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I have a confession to make – I’m a bit of an over-packer. I’m that person who packs for a weekend getaway and includes ten pairs of underwear, three sets of pajamas, and around 100 shirts. Ok, ok…100 might be a stretch – it’s more like 95. So when it was time to figure out my hospital bag essentials, I was totally overwhelmed.

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When I packed my “hospital bag for mom” before my first daughter was born, my anal-retentive brain went a little bit off the rails. I dreamed up hundreds of scenarios and the multitude of hospital bag essentials I would need to handle them.

When I finally went into labor, we put those bags in the car and headed to the hospital. I quickly realized I might have gone overboard when the nursing staff stared at my collection of belongings and then glanced back at me like I was a crazy person.

By the end of our stay, I’d used approximately 40% of the items I’d packed.

When it was time to repack those bags for my second delivery, I felt like a first-time mom starting from scratch. I questioned what I actually needed and diligently searched for a reliable answer to the quandary, “What to pack in a hospital bag for mom.”

Using a bit of personal experience and expert opinion, I finally came up with the optimal hospital bag checklist.

We’ve also created this printable hospital bag list, which has EVERYTHING you need, nothing you don’t, and space for you to add your own items!

Hospital Bag Essentials

Hospital bag essentials are fewer than you think, so I’ll tell you my favorites here. 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!

That’s right, I told you I’m not overpacking anymore, and I’m recommending 2 bags. Go with me on this, and pack these bags:

  1. Labor & delivery
  2. Recovery & postpartum

While there will be a tiny bit of overlap (mostly a toothbrush), what you need during these two times in the hospital are not the same.

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 spend a couple of days.

During that trip, they can switch essentials like your toothbrush, and then return with the recovery and postpartum bag.

pregnant woman sitting on bed with baby items making her hospital bag checklist
A pregnant mom makes her list of hospital bag essentials

What to Pack in a Hospital Bag for Labor

What you’ll need for labor is minimal, but super important. Here are the items we recommend bringing.

(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!), and you’ll need your insurance card. Also have your photo ID handy, as well as your partner’s, for completing essential paperwork.

And, if you plan on doing cord blood banking, make sure you take your banking kit, as the doctor will need it immediately after delivery!

(2) Birth Plan

Lots of women create birth plans for their labor teams.

This document includes information on the type of labor and delivery experience you hope to have. 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!

We recommend talking to your doctor or midwife about your birth plan before labor, and discussing it with your L&D nurse if you birth in a hospital or birthing center. 

(3) Cleansing Face and Body Wipes

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.

Sadly, however, taking a shower might be out of the question for a little while.

Both before and after you have your baby, it can be refreshing to have access to your own personal stash of cleansing wipes.

After all, if you’ve spent the last 24-hours in labor and sweat has officially become an extra layer of skin. Think about how good it would feel to wipe yourself off.

(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!

That includes your charger, as well!

Your phone will be your connection to the outside world during your hospital stay. Most new moms and dads are anxious to start spreading the news about their little one’s arrival and would be heartbroken to realize they left home without their phone.

Many moms also choose to bring along tablets or other devices to help pass downtime during labor (downtime…HA!).

(5) Labor Tools

Many soon-to-be moms focus solely on what they’ll need after the baby arrives. If you’re wondering what to pack in a hospital bag for labor, however, we have a few suggestions that can help you throughout the process, such as:

  • 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: For expectant mothers who are trying to find alternative pain management techniques, essential oils can be beneficial. Many studies have found them to help manage both stress and pain throughout labor. (Editorial note: For a lot of reasons, brand matters when it comes to essential oils. Read more in our article about natural ways to boost your immune system. We’ve linked here to Rocky Mountain Essential Oils, the only oils you can buy direct-to-consumer that meet our standards. If you support direct sales, we also trust the oils from Doterra and Young Living.)
  • Extra Pillows: Any tools that can help keep you comfortable are encouraged. Extra pillows and labor balls are easy ways to change your position and support your body during labor.
  • 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 everyone will have the same list of wants, but whatever will help you relax throughout the process is a great option.

