Making a hospital bag checklist can be such an unnecessarily overwhelming experience. Let’s be real here–it kind of sucks.
What if you overpack? What if you don’t have everything you need? Slow your worries, mama.
Our 2-bag packing system takes away all the stress by giving you a hospital bag checklist that will keep your bags organized, your hospital room decluttered, and will help you make sure you have all the must-haves!
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When Pack Your Hospital Bag for Labor
While there’s no need to making your hospital bag checklist for mom at the end of your first trimester, there’s also no “bad” time to handle the task.
Other than those last-minute items like glasses, phone chargers, and toothbrushes, most women have their bags packed around 36 or 37 weeks.
This way, they’re ready to grab the bag and go if they go into labor earlier than their expected due date.
When you’re ready to get organized and start packing, it’s helpful to have a “hospital bag checklist” that’s printable. Download ours here!
What kind of bag should I use?
Think of packing a hospital bag as a fun project in organization that will help you practice for having a super organized diaper bag!
We love diaper bag backpacks because of all the pouches and pockets! But is a backpack big enough for a hospital bag?
Since we’re going to teach you to pack 2 bags, then honestly, it very well may be big enough for your labor & delivery bag.
Definitely plan to go larger for the recovery & postpartum bag.
What matters most is that you can easily organize the bag, so look for pockets and pouches.
You’ll want your support person to be able to find items quickly and easily, and rummaging through an unorganized bag can be maddening during labor.
If you do choose a larger bag, use packing cubes to help organize it and make everyone’s life easier! (You may want these for your diaper bag anyway!).
Here are a few options we love:
- Rockland duffle bag: a colorful addition to your hospital room, full of pockets that are large enough to hold multiple items, with extra space in the main area that you can put clothes in, or that you can fill with individual packing cubes.
- Itzy Ritzy diaper bag backpack: we mention this one because it’s a major fan favorite, but the truth is, you can likely use your diaper bag as your labor & delivery bag. Some people take a full diaper bag for baby to the hospital, but since the hospital will give you most supplies, we don’t think this is necessary.
- BluBoon Overnight Duffle Bag: Full of pockets and pouches to make organizing easy, with a roomy main space for larger items!
If you need a bigger bag to fit all your postpartum & recovery items, we recommend a normal suitcase or simple duffle bag, but with packing cubes to make organization a bit easier.
Hospital Bag Essentials
Hospital bag essentials are fewer than you think. For an even easier to read list, check out our hospital bag checklist printable!
To introduce this list, I’m going to tell you something you don’t usually hear: you should pack 2 hospital bags!
Believe me, it’s not overpacking. It’s smarter packing.
- Labor & delivery bag
- Recovery & postpartum bag
While there will be a tiny bit of overlap (mostly just your toothbrush), what you need during these two times in the hospital are not the same.
Why 2 hospital bags?
In one big bag, it can be hard to find what you need, especially since you’re likely commanding someone to find items you packed.
Make sure your partner or support person knows which bag is which.
When you arrive at the hospital, only take in the bag for labor and delivery.
Then, after baby arrives, let your support person take that bag out to the car so it doesn’t take up space in the recovery room, where you’ll likely spend a couple of days.
During that trip, they can switch essentials like your toothbrush, and then return with the recovery and postpartum bag.
Hospital Bag Checklist for Mom
We’ve divided our hospital bag checklist into 2 sections, one for each bag you’ll need. Trust us, this is going to make your life so much easier.
Labor Bag for Mom
A hospital bag checklist for mom during labor consists mostly of comfort items and logistical needs.
You’ll want paperwork, anything that needs to be communicated to your doctor, tools to help you manage contractions, and anything you might want immediately following baby’s birth. (Usually, that just means a charged cell phone for photos).
(1) Photo ID & Insurance Card
For U.S. moms, you’ll likely have to fill out intake paperwork (if your hospital lets you do that online, DO IT!).
When you arrive at the hospital, have the following items out:
- Your photo ID
- Partner’s photo ID (if applicable)
- Insurance card
(2) Birth Plan
Writing a birth plan is a great way to make sure your care team understands exactly what you want for labor and delivery.
It covers topics like pain management, having your water manually broken, and feeding preferences when baby arrives.
When it comes to hospital bag essentials, this is one item you don’t want to leave behind!
