In addition to IDs, important paperwork and anything you want for labor, here are items you should have in your bag for your stay at the hospital or birthing center. Sorry ladies, but I need to get real for a moment: Childbirth is messy. No one prepared me for that. Speaking to a few friends who have experienced both a vaginal and cesarean birth, I learned that vaginal recovery is more bloody but there is still plenty of blood when recovering from a cesarean. These suggestions are based on my experience with three vaginal childbirths and that of several friends…. if you have a c-section, your experience may be slightly different. As with everything, what I consider essential, someone else may think is unnecessary – and vice versa. This whole experience – labor, delivery, meeting your baby, caring for your baby, learning to breastfeed, etc. – is overwhelming. I’m providing a simple list of what you need so you aren’t overwhelmed with an overpacked and cluttered delivery and recovery room. Hospitals provide you with most of what you need. Check with your hospital before delivery to verify they provide you with the items I’m making assumptions about (based on my deliveries and that of friends). Remember that you are only there are couple of days and don’t want to risk losing or ruining any of your favorite items.
1. ∙∙∙ I liked the slipper socks that my hospital provided so I just wore those. There is a lot more blood than I was expecting (no one prepared me!). So, I wore the hospital socks and frequently asked for new pairs because I got blood on them. Hopefully, all hospitals provide these, but it can’t hurt to bring a few (dark-colored) pairs of socks as backups. If you bring your own slippers, make sure they are washable… just in case.
2. ~ I packed two robes and wore one of them over the hospital gown when people came by or when I got up to walk around the hall. I recommend packing one lightweight robe to wear over the hospital-provided gown when walking around. You will be examined very often post-delivery so you want something like a robe that opens in the front and doesn’t have to be removed. Remember, with most vaginal deliveries, things will be pretty bloody for a while. Don’t bring anything light-colored, or expensive!
3. ∙∙∙ Bring one or two nursing tanks with you. This way you are covered up top for when visitors come by, but you can easily pull your breast out to feed the baby without exposing your entire belly and both boobs. The Bravado ones are very supportive and comfortable and totally worth the money. You can get affordable ones from Target, H&M, Gap, and many other places.
4. ∙∙∙ Bring two pillows from home (one for you and one for your significant other/partner/support person). The hospital provides them of course, but it is nice to have more. Just make sure you have distinctive pillowcases, you don’t want to get them confused with the white hospital ones when you head home.
5. ∙∙∙ Your hospital may provide stuff, but it’s nice to have your own shampoo and whatever else you want (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, etc). Get a set of miniature bottles to hold your liquids.
6. ∙∙∙ Bring lots if you are like me and depend on these, but lose them constantly.
7. ∙∙∙ An obvious must! Bring an extra long one if you can, since sometimes your bed will be a little further from an outlet.
8. ∙∙∙ These may be useful for mom, or for her support person. My husband was glad he had them because he watched Netflix on his iPhone while up with the baby when I was trying to sleep.
9. ∙∙∙ Cheap flip flops for the shower if you want.
10. ∙∙∙ For your hospital stay, and to hold you over while you wait for your first meal post-delivery.
11. ∙∙∙ The hospital ones are not that big or absorbent. But then again, I did get blood on their towels and I’d rather not get mine gross like that. (Again with the blood! Sorry, but it’s the reality of childbirth.) Consider bringing a cheap one that you don’t mind getting dirty. And for the sake of aesthetics, I recommend dark-colored towels!
12. ∙∙∙ You are wearing a diaper like thick pad when you leave, so those leggings I brought to wear around the hospital and to wear home the first time around were pointless because I wasn’t going to wear tight pants over a diaper.🙂 Instead, I recommend your home outfit be something loose like baggy comfy pants or a cotton maxi skirt. You may be lucky and not bleed as much, but most people I’ve talked to say the same thing. Also, keep in mind that your belly will still look about 6 months pregnant so you want your top to be loose as well. If you have a c-section you won’t bleed quite as much and you’ll stay in the hospital a little longer, so you may just be in a normal period pad by the time you leave. It’s probably best to be safe and have something baggy on the bottom as an option.
