Mom-to-be packing for a hospital birth. Text overlay - Hospital bag checklist for mom, baby and dad.
PREGNANCY

Hospital Bag for Labor: 24 Essentials (+4 Things You Don’t Need)

What to pack in a hospital bag for labor? Which items are required for a hospital birth, which ones are good to have on a hospital bag checklist for new moms, and what to leave at home? And, WHEN to pack your hospital bag for labor? Let’s do this!

This hospital bag checklist is designed for a hospital birth in the USA. You may need to bring some of the items that are non-essential on this list if you give birth in a different country. The checklist covers mom, baby, as well as dad (or whoever your birth companion may be).

Preparing for your very first hospital birth can be frustrating. No matter how many ultimate hospital bag checklists for labor you read and compare, packing for something you’ve never EVER done before is kinda… well, weird, right? At least that’s how I felt when it was time to pack MY hospital bag for the very first time.

What to pack in a hospital bag for labor and delivery?

In hindsight, I KNEW what to pack. I spent days and nights googling things like “must-haves in your hospital bag for labor,” and “the best pregnancy hospital bag checklist.” I had this.

(I should have had this.)

The truth is, like most first-time moms, I overpacked and brought waaaay too many ‘just in case’ things to the hospital that I didn’t end up using (which, BTW, were on many lists), while also forgetting to pack some of the things I actually wanted and needed (some of which were NOT on those lists).

There is a TON of advice on what new moms should bring to the hospital for labor and delivery. Chances are, if you compare 20 different hospital bag checklists, you’ll see 20 slightly (or very) different recommendations on what to actually pack in your hospital bag for labor.

We’re all different, right?

So I’ll flat out say that I’m more of a low-maintenance type of gal and that is reflected in this hospital bag checklist, BUT I’ll discuss things beyond my personal needs and wants in this article, so YOUR hospital bag is truly complete and filled with the things that YOU will find useful based on YOUR needs.

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Here are the items I think you should DEFINITELY pack in your hospital bag for labor – the things you will actually want at the hospital, plus a few optional extras, and things that you are OK leaving at home.

NOTE: Each hospital is different – it doesn’t hurt to call your insurance company and/or the hospital to see what will be provided by the hospital so you can better prepare.

Hospital bag must-haves for mom:

Find a ***FREE PRINTABLE HOSPITAL BAG CHECKLIST*** at the end of this post (no email required!) so you can start getting organized!

1. Documentation: ID, insurance info (+hospital paperwork)

Have all proper documentation with you, and any paperwork you were given by your physician or the hospital that needs to be filled out ahead of time.

2. Cell phone + charger

A cell phone is a pretty obvious item on this list, but you wouldn’t believe how easy it is to leave a cell phone charger at home. If you have a spare one, pack it in the hospital bag, if not, either buy an extra one or put a reminder by the door so you don’t leave it at home when it’s time to go to the hospital.

3. Camera (+charger/extra battery, extra memory card)

Unless you’re planning to only use your phone for pictures…

4. Cash

It’s always good to have some cash on hand.

5. Pen/paper

In case you need to jot something down real quick (or to throw at your snoozing spouse).

6. Glasses/contact lenses (+contact lens case and solution) – if that applies

If you wear contact lenses but own glasses as well, bring your glasses to the hospital as well – even if you normally can’t stand glasses. Between all the up- and downtime in the hospital, it’s generally easier to deal with glasses.

FYI: Many (most?) hospitals prohibit the use of contact lenses during active labor, so check with your doctor if that applies to you. (Maternal use of contact lenses poses no risk to the baby; it is unfortunately a policy that was put in place strictly for the benefit of the hospital staff in case you need an emergency C-section.)

7. Hairbrush + hair ties

(+ A hair dryer IF it’s a must-have item for you. Some hospitals have hair dryers and some don’t. Check with your hospital if you really want to know. If you don’t use a hair dryer regularly, you probably don’t need to bother with bringing one to the hospital.)

I didn’t bring a hair dryer (and didn’t miss it) and have no recollection of ever using a hair brush at the hospital either (I did say low maintenance, right? LOL). I did use my hair ties though. A lot!

8. Nail file

Breaking a nail is always annoying, but breaking a nail in the hospital while waiting for things to starting moving and snagging it on everything you touch is a whole ‘nother bag of crackers. (Lesson learned.) In my opinion, this is one of the things you really need to have in your hospital bag for labor.

9. Lip balm

Another must-have in your hospital bag for labor. Bring two in case you misplace one. Or three. They go missing in a hospital room.

10. Basic toiletries

The hospital will have some basic toiletries available, but it’s not the fanciest stuff, and using your own products at the hospital can make you feel less hospitaly.

