Download an app that plays white noise or nature sounds to block out the bustle of the hospital.
Don’t forget the toiletries that you use on a daily basis, such as your toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hairbrush, deodorant, and contact solution (or eyeglasses). Leave your jewelry safely stored at home. You may feel naked without your wedding ring, but fingers often swell during labor. Finger pain should not be on your list of postpartum ailments!
Do remember the “clear liquids only” rule for eating and drinking during labor. Once labor has started, you’ll only be allowed clear liquids, such as water, carbonated drinks, clear soups, black coffee, and hard candies. To prepare for postpartum cravings, pack some favorite snacks, bars, dried fruit, and electrolyte-replenishing drinks like Gatorade. To earn brownie points with the postpartum floor staff, consider bringing some special packaged treats with a note of thanks to leave at the intake desk.
Don’t overdo it on the food packing. Bringing your own food is not an absolute must since the hospital will provide room service. But your partner will probably have to place a separate order in the cafeteria and you both might want snacks in between meals. Labor works up an appetite! Even if you’re jonesing for certain foods that you missed during pregnancy, save the sushi and champagne feast for home, when you can relax and savor it next to your sleeping (or wide awake) newborn.
Do make sure your baby’s infant car seat base or convertible car seat is correctly installed in your car before arriving at the hospital. A nurse will check to make sure your baby is safely buckled before you are allowed to leave. Throughout your hospital stay, you will be given all the newborn diapers, wipes, and signature hospital-issued striped blankets your baby will need. These blankets are not particularly soft or cute, though, so you might want to consider bringing your own cozy swaddling blankets, along with some burp cloths.
Don’t pack a mini-wardrobe for your baby. Even if your baby has already amassed a stockpile of adorable outfits, save the fashion show for home. Some hospitals require that you keep your baby in hospital-provided clothing until you’re discharged. When selecting baby clothes for picture-taking or going-home day, steer clear of bodysuits and elaborate outfits, which are challenging to maneuver onto a newborn. Instead, try to find clothes that are kimono-style or have snaps from top to bottom, and pack options in both newborn and 0-3m size since you can’t predict how big your baby will be. No matter what outfit you choose, it will be special once your baby comes home in it!
If the above information feels overwhelming and you just want a one-stop-shop to cover all your labor and postpartum needs, you could consider purchasing the Frida Mom Labor and Delivery + Postpartum Recovery Kit, which contains supplies for healing, nursing, and well-being during your hospital stay and beyond. This kit would be especially useful if you are delivering at a birth center, which might not be stocked with all of the amenities of a hospital.
When packing your hospital bag, remember that the hospital staff will try their best to accommodate your needs, whether that’s providing an extra stash of ice packs or a midnight muffin. But don’t forget the things that make you feel comfortable and human, and don’t anticipate long stretches of free time to fill after labor. Once your baby is born, you’re going to be busy recovering from delivery, absorbing information from your care team, and feeding, changing, and snuggling your baby. Your time in the hospital will fly by, and before you know it, you’ll be starting the next chapter with your new bundle of joy at home.
With Warmth and Wellness,
Your EmmaWell Team