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Birth Basics: What to Pack for The Hospital

By ceridwen |

Car Seat? Check. Swaddling Blanket? Check. Partner's bathing suit? Check.

It’s pretty obvious you’ll need a toothbrush and a onsie, but what else is on the checklist for your hospital bag? Maybe a few surprising things: Your partner’s bathing suit… a six-pack of granny underwear? Gatorade? A bendy straw? Lip balm?

Over the years I’ve put together a list of basics for the hospital bag and I thought I’d share it here. You may not need all of these things but you’ll definitely need some! It’s required by law, for example, that you leave the hospital with your baby in a car seat.

In any event, better to be prepared than not. Here are the basics:

Your Stuff

  • Labor clothes (a big old t-shirt or something made for the occasion) unless you’re fine in a hospital gown (or naked). Consider that things may get pretty…  dirty.
  • Nightclothes, robe, slippers or warm socks and underwear– maybe buy a 6-pack of super cheap granny underwear for the first couple weeks postpartum and then toss them.
  • Maternity or very loose clothes to wear home
  • Comfortable support bra or nursing bra
  • Toiletries (especially toothbrush/paste and lip balm as lips tend to get very chapped during labor)

Baby Stuff

  • Infant car seat: required to take baby home from hospital
  • Weather-appropriate clothing for your newborn
  • Socks/booties/hat (some of which may be given to you at hospital)
  • Cotton “receiving” or swaddling blankets (you will also get some from the hospital)
  • They give you diapers and wipes in the hospital but you may want some ready at home

Other stuff

  • Insurance card and any hospital papers you have filled out
  • Birth plan, if you have one
  • Any labor support aids: ipod, headphones, birthing ball, pillow (I always tell students to bring at least one pillow as the NYC hospitals can be stingy and there’s always somewhere to stick a pillow to make mom more comfortable in labor) and any other comfort props you like such as a massager, ginger candies for nausea or an calming essential oil or hot water bottle/heating pad/ice pack from the drug store to use on mom’s lower back.
  • Stuff for partner (change of clothes/shirt, toiletries, bathing suit if he or she will get in shower/tub with you)
  • Camera, film/charged batteries/tapes (if you want to take pics)
  • Phone and any phone numbers of people you may want to call and/or pre-paid phone card for long-distance calls using hospital phone if you think this is necessary.
  • Protein snacks and drinks with electrolytes such as Gatorade (and maybe some bendy straws so mom can sip a drink from any position); any snacks for your partner or special treats to enjoy after the birth! Champagne! Chocolates!

If you’ve given birth what was the most essential item you packed? The most useless?



This list is adapted from From The Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide To Pregnancy, Birth And Becoming A Parent, the book I co-authored with Rebecca Odes.

photo: Debs (ò‿ó)♪/Flickr

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About ceridwen



Ceridwen Morris is a writer, mother, and certified childbirth educator. She is the author of several books and screenplays, including (Three Rivers; 2007). She serves on the board of The Childbirth Education Association of Metropolitan New York and teaches at Tribeca Parenting in New York City. Read bio and latest posts → Read Ceridwen's latest posts →

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7 thoughts on “Birth Basics: What to Pack for The Hospital

  1. Jen Shelley says:

    I was surprised by how little I used out of my ‘essential’ bag. I never touched any of my own cloths until the ride home, and then it was a pair of comfy yoga pants and a maternity shirt. The hospital gown ended up being the easiest thing to use for labor and postpartum, at least for me. Something I wished I’d thought to bring was a bath pillow. I was induced, and labor pains lasted most of the night- my hospital had a great whirlpool tub in the room, which I used twice during the night alone to try and find some relief- and a pillow would have been excellent.

    I think the most helpful items in our bag were the Monty Python dvds- they helped both myself and my husband distract ourselves and keep our good humor. Good humor made all the difference, and it even seemed to affect the staff, as more than one nurse commented on it. Our night nurse even said “I was so happy when I heard I got the ‘Nice’ couple” Makes me wonder what kind of abuse these men an women have hurled at them or in their presence at what should be a joyful (if uncomfortable) time.

    We both wished we had packed more snacks for him to eat- I didn’t really mind the hospital food, especially once the pain kicked in, but it did leave a lot to be desired and was overpriced. a few more granola bars or whatever your partner likes to munch on would have made my other half more comfortable- especially as he didn’t feel comfortable leaving me to go searching for chow.

  2. says:

    If you are plus-sized, I’d definitely suggest lots of ratty underpants. The disposable poor-excuses-for-underwear that they gave me at the hospital had no hopes of fitting my size-20 when not newly unpregnant and recovering from a c-section body.

    I had to have my sister raid my panty drawer at home and bring me several pairs.

  3. SarahB says:

    An eye mask/pillow. It was essential day and night to help tune out and go to sleep.

    If you have a smartphone, have a draft e-mail saved with all the addresses in place to easily send out a birth announcement. Also, be sure you know how to get a photo posted to Facebook and then enjoy all the comments that come in!

  4. kati says:

    i packed a going home outfit for the baby 2 recieving blankets for the baby a hat for him and his big snowsuit since it was december when he was born and of course his carseat.

    i then packed for myself….just a robe and some cloths to wear home because it was the middle of the night when i went in and was wearing my pjs which was a tank top and shorts…and also cloths for the days i was there, i brought my own soap because i have sensitive skin. the hospital had a care kit with toothpaste and stuff in it so i didnt pack all that. oh and my laptop. the hopsital has WIFI so thats how i posted the pictures. my mom took a camera and so did my boyfriend and the babys godmother. we brought money, ordered pizza.

  5. Paulina says:

    Thanks for the list, I’m finalizing my bag now. I feel like I’ve got so much stuff to bring, and it’s all crammed into a small carry-on size suitcase but whatever. My bathrobe alone takes up lots of space adn add in some clothes for hubs, baby, and me to wear home, plus toiletries and it’s understandable why it takes so much space. I have no idea if I’ll really use the slippers I packed, or the other random stuff I’ve got but I’d rather have it than not.

  6. Morgan says:

    When I was pregnant, I felt like there were so many hospital lists – what to take with you to the hospital. So that’s what I focused on because it seemed really, really important. Little did I know that it was what I needed once he was home that was much more important. I probably used one or two things out of my “hospital bag,” so I’ve put together a Top 5 postpartum list as according to my own experience. Check it out if you’re interested in what you might need/how you might be feeling during that first month of brand spankin’ new baby time:

  7. Cyndi says:

    I’m having the best time packing our bag for the hospital. I put a little pair of mittens and socks in there and got to pick out a couple outfits of different sizes. It is super adorable! I didn’t see ‘baby book’ mentioned, but we’re bringing ours because it has a spot for baby feet prints.

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