Today we are talking about an activity that has thankfully kept me busy over the past couple of days. (Because let’s be honest, at 38 weeks it’s getting pretty hard to focus on anything else 😂): Packing for the hospital! **I still can’t believe we’re having a baby**
This is a HOT topic of conversation lately as I know many of you are also expecting! When it comes to the whole, “what to pack for the hospital” approach, There are the minimalists that bring next-to-nothing, and there are the maximalists that bring ALL the stuff–I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle–but there’s no “good” or “bad” approach to have!
I will say I’ve approached packing for the hospital much like I do packing for any other trip: paring down to maximize space, but packing very intentionally with lots of little “nice to haves” that will make our stay extra comfortable. In this post, I’m including what I’m packing based on recommendations from other moms, as well as some really invaluable tips that will be good to know going into your hospital stay.
Before we jump in, let me preface, mostly everything on this list is a *nice to have*
If you are of a different generation and you’re reading this, you will likely say something like, “WELL I DIDN’T HAVE ANY OF THAT AND I WAS JUST FINE.” (I know this because I can’t tell you how many Boomers and even Gen Z’s have dmed me with a “well in my day…” kind of message.) YES YES, WE KNOW! 😆
The point of this post is not that you NEED all of these things–they just might make your first two days of parenthood in the hospital a little bit easier and more comfortable. I am someone who likes to go to a little extra effort to have extra comforts at my disposal. But also, if you don’t have much with you in the hospital, that is totally fine too!
That being said, all of these items are suggestions from my friends (real life friends, that is) and online friends (YOU) who have been through this process recently–so rest assured, they are vetted by REAL moms! (Not just what *I personally think* I will need as someone who has never done this before.)
Some of these tips might be Chicago-specific:
Because most of my friends who have had babies recently are in Chicago, and I have such a heavy Chicago readership, some of these tips might be specific to Northwestern’s Prentice Hospital, which is the most common hospital to deliver at. Every hospital is different, and my best piece of advice is to find someone who delivered at the hospital you’ll be going to recently, so you can ask them about their experience and tips they have to better plan ahead.
Space requirements may change based on your hospital:
Every hospital is different in this regard too. In some, you won’t have a ton of space for a ton of stuff and/or have shared rooms–others, you will get a huge private room all to yourself. If you live in the burbs, you’ll probably have easy access to your car where you can keep any of those ‘just in case’ items, if you live in the city, you might not have that luxury and will need everything with you. It just depends! Again, recommend talking to friends who have delivered at your hospital for more intel so you aren’t showing up with a TON of stuff when you have no room.
Okay–let’s jump in!
Hospital Bag Packing List:
First, the bag(s):
Opting for my Delsey carry-on for my bag as it’s been my go-to for ALL kinds of trips now for many years, and this time is no different. 😉 I chose this over a duffel because it’s easy to wheel (vs. me having to carry a heavy bag). It also doesn’t take up much room and holds a TON more stuff than a duffel bag and makes it easy to stay organized.
Tip: Many also said to bring another empty packable duffel or soft cloth bag to bring hospital supplies home with you.
ID, Insurance Card + Printout with Any Birth Preferences
Fairly self explanatory. Just don’t forget them! Most hospitals will have an intake form that will ask you to write down any birth preferences, but if you prefer to have them written out ahead of time, feel free to do so! (I say “preferences” and not “plan” because it’s all out of your hands, and rarely does everything go according to plan!)
Whatever your favorites are, make sure to have some on hand (enough for you and your partner). Not just junk food–but something that will actually fill you both up if you aren’t able to get real food for a while. (Think protein bars, beef jerky, nuts, etc!)
Glasses/contacts if you wear them
Seeing is important! 😂 (Don’t forget extra contacts + solution!)
Extra long phone chargers + portable battery chargers
These two were one of the most suggested items! Reason being, your hospital bed is probably not super close to an outlet. (Though some have outlets on the beds, check when you get there–though those at Prentice said no dice, you need a long cord!) I bought this charging cord and we have a portable battery similar to this one.
Camera, memory card, charger, tripod if using
Again, self explanatory! Most people are not me so having a DSLR and tripod with you probably isn’t high up on your priority list. 😆 If you have interest in an iPhone tripod though, this one is a good one! A few of you also suggested a disposable camera, or a Polaroid camera, which is such a fun idea!
