You actually don’t need all that much in order to have a baby at a hospital. Got your uterus? You’re good to go!
To be fair, technically, you will also need a carseat, your driver’s license, and your insurance card before you will be allowed to leave the hospital. But in terms of actually giving birth, the hospital will provide you with pretty much everything you need. However, it’s always nice to have a few other things to make your stay more comfortable.
Here is what you actually need in your maternity hospital bag, from a practical standpoint. This list covers everything you absolutely need (they won’t let you leave the hospital unless you have a carseat), the things that will really make your life easier (nursing tanks and grippy socks), and a couple of things that you could pack if you have extra room.
I’ve also got a list of things that you do NOT need, unless you’re the type of person who is always prepared for any eventuality and you plan to basically move into the hospital for the few days that you’re there. I’ve even provided a free printable checklist with all this info. You can print it out, check it off, and have peace of mind that you’re good to go when the time comes!
What You Actually Need In Your Maternity Hospital Bag
There are tons of lists out there on what to pack in your hospital bag when you go to have a baby, but most of them are a little overly ambitious. If you packed everything on those lists, you’d have five suitcases and that’s just for the mom-to-be! You don’t actually NEED to bring thank you cards so that you can get a head start…you will have just had a BABY! Take a few minutes to rest, recuperate, and get used to having an extra family member; the thank you cards can wait.
Here are the things you actually need in your maternity hospital bag for yourself, your baby, and your spouse/partner/co-pilot, as well as a few things that are “nice to have” if you have the room to pack them. If you’re worried that you won’t have something you need, pack a “might need” bag separately from the must-haves. Bring the “might need” bag if you have room, or send your partner home for it after the baby is born if you end up wanting it.
Click here to download this free printable hospital bag checklist!
Things For Mom
1. Super comfy, loose-fitting, dark colored pants
Yoga pants and sweatpants are your best friends here! I actually lived in the hospital gown they gave me for the first two days, but after that I put on an old, scuzzy, brown pair of sweatpants and I was in heaven! You need something loose-fitting, because you will not magically shrink down to your pre-pregnancy size (think clothing you fit into at about 6-7 months pregnant), and you want something dark colored because there will be a lot of blood, no matter how careful you are. Don’t bring your favorite pair of yoga pants; giving birth is just messy and you don’t want to risk ruining any clothing you actually care about.
2. Nursing bra or nursing tank
You will be doing a LOT of nursing in the hospital, so make sure you wear a top that gives you easy access. Or just stay in your hospital gown the whole time; that thing has built-in easy access!
3. Warm sock or slippers with grippy bottoms
Sometimes the hospital will have these for you, but you want to make sure you have something to keep your feet warm while you’re pacing the halls during labor. And the grippies are super important so you don’t slip on the smooth floors.
4. A hoodie, sweater, cardigan, etc.
Even if you’re hanging out in your hospital gown while laboring, the hospital can get cold sometimes and you’ll appreciate a warm hoodie when you’re wandering the halls waiting for labor to progress. Just make sure it zips or buttons in the front so that you can get it on and off over the IV lines and monitor cords.
You’re going to be in the hospital overnight at least one night, and usually two or three, so be prepared. Don’t go crazy, but make sure you have glasses or contact lenses, deodorant, and a toothbrush. The hospital will have toothpaste, shampoo, soap, and conditioner so you don’t need to pack that unless you’re super particular about your brand of hair care products.
6. Lip balm
This one was a must for me; I think I went through an entire tube when AJ was born! The hospital air is pretty dry, and your lips will thank you.
7. Hair ties or a headband
Laboring and giving birth is hard work; there’s no need to worry about keeping your hair out of your face in addition. Tie it back or use a headband and don’t worry about it.
8. Snacks and hard candy
You won’t be able to eat while you’re in labor, but sucking on ice or hard candy can help take the edge off the hunger. And you’re definitely going to want some snacks handy for after your baby is born, just in case the cafeteria is closed already. (Pro tip: make sure your snacks are fiber-rich to help prevent constipation…you’ll thank me later!)
9. Your own pillow, in a colored pillowcase
This one borders on “nice to have” instead of “absolute necessity”, but if you’re going to splurge a bit while packing, this one is worth it! Hospital pillows are notoriously thin and scratchy, so having your own fluffy pillow is really nice. Plus you can use it as a nursing pillow once your baby is born. Just make sure you put it in a colored pillowcase so it doesn’t get mixed up with the hospital pillows.
