Here are 7 things you need in your hospital bag, along with the things that you can leave behind.
1. All the paperwork! If you have medical records, test results, or other papers your care provider told you to bring, make sure you have those. Do not forget your driver’s license or picture ID, your birth plan or preferences (if you have one), your insurance card, your marriage certificate (if you are married but have different last names, or are a same sex couple — this is for paternity/second parent on the birth certificate), your health care proxy (especially for unmarried couples or single parents), and any other legal materials as needed (such as adoption paperwork).
2. Your Toiletries! Labor is tough enough, you definitely do not want to have to do it without your basic supplies like a toothbrush and toothpaste, chap stick (all that breathing during labor will dry your lips out), hair ties or head bands. Lotion is super helpful if an epidural makes you itchy, and Tums, if you have been taking them, can continue to relieve you until the heartburn goes away, which shouldn’t be long after birth. Finally, make sure to bring any and all everyday toiletries and personal care essentials you or your partner need: glasses or contacts, prescription medications, and pain medicine in case your partner gets headache.
3. Provisions! Most hospitals will let you have clear fluids during labor so bring plenty of those (water, coconut water, juice boxes, seltzer, electrolyte drinks, etc). Your partner might also appreciate some middle-of-the-night energy, like a coffee drink, energy drink, or soda. You should pack snacks. Many hospitals do not allow eating during labor, but you can eat once you give birth, and you even might be very hungry! Non-perishables like granola or protein bars, crackers, nuts, cookies, and dried fruit are popular options.
4. Your Electronics! Make sure you have your phones, a camera (if separate from your phone), a speaker for music (if desired), and anything else you need for entertainment or communication, like a tablet, a laptop, or an eReader. You’ll be at the hospital for a couple of days, so don’t forget your cords, cables, batteries, and chargers. Also, a short extension cord can come in handy! The outlets are frequently in inconvenient places, and an extension cord can make it possible for you to have your phone near you in bed even when it is charging.
5. Your Clothes! Hospitals (and some birth centers) provide gowns for you to labor in. But you can bring your own clothing — a tank and skirt, a sleeveless nightgown, or a labor gown of your own. Whatever you bring, anticipate that it might get heavily soiled and thrown away. So don’t bring your favorite nightwear. You will need clothing for afterwards. Make sure to keep it comfortable: shirts, yoga pants/pajama pants/leggings, a hoodie or sweatshirt, a robe if you’d like. The first couple of days, you will be bleeding so bring items you’re okay soiling. Your partner should also have a change of clothes and a hoodie or sweater. Remember your body will still be pregnant-looking postpartum, so anticipate needing outfits that would have fit at 6 or 7 months pregnant. If you plan on breastfeeding, favor button-down shirts and gowns or nursing clothes.
6. Optional Comfort Items! Do you want to get extra comfy to help you stay relax throughout labor? Massage oils, aromatherapy, heating pad and hot water bottle, electric candles, a picture or image, music, yoga ball, peanut ball, wash cloths, a hand held fan and straws are all great things to consider adding to your birthing artillery. If you have a doula, ask her what she will be bringing and what your hospital or birth center already stocks. You might also want flip flops or slipper, though hospitals usually provide non-slip socks in abundance. Hospitals also have towels, but they are small. So you might want your own, along with a cozy blanket and one or two pillows. If you don’t want the hospital to swipe your towels and blankets with theirs, opt for colors that stand out. And, if you are bringing home your placenta, make sure you have gallon sized zip lock bags and a soft cooler to transport it in.
7. Baby’s Going-Home Essentials! You will need a car seat to bring your baby home in and an outfit with legs so your baby can be safely secured with the 5-point harness. Bring seasonally appropriate accessories, including a blanket for the ride home. Ideally these things can be left at home and brought in by a friend or family member later if you’re in the hospital for a couple of days.
Want to keep your birth load as light as possible?
What NOT to Bring! The hospital or birth center should have an abundance of pads, disposable underwear for labor and postpartum. They also have diapers. They should have a breast pump as well as stock formula and bottles. They usually supply hats, shirts, and blankets for your baby so you don’t have to bring more than one or two outfits. They have peri bottles and sitz baths for you to take home. You should not need a breastfeeding pillow or breast pads during your short stay. Don’t bring your heavy labor and birth books, and don’t bring work! The only work you’ll be doing while you are giving birth is, well, giving birth and enjoying that beautiful baby of yours once he or she is earth side. Congrats!