Toiletries to pack:

  • toothbrush/toothpaste (dental floss?)
  • shampoo/conditioner
  • deodorant (nothing too overpowering)
  • body wash
  • moisturizer
  • razor

The smaller the size, the better. Travel size works great.

You may not use all of these items while you’re at the hospital (honestly, I barely brushed my teeth and took one shower each time using nothing but water… did I say low maintenance or a downright slob? Ha! Priorities shift after you give birth, ladies, this one is 100% true!) but it’s a good idea to have them available…

Be careful with strong scents of any products, your baby will want to smell the ***real you***. 🙂

If you use anything beyond the listed items on a daily basis that you know you absolutely can’t live without, add those items onto your hospital bag checklist as well!

11. Makeup (+makeup remover)

This is totally a personal preference. If you use makeup daily and enjoy wearing makeup, you’ll want to bring at least some of the basics from your makeup stash even if you end up not using any of it at the hospital. If you hardly ever use makeup or mostly never, you probably aren’t going to start at the hospital.

I brought makeup for my first hospital birth and didn’t use it, and left it at home the second time and didn’t miss it. Shocker – I didn’t even use makeup for the new-baby pictures. I’m willing to bet that I’m in the minority here, but I don’t mind the real and raw pictures of the actual “me” after giving birth. But you may feel otherwise and makeup might be a must-have in a hospital bag for labor for you. To each their own, do what feels right!

12. Kleenex (or pocket tissues)

13. Socks

Hospital rooms can be chilly, plus your temperature may fluctuate during labor and post-birth. Pack a few pairs of comfy DARK COLORED socks in your hospital bag for labor, like 2-4 pairs? Just know that you may end up tossing them – I wouldn’t bring my favorite pairs.

My hospital provided a pair of non-skid socks (I think all hospitals in the U.S. do) which weren’t as horrendous as I thought they’d be and I mostly ended up using those, but it’s good to have backup.

14. Slip-on footwear

Fact: slip-on shoes are a pregnant woman’s best friend. For moving around the room, don’t settle for anything less. Even dirt cheap flip flops will do – which – bonus! – can be used in the shower as well.

Pssst… if you end up just wearing socks the entire time, it’s totally fine, too.

15. Nursing bra

Whether you’re planning on nursing or not, you’ll need a comfortable bra for when your milk comes in. Your boobs are literally going to explode overnight at some point after you give birth and they’ll need to be contained and comfortable, day and night. Your milk may not come in until after you and your baby are discharged from the hospital, but you never know when it’s going to happen, so it’s best to be prepared.

FYI: on average, breast milk comes in about 3-5 days after giving birth.

16. Nursing pads

Many women don’t need to use nursing pads while in the hospital this early after giving birth and they should be provided if you need them, but they are small and lightweight, so it doesn’t hurt to bring a small stash to the hospital. (These are the most popular disposable nursing pads among nursing moms!)

17. Something to entertain you

In case you need to be entertained and your spouse is asleep on the hospital sofa 3 seconds after complaining about how hard it is to fall asleep in a hospital room… (#TrueStory)

To be honest, there really isn’t a whole lot of downtime in the hospital both before and after you give birth because someone is constantly coming into the room and checking on you or the baby or asking all sorts of questions, so I’d think twice about bringing a book with plot twists. A magazine will do, and your hospital should have WiFi.

18. Snacks and drinks

If you’re giving birth in any U.S. hospital you likely won’t be allowed to eat or drink until after you give birth (bummer), but don’t let that stop you from bringing snacks for LATER ON.

You won’t be starving, no worries. The hospital will provide meals and snacks, but it never hurts to have a few extras and a variety of snacks available after things calm down since postpartum cravings kick in for many women at this time. (I craved foods I hadn’t eaten in YEARS at that point!)

A few water bottles or a large cup can be helpful, too. Usually you will only be given a small plastic/styrofoam cup to use at the hospital.

19. Outfit to go home in

That would be one of the same outfits you’ve been wearing recently. Forget pre-pregnancy clothes, and forget fancy. Trust me on this.

There is a 98% chance you’ll be leaving the hospital with a baby AND a bump. This is the reality of giving birth. If it doesn’t fit you now, it’s most definitely not going to fit you right after you give birth.

Another gift you’ll be taking home when leaving the hospital is a pad about the size of a yoga mat. Think Always Maxi Extra Heavy Overnight Pad, times 10. I didn’t know pads this size existed until I gave birth. (But thank goodness for them.) You’ll want to wear pants that can accommodate a pad this size.

20. Folder or a large envelope

You will be bringing home LOTS of paperwork from the hospital, and you will appreciate keeping it all in one place.

