If you’re anything like me, I spent countless hours researching ALL THE THINGS to help myself be as prepared as possible as a first time mom. I googled “hospital bag packing list” and “what to pack in your hospital bag for baby” more than I care to admit.
But amidst all of my planning, I never once stopped to ask a fellow mom what they would recommend. Sure, I got some good advice from Google, but what about real life advice from a mom who had been there and done that?
Looking back on it all, I’ve now been there and done that, but more importantly – I’ve grown in my understanding of what’s truly necessary when preparing for labor and delivery. To be honest, I’ve grown in my understanding of what to expect in motherhood and what to expect from myself as I navigate pregnancy, postpartum, and all the many emotions that come with the blessing of a new baby.
But for real – what’s the ultimate hospital bag packing list? What are the items you really need and which are the ones you don’t? Because when you’re in the last few weeks of pregnancy and nesting mode has never felt stronger, you don’t need fluffy answers.
You need tried and true advice from someone who’s been there and knows that while you might feel more prepared because you know what to pack in your hospital bag for baby, nothing is ever going to really prepare you for the love you’re about to experience when you meet your baby for the first time. You’re in for such a treat, mama.
When to pack your hospital bag
Let’s dive right in by answering “when to pack your hospital bag.” For when to pack your hospital bag, obviously sooner is better than later and a lot depends on if you’re carrying multiples, if it’s your first pregnancy, etc. A tried and true rule to follow is to have your hospital bag packed and ready to go by 37 weeks. At that point, you’re technically considered full term, meaning that your baby could come any time. It’s ultimately up to you and your personal comfort level, so pack that hospital bag whenever feels right for you!
As for the practicals on what to pack in your hospital bag, let’s get to it!
Hospital bag packing list: Items for baby
If you’re delivering at a hospital like I did, you’ll be given a lot of things that help reduce the amount of items you need to include on a hospital bag packing list. One of the perks of the crazy high cost of a hospital delivery is that you’ll have hospital supplies given to you that you didn’t even know you needed.
You’ll never be more thankful for nurses (who are real life angels), then when they’re caring for you and your baby postpartum. Your nurses will provide diapers for the baby and any other essential items you’ll need for the baby during your hospital stay. Other items you’ll likely receive include a swaddle blanket, hat, and a sleep sack.
So that means the only items you’ll need to pack for your baby are items to help you transition home upon discharge from the hospital and any items you might want to pack for baby announcement pictures in the hospital. That makes your list relatively simple, so let’s dive in!
The baby essentials to include in your hospital bag
Going home outfit for baby
Get as cute as you’d like for this special outfit, but remember that dressing newborns is a little tricky and you’ll likely have to do a diaper change within an hour or so of putting on the outfit. I’d recommend a practical, yet cute outfit for the going home outfit for your baby. Something like this going home outfit for a baby girl or this going home outfit for a baby boy would be great options!
Baby hand mittens
As a new mom, I was surprised at the length of fingernails my newborn had upon arrival and adjustable baby hand mittens were one of the items I didn’t pack that I later regretted. Since you’ll want to protect your baby’s delicate skin from being scratched by their nails, I view baby hand mittens as an essential.
You literally won’t be allowed to leave the hospital without a car seat, so this is an important one! In an ideal situation, your car seat and base will be safely installed in your car before going into labor, but sometimes life happens and that’s not always the case. My husband installed our car seat in the parking garage of the hospital for our first born and everything turned out just fine, so if you’re late to the game like we were, rest assured.
If you really want to be on top of things and having peace of mind that your car seat is installed properly is important to you, I’d recommend installing the car seat and base and then getting it checked by your local fire department. Most cities offer a complimentary car seat check by a trained technician at their fire department and those visits can be super helpful – especially for first time parents!
Car seat cover (if it’s cold)
Depending on the time of year and where you live, packing a car seat cover may or may not be an essential item. You likely won’t be outside for very long with your car seat and baby, but just in case it’s super cold outside, you’ll be glad you have a cover for your sweet little one! If you live in a cooler climate and really need protection from the elements, a car seat cover like this works great.
Again, this item depends on where you live and weather temperature, but I found that having even a light swaddle blanket available to put over your baby helped ensure that they were warm enough for the car ride home. If you live in a warm climate, a light muslin blanket would be all you need and if you’re in a cooler climate, a practical one that’s not too hot and not too cold would be perfect.
The nice-to-have baby items to include on your hospital bag packing list
Letter board or baby announcement sign
If announcing your baby’s arrival to the world with a trendy letter board, name tag, or wooden sign is something you desire – go for it! I bought a letter board to announce the arrival of our first born and it became the gift that kept on giving when we used it for monthly photo shoots to document his first year of life and even as a decor at parties.
Baby announcement outfit
Again, this is a nice-to-have item that definitely isn’t a necessity but I’ve purchased a special newborn swaddle blanket to use as the announcement outfit for both pregnancies and they just feel extra special. The great thing about swaddle blankets is that you can keep using them again and again, so it really can become a beloved item that’s used again and again. More than anything, looking at that blanket brings me right back to the moment of newborn bliss just 24 hours after delivery and it’s a purchase that I’m glad I made. Here’s one that I’m loving for baby girls and this is a great one for baby boys.
Cell phones take amazing photos these days, so this item is definitely not a necessity. If you happen to have a DSLR camera or fancier camera that you use to capture special moments, I’d recommend bringing it along to the hospital. Just make sure to communicate with your spouse ,or whoever might be taking photos, about what kind of photos you want (i.e. during labor, only photos once settled in postpartum, etc.). As with most things in life, communication is key!