Laptop or iPad with movies + tv shows, ROKU/Fire Stick/ ETC.
Because there’s usually quittteeee a bit of downtime. Many said you used your ROKU/Fire Stick/Apple TV, etc. Prentice peeps, my friends have told me their TV’s don’t work with these, womp womp, so bring your iPad. (UPDATE: One reader did say hers worked at Prentice! I think it probably just depends on the room! So worth bringing just in case!)
Portable speaker for music
We have the UE mega boom speaker that we’ve used and loved for years–we bring it on every vacation, too!
Hospitals get very dry, plus, you’re breathing heavily when in labor–a recipe for VERY dry, chapped lips. This is my all-time favorite lip balm. It works better than any I’ve ever used. I have one in multiple areas of the house and ordered two for the hospital in case the first one gets lost. 😆 I have legitimate anxiety about not having it at all times.
It’s not uncommon to throw up during labor–this was a tip from my two besties saying gum is one of the things they were most thankful for. Also, sometimes it’s just too much to get up and brush your teeth!
Everyone and their mom has this stroller fan, but did you know it’s ideal for labor? Great for keeping you cool and also can be a source of white noise! (I have friends that say this is the best item they brought with them. 😂)
Back Massager balls
Our amazing friends gifted us a set of these and said they were fantastic for helping massage her back during labor.
- Toothbrush + toothpaste
- Shower necessities (nice in case you feel like showering, but you might not!)
- Face wipes, body wipes + lotion (so you can refresh but not need to leave your bed!)
- Curling Iron/whatever hair tools you use (if you decide you’d like to do your hair for photos. This is not a choice for everyone. 😆 I’ll bring mine because pulling myself together usually makes me FEEL my best, but also fully realize I might get to that point and could care less).
- Dry shampoo (washing your hair might feel cathartic after labor, or it might feel like climbing a mountain and therefore a little dry shampoo can’t hurt).
- Makeup (Again, might not use, but good to have! A little makeup makes me feel human!)
- Body and/or Deodorant wipes, if showering is too hard but you want a little refresh. (I got these XL Water Wipes which work for adults and kids!)
Portable Battery Powered Light + Sound Machine
Hospital lights are VERY bright, so many said you brought your own softer lamp/source of light, which is ideal so then nurses aren’t turning on the super harsh overhead lights and disorienting you every time they come into the room.
Lots of you raved about the VAVA light on Amazon (which you have for nursery). My best friend gifted me a similar light that she loved and brought with her to the hospital. I have the Hatch+ light (which is great because it’s also a white noise machine). If you don’t have a hatch, make sure you bring whatever portable white noise machine you plan to have on hand for baby as it’s helpful to put right next to their little bassinet. (White noise mimics what it sounds like for them in your belly, which is why its so soothing!) I’m throwing this one in our bag.
Popular suggestion. To calm the room and cover up any labor smells. (😐 Joy.)
Ear plugs and eye mask:
So many of you suggested these two since hospital rooms are always bright and always noisy–I have nice silk eye masks but I don’t want to risk losing them or ruining them in the hospital so I ordered this two pack on Amazon for Neal and I.
Water bottle or cup:
You will want a big, easy-to-drink-from water bottle. (You will be very thirsty during and after labor!) Whichever one you love from home will work great. (I love my 32 oz Hydroflask with the sport cap!)
Hospital Gown (totally optional)
This is completely not necessary, but I liked the idea of bringing my own labor and delivery gown! It’s softer, comfy, and cuter! Kindred Bravely makes the one I’m using and several of you have raved about it as well! (FYI my Kindred Bravely code JESS20 gets you a 20% discount!)
Comfy undies and bras
Everyone’s experience is different, so there’s a high likelihood you won’t be using any underwear aside from the disposable mesh kind, BUT, it doesn’t hurt to have a couple roomy, comfy pairs! (Kindred Bravely to the rescue here again–I have this multipack which is high rise and good if you end up having a C-Section!)
As for bras, you’ll want something super comfortable (think wireless). SO MANY of you raved about Kindred Bravely’s nursing/pumping bras and tanks for those planning on doing so! (Use code JESS20 for 20% off!) Everyone also raves about the Spanx nursing bra!
