The first time I packed my hospital bag it was like I was going on a two week holiday. I wheeled a huge suitcase into the labour ward – I am sure it was a tell tale sign that I was a first timer. I packed an extraordinary amount of stuff not knowing what I would need. So this time around I have a much better idea of the kind of things to pack.
You never know which way your birth is going to go, so actually it is always a guess as to what you will need. Most of the following are things I consider essential with a few nice to haves in there as well.
I found it really useful to use clear zip lock bags to organise things in my hospital bag. I labelled them “underwear” “babygrows” “muslins” etc so that not only was it neat and organised but my husband could also easily find something if I asked for it. It is quite important for your partner to be a part of the packing process so that they know exactly what is in there. If you’re anything like me you may pack your bag a few times – but when it’s ready, get them to watch you pack it whilst you explain all the things that are in there.
When it came to what kind of bag I used, I was worried it would look silly to use a carry on wheel suitcase but actually it was really helpful as it wasn’t massive but it opened out flat so everything was really easy to find. Have it near the door, ready to go from about 36 weeks as you just never know! Nearer the due date we took it with us if we were driving anywhere more than half an hour. Of course I ended up going a week over my due date and being induced so this was all very over cautious but it’s better to be that way than under prepared!
Essential For You
Loose, comfy clothes
Whether you wear anything at all during labour (I was just in a bra most of the time!) or not, you will want to go home in something comfortable so I would suggest some soft tracksuit bottoms with a loose band around the waist, and something comfortable on top that is easy to get on – buttons are a god send if you are planning on breast feeding.
Your feet may likely be swollen so slip on shoes or sandals are ideal, or in the wintery months just shoes that you can loosen if you need to.
Water Bottle with a Straw
This is the one I used and will be using again. Labour is hot, thirsty work and the beauty of having a straw like this is that you don’t need to keep tipping your head back to drink it. It is also extremely helpful if you have a caesarian to have a big bottle of water with you so you don’t have to keep getting up out of bed to fill it up.
I took in so many options as I just didn’t want to be caught short with the wrong kind of underwear for post birth. The truth is, the hospital has everything you need there but it is always good to come prepared. I used both adult nappies and maternity pads. I would definitely recommend bringing around 5 of each, the hospital have plenty of supply of their own ones so don’t panic but always nicer having your own.
Just for comfort really, and to go over those delightful hospital compression socks they’ll give you to wear. 2 pairs should be plenty.
If you choose to and are able to breastfeed you may want to bring in a nursing bra in with you. Whilst I was in the hospital I didn’t wear it, I just pulled my top up as I found it easier as I was navigating feeding for the first time but on the way home I wore one of these and found it super comfortable and easy to use.
I used Lanolin nipple balm which I found helpful.
You may not need it, but better to have it and not need it than the other way around. It also makes the best lip balm so it can double up as that too.
You may not need these whilst in hospital as it can take a while for your milk to come in but I think I might give these a go these re-uasable breast pads ago this time.
No matter the temperature outside, hospitals are always warm so this fan was a lifesaver for me last time. My husband was on constant fan duty through my contractions and it was great for post birth night sweats too! Oh the glamour!
Some of the pain relief can give you really dry lips and I remember using mine a lot and really thankful that someone told me to bring it with me to the hospital
You may not feel like eating during the main phase of your labour but if the early stage lasts a long time it is important to keep your energy levels up for the big event. The biggest tip I was given (and I didn’t listen, but should have!!) is not to bring all your ultimate favourite foods as it could ruin it for you. I was sick a fair bit in my pregnancy and all I could taste were percy pigs and it’s safe to say I haven’t wanted to eat them since!
Bring things that are easy to snack on and high energy like nuts, cereal bars, oat bars etc.
You never know how long you will be in hospital for so always pack what you’d take for a weekend away in terms of toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, hairbrush, face wipes etc. I was just in for one night last time but it was so nice to be able to shower after 12 hours of hot and sweaty labour. They usually have towels so you don’t need to bring one, although you may prefer to have your own softer and home smelling one.
Long Phone Charger
This came in so useful for me and I will definitely be bringing this again. The plug sockets are usually behind your bed on the ward and if you are telling all your friends and family the good news your battery will be needing charge a lot during your time so this way you can charge it whilst still using it. If you are induced or have to stay in a while before giving birth you can also then use your phone or iPad to watch things to pass the time.
Nice To Have For You
Some women like to have a carefully curated playlist to listen to whilst they give birth so have a think about some of the songs that either make you feel calm, or give you the energy you may need at the right time.
Bikini top/sports bra
If you end up using the birthing pool you may like to wear something on top, though this is absolutely not necessary and many women prefer to be totally nude throughout their labour.
It totally depends on you. I didn’t use a single piece of make up in hospital but then again I wasn’t in there for very long. It might be something that is important to you and in which case could be on your list to pack.
For that post birth shower it might feel really nice to have something on your feet. I won’t go into the details but you can imagine why!
You may want your birth to have a certain scent to keep it as calm as possible. I had taken in lavender spray last time and didn’t use it but it could be a nice addition next time if the situation is right for it.
Pregnancy pillow (or just a nice pillow from home)
It can help with various positions in labour, or if your labour last a long time it can help you rest if possible. It is also useful for propping you up for feeding positions when the baby is here too.
They can be great for blocking out any noise while you’re in labour and wanting to stay in your zone but also when the baby is here too you can use them for face timing friends and family or even watching a film without everyone on the ward hearing.
Essentials For Baby
If you have seen my newborn essentials shopping list, you will have seen plenty of recommendations for the basics for your baby there, but here is my checklist to take to the hospital.
They will insist on your baby wearing a hat as soon as they are born to keep them warm, so bring one with you or else they will put on a hospital one.
I would say don’t underestimate how many of these you might need. We got through about 8 in 24 hours. Bring a few nice ones but also just a pack of white ones will do as there is a lot of weeing that goes on so lots of changes required. Unless you are pretty sure of your baby’s size I would suggest bringing a smaller and a bigger option although it doesn’t really matter if it is too big. You forget how teeny newborns are!
Lots of size 0 nappies! As I said, lots of weeing and some pretty impressive coloured poos too so you don’t want to be caught short.
Wipes (or cotton wool pads)
One pack will do but definitely don’t want to be dealing with the first few poos without those!!
Alfie was quite a sucky baby right from the start so we got through quite a few of these in the hospital. I would pack between 5-8 to cover yourself and they don’t take up much room so if you don’t need them then it’s not the end of the world.
The midwives will show you how to swaddle your baby (we could never get it as perfect as they did) so that they feel safe and secure when they sleep. You’ll need 1 or 2 of these large swaddle blankets or muslins.
Helpful to put over the baby in the car seat as you leave the hospital, but also nice to use whilst you’re in there too.
Formula & bottle
If you don’t plan on breastfeeding or perhaps want a backup just in case it could be worth bring a bottle or two of formula with you, although the hospital have stores and would never let your baby go hungry so talk this through with your midwife if you are unsure on the policy at your hospital.
I hope this list is helpful as a guide to packing your own hospital bag, and remember to make sure your birth partner has a good idea of what is there and where so that they can grab things quickly when needed. Anything you forget, if it’s essential the hospital is likely to be able to help you so try not to panic about it. Leave plenty of time and pack and repack a few times so you are happy with what you’ve got in there.
You may find it useful to download this checklist to help your packing.