We’ve made this trip several times. With the benefit of our experience and that of other moms and partners, we’ve produced this hospital bag checklist to guide you through exactly what to pack in your bag, your baby bag and your partner’s bag!
Pregnancy is a long long wait for one day to come. One of the biggest days of your life. Labor day! (no, not the 3rd of September :)), the day you give birth. Well, it might be the 3rd of September, but anyway….
My point is that there’s a LOT of biological preparation goes into that day. All the more reason you should be well prepped too.
When should I pack my hospital bag?
When you get 37 weeks pregnant this is called ‘early term’. You’re more likely to reach 39 or 40 weeks for a ‘full term’ birth. However, after 37 weeks there’s a chance labor could start at any time.
Our advice? Get yours and your baby’s hospital bags prepped ASAP after your 36th week of pregnancy.
When labor starts, you really aren’t going to be wanting to pack a bag for the hospital. You’ll be waiting for your next contraction. Wondering whether it’s time to get on your way. Wondering if this is the real thing or just more Braxton Hicks. You’ll want to be ready to go. Not trying to get your partner to find the right nursing bra out of the closet.
Even if you don’t actually pack yet, get started. Lay some things out. Make a list like this one. There are going to be decisions you might not have made yet that you need to make. Some things you need to shop for.
Our checklists will get you there with ‘what’ to take. Just how much of it depends on how long you end up staying in the hospital.
How long can you be in labor?
People can talk about labor lasting several days, but there’s sometimes a period of practice contractions that can precede active labor which is where these stories come from. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions.
Somewhere around 8 hours is typical. Generally, you’ll find labor of the first birth to be the longest. For your second or third child, things just get quicker! The body knows what to do second time through. Our first birth was 11 active labor hours and the second only 4.
How long do you have to stay in the hospital after having a baby anyway?
You should plan for being in the hospital for up to 48 hours after a natural birth. If a c-section is involved you may end up staying as long as 4 days. Any other complications will mean a longer stay.
For both of our births (not counting labor), we were released about 8 hours after the babies were born. The births were uncomplicated, and the pain relief was simply gas and air.
That’s laughing gas to those of you in the US. Whilst use is sometimes an option it isn’t widely available there, however, it’s standard in the UK. The 8 hours was really just how long it took for my wife to have a little rest and the various specialists to come and perform their checks. That’s pretty quick, but not unusual.
Maternity departments can get busy, they sometimes have pressure to free up beds. Whilst it’s the most important day of yourlife, you aren’t alone. Someone else will be along soon with exactly the same predicament!
About The Bags / Lists
We’ve broken this down into the things we think you need for each person. That means you’ll have a bag for mummy with everything she needs. One for baby and maybe one for your partner.
So, let’s get to it….
Mummy’s Hospital Bag
There’s no telling when or where labor might start. This is the bag you’ll want to take with you everywhere you go or at least keep somewhere very handy.
We actually had a small suitcase packed for the day with everything for mum in it. We like to be well prepared and everything just didn’t fit in a shoulder bag.
I’m convinced the maternity department nurses gave it a questioning look. But I mean we were prepared for whatever came. You (or they) just don’t know how long you’ll be there. You might need an emergency C-section. A well-packed bag with all your creature comforts is worth its weight in gold on delivery day.
Your Documents & Paperwork
Do you have a birth plan? Don’t forget to take it, the nurse or midwife will want to read it and follow it, and you might not be in a position to clearly discuss what you want. That’s why it’s written down.
Don’t forget to gather your hospital notes and any other hospital paperwork you need. In the UK there’s a handy ‘red book’ that every pregnant mum is given. This is a place for all your pregnancy and early years notes.
In the USA you’ll also need to remember to take picture ID with you (a driver’s license for example), your insurance card.
Not all vending machines a) work and b) take credit cards. You might need cash and coins for these and also for any parking charges you might incur.
Mobile phone and charger
Without doubt one of the most important items you’ll take! Everybody wants that first picture and that first text where you welcome your little on the world and tell everyone what you decided to name them.
