Written by: Jessica Diamond, MPH, RDN and Hayley Hubbard
Packing your hospital bag that first time feels like a rite of passage into motherhood. We remember sitting down to prepare our bag and just feeling so overwhelmed: we didn’t want to leave anything behind but also didn’t want to overpack! After four babies combined, we’ve got our packing list down to just the essentials, with everything you and your baby might need.
Disclaimer: Always clear these recommendations with your healthcare team because every situation is different! Also, this article contains affiliate links, which means that a percentage of your purchase goes to support Meaning Full Living at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting us!
Birth Room Essentials: Check out our article, 5 Ways to Transform your Delivery Room for a Better Birth Experience, for how to make your birth room cozy and serene and you can shop our essentials here. For the birth itself, you’ll want:
- A sturdy bag: Any suitcase or duffle bag you have on hand will work. You can organize it into two categories: items for birth and items for after birth.
- A birthing ball: You can bring a deflated birthing ball with a pump to the hospital. This is an amazing item for making birth and labor more comfortable. Bouncing on the birthing ball can improve dilation and rocking, bouncing, or swaying on it can ease contractions and labor discomfort. There’s also a peanut ball which works wonders to keep the body moving especially after an epidural which helps widen your pelvic outlet to help baby descend down your pelvis and help progress birth! One thing we have learned after multiple babies is that every birth is different and the position that feels most comfortable during birth can change from baby to baby.
- Soft lighting: Overhead and fluorescent lights are anything but calming, so Lori Bregman, our wonderful doula, told us to bring soft or natural light to the hospital. Switching the lighting up can have a huge impact on the ambience. (There’s a reason restaurants dim the lights to set the mood!) Here are some items we used to adjust the lighting:
- Grippy socks: The hospital will likely provide you a pair of grippy socks, but we liked having our own that fit well and were comfortable. You will likely want to be up and moving during birth so these help keep you comfortable and more stable on your feet.
- Shower shoes: These will help you when you want to walk around the hospital or to the bathroom or if you want to shower at the hospital postpartum.
- A clip-on fan: We’re straight up obsessed with this fan! You’ll likely get really sweaty postpartum because your body experiences a huge hormonal shift and wants to release all the extra fluid it built up during pregnancy. This fan can hook on the side of your bed to keep you cool. It’s extremely versatile and can be used to keep your baby comfortable and calm in the stroller or car seat when out and about in the heat.
- Soothing scents: All of our senses are heightened during birth, and it can be easy to forget about scent even though it can have an enormous impact on the birthing experience. For example, aromatherapy, in addition to smelling wonderful, can be used to help with labor symptoms. During labor you can try lemon to help with nausea, clary sage to help initiate contractions, eucalyptus to open your sinuses and improve your breathing, and lavender to relax. You can bring an essential oil diffuser with you or put a few drops on a washcloth and breathe the oils in.
- Almond or vitamin E oil: If you’re having a vaginal birth, you may (understandably!) be worried about tearing. While there’s no way to prevent tearing, there are some ways to decrease the risk of significant tears. For example, you can use almond oil or vitamin E oil as a lubricant. They will have oil at the hospital, but if you want to bring your own or use something more natural, we used almond oil and vitamin E oil and loved it. Of course, always get your doctor’s approval before use.
- Nutrition essentials: Staying hydrated during birth and postpartum is critical, especially when breastfeeding. There’s a lot of fluid and blood that is lost during birth, so it’s really important to rehydrate and dehydration is one of the most common causes of low milk supply. Investing in a water bottle that you have at your bedside may be the perfect reminder to stay hydrated. You will also want to bring some snacks because you never know how long the birth will be, and you will probably need some extra fuel before and after birth.
- Your insurance card, ID, birth plan, and a folder for paperwork: There’s lots of important paperwork that you get after birth, so having a folder to keep it safe is really nice. Check out our birth plan here.
- A birthing gown: This is totally optional, but some moms like to bring their own hospital gown that is cuter and fits better for birth.
