profile picture of Paula Kashtan
Paula Kashtan

Hospital Bag Checklist: What To Pack In Hospital Bag

Find out what you'll need after delivery and what to leave at home.

Chances are, you’ve spent the past several months dreaming of the day you finally get to meet baby. You’ve stocked up on baby gear, decorated the nursery and maybe even figured out how to correctly install that infant car seat. But don’t forget one of the most important third trimester to-dos: Deciding what to pack in your hospital bag—for baby, you and your partner. So where to start? You don’t want to leave out any essentials, but there’s also no reason to overdo things—which is where The Bump baby hospital bag checklist comes in handy. Read on for when to pack that hospital bag and what to put in it.

When to Pack a Hospital Bag

They say timing is everything—but when it comes to choosing when to pack your hospital bag, you have a little flexibility.

“If a woman has a high risk pregnancy and her OB feels she may go into labor early—for example, an expectant mom of twins—I’d recommend packing at around 35 weeks,” says Nicole Randazzo-Ahern, medical director of the newborn nursery at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. “In other cases, I’d recommend somewhere between 37 and 38 weeks. This way your basics are there should labor begin early and modifications can always be made if needed.” Of course, if you want to get a jumpstart on things, by all means start earlier—when to pack a hospital bag is up to you! But it’s a good idea not to leave it for later than 38 weeks: You want to have that hospital bag ready to go whenever baby is.

Hospital Bag Checklist for Mom

On average, moms who deliver vaginally stay in the hospital for one to two days, Randazzo-Ahern says. If you deliver via c-section, you’d be looking at closer to three or four days. Keep your length of stay in mind as you select what to pack in your hospital bag. A tip for the thrifty: Ask your hospital what they provide for mothers, and take those things off your hospital bag checklist. Otherwise, use this hospital bag checklist for mom:

• Photo ID, insurance info, hospital forms and birth plan (if you have one)

• Eyeglasses (if you wear them)

• Cell phone and charger

• Two or three pairs of warm, nonskid socks (for walking the halls before and after labor)

• A warm robe or sweater you don’t mind sacrificing to the cause

• Lip balm (hospitals are very dry)

• Headband or ponytail holder (avoid clips—they’ll probably poke you)

• Sugar-free hard candy or lozenges to keep your mouth moist during labor (candy with sugar will make you thirsty)

• Non-perishable snacks and change for the vending machines

• 2 maternity bras (no underwire) and nursing pads (whether or not you plan to nurse, you’ll appreciate the support and leak protection)

• Toiletries and personal items: hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, face wash, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, contact lens case and solution (remember, travel-sized products are your friends)

• Loose, lightweight clothing (maternity wards can often be hot)

• Comfortable going-home clothes in six-month maternity sizes, and flat shoes (or just wear the clothes you came in—sorry, but they’ll probably still fit)

Optional hospital bag checklist items for mom

• Very light reading (think magazines and newspapers, not War and Peace)

• Earbuds to listen to music on your phone

• Bath towel (the hospital will probably supply a very thin, small one)

• Hairdryer

• A comfy pillow from home (with a case that can get ruined, in a pattern distinguishable from hospital white)

• A few pairs of maternity underwear that can get ruined (the hospital will have disposable pairs, which some women find handy and others find gross)

• A ruin-able nightgown (you can use those lovely hospital gowns, but your own might help you feel more human)

• Breastfeeding pillow

Hospital Bag Checklist for Baby

You know what you’ll likely need, but figuring out what to pack in a hospital bag for baby can be a little less intuitive. Here’s the good news: When you’re just starting out in life, you don’t need all that much. Here are the essentials you’ll want to add to your baby hospital bag:

• Approved infant car seat

• A coming-home outfit (bring clothes in different sizes to make sure they fit!)

• Warm blankets (for the ride home)

• Outdoor gear like a snowsuit and hat, as seasonally appropriate (newborns are extra sensitive to cold)

Hospital Bag Checklist for Partner

You’ve meticulously gone through the hospital bag checklist for mom and baby—but don’t forget about packing a bag for your partner! Since you’ll both likely be spending a night or two (or more) in the maternity ward, gather up some overnight essentials—plus a few things to keep your partner occupied (labor can last for a good long while). Here’s what to put in your partner’s hospital bag:

• Cell phone and charger

• A change of clothes

• Toiletries: toothbrush, deodorant, face wash, shampoo, conditioner, contact lens case and solution

• Snacks (you don’t want your partner eating all of yours!)

• Entertainment, whether it’s something to read, listen to or watch

• Camera or video camera with batteries, charger and an extra memory card

• Any daily prescription medication

When you’ve gone through the hospital bag checklist and are satisfied you’ve packed what you’ll (all) need, stash your hospital bag in your car or by the front door if you plan on taking a taxi to the hospital—and get ready for baby’s arrival!

Plus, more from The Bump:

Best (Unexpected!) Things Moms Brought to the Hospital

Top 10 Labor and Delivery Fears — Are They Worth the Worry?

Tricks to Make Labor Easier

PHOTO: KT Merry