Getting ready to have a baby is one of the most joyous and stressful experiences ever. In addition to worrying about their new baby’s wellbeing, moms and their partners scramble to fit everything they need into an overnight bag or two. They wonder what to bring and what to toss while packing, trying to think ahead to every possible scenario, and likely packing and repacking multiple times before the time actually comes to rush to the hospital.
Of course, once the rushing starts, you can bet that the expecting mama will forget something that’s important for her hospital stay. From the very basic items to some you may never have thought of before, there’s a lot to pack when preparing for a hospital birth. There are also some items that many moms swear by that aren’t truly necessary. While every mom’s experience is different, there are a lot of things we all have in common when it comes to labor and birth.
Whether you’re a first-time mom or you’re well into this rodeo we call parenting, there are 15 things that pregnant women often forget to bring to the hospital. There are also at least 5 things you don’t actually need, despite some moms telling you they’re worth the space they take up in your bag.
20 Should Bring: A Charger Or Portable Battery For Your Phone
Especially if the start of labor is a surprise, moms and dads might both be rushing around to get ready to go to the hospital or birth center. Mom may even be on her phone trying to coordinate with the hospital, midwife, doula, or family members. Or, if mom’s too focused on contractions to talk, dad might be manning the phones.
Either way, it’s likely your phone will quickly get under 10% on baby's birth day and shut off before you realize you should have charged it.
But many moms simply overlook packing a charger when getting ready to go. Of course, if you only have one main charger for your phone, you can’t very well pack it ahead of time- but it’s an important item in the hospital prep kit!
Even better, invest in a portable battery, which will serve you in the years to come.
19 Don't Need: Receiving Blankets And Bundling
There are so many gorgeous receiving blankets and swaddling wraps out there, it’s difficult to decide what to bring to the hospital. But I recommend leaving most of your new blankets at home and just using what the hospital provides until you’re ready to head out.
After all, their blankets and hats are all sanitary and usually pretty soft, so it’s better than risking staining or losing your new (and possibly expensive) baby gear.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t bring some cute stuff for photo ops, but don’t feel the need to bring an entire nursery’s worth of beautifully-printed muslin swaddling blankets. They may just wind up with meconium or blood stains on them, anyway.
18 Should Bring: Comfy Clothes For Baby
Honestly, newborns probably don’t need clothes. That’s why many moms just pack a cute going home outfit for their new arrivals. But while you’re in the hospital, staff will likely want the baby in some sort of clothes – either that or bundled in a receiving blanket.
At the same time, you probably want to hold your baby close to you rather than dealing with swaddling and bulky blankets. So packing some comfortable newborn-sized clothes is a must, especially if all your hospital or birth center offers is ill-fitting logoed baby shirts. Also, don’t forget socks – tiny feet especially tend to get cold!
17 Should Bring: Sufficient Snacks
Depending on what time of day you go into labor (or if you have to show up at a scheduled time), you may have just enjoyed a full meal. It’s more likely, however, that you’ll get hungry as soon as you step foot in the hospital. And unfortunately, most hospitals don’t have the best food options for laboring moms.
Therefore, packing enough snacks for mom and dad is important. Along with staples like granola bars or energy bars, consider bringing along some fresh fruit or even sliced veggies to re-energize both mom and dad between contractions or post-birth.
If you have time, you can even get together a packed lunch of sorts, which is ideal if your only other option is fast food that your partner has to run out for. That way, even if the hospital food is inedible, you have something to cure the hunger pangs.
16 Don't Need: Overstocked Diaper Bag
Most new moms pack their bags with the best intentions, but you might be overpacking if you bring along an entire diaper bag for the baby. Apart from bottles if you plan to skip nursing, you won’t need much for the baby except for his or her first ride in the car on the way home.
A couple of diapers and a few outfits are likely enough.
The hospital, in most cases, will provide an entire package (or more) of newborn diapers, a container of wipes, and possibly even a keepsake onesie or shirt if you opt to keep it. So it’s going a bit too far to arrive for your baby’s delivery with a whole package of diapers, three packs of wipes, a rattle, a dozen receiving blankets, and a handful of hats.
15 Should Bring: Cash On Hand
While you may have forgotten to pack snacks and hunger pangs have your partner rushing to the vending machine or cafeteria, there are other reasons it’s smart to bring some cash.
You never know when you’ll need a few basic items from the hotel gift shop, maybe even change for a payphone (if they still exist where you live!), or cash to give a friend who runs out for baby supplies for you.
