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What Do I Pack For A Hospital Birth

So many times women who are planning on delivering in a hospital ask, "What should I be packing for my hospital bag?". Many people have different things depending on what they prefer but the expectations are pretty simple for the most part.
I have only ever had vaginal births so this article is based around a vaginal birth expectation.

First of all, depending on where you are delivering, in the United States hospitals usually provide a lot of items that you and your baby will need for those few days you are staying there. A woman in Canada told me once that the hospital gave them a list and they had to bring everything, even diapers, to use in the hospital themselves. 
But the chap stick, postpartum menstrual pads, infant diapers, ointment, washcloths, medical sprays, etc they usually all provide you and it's what your insurance covers as part of your stay (i.e; you pay for it through your insurance). Most hospitals usually don't do baby wipes anymore because it can remove the natural oils off the baby's bottom, but they will provide a type of cotton pad you can wet for washing bowel movements. If you are specific about your chap stick  and essentials, then- by all means, bring some! But usually it's available to order if you ask.


  • Perineal Spray: One brand I buy is Dermoplast. It's fantastic. It helps with the vaginal care after delivery by numbing it and is especially handy if you have skid marks or tearing. They should order it for you if you ask but I had to fight tooth and nail last time to get it promptly and they finally came up with it after hours of suffering.
 When you use the restroom you will develop a sort of system to wipe and wash. They usually provide a perineal bottle (looks like a small thin sports bottle) and I would fill that with lukewarm water and have it next to the toilette with the spray. Wiping with toilette paper is VERY VERY tough after a vaginal birth, so you use the restroom and then lightly spray yourself with the water and spray the numbing spray. or vice versa.

  • Bikini or Sports Bra for water births and/or laboring in the tub: If you are filming, etc it makes for a more viewable material later on.

  • No-slip Slippers or Socks with Skid-Proof Bottoms: They may provide these for you if you ask. These are the socks with the rubber on the bottom.

  • Pillow for Postpartum stay: Their plastic pillow things slides all over tarnation. I would prop myself up in different ways to nurse the baby and for comfort but I suggest bringing at least one of your own.

  • Breastfeeding/Wet diaper and BM Log: For keeping track of baby's feedings and diapers. My last hospital didn't provide this for me as my others had- I was VERY frustrated. You can print one out here or there might be some offered in a bookstore.

  • A few cute sets of clothing for the baby:. At least 1 newborn and 1 preemie (for us) was sufficient. My last baby was 6lbs 15 oz and she was swimming in 'newborn' clothes. My biggest was 8lbs 1oz and she barely fit newborn clothes, too. I like to do my birth announcement photos at the hospital, myself because they change so much in a few days. I also bring a few receiving blankets for the pictures too.

  • Burts Bees Baby Bees baby care set. I LOVE this stuff- it's gold. I wash the baby with the baby wash instead of the Johnson & Johnson wash they provide. The apricot oil is fantastic for cradle cap too. smells DELICIOUS. Also the diaper ointment is great for all the bowel movements the baby will be having to coat the skin.

  • Shampoo & Conditioner for You
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste.

  • Going home Outfit for you with a GOOD nursing bra: Something comfortable and cute because you know you will have lots of leaving the hospital pics, right? (wink)
  • Infant carseat 7 years or newer: They wont let you leave without a carseat for the baby and it has to be unexpired.

  • Video and/or Digital camera: For taking footage and pictures.
  • Laptop: For the hospital stay because you will have downtime inbetween gazing lovingly at your new very sleepy baby.... for hours and hours.... and hours. Also, If you can upload some of those fab pictures you took of your newborn, there are a lot of great websites that do announcements and all you have to do is upload a picture to their website, spiff it up online, and put the info in. You can even go to Zazzle.com and make a stamp with your baby's picture on it and order them right there!


  • Dont bring any clothing items you dont want to get blood on. During laboring and postpartum you bleed... a lot, and nurses arent always precise on taking blood samples or changing IV's, etc. They provide a generic gown and robe that works best for breastfeeding and working around IV lines, should you need them. Hospitals are IV pushers, though. They sanitize the clothing well and there are lots of extras, should you bleed all over it during the night.  Nurses will come in during the middle of the night to check your vitals and baby's vitals too- so you might be moving around more. They also provide night pads which are the size of rulers for you to use and net-underwear which are disposable. I call like to call them the 'Newest Victoria's Secret Hospital Line" (the nurses get a chuckle out of that). 
    Leave the silkies at home.