- PJs with easy chest access: Skin-to-skin after birth is so magical for your baby, so easy access to your chest is important even if you’re not breastfeeding. And if you are planning to breastfeed, you’ll want to bring a nursing bra as well. It’s also nice to bring a sweater or sweatshirt as the hospital can get chilly.
- PJs: We wore these for months and months postpartum and still love them!
- A long phone charger: A long phone charger is so great to have handy for a few reasons. First, you’re not going to want to move around much in those early days of healing. Second, you’ll want to use your phone to track feedings, diaper changes, postpartum milestones, etc. And finally, you want your phone to be camera- or FaceTime-ready for those oh-so-precious early moments.
Breastfeeding Essentials: If you are planning on breastfeeding, being prepared to breastfeed is key. Grab our freebie download, The Ultimate Breastfeeding & Pumping Guide, with over 15 pages of all the tips, tricks, and products you need for your breastfeeding and pumping journey! You won’t want to bring all of these items to the hospital, but you’ll definitely want to pack these:
- Nursing bras: Nursing bras provide support without compressing your breasts, which helps prevent clogged milk ducts, while still allowing for easy access. For the first 6-8 weeks after delivery, you should wear a nursing bra without underwire at least when you are nursing, but many women wear them throughout their breastfeeding journey. Order your pre-pregnancy size. Here are our favorites:
- Items for nipple care: You will want to bring both nipple butter as well as Silverette nursing cups to the hospital. We recommend alternating between nursing cups and nipple butter after each feeding. Just don’t use both at the same time to keep your nipples in the best shape possible!
- Nipple Butter: There are a lot of nipple butters on the market, but our favorites are Nemah (also doubles as an amazing lip balm!), Earth Mama, and Motherlove.
- Silverette Nursing Cups: These are a must-have purchase to help heal sore nipples. They are made out of natural silver, have been used in Europe forever, and do wonders for healing nipples. They are basically nipple hats that protect and heal your nipples in between feedings.
- Breast pump and/or colostrum collectors: This is optional, but if you are wanting to save your colostrum and/or have your nurse walk you through how to use your breast pump, you can bring it to the hospital with you. (Here’s more information on Breastmilk Basics for Newborns and Breast Pump Basics.)
- Nursing pillow: This is optional, but a good nursing pillow can help you get your baby into the proper position on your breast to make the breastfeeding experience more comfortable for the both of you. This is not necessarily something you need at the hospital since the nurses can help you prop up pillows for the same effect. But if you want to have one with you, here are two that we think are the best on the market!
- Toiletries: Bring your own toiletries as if you were going to a hotel. It’s so nice to have all your own products after birth. Make sure to bring a lip balm to keep your lips moisturized as they are prone to chapping during and after birth. Also bring hair ties, a hair clip, and/or a knotted headband so you can easily tie your hair up in the hospital.
- Lip balms: We like this one (which doubles as a nipple balm) or this one!
Essentials for Baby:
- Cute outfit for pictures in the hospital and/or heading home. We love knotted gowns because they are cute and functional since they give you easy access for diaper changes. We also recommend a newborn hat to keep your baby’s head warm and mittens to keep them from scratching themselves.
- Pacifier: This is optional, but you can bring your own pacifier to the hospital in case you want to introduce it to your baby. Our favorite pacifiers are this one, this one, and this one.
- Swaddle blanket: This is optional because the hospital will provide blankets for swaddling your baby, but if you want to bring your own for pictures or to learn how to use the one you have at home, bring it with you. Here are our favorite swaddles.
- Car seat: The hospital will not allow you to leave without a properly installed car seat. We always recommend getting your car seat installed well before your due date so you know how to use it. Here are our favorite car seats.
And let’s not forget your support system! Your partner will want to have these things handy for the birth:
- Full tank of gas
- Change of clothes/PJ’s
- Comfortable shoes
- Long Phone Charger
- Book and/or tablet