10. Dry shampoo
Showering after giving birth is hard…even just getting out of bed is hard! Dry shampoo will give you an extra day or two to rest and recuperate if you need it. Here’s my favorite recipe for making your own dry shampoo for dark or light hair.
Nice-to-haves for Mom:
If you have room in your hospital bag, here are a few things that are nice to have, but not absolutely necessary.
- a “going home” outfit – I just wore my sweatpants and nursing tank, but if you want to look a little more acceptable in public, grab an outfit that fit you while you were 6-7 months pregnant for going home
- makeup and other toiletries – you don’t need to bring your own shampoo or body wash, but if you want that stuff and have room to pack it, go for it! My hair is only an inch long, so I just run my hands through it after a shower, but if you have long hair, you may want to bring a comb or brush as well.
- flip flops for the shower – if you’re squeamish about “public” showers, grab a pair of flip flops for the shower
- underwear – personally I loved the gigantic mesh granny panties the hospital provided, and I just wore those every day, even after I got home. But if you want to wear your own underwear, just make sure they are full coverage, and perhaps a size bigger than you’d normally wear, cuz those postpartum pads are HUGE! You can always grab a pack at CVS or Walgreens and just treat them like disposable underwear if you don’t want to worry about ruining your own panties.
- giant pads, Dermoplast bottom spray, and nipple cream/lanolin – the hospital will provide these, but you can bring your own if you want to be super prepared
- your own towel – another luxury item, but it can be nice to have a big fluffy towel after your shower. Just make sure it’s dark-colored!
- massage oil for labor – if your co-pilot is a rockstar like that, bring some massage oil so they can help you through the labor pains.
Things For Your Co-Pilot
1. Change of clothes
You’ll be there at least a few nights, so make sure your partner has a change of clothes or two. (Pro tip: pack a button down shirt for your partner so they can do skin-to-skin with your newborn just in case you can’t for some reason.)
2. Something to sleep in
Those hospital couches are not comfy; don’t make it worse by sleeping in jeans because you don’t have something comfy to sleep in!
Also great just in case there’s no time for a shower!
4. Books or other entertainment
Labor can be a super long process, and while your partner will certainly be helping you out through most of it, there will be some down time. Make sure they have something to keep themselves occupied if you get the chance to grab a nap.
5. Cash or change for vending machines
You won’t be able to eat during labor, but if you don’t mind your partner having a snack, make sure you have change for the vending machines. Plus, once your baby is born, you’ll probably want a quick snack right away.
6. Camera, charger, extra memory card, etc.
Even if you have a birth photographer, you’re going to want your own photos as well. Be sure to bring a charger and extra memory card, or a USB cable to transfer the photos just in case you fill up the camera.
7. Phones and chargers
You both need your phones and chargers, but put your partner in charge of making sure these get in the bag.
Nice-to-haves for your partner:
It’s nice for your partner to have some creature comforts as well!
- iPad or laptop, and charger – you might not have that much down time, but if you do it will be nice to have some internet access
- toiletries – again, the hospital will have shampoo and toothpaste, but if your partner wants to shave, they’ll need a razor.
- a written list of people to call – Mom brain is probably already in full effect for you, and with how crazy it will be at the hospital, it’s better to have the list written down just so you don’t forget anyone. (Or you can post an announcement on Facebook and just call it good!)
Things For Baby
The hospital won’t let you leave without a carseat, so make sure it’s in the car, and properly installed before you go!
2. A “going home” outfit
This can be as simple as the plain white onesie the hospital will provide, but your newborn baby will need clothes of some kind once they leave the hospital. They don’t need ten outfits though…just one will do fine!
3. A warm blanket for the car
The hospital will have swaddle blankets for your use during your stay, but newborn babies need to be bundled up, so grab a warm blanket to tuck around them after they are in their carseat.
Again, the hospital will probably have these on hand, but if you have a plan to use a certain brand, bring it.
Nice-to-haves for baby:
Hospitals will provide pretty much everything your baby needs, but here are a few things you can bring if you want to be extra prepared.