21. Large empty bag (or two)

Do pack one or two large plastic or tote bags in your hospital bag for labor. The hospital will give you quite a few things to take home with you and you’ll want to have room for all that extra stuff, plus you can use one for dirty clothes, too.

*Optional* in a hospital bag for mom:

– Your own gown (and/or regular clothes)

My honest opinion? The open-back hospital gown may be ugly (it sure is) and drafty (that, too), but it does the job. Personally, I don’t really care about the way I look in a hospital room and also… you mean someone else wants to do my laundry? Hell yeah!

Some moms like to wear their own gowns though (or regular clothes) at the hospital, it’s a matter of personal preference. If you want to bring your own clothes, pack something loose-ish with easy access downstairs (the nurses will be up in your business all the time) and upstairs if you’re planning to breastfeed your baby. The aftermath of giving birth is messy, so the darker the colors, the better.

(FYI: your hospital may not allow anything but the hospital gown for the entire time during active labor, so you might still have to wear the hospital gown for some time. Check with your physician or the hospital if you need to know what’s allowed.)

– Robe

Again, personal preference. Some moms like to wear a robe in the hospital, others don’t care for it. I didn’t pack a robe in my hospital bag for labor and didn’t miss it one bit, but you may feel otherwise.

I’d say if you wear a robe A LOT at home, you might perhaps want to put it on your hospital bag checklist for a sense of comfort. But you won’t necessarily need it.

– Extension cord

Consider bringing an extension cord in case your hospital room is configured in a way that places the outlets too far from the bed. I’m torn on this one, this is an item you might not need at all, or one that you’ll need a lot!

(I didn’t bring one and never needed it either, but you never know…)

Perhaps you could toss one in the car and have your spouse bring it to your room IF you need one, instead of putting it in your hospital bag…?

What you DON’T NEED in your hospital bag for labor and delivery:

– Pads: unless you prefer a certain brand, you don’t need to pack any pads in your hospital bag if you are giving birth in the U.S. Your hospital will provide sanitary pads. They’ll be awkwardly huge and bulky (and that is an understatement), but they’ll work just fine.

– Extra underwear: extra underwear is not a hospital bag essential for labor and delivery either, at least not in the U.S. You will be supplied with underwear during your hospital stay. In all honesty… those super unflattering mesh undies you get at the hospital? So comfortable I wanted to wear them forever. (Ask the nurse for extras to bring home. You’ll be glad you did.)

– Your own towels: hospitals have towels available, so there is no need to pack towels in your hospital bag for labor. Hospital towels are on the small side and not very soft, but who wants to add wet bloody towels to their laundry pile?

– Birth plan: you want me to be honest, right? EVEN THOUGH you’ve worked diligently on carefully drafting your birth plan if you have one, don’t expect for it to hold much value when you’re bound to a hospital bed. Once you cross the hospital threshold, over 9 times out of 10, you have very little say in how things will go – no matter how AWESOME your birth plan is. Unfortunately. 🙁

Pregnant woman packing a hospital bag for labor. Text overlay: A complete checklist of things to pack for labor and delivery - things you really need and what to leave at home.

Hospital bag must-haves for baby:

1. Car seat

Not fitting in a hospital bag, but a must! A car seat is a must-have item for a hospital birth, most (if not all) hospitals won’t let you take your baby home without having a car seat.

I highly recommend installing the car seat well ahead of your due date so you don’t have to worry about it when it’s time to bring your baby home.

2. A coming home outfit

It helps to bring a couple of different sizes, you just never know ahead of time which size will fit your baby the best.

We used newborn size outfits for both of our babies that were in the range of 7-8 pounds at birth. The size 0-3 m was craaazy huge on both of them at this point, but I would still bring one because you just never know. Newborn outfits are tiny, so they will not take up a lot of room in your hospital bag.

3. Blanket

During your hospital stay you can use your own baby blankets or the ones your hospital provides, but it’s nice to have your own blanket available for the ride home to keep your baby cozy. (Some hospitals let you take the hospital blanket home, some don’t.)

*Optional* items for baby:

– Your own baby clothes

You can use your own baby clothes at the hospital if you wish to, but there is no need to because the hospital will have clothes available for your baby. If you do want to bring your own, keep in mind that this means more laundry when you come back home. Do you really want that?

– Pacifier

Many hospitals across the U.S. have stopped routinely giving pacifiers to newborns in the recent years with hopes to encourage breastfeeding. You may want to bring one just in case (sanitized and ready to use). If you feel like you need one at the hospital it *should* be provided (just ask!), but I have heard many stories of women being denied a pacifier for their baby. That would be a good question to ask ahead of time, so you can better prepare.

