Packing for the Hospital: What to Take and What to Leave Home

Lighten your load with our guide to what to pack in a hospital bag for labor and delivery and the things that aren't necessities for moms.

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Melissa Paul, RN, is a labor and delivery nurse and a childbirth educator who helps expectant moms and dads prepare for the big day. She has seen many a father carry in bag upon bag of things he and mom won’t need immediately – or at all – during their hospital stay.

“There’s very little you need in labor and delivery,” says Paul, herself a mother of two girls. “We take care of everything mom will need from the neck down. You take care of everything from the neck up.”

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Not sure what to pack in a hospital bag? Paul breaks down the “musts” and “not necessaries” of the hospital bag.

Pack it: labor and delivery

  • Toiletry bag for mom
  • Lip balm: “Mom will be breathing through her mouth intensely, and ChapStick is key,” explains Paul.
  • Hair ties: Crucial for pulling mom’s hair back during labor and delivery.
  • Phone charger
  • Camera
  • Baby book for baby footprints
  • Pictures of loved ones: “Anything that promotes comfort, relaxation and security lowers anxiety and stress,” says Paul.
  • Pillows from home: “Moms are often more comfy with their own pillows,” and it can be hard to get more than one or two.
  • Music: “We have docking stations in every room,” Paul says. “I always say create two playlists: One with soothing music and one with your workout songs. Rhythm helps with breathing, and music sets the ambiance for the entire room.”
  • Exercise ball: If you have it, bring it. The movements can help open up the pelvis.
  • Aromatherapy: “Essential oils, like lavender, can be soothing.” Have your support person massage it in.

Pack it: postpartum

  • Nursing pillow
  • Two going home outfits for baby (an extra in case of spit-up)
  • Comfy bra tops or tanks for nursing: “Purchase a nursing bra with some give,” Paul advises. “You will grow into it. Accessibility is key for breast-feeding.”
  • Supportive sports bra if bottle feeding
  • Maternity outfit for going home: “Pack something comfy from your maternity collection – preferably baggy pants.”
  • Toiletry bag with shampoo, conditioner and basic necessities
  • Robe and slippers to walk the halls or down to the nursery
  • Electronic devices (phone, laptop, etc.)
  • For dad: comfy PJs, appropriate clothes for the halls, his own toiletry bag

Leave at home

  • Your breast pump: “We provide a pump in every postpartum room and have breast-feeding supplies available.”
  • Diapers and wipes for baby: “The hospital provides all of this.”
  • Onesies or baby undershirts: “We provide this. Let us handle the laundry while you’re here.”
  • Pads: “We provide heavy-duty pads and the infamous mesh underwear, and we send you home with some. Pack minimal undergarments.”
  • Hair dryer: “We provide this.”
  • New PJs
  • Sheets for dad: “We provide sheets for the pull-out beds for dad.”

This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated for 2017.

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