Hospital Bag checklist; HELP! What do I pack?

Preparing for birth is an exciting and anxious time. So, what do you actually need to pack when heading off to the hospital or birthing center? Here is the ultimate hospital bag checklist!

What is a hospital bag?

A hospital bag, or baby bag, contains all the essentials that an expectant mother would take with them to the hospital in preparation for birth and the days following. It can be tempting to pack excessively as many expectant mothers worry about forgetting something important during this monumental time in their life. Fortunately, with a little advice it is possible to determine exactly what you need to prepare for baby’s arrival.

For those super busy mums, you can also purchase an already packed hospital bag online if needed: Bundle™ – The Original Pre-Packed Maternity Hospital & Baby Bags (bundlebags.com.au)

hospital bag checklist
A duffel bag such as this one is usually the easiest to pack everything into, but you may prefer a small suitcase

What week should I pack my hospital bag?

Most medical professionals recommend having your bag prepared and ready to go from around 35 weeks. This means that if you do unexpectedly go into early labour, you’ll have your hospital bag packed, and you will be able to quickly grab what you need and get to the hospital at a moment’s notice. Personally, once I reached the third trimester, I started planning for this, which was a little on the early side, considering my son arrived 10 days late, but I wanted to at least start writing my checklist.

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How many days should I pack for the hospital?

Before delivery it is difficult to know just how much time you might need to spend in hospital, so it’s a great idea to be prepared, well before your due date. Whilst many women return home within 48 hours of giving birth, others need to stay for a longer period of time – particularly after a caesarean section. The average hospital stay after a C-section is 2-4 days, so if you plan for around 4 or 5 days, you should be covered.

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If you have had a C-section and find yourself staying for a bit longer – here is some great recovery information: C-Section Recovery: 6 Tips on Sleep, Pain, Diet, and Much More (healthline.com)

What do I wear to the hospital for delivery?

When labour begins, or when you are heading into hospital for a planned birth, it is important to be wearing something comfortable. A t shirt and loose leggings, or a roomy dress might suit best, as well as comfy shoes. You might decide to wear your nursing bra to hospital too, as well as have another one packed in your bag. Once you get there, you might be required to change into a hospital gown or nightgown to make it easier for monitoring your stage of labour. Whatever you choose to wear, just make sure it can be removed quickly if required.

If you are interested in hospital fashion, here are the 2022 best labour and delivery gowns: Best Labor & Delivery Gowns 2022 – Cute Maternity Hospital Gowns (whattoexpect.com)

hospital bag checklist
Make sure you’re wearing loose, comfortable clothing, comfy shoes and pack plenty of spare comfy clothes too

What should NOT be on my hospital bag checklist?

Most hospitals have some guidelines around what should not be brought when patients are admitted. Here are a few things you should not pack in your hospital bag:

  • Bedding, wheat bags and hot water bottles.
  • Heavy or bulky items
  • Large amounts of food.
  • Too many baby clothes
  • Large plug-in electrical appliances.
  • Talcum powder (it makes the floor dangerously slippery).
  • Weapons or prohibited substances
  • Valuable items –leave jewellery and large amounts of cash at home

Here is some more detailed information about what not to bring to hospital: What patients should and must not bring to hospital | SA Health

hospital bag checklist
Check with your hospital about any prohibited items and be sure to ask if they provide nappies and baby wipes too

Ultimate Hospital bag checklist – Here is everything you need!