Hospital bag packing list: Other essentials
Depending on how long you’ll be staying in the hospital, this list may need to grow, but in general you can plan to be in the hospital for 1-3 days following birth. Similar to how nurses take such good care of your baby, you’ll also find that your nurses become your best friend postpartum and they’ll offer you some amazing products to help start your path to recovery. With that said, you will need to pack some additional items for necessity and for added comfort.
The non-baby essential items to include in your hospital bag
This is technically only a necessity if your hair is long enough to get in your face, but since most women probably qualify for this, I’m including hair ties as an essential! Think of labor as the most intense workout you’ve ever signed up for and you’ll realize why a hair tie is essential. Truth be told, my first labor went so fast that I didn’t even think to pull my hair back during labor but I definitely took advantage of my extra hair ties when I was more relaxed in postpartum. Sometimes just getting your hair out of your face makes all the difference, right?
Labor can be long and having chapped lips in the midst of everything that’s going on is not fun and you’ll really notice chapped lips once you settle into your postpartum room. This is such a small thing, but it can make a big impact so don’t forget to bring your lip balm! I forgot to pack this during my first labor experience and one of my amazing postpartum nurses gave me a new one from the hospital that I used again and again during our stay. So if you forget this, you can probably still get one, but it’s even better if your favorite brand is packed tightly in your hospital bag.
Hospital gowns aren’t exactly the most fashionable or comfortable thing you’ll ever wear and this is where having a robe comes in clutch. A lot of hospital rooms also tend to run on the cooler side and if you get cold easily, your robe can really come in handy. I appreciated being able to put my robe on when visitors stopped by, when taking photos with our new baby, and just to help me feel a little more like myself and less like a patient. This floral robe, this classic black robe, and this cozy robe are a few of my favorites.
As I mentioned before, hospitals tend to run on the cool side, so packing a pair of quality socks is something you’ll want to include. Your nurse will likely provide you with a pair of no-slip socks from the hospital and those can work just fine, but you’ll likely feel a little more cozy and like yourself if you bring along your own favorite pair from home. It might even be worth it to pack a couple different options just in case one gets dirty or messy from the aftermath of labor and delivery.
Pack your handy toiletry bag with any essentials that you’ll need for an overnight stay. Some items to make sure you pack include: deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, shampoo & conditioner, body wash, makeup (only if you want!), an extra set of contacts, contact solution, glasses, and a hair brush.
Dark pants or shorts
Don’t forget that you’ll need an outfit to wear home from the hospital too, mom! And for that outfit, I highly recommend wearing dark comfy pants. If you’re anything like I was following birth, I felt very “loose” and wanted to keep things as tight as possible, so pants became my best friend. You’ll also likely be bleeding quite a bit, hence why dark pants are a good idea. Just make sure they’re not super thin and not see through since you’ll essentially be wearing a diaper when you leave the hospital. These pants and these pants are some great options!
Nursing bra or tank
You’ll be nursing around the clock after your baby is born to help your milk come in and this is where having a great nursing bra or nursing tank comes in handy. I’m a huge fan of nursing tanks and wore one during our hospital stay and under a top when we left to go home. They can function as a built-in bra but provide a bit more support to your tummy area, which I really appreciated postpartum. For nursing bras, I highly recommend this one by Kindred Bravely which is a hands free pumping bra and nursing bra all in one.
Top for Mom
Since you’ll be wearing a nursing bra or tank as your base layer, you’ll want to pack some type of top, sweater, or jacket to wear home from the hospital. I personally prefer to wear comfy and loose fitting tops postpartum and think these are all great options: this sweater, this long sleeve shirt, and this t-shirt.
Change of clothes for Dad & toiletries
Don’t forget about your spouse in the midst of everything! He’ll be your tried and true rock throughout your labor and delivery experience, so make sure to include him in the packing process. You’ll definitely want him to pick out at least one change of clothes to use during the hospital stay. If he’s anything like my husband, this will take him approximately 30 seconds to complete.
Phone and charger
You likely don’t go anywhere without your phone these days and going to the hospital for labor is one of those occasions where you’ll want to make sure it’s packed so that you can communicate the good news to family and friends. Don’t forget to pack your all important phone charger – that’s an item the hospital unfortunately won’t be able to provide you with in a pinch!
The “nice-to-have” other items to include on your hospital bag packing list
Most hospitals have snacks available in a refrigerator on the labor and delivery floor, but having your own favorite goodies packed is always something that’s nice-to-have. If your labor gets long, having some handy snacks to munch throughout the experience can be a game changer to provide your body with some much needed energy. Some of my favorites include healthy nuts, Rx bars, Lara bars, and dark chocolate covered berries.
Your hospital might provide this to you as well, so technically nipple cream is a nice-to-have and not an essential, but I’d highly recommend packing some just in case because if you’re choosing to breastfeed, this stuff will become your new best friend! This brand and this brand are both great options.
Perineal spray was one of the things I never would have dreamed of packing prior to becoming a mom, but it’s a game changer! Similar to nipple cream, some hospitals will provide you with this in postpartum, but it’s a good thing to pack just in case they don’t. Basically perineal spray helps your body heal and feel better following a vaginal delivery and it’s something you’ll be so thankful to have at the ready.
Most hospital rooms will have a shower in the room for you to use postpartum, but in the case that you don’t feel like showering amidst all of the newborn bliss occurring, having dry shampoo on hand is a great idea. Here’s a natural brand I’ve been loving lately that would be an awesome add to any hospital bag for you and your spouse to use!
Pro tip: If you’re really ahead of the game, add all of these items to your baby registry to receive them from friends and family in advance or get a discount when purchasing from your registry. For more ideas on what to include on your baby registry, check out our ultimate baby registry guide.
Whew! That’s a lot! What else would you add to our list?