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.

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.”

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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