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Hospital Bag Checklist: What to Pack in Hospital Bag

Find out what you'll need after delivery and what to leave at home.
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Updated
October 24, 2022
couple packing hospital bag for birth
Image: Bruce and Rebecca Meissner
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You’ve probably spent the past several months eagerly awaiting the day you finally get to meet baby—and you’ve spent lots of time planning. You’ve stocked up on all the baby gear you’ll need, decorated the nursery and figured out how to properly install your infant car seat. But don’t forget one of the most important remaining third trimester to-dos: Deciding what to pack in your hospital bag—for baby, you and your partner. Wondering where to start? While you don’t want to leave out any essentials, there’s also no reason to overdo things. This 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

While timing is important, you do have some flexibility in deciding when to pack your hospital bag. But, like so many other things, this will vary from person to person based on their individual circumstances. “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, MD, 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, find deals and offers on the items you’ll need, and use the following hospital bag checklist for mom.

The Bump’s How to Pack Your Hospital Bag Video:

  • Photo ID, insurance info, hospital forms and birth plan (if you have one)
  • Eyeglasses (if you wear them)
  • Cell phone and charger; we recommend bringing your regular USB charger cable and a portable power bank (this best-selling one means business) in case you can’t find an outlet
  • Two or three pairs of warm, non-skid socks (for walking the halls before and after labor); these super-fuzzy pairs are snugly, but if you prefer something more discreet, try these short hospital socks that you can reuse for your postpartum workout classes
  • A warm robe or sweater you don’t mind sacrificing to the cause; Amazon carries options under $25
  • Lip balm (hospitals are very dry); we’ve had great luck with this natural beeswax balm from Burt’s Bees
  • Headband or ponytail holder (avoid clips—they’ll probably poke you); this versatile headband has thousands of rave reviews on Amazon and will wick away sweat—because there will be sweat
  • Sugar-free hard candy or lozenges to keep your mouth moist during labor (candy with sugar will make you thirsty); we like these dry-mouth drops for their minty-fresh scent
  • Non-perishable snacks (this one’s totally based on preference, but get enough so you don’t run out) and change for the vending machines
  • Two maternity bras (no underwire) and nursing pads (whether or not you plan to nurse, you’ll appreciate the support and leak protection); our readers obsess over these seamless bras
  • 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; here’s a smart travel kit with most of the hospital bag essentials)
  • Loose, lightweight clothing (maternity wards can often be hot) and sleepwear
  • 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)
Image: Laura Pursel

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 (now may just be the time to splurge on rechargeable AirPods, because the last thing you need are tangled wires)
  • Bath towel (the hospital will probably supply a very thin, small one)
  • Hairdryer; if yours is too bulky, consider this inexpensive travel blowdryer
  • 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); if you’re prepping a c-section hospital bag, check out this low-rise postpartum underwear designed with your incision’s recovery in mind
  • A postpartum recovery essentials kit (the hospital will provide pads and ice packs, but Frida offers products specifically designed for postpartum moms)
  • Breastfeeding pillow; one of our favorites (and 2020 Best of Baby winner!) is the Boppy Original Nursing Pillow and Positioner
  • Matching hospital outfits for you and baby; Baby Be Mine sells some Instagram-worthy mommy-and-me sets

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:

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; hello c-section) in the maternity ward, have your partner gather up some overnight essentials—plus a few things to keep them occupied (labor can last for a good long while). Here’s what to put in a 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 with batteries, charger and an extra memory card (if you prefer something more professional than your phone)
  • Any daily prescription medication—for both parents!

When you’ve gone through the hospital bag checklist and are satisfied you and your partner have packed what everyone will 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!

About the experts:

Nicole Randazzo-Ahern, MD, is Massachusetts-based pediatrician and the medical director of the newborn nursery at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. She earned her medical degree from SUNY Downstate College of Medicine and completed her residency and fellowship at Mount Sinai Hospital Medical Center.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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