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(6) Stylish Delivery Gown

While this might not be an absolute necessity, it’s become a favorite amongst many laboring moms and “hospital bag essentials” checklists – stylish delivery robes.

When gearing up to write this article, I polled some friends to ask what they believed were most important to pack in a hospital bag for mom. Of the five or six women I spoke with, two of them said a pretty hospital gown was at the top of their lists.

I personally did not have a stylish gown and stuck to the generic blue and white ensemble shared by so many expectant mothers, so I was curious and pressed further.

When I asked one of the girls why she felt one of these was so important, this is what she said:

“I feel like I want to be as comfortable as possible. For me, being in something cute will make me feel so much better.”

Just because you’re sitting in a hospital, it doesn’t mean there’s a right or wrong way to dress.

If wearing your own hospital gown will make you feel better and more at ease with the experience, I say go for it! Plus, add a lovely receiving blanket, and that pretty gown is sure to make for some beautiful pictures!

(7) Very basic toiletries

You won’t spend your time in the labor & delivery room worrying about a shower. But we do recommend lip balm (a must), toothpaste, a toothbrush, mouthwash, and travel-sized lotion.

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 multifold. 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!

Checklist for Recovery & Postpartum Bag

(1) Comfy pajamas, including nightgown

Whether or not you care about looking stylish during delivery, you definitely want to feel comfortable afterwards. 

Make sure you take a comfy nightgown that is nursing friendly (if you plan to nurse) 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.

Check out our favorite postpartum and nursing pajamas, most of which are hospital friendly! Also throw in a nursing bra if you plan to breastfeed, or a sleeping bra if you don’t. Actually, scratch that. Take a sleeping bra no matter what.

(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. 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.

My Boppy and I were joined at the hip for the first several months after my daughters were born, and now, the Luna Lullaby is even better!

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

While speaking to the group of girlfriends I previously mentioned, one of the women had a great hack for what to pack in a hospital bag for mom.

She told me that if it’s something she usually brings on a plane, she’s probably going to want it at the hospital, too.

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. 

Some hospital supplies are great, though, like the mesh underwear. Take some home with you!

If you want to feel your best after labor and delivery, having your own soap and shampoo can be a great place to start.

Some other great items to lump into this category are things like hair ties and slippers. 

You also need to make sure to have your favorite lip balm on hand. With only the occasional ice chip to quench your thirst during labor, your lips are bound to get dry.

Plus you’ll beed a going home outfit (for you and baby) for when you leave the hospital.

What NOT to Pack in a Hospital Bag for Mom

Please, do yourself a favor…don’t be like me when it comes to packing up your hospital bag essentials. Be picky, be limited, and for goodness sakes, 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: Sure, the idea of a cute, dressy outfit to head home in sounds like a good idea. In reality, though, your body will be doing and feeling so many different things. All you’re going to want is a pair of leggings. And still maternity leggings, at that. If you don’t know what to expect of a postpartum body, we’ve got you covered!
  • Snacks: If you’re wondering what to pack in a hospital bag for labor, you can skip the snacks. You won’t be able to eat them, and they’ll just take up precious space. If you’re super worried about snacks for the hospital, like Katy was due to hypoglycemia, honey sticks take up very little room, and her hospital allowed coconut water until she had an epidural. Also, 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.

When to Start Packing Your Hospital Bag for Labor

While there’s no need to start packing your hospital bag 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!

Don’t Stress About What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag for Labor

When you’re packing your hospital bag, don’t make the same mistakes I did. Stick to the absolute necessities and avoid throwing last-minute items into your suitcase in a panic. You’ll be fine without that bag of Doritos and the Friends box set you’re trying to sneak in.

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 on a hospital bag checklist for mom?

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