Button-up nightgown(s) and/or bathrobe:
Great tips I received: Most of my friends have said you won’t want to be wearing pants in the hospital, and also, you want something that buttons for skin to skin/breastfeeding if you choose to do so/easy access for doctors/nurses. Also, bring an option that is a darker color in case you have a lot of postpartum bleeding–you don’t want to risk getting blood on something light colored and ruining it!
That being said, robes and nightshirts/nightgowns are key! I have two night shirts that I LOVE that I’m bringing with me: This super soft bamboo one from Kindred Bravely (go up a size if you’re in between! Use code JESS20 for discount!), and this one from PrintFresh (let’s be honest I wanted a really cute one for photos, not sure if I’ll actually WEAR that one. 😆) I also ordered this jersey bathrobe from Amazon, it has great reviews and it’s $19!
Warm grippy socks + slippers
Apparently all hospitals are universally freezing, so socks and slippers are a must! (Many say don’t bring nice slippers!) Also, socks with grips on the bottom are helpful during labor if you’re up and moving around! Some hospitals will give you grippy socks too.
Many of you said you’ll want shower shoes! Waterproof Birks are my go-to’s, but any flip flops or waterproof shoes will work!
Pillow + blanket for each of you
According to basically all of you, hospitals are notorious for terrible pillows and skimpy blankets. Bring your own for you and your partner. (You know I’ll be bringing my Barefoot Dreams blanket!) Tip: Put your pillows in pillow cases that aren’t white, so they don’t get mixed up with the hospital’s!
Going home/photos outfit for parents
If you plan to take photos at the hospital, remember to pack a cute outfit for you two and baby! Same with a going home outfit. For going home, I’m planning to wear a comfy, roomy dress. Bringing this one from Target! It’s perfect because I can wear a comfy sports bra underneath and it won’t show, plus it’s flowy so plenty of room for the diaper underneath. (Plus it’s not too short, you know, bending over a car seat and flashing everyone said adult diaper isn’t ideal!) It’s also cute for photos. 🥰 Tip: One reader said if you’re wearing a dress you may feel comfortable wearing some bike shorts underneath to hold everything in.
Roomy going home shoes
After two days of being pumped with fluids, your feet will likely be VERY swollen–so roomy shoes are key! Bringing my Birkenstocks!
Enough warm/comfy clothes for your partner, too:
If you have a husband, he is likely asking, “why would I need socks?” “why would I need long pants?” but rest assured, he WILL need them, again, because hospitals are notoriously freezing. (Plus, do you really want to listen to him whine? 😂)
Apparently the towels they give you to shower are absolutely pitiful and are the size of hand towels. Honestly I don’t care that much about having a nice towel for the one shower I will take, but because they take up zero room, I’m bringing our Turkish towels (which we usually use for camping) because they fold up into nothing!
Things for baby:
Don’t forget to get it installed and safety checked!
A couple outfits for baby
I have a couple sets from Lou Lou that I’ll be bringing for her, and a couple cute swaddle blankets! (Also helpful to have a couple different sizes since you won’t be totally sure how big baby will be!) However, most said your newborn spent the majority of the time in a diaper swaddled in the hospital blanket, so no need to overthink outfit choices TOO much!
Easy velcro waddles:
Several of you wished you’d brought a swaddle with you (i.e. Ollie/Halo/etc–whatever you plan to use at home) because you couldn’t figure out how to swaddle using the hospital blanket. The nurses are pro’s, but they’re not always around late night when baby is crying!
Check with your hospital to see what they provide, some provide all of these, some provide some, etc! Weirdly, one of you recently told me that Prentice doesn’t have baby wipes!? (So odd). All hospitals are different!
Baby nail file and baby mittens:
I’m told they won’t trim their nails for you in the hospital–and babies are often born with long fingernails that they can easily scratch themselves with! We’re bringing this little baby nail file/trimmer (no risk of hurting or cutting them with this!) and also some mittens to prevent scratching! **Don’t forget the batteries!!
Other Postpartum essentials:
Frida Mom Postpartum Care Essentials + Peri Bottle
I got this Frida Mom postpartum Recovery Essentials kit and peri bottle that are basically an upgraded version of what they give you in the hospital! Most of my friends have said leave it at home for when you return, because the hospital stocks you with everything you need, but the Frida stuff tends to be an upgraded, nicer version. If you can, ask a friend who recently delivered at your hospital to see what the situation is and whether or not you need to bring them. (Most of my friends who delivered at Prentice said to leave everything but the peri bottle for when you get home–apparently the Frida peri bottle is much better!)