- socks – your baby will be swaddled pretty much 24/7 in the hospital, but if it’s cold out you might want a pair of socks for them anyway (especially for when they are in the car)
- a hat – the hospital will provide hats, but if you want to bring your own, you can
- a stocked diaper bag – the hospital will have diapers, wipes, swaddle blanket, burp rags, etc. but if you have a long car ride home and think you might have to make a stop on the way home, bring your stocked diaper bag
Other Important Things
1. Insurance card and driver’s licenses
You and your partner will both need these for filling out hospital forms
2. Birth certificate and social security number paperwork
The hospital gave us these forms to fill out while we were in the hospital, but double check that your hospital will provide them. If not, make sure you have this with you to fill out while you are still at the hospital.
3. Pediatrician and obstetrician contact information
The hospital will want this info so they can get in touch with your OB to deliver the baby, and so they can make sure your newborn is set up for their first checkup after they leave the hospital.
4. Hospital admission paperwork
Sometimes the hospital will provide you with all of this beforehand to help speed up the admission process when you arrive. Make sure it’s all filled out and in your bag before you head to the hospital!
Things You Definitely Don’t Need
There are some things you really just don’t need at the hospital with you…
1. Baby book
You will not have time to be scrapbooking while you are in the hospital! Leave the baby book at home and worry about that later. The hospital will give you an inked footprint certificate thingie anyway, so you don’t need them to stamp your baby’s feet directly into the book.
2. Nurse gifts
Now, I’m not saying don’t give gifts to your nurses! It’s always nice to do this for the people taking care of you, but please feel free to wait until you’ve had a little chance to recuperate first. You can always send gifts later, or stop by to say hi and drop them off if you need an excuse to get out of the house.
3. Nursing pillow
If you need some extra support, just use a few hospital pillows. You can always ask the hospital for more pillows; I think I had about 12 in my room, on the bed, in the chairs, and on the couch. A nursing pillow is super helpful once you’re home, but there’s no need to lug that giant thing around when you’re at the hospital.
4. Straightener or curling iron
Just no… If you ever had an excuse to not look your absolute best, it is now; you just had a BABY! Put some dry shampoo in your hair, run your fingers through it, and smile for the camera anyway!
5. Tons of baby clothes
The hospital will give you some plain white onesies or shirts and some swaddle blankets, and that’s what they’ll be wearing for the first few days of their lives. There’s no need to worry about outfit changes while you’re recovering! If you absolutely must have actual clothing for your baby (besides a going home outfit) bring a pair of footie pajamas and/or a sleep sack.
6. Diapers, wipes, nipple cream, etc.
The hospital will have all of the necessities, so just use what they provide. They will give you the rest of the pack of diapers to bring home, and you can bring home all of the nipple cream, mesh underwear, postpartum pads, etc. that is in your room. Plus, the cost of it is already included in your hospital bill, so feel free to take advantage of the “free” supplies!
Things To Have Ready At Home
Here is a bonus list of the things you’ll want to have on hand as soon as you get home. You don’t need these at the hospital (and in fact, the hospital will provide most of these for you, so you can bring them home with you), but you will need them the first few days you are home. You probably don’t want to run out to the store in those first few days, so make sure you have these things on hand at home before you leave for the hospital.
1. Postpartum supplies for mom
Here’s what I had on hand in our bathroom: (I brought all of these home with me from the hospital, except for the Depends)
- mesh undies
- postpartum pads
- perineal ice packs (these are a godsend!)
- Tucks (soothing, and absolutely worth having on hand)
- Dermoplast (numbing spray…you’ll need it!)
- peri bottle (for rinsing “down there”, super helpful, cuz wiping hurts!)
- Colace (your first poop after giving birth is going to be unpleasant, make it as easy as possible)
- Depends (it’s just going to be a mess for a few days, save your own undies and use disposable Depends)
2. Prenatal vitamins
Nope, you’re not done with these yet! You’ll need to keep taking them until you stop breastfeeding.
3. Diapers and wipes
Grab a huge pack of both of these so you don’t have to run out and grab more anytime soon!
4. Nipple cream
Breastfeeding can be painful, and your nipples will get chapped. Having this on hand will help a lot for the first few weeks!
5. Nursing pads
Your boobs will leak; it’s just going to happen. Stick these cotton pads in your bra to keep it from soaking through your bra and shirt.
Grab your free printable hospital bag checklist here.
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