From the essentials to the nice-to-haves, here’s what you need to pack in your hospital bag:
Night or pajamas
Find out if your hospital requires you to wear one of their gowns. If not, you may prefer to bring a gown or pajamas from home. If you are planning to nurse, be sure to bring pajamas that open down the front (you don’t want to be lifting up a long gown to breastfeed). Pack a pair of pajamas or a gown that you don’t mind soiling for right after birth (lochia may ruin this set) or just plan to wear a hospital gown until your bleeding has subsided. It’s a good idea to bring at least three gowns or pairs of pjs in case you have a longer stay than anticipated—you won’t want to send hubby home to do laundry!
Slippers and socks
Hospitals are notoriously chilly, so plan ahead to keep your tootsies warm. Bring slippers or socks for walking around your room or down the hall.
Most moms find themselves walking the halls in a nightgown and robe at some point during their stays. This may be a fun time to splurge a little on something nice you won’t mind wearing in public.
Nursing bra, pads, and tops
These are especially wonderful for breastfeeding moms, but the bras are not a bad idea even if you don’t plan on nursing. Nursing bras give you extra protection and support.
You may want to wear the mesh underwear provided by the hospital since lochia can sometimes be rather heavy after delivery and pads often do leak. Or you may be more comfortable in some soft, old undies from home. Either way, it’s best to be prepared and bring a few pair with you, just in case. Comfort is key post birth!
The hospital will likely provide napkins for you, but you may want to bring your favorite brand. You’ll need comfortable, highly absorbent napkins with plenty of coverage for your underwear.
Don’t forget your toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, and a hair brush. You may even wish to bring some lotion and shampoo and conditioner. Lip balm is a good thing to add to your bag also; all that heavy breathing during labor and delivery can dry your lips.
The going-home outfit
Moms-to-be, it’s time for a reality check! Put aside those hopes of wearing your favorite pre-pregnancy jeans home from the hospital and opt for something loose fitting and comfortable. You will probably still look pregnant (it takes time for most women’s bodies to shrink back to pre-pregnancy size), and if you have a C-section you will appreciate something loose at your waist. You’ll also want flat, comfortable shoes.
Most moms bring something special for their little ones to wear on their first outings into the world. Be sure to consider the weather when you choose an outfit for your newborn. If it’s cold outside, you’ll need to bundle baby! And be sure to bring a cap for your baby’s head (although they usually give you a cute one at the hospital).
Time to start toting the bag! Bring a few diapers and some gentle wipes. The bag will also be handy to carry home all the extras you get at the hospital such as literature, thermometer, and a bulb syringe.
This is a must. Your baby won’t be allowed to ride home without a car seat!
Most newborns love to be swaddled. Although your nurse will no doubt send you home with hospital-issue blankets, it is nice to pack a couple extra soft and cozy wraps for your newborn.
Phone book and calling card
You’ll want to share the joy of having a baby without paying the hospital’s long distance rates.
Video camera, camera, and extra batteries
Check with your doctor before you go into labor about the hospital’s policy on taking pictures and videos in the delivery room. If you’re not using a digital camera, bring plenty of film to capture those precious moments of your newborn’s first minutes, hours, and days.
Music player and favorite
Both during labor and after your baby is born you’ll appreciate the familiarity of your favorite tunes as background music.
You likely will not be eating or drinking much during labor, but the dad-to-be may want to fuel up without leaving you to find a snack machine. It’s also nice to have a healthy snack for after delivery—you may be starving and very thirsty (hey, having a baby is hard work!), and if it’s the middle of the night you’ll be grateful for something to munch on.
Bring a breastfeeding book or consider scheduling a lactation consultant to visit you after the baby is born. Some hospitals provide this service, but it’s a good idea to double check with your provider and insurance company before the birth.
After delivery, you may want to take a few minutes to send your favorite cyber friends a virtual birth announcement.
Baby book or journal
You may want to jot down some details in Baby’s book while everything is still fresh in your mind. Don’t forget to see if the baby book has a place for newborn footprints—you can have these done at the hospital.
Massage lotion/aromatherapy items
Splurge on some special pampering lotions and aromas. Massaging you during labor will also give your partner something to do to help you (and him) keep busy.
This is for moms who like to look great in all photographs! At the very least you may like to put on a little makeup after deliver as a pick-me-up and to greet any well-wishers and visitors.