Always talk to your doctor or midwife about your preferences before labor, but also take a printed birth plan with you. It helps remind your doctors of your preferences and helps your partner advocate for your needs.
There are no two ways about it; giving birth is a messy experience. Whether you’re laboring or delivering, an increased amount of bodily fluids comes with the territory.
Taking a shower might be out of the question for a little while, so it can be refreshing to have access to your own personal stash of cleansing wipes.
We love these lavender-scented ones to add some freshness to the hospital smells. They make a great addition to any hospital bag checklist.
(4) Phone and Phone Charger
From updating friends and family about your labor process to capturing those first few coos and cuddles from your newborn, you don’t want to head to the hospital without your cellphone in tow! And you need your charger to keep it running.
Your phone will be your connection to the outside world during your hospital stay.
If you plan to have an epidural, you may also want to bring a book, tablet, or other device to help pass downtime during labor.
(5) Labor Tools
Many soon-to-be moms focus solely on what they’ll need after the baby arrives, but we’re here to tell you that being prepared for labor is also a big deal.
If you’d like to move around during labor–even part of it–having tools on hand to get you through contractions can make a huge difference.
Here are our favorites.
- Tennis Ball: For women who end up experiencing back labor, a tennis ball is a simple and inexpensive tool for managing the pain. Simply have your birthing partner gently apply counter-pressure to your lower back while massaging the affected area.
- Essential Oils: Many moms swear by essential oils for alternative pain management techniques. Many studies have found them to help manage both stress and pain throughout labor. But we also love them for smell alone–they can be relaxing, and sometimes, hospital smells can become a bit much.
- Birthing Ball: Some women choose to sit on a birthing ball. Others like to put them on a countertop and dance with them during contractions.
- Small massager: Having your partner massage your lower back with a simple massage tool can be tremendously calming during contractions.
The most important thing to remember is choosing labor tools that you feel will be most beneficial to you.
NOT an absolute necessity, BUT…these have become a favorite among laboring moms, if for no other reason than comfort and taking photos when baby is born.
But if you’re going for cute, Etsy is the place to go! We’re totally obsessed with these beautiful delivery gowns!
(7) Very basic toiletries
You won’t spend your time in the labor & delivery room worrying about a shower. But we do recommend bringing some basics to the hospital or birthing center:
- Lip balm (a must)
- Toothpaste & toothbrush
- Mouthwash (grab these mouthwash packets & put 2 in each bag!)
- Travel-sized lotion (1 in each bag)
- Hair ties
There are multiple reasons for these. Obviously, you want to be able to brush your teeth, especially if you have a long labor or stay overnight for induced labor.
The lotion and mouthwash are multi-purpose. Your skin will get dry and your mouth may as well, so these are good to have.
Also, some gross warnings. You may vomit. No one told you that? Sorry, mama.
It happens more often than not. You can’t jump up after delivery to brush your teeth, so mouthwash is a real winner here.
Also, some partners report being very bothered by all the smells in the delivery room, especially when you start pushing and antiseptics become more prevalent.
If you start feeling nauseous from the smell, you can grab your lotion or mouthwash and sniff that. Or, if your partner is nauseous, hand over the essential oils we suggested earlier.
(8) Cord Blood Banking Kit
Not everyone chooses to bank cord blood, and some hospitals allow you to do it through them directly.
Hospital Bag for Mom: Recovery & Postpartum
(1) Comfy pajamas, including nightgown
Comfort is key during recovery, and if you plan to breastfeed, so is having the tools to help make that happen.
Make sure you take a comfy nightgown that is nursing friendly and gives nurses easy access to check your perineal or c-section scars!
We also recommend taking one pant-set, just in case you want to move around.
(2) Comfy slippers and/or fuzzy non-slip socks
You want to be comfortable when walking around, even though you won’t walk a ton.
I personally like socks because they take up less space than slippers and keep you cozy while in bed, but some moms really enjoy having slippers at the hospital. Totally your call.
Some people like to take flip flops to walk around in, as well, especially during labor. They are also a good idea in the shower. We think socks are enough, but it’s a personal choice.
(3) Nursing Pillows and Other Breastfeeding Supplies
All hail the Luna Lullaby! When it comes to breastfeeding supplies, I think this pillow should be the first item on your list.