13. ∙∙∙ You can take a hospital baby blanket home with you (and I recommend you do that, for a keepsake if nothing else), but it is kind of fun to have a cute blanket to put on top of your baby in the car seat when they head home for the first time. For healthy seeding and feeding of the newborn microbiome, it is sometimes recommended to sleep with a baby blanket on your chest for a few days prior to birth and bring that to the hospital to wrap your baby in. Wellness Mama talks about this as a way to help transfer healthy microbes to babies born via surgical birth/cesarean.
14. ∙∙∙ You may need these. My first was born early and her fingernails were shorter and not a problem. However, immediately after birth, my second was scratching his face with his sharp nails. Bring a pair of scratch mittens, just in case.
15. ∙∙∙ It’s so fun to pick this out! I love this kimono-style organic cotton gender-neutral romper from Monica + Andy.
Other items to consider:
Anything you want for labor ∙∙∙ music, chapstick, peanut/birthing ball (I used the ones at the hospital), tennis balls in a sock, focal point, etc.
Good Camera ∙∙∙ If your smartphone camera doesn’t do the trick.
Clothes for baby during stay ∙∙∙ Until it’s time to head home, I prefer to have my babies wear the white little kimono onesie things provided by our hospital. They are so easy to get on and off. But, some people like to put their babies in cute clothes while in the hospital.
Small Notebook ∙∙∙ I liked having this with each of my deliveries to keep notes on when things happened. We wrote down when I reached different dilations, when I started pushing, etc.
Cord Blood Kit ∙∙∙ If you are banking cord blood, don’t forget to bring the collection kit with you! If you are interested in banking your cord blood, go through this link and receive special pricing.
You probably don’t need (but I sometimes see on hospital bag packing lists):
Breast Pump ∙∙∙ I often see this on hospital bag lists, but it is not necessary! Your milk will come in 2-4 days after delivery, so most likely you will be home. But if you have a c-section and are in the hospital longer, or if your milk arrives while still there, you will have the baby and there is likely no need to pump yet. In fact, it is not recommended to pump that early unless you are separated from your baby. If your baby is in the NICU and you have to pump, the hospital should provide a hospital grade pump for you. The hospital grade pump will work way better than any personal pump you could buy (or get through insurance). BUT, it may be helpful to bring the breast shields that come with your pump. I’ve heard from some people that they had the hospital lactation consultant look and make sure they had the correct size breast shields for when they begin pumping.
Nursing Pillow ∙∙∙ This is also often on hospital bag packing lists. It takes up so much space, and if you really want this, the hospital can provide you with more pillows. This is one thing you could leave in your car, and if you feel like you want that over hospital pillows, you can decide post-birth to send someone to get it out of your car. You don’t know how “messy” your birth experience will be, so I advise people not to bring anything in that they aren’t okay getting bloody.
Diapers & Wipes ∙∙∙ The hospital provides them and your insurance gets charged for everything in your room. Use the ones they give you and that you are paying for anyway.
Nipple Cream ∙∙∙ Your hospital will probably provide this, I imagine it is part of standard care. But if there is a specific brand you want to use, it may be wise to bring it just in case. Your nipples are going to hurt, even if you don’t breastfeed (so I hear). Yorba Organics and Earth Mama both make one that is given the highest safety rating on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database (my bible for personal care product safety).
Pajamas ∙∙∙ That first night, they are checking you down there so much, it will be a pain (literally, and figuratively) to have to get up and take up pajama bottoms each time. If you want to bring pajamas for the remaining night (or more) go for it. Personally, I preferred to sleep in a nursing tank, glorious disposable mesh underwear and the hospital gown. I didn’t have to worry about bleeding through onto any clothes from home, bathroom trips were less complicated, and the regular checks from nurses and doctors were easier. If you want to bring your own pajamas, I recommend a nightgown and not pajama pants.
Bags to Pack In
If you don’t have a bag yet to pack in, here are some great options at a huge range of price points. They each have separate storage compartments, and they look nice! Click on the images for more details on any bag. Tip: Those big blue Ikea bags work well for your pillows!