What you DON’T NEED in your hospital bag for baby:

In the U.S., virtually everything your baby needs is provided by the hospital.

Your hospital will provide:

  • diapers (likely Pampers or Huggies)
  • baby wipes (varies, some hospitals use dry wipes)
  • baby wash (usually Johnson’s)
  • infant formula (pre-mixed formula with a bottle/nipple)
  • petroleum jelly (for the first sticky poops)
  • soft baby brush
  • nasal aspirator
  • pacifier (more details above)
  • baby shirts
  • blankets
  • hat

UNLESS you want to use substitutions or specific brands of either of these items, you DON’T NEED to pack any of these basic baby items in your hospital bag. 

If you prefer using more natural baby diapers or baby-friendly baby wipes, you’ll want to pack your own.

If you are hoping to use a baby wash that’s less harsh on baby’s skin than what the hospital provides, you will need your own baby wash. Don’t forget to let the nurse know well ahead of time if you are planning to use your own baby wash! (FYI: Did you know you can refuse or delay baby’s first bath? There is exactly zero need to bathe a newborn right away.)

The hospital baby shirts are typically a basic kimono style side-snap shirt with fold-over mittens. They weren’t the softest (though some were noticeably softer than others), but I liked how easy they made newborn diaper changes and that they didn’t mess with the umbilical cord stump. It’s ALL both of my babies wore at the hospital (we swaddled using the hospital blanket, so it was all we really needed (here is how to decide if you should swaddle and how to swaddle safely to keep your baby safe).

A hospital baby shirt - hospital birth.
A typical hospital shirt for baby.

Hospital bag essentials for dad:

  • ID
  • cash/credit card
  • cell phone/charger
  • toothbrush (you already have the toothpaste)
  • deodorant
  • change of socks & underwear (2 extra pairs should be enough)
  • spare T-shirt (1 or 2)
  • small pillow is helpful (blanket optional)
  • glasses (if that applies)
  • snacks and drinks
  • mints (sugar-free)

Packing your hospital bag for labor doesn’t need to be a big deal.

You don’t really *need* a whole lotta stuff for a hospital birth, honestly! I was actually surprised by how little I needed at the hospital when I had my first baby.

The less stuff you bring to the hospital, the less stuff you’ll have to pack on the way out. Believe it or not, you’ll be bringing home at least twice as much as you bring to the hospital, plus a baby in a bulky car seat!

When to pack your hospital bag for labor?

It’s not uncommon for first-time moms-to-be to google “What week of pregnancy should I pack my hospital bag?” And then not do it.

With my first baby I packed my hospital bag the day before getting induced. A day after my due date. My mom would tell you, “She leaves everything until the last minute!!! See? Drives me nuts!” (She’d be mostly right. #SorryMom)

The reason I left packing my hospital bag until the eleventh hour? I wasn’t ready to give birth. Not now, not tomorrow, not next week, not ever. I guess not having a hospital bag packed was, in part, my internal rebellion against the idea of having to actually go through childbirth (like I had a choice…).

This is a bad idea though, and for a variety of reasons you should start thinking about packing for a hospital birth around 32 weeks of pregnancy and should have your hospital bag for labor packed by the time you are 34-36 weeks pregnant.

Don’t be like me. Seriously. Plan ahead. Prepare. You never know what’s ahead of you, and I imagine packing a hospital bag through contractions is neither fun nor practical.

Final tips for packing a hospital bag for labor:

  • Call your hospital if you have questions, or ask when you are touring the hospital (if you are doing that). Likewise, call your insurance provider with any questions you may have.
  • If you don’t have insurance, contact the hospital where you will be delivering and go over the items the hospital provides and what the cost will be. You can always supplement for basic items which will likely save you a LOT of money.
  • You can pack most things ahead of time and put a note by the door (or on the fridge?) with a list of last-minute items you need to grab.
  • Use this checklist for planning for your hospital stay but consider your lifestyle and your preferences as well. What are some of the items you use DAILY? What can’t you live without? Are they not on the list? Add them.

I hope this information helps you figure out what to pack in your hospital bag for labor and delivery!

You may also like:

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Free hospital bag checklist printable for labor and delivery.

You can print this free hospital bag checklist printable by clicking here (PDF).

Moms – what was on your hospital bag checklist for labor? What would you add to this list? Is there something you absolutely HAD to have at the hospital that I didn’t mention? Please share – it helps moms-to-be prepare!

Packing a hospital bag for labor and delivery. Text overlay: What you really need in your bag for a hospital birth (and what you don't - unless you like clutter).
Pregnant woman packing a hospital bag for labor. Text overlay: The hospital bag essentials checklist for labor and delivery - what you actually need and what you don't.

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