By: Cassandra Stone
You have the nursery finished, the baby shower is over and your supplies are fully stocked. Your nesting instinct is kicked into high gear, though, and you want to tackle the final thing on your list: the hospital bag. Because even if your birth is fast, the hours in the hospital can feel lonnnngggg. You know a hospital isn’t a hotel and this won’t be a spa vacation, but you also don’t want to be underprepared either.
Remember, you’re not just packing for the baby. You’re packing for yourself and most likely for your partner too—and you two will need a heck of a lot more than your baby does during those first 48 hours.
When it comes to baby stuff, the only thing you need to bring is a going-home outfit and car seat. The hospital will supply everything else you could possibly need for the little one: diapers, wipes, diaper cream, etc. (and they’ll likely tell you to stock up on all the goodies before you go). Also, your baby will likely just be swaddled the whole time in a hospital blanket, so you really only need one outfit.
Don’t worry, mama. We’ve got you covered. Here’s a checklist you can use to guide you through the hospital bag packing process so you have everything you need.
Consult all of the moms you know before you start.
What was a must-have for some moms might not have even been a consideration for others. Ask your fellow moms what they packed, what they used, what they didn’t use, and what they wish they’d known to pack in the hospital bag before having their first baby. As a mom of two myself, I can attest to being FAR more prepared the second time around than I was as a rookie. Most doctor’s office lists only carry the basics, so it helps to crowdsource things like this.
1. Nursing Pillow
You don’t want to get stuck using the cardboard-esque, flat-as-a-pancake hospital pillows for support when you’re attempting to nurse your newborn for the first day of its life. It’ll just make an already stressful, nerve-wracking time even harder if you do. Bring one of these bad boys along and you and your new babe will be grateful you did.
Pillows for everyone
It might seem like you’re bringing a lot, but who cares? You’ll be beyond grateful you brought your own pillow (and one for your partner, too) when you see what hospital pillows are really like. It’ll feel like the longest 48 hours of your life if you don’t have at least your own comfy pillow in the already uncomfy bed with you. You will not get good rest while you’re there, it’s pretty much impossible, so you may as well have something from home to soothe you into thinking you can sleep.
2. Phone Charger With a Long Cord
Your hospital bed will be hooked up to many things, but the nearest outlet will be either across the room or behind your head just far enough out of the reach of your average phone cord. And when you’re in the hospital having a baby, everyone wants a text update. And you want to take SO MANY photos and videos. You’re going to want that sucker to be charged and ready to go at all times. Especially if you have to kill some time before it’s “go time,” you’ll be glad you can plug your phone in while you scroll in between contractions and beyond.
3. A Good Pair of Slides
A pair of slide sandals are a cute, functional option for when your swollen feet are padding up and down the hallway trying to speed up your contractions, shuffling your baby’s crib around for some light post-birth exercise, and slipping into the car to go home. They’re also basically the perfect house shoe that’s also a real shoe, and your postpartum feet will thank you for the foresight in wearing these. You don’t want to get hospital germs on your slippers, and these are easily washable.
4. Jersey Pajamas
You are going to want to live in soft, flexible materials for…awhile. Especially post-delivery. Whether you’re recovering from a C-section or vaginal delivery, you’re recovering. Period. And you’re going to need jersey pajamas, especially pants. I got this hot tip from two different experienced moms, and I am so grateful I did. Jersey pants in particular are always the first thing I recommend.
The little things
Hair ties and toothpaste and body wash, oh my! Do yourself a favor and peruse the travel toiletries section of your local drug store. Chances are, there will be a little travel kit that has the following: a tiny deodorant, a toothbrush, tiny toothpaste, travel-sized shampoo and conditioner, and body wash—all in one, ready-to-go package. Buy it. That way you don’t have to pack all of your large-sized stuff from home, and you can just toss it all at the hospital before you leave. It’s one less thing you need to worry about. That first shower after birth in the sterile hospital bathroom will feel like the most uncomfortable spa day you’ve ever had, and it helps to have everything in one place.
Also? Hair ties and headbands. All of them. As many as you can toss into your bag. You’re not going to want your hair anywhere near your face for the duration of your hospital stay.
Don’t forget lip balm, either. That hospital ventilation is dry, dry, dry and your lips will thank you for it!
5. A Comfy Nursing Sleep Bra
Chances are, if you’re planning to breastfeed, you’ve already purchased your everyday nursing bras. But what a lot of people fail to realize (myself included) is that during those early nursing weeks (and months), you’ll probably need a bra to wear at night. Your days of free-boobing it are on pause for awhile, because there’s something about nursing and the fullness that means you need support even while you sleep. A comfy bra is a must-have at the hospital, and you don’t want it to be underwire or anything unforgiving because you’ll likely be wearing it the whole time.
Breast pads, nipple cream, and even breast shells will likely be on-hand with the hospital’s lactation staff. If you want to pack your own, though, go for it.
6. A Light, Comfy Robe
It’s cozy, it’s light, and it covers you up. It’s the perfect thing to toss on for breastfeeding purposes or to just feel soft and comfy after the shower. Hoodies and non-cardigan sweaters will not be your friend in the hospital (especially if you’re nursing), but this will be a perfect solution (and it won’t take up as much room in your bag). My second time around, I wore a stretchy camisole, pajama pants, and a robe the second I was able to take my hospital gown off.
Granola bars, KIND bars, CLIFF bars, cereal bars, trail mix, all of it. I will warn you, though, that some nurses are still pretty old-school and won’t let you eat snacks during labor. Doctors used to believe that having food or acid in the digestive system could be aspirated if a birthing person needed anesthesia. But many studies have come out since then showing that the aspiration risk is very, very small and many hospitals don’t abide by those rules anymore. This is great because I can’t think of a worse thing to do to someone in the middle of the most grueling physical experience of their life—which often lasts hours and hours—than to tell them they can’t have a snack to maintain their strength.
So stock up on those snacks! Because even after labor, you’re going to be absolutely famished, and waiting on hospital food will take an eternity.
Noise-cancelling headphones, a little light reading, a letter board for photos, matching mommy-and-me pajamas for photos, and anything beyond this list is all up to you and whatever creature comforts you think you’ll need. Remember, you can keep things in the car until after the baby arrives, if you’re worried about overcrowding the delivery room.
It’s all about what will make you feel most at home when you’re in the hospital, mama!