Ideally, you want to pack well enough that you don’t need money on hand. But for emergencies, you can’t beat at least a bit of cash in your wallet. Plus, it makes visits to the espresso machine easier for dad.
14 Should Bring: Non-Slip Solutions
Although no one has ever claimed that hospital garb is glamorous, their non-slip socks are perhaps the least desirable of clothing items. Although the non-slip grips on the bottom are helpful, they probably won’t fit right and may be too thin depending on how icy cold your hospital keeps its L&D rooms.
Still, you won’t want to walk barefoot across the germy floor or have to put your shoes on every time you get out of bed.
A better fitting and more comfortable idea is to pack your own slippers. You can even buy a cute pair specifically for baby’s arrival. Just make sure your socks, flip flops, or slippers are non-slip and easy to put on while you’re holding the baby.
13 Don't Need: Pump And Parts
If you’re like me and super nervous about getting started breastfeeding, you can relax a bit; the hospital is usually the best place for lactation support. Even if you already have a pump at home in preparation for going back to work, pumping extra milk, or exclusively pumping and bottle feeding, you probably won’t need it while you’re in the hospital.
In my experience, some providers a bit reluctant to give brand-new moms a pump. The idea is that they want the baby on the breast instead, but you just need to make your intentions clear and refuse to back down!
Your lactation consultant can wheel in a hospital-grade pump and even set you up with a full kit of fitted flanges, tubing, and more.
12 Should Bring: Travel Toiletries
Although the aftermath of giving birth can feel like staying at a hotel room service with staff available for your every need, the end goal is a bit different. Rather than relaxing and kicking back, your hospital stay is all about bonding with your brand-new baby.
But did you know that how you smell is a big part of that process?
Newborn babies automatically search for mom because they can smell her and her milk. But for most moms, a shower is a necessity after hours of sweaty labor and sticky bodily fluids all over.
If possible, bring your own toiletries so that your smell is as “natural” and normal as possible. The scents that your baby may already know from being skin-to-skin with you. Hospital-provided soap may not make or break things, but it can help ease baby’s transition from womb to room. You can also choose to bring your own skincare products to help you feel like your "normal" self again.
11 Should Bring: Extra Entertainment
You’re probably not packing bags as if you’re going on a vacation somewhere, but keep in mind that you may need some extra entertainment while in the hospital. Of course, you’ll probably spend hours staring at your brand-new babe.
But if you find that you can’t sleep, scrolling through Facebook or watching a movie may just do the trick.
Of course, if you have a decent cell phone, you may not need much else. But if you and your partner want to catch a show, for example, you may want to bring along a tablet or other device, too. You may not have time for it in the end, but you might appreciate a little mindless entertainment in between moments bonding with your baby.
10 Don't Need: A Pretty Pushing Gown
This item is something I had trouble deciding on one way or the other: the custom labor gown.
Hospital gowns are gross and uncomfortable, right? So there’s this growing movement of mamas who buy cute and comfy hospital gowns to bring with them.
I really wanted one, but at the same time, I knew I’d likely only use it one time, and it didn’t seem like it was worth the money. Plus, for me, laboring in a bathtub and birthing in a squatting position meant I wasn’t even wearing a hospital gown for most of my labor and birth experience. Afterward, I truly didn’t care what I was wearing anyway, so I think for most moms these aren’t a necessity.
9 Should Bring: Insurance Information
When I went to the hospital in labor with my son, I was kind of surprised that they asked me for my insurance information- again. I’d been there twice a week for non-stress tests for at least a month by that point and the clerks started to recognize me. But apparently, it’s protocol to check the insurance information at every visit.
So I had to sway and breathe my way through contractions at the check-in counter in the lobby of the hospital while the clerk tapped away on the computer for what felt like forever.
Wherever you’re delivering, and whatever insurance you have, keeping the proper documents on hand can mean the difference between a straightforward admittance and a drawn-out mess of paperwork.
8 Should Bring: Birth Plan Prep
With my first son, I had written up a birth plan but wound up walking into the hospital in labor at around 36 weeks gestation. Just days before, my OB had declined to take a copy of my birth plan since he said we’d have plenty of time to go over it!
Of course, when it came time to head to the hospital, I didn’t have a copy on hand.