A useful little tip here is to install a Contraction timer app on your smartphone if you have one. It’s much easier to use an app than to try and rely on the stopwatch and your memory to figure out if your contractions are getting closer together.
Good quality matters here, you don’t want plastic backed pads. You want pads with plenty of depth and padding (more than you’d usually choose if you’re on your period).
If your waters break early you’re going to get through a lot of these during labor and also afterward. So again, pack a box full.
Ideal for throwing away every time you change your pads. If you use these you won’t have to bring home a pile of dirty washing that you really won’t want to bother with when your little one has arrived.
If you don’t want to take paper pants, then take several pairs of comfortable cotton underwear that you’re happy to throw away!
Nightie for labor
I wouldn’t spend a lot of money on this. It’s likely going to be ruined and end up in the bin.
Socks for labor
Some people get the chills during labor. You might get cold feet (literally, not figuratively) so packing a pair of socks is a good idea. Again, these might get ruined, so we don’t suggest you take your faves!
Towel – bath towel and hand towel
The post labor shower is probably the most needed shower you will ever take. The hospital might provide towels, but it’s not a certainty. You’ve also no idea good a nice towel is going to feel at this point. Be warned though, it might also get ruined.
Slippers or Flip-Flops
Flip-flops are more versatile than slippers because you can shower in them and they won’t get ruined. But you’ll need something comfortable to make your way around the hospital.
Comfortable clothes for coming home (including more socks)
Whilst your bump goes down, it doesn’t disappear. Not for some weeks. So don’t think you’re going to be straight back into your skinny jeans. In the summer you’ll likely want a maxi dress and flip-flops. For winter deliveries, loose-fitting trousers.
If you’re planning to breastfeed…
Ideally, you need 2 types. Ones that are soft and comfortable for sleeping (jersey fabric). For the day you’ll probably want something with a bit more support.
You hardly need the extra cup size provided by padding and underwriting when you’ve got milk boobs.
You’ll change these often if you’re feeding, so you need lots. It’s probably worth sticking a whole pack in your bag.
IF you’re breastfeeding you’ll want to use this regularly to avoid soreness, dryness and cracking. In the beginning, your baby will be feeding round the clock and you may get sore if you don’t take care. So this is important.
Feeding nightie / Nursing
Post labor a comfortable nightdress that you can easily feed in (if you’re planning to nurse). You can buy special feeding nighties that easily pull down so you can feed without removing them. You’ll be doing it a lot, newborns feed what feels like ‘all the time’.
You’re not going to want your hair in your face. You’re also going to be laid back with your head on a pillow, during labor and feeding and just snuggling after the event. You need something that won’t dig in, so forget clips or grips. Stick with a simple bobble or band.
Lots of puffing and panting, gas and air and the overall exertion of giving birth will dehydrate you. Include some of your favorite lip balms, it’s at least one little bit of pampering you’ll be able to do to yourself over the next few weeks.
Face Wash / Body Wash
Something refreshing, that you like. That makes you feel like yourself. You’ll want to wash in the morning and certainly shower after the labor. Any free soaps and shampoos in hospitals just aren’t going to cut it.
You’re going to shower after the big event. You’ll want to wash your hair, and you’ll need to brush it afterward.
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Depending on the time of day and type of delivery you’ll likely be in hospital overnight. Don’t forget your toothbrush (and toothpaste)!
Makeup and Moisturizer
You’ll want to look as best you can when you get to come home. You’re likely to see most of your immediate family within a very short period of time after getting there. They might even be waiting outside the delivery suite.
Shampoo / conditioner 2in1
You don’t want to mess about in the shower at the hospital for too long. This really is one of those times to travel light and just go with a 2in1.
Snacks and Drinks – Energy
An easy quick source of energy when you’re in labor and have zero appetite. You probably won’t feel like eating, and these dissolve on the tongue and can jack up your dextrose levels when you’re exhausted. Giving birth isn’t an easy ride.