Counting the days until you finally get to meet your baby? A to-do on your list you shouldn’t miss amid all the excitement is packing your hospital bag for labor and delivery.
When should you pack your hospital bag? You can never be too early, but around 36 weeks is best. You’ll be prepared even if you go into labor a little earlier. You should have your bags ready to go anytime. The last thing you’d want is to scramble around, throwing stuff into your bag in-between contractions.
You’ll need three bags: for you, your baby, and your companion. Read on to know the essentials and some nice-to-haves.
For the Mom
Keep in mind how long you’ll have to be at the hospital so you can pack enough in your mom bag. For normal delivery without complications, you’ll probably have to be at the hospital for 1 to 2 days. Expect to stay for at least 3 to 4 days for C-Section. Giving birth is not a walk in the park so make it a bit easier for yourself by bringing everything you need:
Bring your photo ID, health insurance card, birth plan, list of medications, and any hospital paperwork. The hospital will also give you a load of paperwork when you get discharged so have them all organized in a file folder.
Have enough cash and your debit or credit cards with you if you expect to make payments at the hospital and for parking. Keep them all in a wallet with ample space for your cash, change, cards, and IDs but still easily fits in your bag.
The hospital probably provides the basics, but you may feel more at ease using your preferred brands. Bring a travel-sized hairbrush, toothbrush and toothpaste, bath soap, face wash, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and other products you need.
Bring your kit if you feel your best wearing a little makeup especially when you have your first photos with your baby taken.
The towel provided by the hospital can be too small or too thin, so it’s a good idea to bring your own. Just make sure to pack a colored one to distinguish it from the hospital towels.
Lip Balm and Breath Mints
Lips can get dry and you might experience nausea or vomiting during labor and delivery.
Scrunchies or Headband
If you have long hair, you’d want to keep it out of your face during labor and delivery with a sweat-wicking scrunchie or headband.
Socks and Slippers
You might have to walk up and down the hospital halls during early labor so pack non-skid socks or soft slippers. These will also be useful when you make trips to the nursery to check on your baby.
While the hospital will provide you with a fresh hospital gown after delivery, you might be more comfortable in your own clothes. Pack your pajamas, nightgown, robe, or any loose, comfortable clothing you’re willing to sacrifice.
Your body won’t immediately jump down to pre-pregnancy size after your baby comes out, so pack the maternity clothes that fit when you were 6 months pregnant. If you’re having a C-Section, your bottoms must not sit low on your abdomen where they can rub on your incision.
Underwear and Maternity Pads
The hospital provides maternity pads and mesh underwear, but you might be more comfortable in your own. Just pack the pairs you don’t mind getting ruined. For C-Section, get low-rise postpartum underwear designed for your incision’s recovery.
Nursing Bras and Breast Pads
Whether or not you plan to breastfeed, you will need these to absorb milk, stop leaks, and support your swollen, tender breasts. They unsnap and open just enough so you can nurse the baby while the rest of you stays covered up.
Make sure your pillowcase is a different color to avoid mixing it up with the hospital’s pillows, which are usually white.
Bring anything to help distract you during labor: your phone, tablet, or e-reader. Wireless headphones or earbuds work best to avoid tangles when you walk around during labor. Pack chargers with extra long cords, a small extension cord, or a portable power bank just in case the hospital does not have an outlet near your bed.
For the Baby
The hospital will provide pretty much everything your baby needs, so you won’t need to bring a lot. But you might prefer your baby to use things you brought in yourself. Here are some you can pack in your diaper bag:
Newborn Diapers and Wipes
Get diapers with the umbilical cord area cut out and wipes designed for newborns’ delicate skin.
The hospital may provide your baby’s first clothes, but you might want to dress your baby in something different while at the hospital and going home, especially if you’re taking many photos. You’ll need hats, mittens, booties or socks, and receiving blankets for swaddling. Bring clothes in different sizes to make sure they fit.
Whether you’ll be breastfeeding or bottle feeding, this can reduce the strain on your arms, neck, and back.
The nursery often takes your baby book to put your baby’s footprints in it.
A stain and water-resistant one that folds slim and compact to fit in your bag is nice to have.
Infant Car Seat
While it definitely won’t fit in your bag, having an approved infant car seat installed correctly in your car is required by law before you can take your baby home. Hospitals check to make sure that you have the right car seat.
For the Companion
You also have to pack a bag for your companion. Whether it’s your partner, parent, sibling, or friend—they may have to be with you in the maternity ward for a while. Here are some things to pack for whoever’s going to be with you during your stay:
Entertainment to pass the time,
Phone and charger to take photos and videos if you want the special moment documented,
And change for the vending machine
You don’t have to pack everything listed here. If you want to save, ask your hospital what they provide for both mother and baby so you can strike them off your hospital bag checklist. It would be great if you could pack in a machine washable diaper bag that’s stylish and versatile, but as long as your bag has enough space for everything you need, it’s good enough. The most important thing is you get your hospital bags ready to go whenever the baby is.