If you’re adamant about having specific conditions or procedures (or lack thereof) at your birth, a few copies of your birth plan should be on your packing list. Of course, don’t make it a novel, but make sure you cover the basics and give a copy to your nurses and your doc if necessary.
7 Should Bring: Comforts Of Home
Sure, it’s nice that hospital beds raise and lower and have rails so you don’t fall off, but apart from that, a hospital stay isn’t that comfortable. The pillows and sheets all feel clinical, and you’ll be lucky if you have a nice thick blanket to snuggle in.
The solution? Bring a few comforts from home.
You don’t have to bring your whole bed set, but your regular pillow and a cozy comforter or blanket will help you feel more at home. It may even help relax you during labor if you have to stay in bed. And you may find peace of mind in having your own blankets rather than asking staff for extras.
6 Don't Need: Anything For Reading
If you’re like me and could read through an entire novel in a matter of hours pre-kids, you might be tempted to pack a book or two for the hospital stay.
But personally, I’d steer clear of anything entertainment-wise that requires your undivided attention. You’ll likely be a bit scattered due to stress, exhaustion, and overwhelming joy and probably won’t be able to focus anyway.
Of course, bringing your smartphone along to scroll through Facebook or mindlessly play a game is a bit different. Keeping to low-level entertainment can help you to relax a bit without feeling like you need to give anything your full attention, and you can always put the phone down whenever the baby stirs or you need to take care of something.
5 Should Bring: Vital Vitamins
Even if you expect your labor to go smoothly and check out of the hospital the next day, you should plan for a few days stay, just in case. So add vitamins and any other daily medicines to your packing list.
This includes your prenatal vitamins, since you may be short on nutrients while eating hospital food, along with others like vitamin C, for example.
If you’re used to taking a supplement or vitamin every day, keep up those habits so you’re not thrown off when you get back home. And of course, some vitamin C doesn’t hurt when you’re in a germy hospital for a couple days.
4 Should Bring: Nurturing Necessities
If you’re choosing to nurse, there will likely be plenty of in-hospital support during your stay. But in some cases, you may not want or like the offerings from lactation staff or your nurses.
For example, many hospitals give out samples or full tubes of Lansinoh cream, a lanolin-based cream for nipples. But lanolin is a product that comes from sheep wool, meaning it’s not friendly to a vegan lifestyle.
You may also be allergic to common ingredients in nipple balms or creams, so it might be a better idea to bring your own. Also, items like cloth nursing pads can come in handy, especially if your hospital only hands out the crunchy disposable ones.
3 Should Bring: Personal Products
When I was in the hospital with my second son, there was an entire cabinet in my private room full of toiletries: postpartum pads, mesh undergarments, even toothbrushes, and soaps.
And although I didn’t really have much choice other than to don the mesh undies my nurse handed me directly after the birth, I didn’t make a stockpile to take home.
This one depends on personal tastes, but many ladies (especially second-time and other veteran moms) know what they like and what works for them. Therefore, don’t be afraid to pack your own pads, comfy granny panties for after birth, and anything else that makes you feel comfortable.
2 Should Bring: Bathing Supplies For Baby
I remember when we turned down the in-hospital bath for our second son, and my husband was going to take home the Johnson & Johnson baby soap.
I stopped him because not only have we never used the brand on our kids, but I don’t like using scented and dyed stuff on newborn babies. Plus, there’s also the fact that Johnson & Johnson has been in the news for having less than desirable ingredients in their products.
Regardless of what brand soaps your hospital uses, you may have a preference for your new bundle. Maybe something allergen-free because you have sensitive skin and aren’t sure what to expect with the baby, or maybe you’ve gone the same route as my family and researched non-toxic and eco-friendly versions of kids’ products. You can always pack your own – or forgo the bath altogether!
1 Should Bring: Family Photo Props
When you consider the fact that the first two to four days of your baby’s life will be spent in the hospital, it’s worth thinking about the photo ops. We’ve all seen the baby on the scale photo, the baby bundled in the incubator snap, the mom in a hospital gown holding baby pic.
But you don’t have to wait until you return home to capture sweet photos of your baby and his or her growing personality.
You can bring cute outfits for the baby, custom signs or plaques to place next to him or her, lay blankets under her for photos, or use props to capture the moment. For example, if your baby has a special toy someone gifted him, you can start by taking his photo with it on his first “birth” day, and follow up on the anniversary each year for a keepsake photo album.
Now that you know what you shouldn’t forget to bring to the hospital, here are a few things you don’t really need.