What to pack in your hospital bag: your complete checklist
t's never too early to gather together all the essentials you'll need during labour and birth and for after your baby is born. Even if you're not planning to have your baby in a hospital or birth centre, you may need to go in unexpectedly, so try to have a bag packed by the time you're about 36 weeks pregnant.
Hospitals vary in their policies about what you are allowed to bring with you when you have your baby. You may want to take a few items from home, such as your own pillows, to make the environment more personal. But be aware that hospitals can be short on space.
If you want, pack two bags: one for labour and the hours immediately after your baby is born, and another for a stay on the postnatal ward.
If you're driving to hospital, you could leave the second bag in the car. If you have a straightforward birth, you may leave hospital on the same day and not need the second bag at all.
What should I pack for labour?
- Your birth plan and maternity notes.
- Old nightdress or T-shirt to wear in labour. It will probably get a bit messy, so don't buy anything specially to wear in hospital.
- Dressing gown This will be useful if you end up pacing hospital corridors in early labour. You'll probably also want one on the postnatal ward. Hospitals can be very warm, so a lightweight one may be better. A dark colour or a busy pattern will help to hide any stains.
- Backless slippers that are easy to get on and off. Flip-flops work well, too.
- Socks Believe it or not, your feet can get cold during labour.
- Massage oil or lotion if you would like to be massaged during your labour. You might also like to invest in a massage roller or similar aid, so your birth partner can massage you for longer.
- Birth ball. This can help you to find different positions in labour, and may also help you manage the pain of contractions. Check whether the hospital has the right size for you. If not, take your own. Remember to bring a pump so your birth partner can inflate it for you.
- Snacks and drinks for during and after the birth. Most women are able to eat and drink during labour, and it can help to keep your energy levels up. The hospital will have food and drink available, but you may prefer to pack a few things that you know you like. Choose carb-packed snacks that give slow-release energy to keep you going. Fruit, unsalted nuts, crisps, cereal bars and popcorn are all good options. You may also want some mints or boiled sweets to freshen your mouth. Also pack a few isotonic sports drinks, which are great for giving you a boost when you need it most.
- Things to help you relax or pass the time, such as books, magazines, kindle or a tablet. You may also want to download some fun and distracting apps on your phone to keep you occupied during early labour.
- Lip balm Your lips can dry out quickly on a warm labour ward, particularly if you're using gas and air.
- Hairbands or a clip. If you have long hair, you may want it tied up.
- Pillows. The hospital might not have enough to make you really comfortable. A C-shaped pillow can give you extra support when breastfeeding your baby.
- TENS pain relief machine, if you are planning to use one. Some hospitals and birth centres do have them though, so check with yours first.
- Music. Create a playlist of upbeat and/or soothing tracks to distract, calm and inspire you during labour.
What shall I pack for after the birth?
- A going-home outfit. You'll need loose comfortable clothes to wear while you're in hospital and for the journey home. It will take a while for your tummy to go down, so you'll probably still need your maternity clothes when you get home.
- Handouts about how to get breastfeeding started from your antenatal classes or appointments, if you plan to breastfeed. If you have a contact card for a breastfeeding counsellor or specialist, take that with you too. You could also bookmark our breastfeeding for beginners article, plus these benefits of breastfeeding to help keep you motivated.
- Nursing bras Bring two or three if you plan to breastfeed.
- Breast pads You'll need these even if you don't plan to breastfeed, as your breasts will still produce milk after the birth.
- Maternity pads Bring a couple of packs.
- Nightshirt or T-shirt. Front-opening shirts are useful in the early days of breastfeeding.
- Toiletries. Decant these into smaller bottles, or buy travel versions, to save on space in the postnatal ward. You may prefer to choose unscented versions, so your baby can get used to your natural scent. Include all your regular toiletries, such as shampoo, conditioner, soap or body wash, flannel, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant and moisturiser. Face wipes are great for a quick pick-me-up. Also pack your hairbrush and any other accessories you think you might want to get ready for those early pics of you and your baby. The hospital or birth centre will probably have towels. They can be quite threadbare, so you may prefer to bring your own, but it's not something you need to worry about if you're short on space.
- Old or cheap knickers, or disposable knickers. Don't bring your best ones as they will get messy. Big cotton knickers can be useful if you end up having a c-section, as they won't rub your wound.
- Arnica cream. Although there's no conclusive evidence that it works, some women report that arnica cream helps to reduce bruising and helps the healing process. Check with your midwife before using it, and don't apply the cream to broken skin. It's best to avoid arnica tablets, especially if you're breastfeeding, as we can't be sure they're safe to take, and there's no proof they work.
- Eye mask and earplugs, to help you sleep on a brightly lit, noisy ward.
- Cotton wool. Your newborn's skin will be very delicate, so many experts recommend using cotton wool and water for nappy changes at first, rather than baby wipes. If you do choose to use wipes though, opt for ones that are free from alcohol and fragrance.
What should I pack for my baby?
- Two or three sleepsuits and vests.
- Baby blanket Although hospitals are very warm, your baby may need a blanket if it's chilly outside when you leave.
- Disposable nappies or reusable nappies. Your newborn will go through as many as 12 in a day.
- Muslin squares for mopping up any milk your baby brings up (possetting). Many parents say these are among the most useful bits of baby gear!
- One pair of baby socks or soft booties.
- Baby Hat.
- One outfit for the trip home (all-in-one stretchy outfits are easiest).
- Baby car seat. Some hospitals won't let you leave by car without one. In the weeks leading up to the birth, it's a good idea for you or your birth partner to practice fitting the seat in your car, so you'll be able to do it with minimum fuss on the day. It's probably best to leave it in the car until you're ready to leave hospital, as car seats can take up a lot of room.
- Baby Jacket or baby snowsuit for winter babies (remove before placing your baby in a car seat).