While so much can feel uncertain surrounding labor & delivery (despite even the best birth plans), one thing is for sure: You definitely don’t want to be frantically packing your hospital bag in between piercing labor contractions.
It is suggested to have your hospital bag packed and ready to go anywhere between weeks 32 and 35 of your pregnancy, as you never know if your sweet bundle of joy may want to make an early entrance. We’ve compiled a hospital bag checklist to make baby prep that much easier — including the essentials and the nice-to-haves. (And if you don’t want to fuss with packing a bag at all, well, there’s an answer for that, too! More on that below.)
Packing for Mom
Mamas so often put themselves last — behind spouses, children, friends, you name it. But when it comes to packing your bag, “put your own oxygen mask on first.” The hospital will have just about everything you need for baby (minus the car seat, of course). Here’s what you may want to consider packing for yourself:
Toiletries: Pack a toiletry bag with travel sizes of the basics like a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo & conditioner, body wash or a bar of soap, body lotion, deodorant, a hairbrush, hair ties/elastics, cotton swabs, and face-cleansing towelettes. Some nice-to-haves may include lip balm, face cream or moisturizer, hand cream, and dry shampoo. While a full face of makeup may sound lovely in theory, it’s liable to be the last thing on your mind at the hospital (though a quick swipe of mascara or eyebrow pencil may make some tired mamas feel more like themselves, and there’s nothing wrong with that)!
Wearables: Hospital gowns aren’t exactly known for being haute couture, and though they’re great for the majority of your hospital stay, you won’t want to go home in one. A few pieces of clothing you won’t want to forget: Your going-home outfit (think loose and comfortable!), nursing or maternity nightgown and robe (or easy-to-unbutton pajamas), nursing bra or camisole, slippers or non-slip socks with grips (for those slick hospital floors), and flip-flops for the shower.
Necessities: Think your smartphone, a long charging cord, your birth plan if you have one, a labor & delivery playlist if you made one, a massage ball and/or birthing ball, and any necessary paperwork.
Extras: Also consider packing a reusable water bottle, a favorite book or magazine (though don’t be surprised if it goes unread!), a soft pillow and cozy blanket, snacks (honey sticks can be great for laboring mamas when food and drink are restricted), thank-you cards (for any nurses who go the extra mile), and a few breastfeeding essentials like nursing pads and nipple cream. You could even bring your breast pump from home, as though the hospital can provide you with a hospital-grade pump, there is likely to be a lactation consultant on staff who can answer any questions or provide guidance. Some mamas also prefer wearing adult diapers over the maxi pads provided at the hospital. And if your partner or spouse will be spending the night at the hospital, make sure they pack their own bag (complete with items for sleeping).
Packing for Baby
The hospital should provide just about everything your sweet little one needs including diapers, wipes, a suction bulb, baby blankets, newborn hats and side-snap shirts, bath wash, pacifiers, and infant formula, if needed. But you won’t want to forget the following (in addition to the pediatrician’s contact information):
Car seat: The hospital won’t let you take the baby home without an approved infant car seat. Make sure the base is properly installed. Car seat cover, optional.
Going-home outfit: Consider packing both newborn and 0-3 months outfits, as you won’t know how big your baby will be. And as cute as a pair of overalls or suspenders would be, consider keeping it basic and comfy — side-snap onesies or zip-up sleepers are good options. And don’t forget socks and a hat if weather-appropriate.
Extras: If you want to bring any items for those special newborn photo opps, you can include a special baby blanket or swaddle and/or lovey (but make sure to remove loose blankets and toys when baby is sleeping).
Purchase a Pre-Packed Bag
If you don’t want to deal with those big bag-packing decisions, Belly & Bag is a Jacksonville-based company started by two local moms. They’ve carefully researched and sourced products to bring expectant mamas the first comprehensive, non-toxic, pre-packed birth bags on the market. Choose from three pre-packed options: The Minimalist, Happy Medium, and Fully Prepared (pictured) — all carefully packed in an easy-to-clean nylon weekender bag (that can also double as a diaper bag). They’ve truly thought of it all, from non-toxic travel-size toiletries to a massage ball to help alleviate those labor pains.