I even used my nursing pillow as an additional pillow when the hospital supplied ones weren’t cutting it.
A nursing pillow isn’t the only breastfeeding item on our list of hospital bag essentials.
Here are a few other options you might want to stow amongst the rest of your belongings:
(4) Comfortable Clothes and Toiletries
One of my friends told me the greatest hack: if it’s something you’d take on a plane, pack it in your hospital bag.
Case in point: comfortable clothes and personal toiletries for after your baby’s arrival.
While the hospital is more than willing to provide bathroom toiletries during your stay, it goes without saying that the quality will be subpar.
If you want to feel your best after labor and delivery, having your own soap and shampoo can be a great place to start.
And definitely take your favorite dry shampoo because you may not shower at all.
While most mamas will stay in pajamas for the majority of their hospital stay, you will need a going home outfit, and you’ll likely take some photos.
Take some of your favorite cute maternity clothes–when you leave the hospital, you’ll definitely still be in maternity clothes sizes for a while!
What NOT to Pack in a Hospital Bag for Mom
Please, do yourself a favor…don’t overdo it when considering hospital bag essentials. Be picky. Leave the following items at home:
- Makeup: Unless you’re 100% committed to having a full-face of makeup, forget about it. I brought along my favorite products during my first delivery. When push came to shove (ha!), putting on makeup was the last thing on my mind.
- Hair Dryers, Flat Irons, & Curling Irons: See above.
- Dressy Clothes: You need a comfy going home outfit, and it can be cute if you want. That is all.
- Snacks: Most hospitals don’t allow you to eat during labor, so don’t worry about taking snacks. If you’re super worried about snacks, honey sticks take up very little room, and my hospital allowed coconut water. (Note: rules about no snacks during labor are slowly changing, so talk to your hospital about their policy, though it’s likely you won’t be eating.)
- Entertainment: If you get an epidural, there’s a small chance you might have some time to rest in bed during labor. Take that time to do just that, though…rest! Don’t worry about those old reruns of “The Office” you’ve been making your way through. You’ll have plenty of time for those when you get home, and you’re nursing on the couch.
Hospital Bag for Partner
Of course, your partner is going to need things too. Admittedly, they’ll be much fewer.
One thing to determine ahead of time is whether your partner will be able to go home at any time during the hospital stay. This will help you determine how many changes of clothes to bring.
If your partner gets their own diaper bag, they can almost certainly pack in it. Here are our favorite men’s diaper bags for husbands or partners who want a less traditional diaper bag look.
Here are the items they might need in their own bag:
- Very basic toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, glasses, contacts, contact solution, etc.)
- A change of clothes (including underwear)
- Personal electronics and chargers
- Snacks (they will get to eat while you’re in labor, and they’ll also need to).
- Water bottle (the hospital will likely give you a water bottle, but they may not give one to your partner, and hydration will matter!).
- Any prescription meds
- Small pillow, blanket, or sleeping bag (optional, but find out in advance what your hospital provides)
What to Pack in a Hospital Bag for Baby
A lot of moms take a full diaper bag to the hospital, but we think this is unnecessary.
You’ll be supplied with all of baby’s needs while you’re there. Diapers, wipes, onesies, blankets, hats, socks, formula, breast pump, nipple shields, and so much more. So there’s really very little baby will need.
There are some items we recommend, though, but they’re few, and they can easily be packed in your recovery & postpartum bag.
Here are the items we’d include:
- Infant car seat (not in the bag, obviously, but properly installed in your car before going to the hospital)
- 2-3 cute outfits for photos, including a going home outfit
- Contact information for your pediatrician
- Baby book or footprint kit if you want to capture those memories immediately
- Receiving blanket
Need help picking out the best clothes for your little one? You’ll want to keep them comfortable, so check out our list of the softest baby pajamas.
Don’t Stress About What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag for Labor
When you’re packing your hospital bag, don’t stress. We’ve covered what you need, and honestly, probably a little more than you’ll need.
Make sure your car seat is properly installed, pack early, and enjoy less stress at the end of your pregnancy.
When it’s time to go home, and you suddenly have a brand-new baby in tow, you and your partner will be grateful that you don’t have the extra bags and weight to deal with.
What are your essential items for a hospital bag checklist for mom?
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Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.