Packing a hospital bag is often seen as the penultimate pre-baby activity. Many women wonder what to pack, what they'll need for themselves and baby and what luxuries are worthwhile. Although you want to be sure that you have the essentials, you also need to be practical — this means not packing everything except the kitchen sink! Our stress-free hospital bag checklist is a handy way to ensure that you have everything you need for your baby's arrival. In this article, we've put our mama brains (and experience!) together to create the ultimate hospital bag checklist so you'll know just what to pack for the big day!
When Should You Pack a Hospital Bag?
Most women should start thinking about packing their hospital bag at around 36 to 37 weeks. Of course, if you like to be prepared, you can pack your bag as early as you want! Women who have a high-risk pregnancy, multiple births (for example, twins), or if her OBGYN thinks she may go into labor early, may want to pack their bags earlier — just in case!
The important thing to remember is that each woman, pregnancy, and birth are highly personal, so there is no right or wrong. If you're feeling overwhelmed, having a bag packed with the essentials can be comforting and will help you to feel more prepared for the big day.
How Long Should I Expect to Be in the Hospital?
What you pack is likely to depend on whether you plan to give birth vaginally or have a c-section. Of course, as with everything in life, births don't always go to plan, so it's essential to consider a couple of different scenarios.
After an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, women typically spend around 24 to 48 hours in the hospital. This gives time for any anesthesia you've been given to wear off and for your healthcare provider to monitor you and your baby to ensure you're both safe and healthy.
Women who have c-sections typically need to stay in the hospital for three to four days. If you develop any complications while giving birth or after, such as excessive blood loss or infection, you'll probably be asked to stay in the hospital until your healthcare provider is happy it's safe to release you home.
The length of your expected hospital stay will likely determine what you pack in your hospital bag. If you're trying to reduce the amount you have to take (and carry!) contact your hospital to find out what they provide for mothers — this is an easy way of streamlining your hospital bag.
Our Hospital Bag Checklist
- Approved infant car seat: You can't leave the hospital in a vehicle without an approved infant car seat. If you're unsure of which one to purchase or how to install, there are plenty of guides and reviews available online. The U.S. Department of Transport provides this guide for parents.
- A couple of outfits: Many parents get very excited picking the outfit for their little one's first photograph. You might want to consider packing more than one size to ensure that they fit. A backup is most likely a good idea, and we suggest simple outfits that will be easy to get baby into.
- A blanket or two: It's essential to wrap up your baby nice and warm for the journey home. Remember to pack a blanket or swaddle for when you leave the hospital.
Items to Pack for Mama
- Important documents: Looking for your insurance information, photo ID, and hospital forms while in active labor is not fun. Be sure to pack these important documents in your hospital bag, so you're ready to go — and don't forget your birth plan if you have one! Slip them into a plastic document sleeve so they're obvious and easy to access in your bag.
- A couple of comfortable outfits: The best kind of hospital outfit is one that can double up as pajamas too! Think comfortable and soft yoga clothes that you can walk the halls in and also nap in. Consider going up a size, especially if you pick pajama pants or joggers - you'll be grateful for the extra room and ease of getting them on and off. Slippers are also helpful for walking around the hospital.
- Maternity bras and nursing pads: Even if you don't plan on nursing, you'll likely experience sensitive breasts and some leakage. A quality maternity bra will help support your breasts and keep you comfortable.
- Non-perishable snacks: Birth can be long and physically taxing, so it's important to keep your energy up. Hospital food is often hit or miss, and vending machines are rarely filled with anything nutritious, so packing your own non-perishable snacks can be a lifesaver! Our Milk Drunk protein powder is available in handy single-serve packs so you can enjoy a healthy and delicious smoothie without sacrificing space in your hospital bag! Or, involve your partner and have them whip up some of our Milk Drunk Protein Bars for post-delivery. These protein bars can be frozen, so just grab a few on the way out the door and stash them in your bag!
- Toiletries: Travel-sized products can help to streamline your hospital toiletry needs. Remember to pack your toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, body wash, and lotion (hospitals can be dry!) Also, you'll want a hairbrush and any hair products you use.
- Light entertainment: Some women find that light reading and music are useful during labor. If you have a particular playlist you've created for your birth, be sure to have it ready-to-go!
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding pillow: This can provide comfort away from home and can make breastfeeding much easier, especially with a tiny newborn.
- Maternity underwear: Birth can be a messy affair, so be sure to pack some maternity underwear that you don't mind getting ruined. If you're preparing for a c-section, there is low-rise postpartum underwear available that may be more comfortable.
Preparing for birth doesn't need to be overwhelming. Although this list isn't exhaustive, it covers all of the essentials you might need in your hospital bag. If you're currently planning your birth and beyond, check out some of our other blog posts on the basics of breastfeeding and foods to increase your milk supply — and remember, you got this, mama!