Many rave about Tucks for post-labor relief and also hemorrhoid relief. (Fact: they’re very common post-birth! FUN!) Another popular postpartum option/alternative to the Frida wipes. A lot of times they’ll give these to you in the hospital, but again, worth investigating.
Always Briefs/Adult Diapers
A couple friends told me that they preferred these briefs (ahem, they’re adult diapers) to the mesh underwear + pads that they give you in the hospital. Just less steps and easier. But everyone is very split on this! Good to have both so you can decide your own preference.
Flushable Wipes (easier than TP)
Scratchy TP against your skin is not ideal when recovering from labor–wipes are a much better choice! Throw some in your hospital bag and make sure you have some at home too.
Nipple cream/soothers if breastfeeding
Supplies to prevent your milk from coming in if you’re NOT breastfeeding:
I’m not breastfeeding (a personal choice that I know is the best for us–but whatever choice YOU make is the right decision for you!) Ailsa (my wonderful friend who is also a midwife) gave me some SUPER helpful tips to prevent milk from coming in:
Starting the day after delivery (for up to a week), wear a super tight sports bra, then get some ace bandages and wrap your chest VERY tightly. As flat as possible. (Talking, Roberta from Now & Then, style). The goal is to prevent any letdown whatsoever. I also got cabocream, which is supposed to also help immensely (similar effect to cabbage leaves, but without the cabbage, and apparently works better 😆) that I plan to apply at the same time. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes if you plan to go the same route! (But also cannot stress enough, you should feel confident and empowered whatever your feeding choice! There are no right or wrong choices. Only you know what’s best for you and your baby!😘)
Stool softener such as Colace
I know, we’re talking about all the fun things, but many doctors/nurses advise taking a stool softener to make that process as easy as possible post-birth (especially if you have stitches). One of my nurse friends said it’s even helpful to start taking leading up to delivery (she said starting at 38 weeks–so confirm with your doctor, but just something to keep in mind!)
Additional tips for the hospital:
Between you guys and my besties, I feel like I have SO MUCH more knowledge going into our hospital stay! This will likely vary from place to place, but are good things to know so you are best able to advocate for yourself in the hospital to make your visit as comfortable as possible. I’m not sure how many of these are just specific to Prentice in Chicago and how many are universal, so not everything here may apply, but again, always helpful to get more info from others who have delivered at your hospital!
You may have to ASK for the nursery:
Some hospitals don’t have nurseries, but many do. It will vary on how widely known they make the nursery. It’s a personal decision whether or not you’d like to send your baby to the nursery so you can get some sleep, but often, you have to know to ASK for it. Many have told me that this is the case at Prentice, so if you and your partner are dying for some sleep, know it’s an option for you. Just ask, the nurses will happily oblige!
Clearly communicate your feeding choice. If exclusively formula feeding, consider making a sign for the door
I’ve heard from a lot of you guys about hospital staff being very pushy about breastfeeding in the hospital (again, “baby friendly” hospitals especially), so if you don’t want to, make it very clear and you shouldn’t have any issues! Many of you said to make a sign for the outside of your door so any new nurses coming onto a new shift are aware of your preferences and so that lactation consultants know you won’t need their help!
Some hospitals have a “liquids” menu for labor, but you may have to ask for it
My friend just told me about this–she delivered at Prentice, but wasn’t told they had a “liquids” menu until she was in her recovery room. (So…after she ACTUALLY would’ve wanted to know about it. 😂) You can order broth, popsicles, etc if you’re in labor and starving or thirsty! (Most hospitals don’t let you have solids when you’re in labor, FYI!) So if this is something you’re interested in, ask!
You may have to ask for pain medication
My girlfriend who just had a c-section didn’t know this, was in SO much pain, and didn’t know she had to ASK for painkillers until her second day in the hospital, when a nurse finally let her in on the secret. This will likely differ from place to place, but make sure to ask if you’re in a lot of pain. Also, if you tend to get sick on pain medication, again, you may not be automatically given an anti-nausea, but know that’s an option during labor as well.
Bring a token of appreciation for the nurses!
Whether you’d like to make little goodie bags, have candy, extra snacks for them, whatever–something to make them feel appreciated is always nice!