  • Your bag – From experience, I have found that a duffle-bag works far better than a suitcase. They are easy to access and can be shoved under a hospital bed for storage or squashed into a relatively small space, making them far more convenient than a suitcase.
  • Your Birth Plan – Now, let me be clear about this. I am not a fan of having an extremely rigid and highly specific birth plan because as my labour taught me – your plan can quickly go out of the window. A birth plan needs to include the most important preferences you have for the birth, such as preferred delivery positions, medications, whether or not you want to keep the placenta (not my cup of tea but apparently this is quite popular), and so on. Packing a birthing plan will help hospital staff and your birthing partner to best support you throughout the labour and delivery process.
  • Medicare card, health fund card, credit card, any concession cards – for admin purposes, or for purchases at kiosks or vending machines.
  • Any relevant hospital paperwork – your MRN (Medical Reference Number), name and contact details of your emergency contact person, and your doctor’s details.
  • Phone charger (and mobile phone) – I am putting this near the top of this list because it is almost a necessity, yet easy to forget. Our phones are not only used for staying in contact with friends and family, but they can also serve the purpose of camera, kindle, contraction timer, boredom-buster…the list is endless for these versatile little devices. I know that for me, a flat phone battery would be a complete disaster so make sure there is one in your hospital bag ready to go.
  • Headphones – for listening to music on your phone, or talking on your phone handsfree.
  • The comfiest clothes you have – this could include nightgowns or pajamas that can be easily opened at the top for breastfeeding. Personally, I preferred to wear leggings and nursing singlets whilst in hospital. It is also important to note that your clothing choice may be dependent on the kind of birth you have had, for example pants might be painful after a C-section. A dressing gown is a good idea too, and don’t forget to include a comfortable going home outfit to wear when leaving.
  • The underwear essentials – Maternity bras, comfy undies, slippers and socks are all post-birth hospital essentials. Personally I preferred thongs rather than slippers, but this is up to you.
  • Couple of empty plastic bags – for dirty clothes or other items, as well as an extra bag.
  • Self-care items – Be sure to pack your basic toiletries, including hair ties, lip balm, toothbrush, shower gel, hair brush, deodorant, face wash, tissues, toilet paper (yes, the hospital will have it, but you may prefer your own?), hand sanitiser and moisturizer, as well as reading glasses or spare contacts if you wear contacts.
  • Medications – only the necessary ones you will need to take while at the hospital. Leave them in the boxes.
  • Post-birth care – Breast pads, nipple cream and maternity pads (or disposable undies) should all be packed in preparation for your after-birth hygiene and comfort needs.
  • Your pillow – Hospital pillows might be fine for some, but if you are like me and are susceptible to a sore neck after sleeping on an unfamiliar pillow, taking along your own is a very good idea.
  • Towel and face washers – yes, the hospital have these available, but if you’re like me, I just want my own (especially for that first post delivery shower).
  • Breast pump – you may not need this but depending on how long you are actually staying in hospital and how successfully your baby’s feeding sessions are going, you may in fact need to start pumping.
  • Massage oil or essential oils – optional extras, if you think this will help you during labour.
  • Some snacks and your water bottle – these are not just for you but your birthing partner might be in need of some refreshments or an energy boost during your hospital stay. Think carrot sticks, muesli bars or crackers. It is also a good idea to have some change handy for the vending machine or café – whilst hospital coffee is rarely good, sometimes your birth partner might just need that hit of caffeine.
  • A few things for filling time – Whilst it is sensible to pack a book or magazine to read, skip the board games…they take up too much space and are rarely used. 
  • Other optional items can include a bathing suit or a birthing ball, depending on your preferences for giving birth and your birthing plan.

Now that you are all organised for labour and delivery, there a few items that you will need for that new little bundle of joy. It is important to check out what your chosen hospital actually provides beforehand because some hospitals will have wipes and nappies available for you and others will require you to bring them.

hospital bag checklist
The most important thing is to be organised – try to start making your checklist early on, and start packing it in your third trimester

The basics that you will need for your baby include: 

  • A going home outfit for baby
  • An approved infant care seat correctly installed into your vehicle, for the journey home
  • A few onesies, socks and a hat.
  • A baby blanket, a couple of wraps or burp cloths
  • Disposable nappies, baby lotion and baby wipes if necessary, or if you choose

It’s important to be aware of safe sleep recommendations for babies too, which you can read about in my article here.

“You never understand life until it grows inside of you.”

Sandra Chami Kassis
hospital bag checklist
Everyone packs differently according to their values so make sure you only pack what YOU thnk will be necessary

Final Thoughts – Hospital Bag Checklist

Packing your hospital bag can be an exciting and stressful time and I hope that this list makes the job just a little bit easier for you. Don’t forget to take lots of photos and snuggle your new baby as much as you possibly can because trust me, that tiny little baby will be starting school before you know it!

You might want to seek advice from friends or family who have had babies to see what they recommend you pack in your bag for the hospital or birthing centre. This will be very individual to you, however as some women won’t mind the hospital pillow, won’t care about taking their own body wash or dressing gown, but might want more baby clothes than just one outfit! Figure out what is important to you, and pack mindfully.

Is there anything you can think of that you had in mind for packing, or you have packed before, that I haven’t mentioned here? Please let me know in the comments!

Just don’t forget that lip balm!

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