  • Bring an extra bag for all the goodies people send/bring you in the hospital. Otherwise you are leaving with an armful of more than baby.
 They will provide an oversize plastic hospital bag but depending on the amount of admirers you have and/or circumstances you came in- you will probably need more like a tote bag to hold all that booty.
  • Hold off on really perfumy shampoos, lotions, etc since the baby's sense of smell is sensitive. All they will want to smell is you and your milk and your body odor. REALLY! And you might ask that people not put on perfumes when they come in to visit.
 I personally LOVE aromatherapy and consider myself an aroma-holic, so this one I have to smack myself around with too.
  • Dont bring hairdryers or curling irons or any of that. At ALL 5 of the hospitals (4 different states) I've delivered at, they didnt have outlets handy for it or anywhere to set irons and the blowdryer is loud for baby and neighbors. Lots of outlets for IV's and machines, though.

  • Ask the hospital in advance how to connect to their internet in the rooms so your computer is ready. Nurses are busy and dont have time for a lot of that during your stay and it can take a while to get the info to you sometimes.

  • Did you know that your insurance pays for most of the items that you use in your room? The disposable items are thrown away when you leave- and you payed for that! So ask what you might take with you when you leave that they are going to dispose of. I've been able to take medium sized tubs, all sorts of supplies such as hoses used in my water birth also, ointments, even a foam pad for the bed I was sleeping on my insurance paid for and would have been tossed, otherwise. The baby recieving blankets normally have to stay, though, and are considered hospital property which also goes for the robes and gowns and towels you use there. Some hospitals have a policy of 1 receiving blanket per family and they give you a stocking cap too, but that is decreasing.

  • Consider bringing a hospital binder in case they dont give you one because you are probably going to walk away with a LOT of papers, information, documents, instructions, etc.

  • DONT be afraid to ask for pain meds when you need it. You are a postpartum mom- not a drug addict, for asking for pain relief. If you have had other kids before you may or may not know that with each proceeding birth the afterpains get worse. Afterpains are contractions that help your uterus go back down to size and they can feel as bad as labor pains do...and for much longer. Nursing initializes this too with the oxytocin you release and helps the contractions, however it's quite painful. I was barely able to manage my afterpains with my 6th with Percocet, but everyone is different.
  • Last but not least- I bring Sanitizing spray. I know, I know and really- Im not OCD at all, but afterall hospitals are FULL of germs and those rooms only get a minor going over with sanitizers. I have seen them wiped down and the knobs and misc handles of the beds, trays, all sorts of things- are forgotten. I tend to have a little time during my stay so I will do a thourough going-over of the nooks and crannies that I think the housekeeping might miss wish some of the washcloths they provide.


Disclaimer: Any links and or products I have mentioned here are strictly preferential and I do not represent nor am I funded or reimbursed in any way by any of them. If you have anything you would like to add to this article please let me know!

Comments (6)

I like to tell moms to take a soft , beautiful,and decent sized pashmina or other shawl. It makes you look nice in your first pictures with your baby and other family members before you have a chance to change into a better gown. It also provides quick cover as you and your baby learn to nurse. The problem with the hospital gowns is that you must pretty much fully disrope to nurse your baby. You have to do this while nurses, doctors, lab techs, cleaning ladies, visitors, and others are coming in and out of your room and providing you little privacy. A shawl over your shoulders goes a long way in helping you feel less exposed to the world. I also suggest that you go ahead and take a few changes of night clothes that you don't mind getting stained and your own underwear as well so that you can get more comfortable and less hospitalish as soon as possible. Lip balm is godsend in hospitals. I also advocate that you bring an extra empty duffel bag to carry all the loot you are going to get out and a binder or folder for all the paperwork and go ahead and get a perscription for pain meds. Twice I had cramping after I got home that I did not have in the hospital. A scrapbook page for visitors to sign is fun, too and your camera, double checked for batteries and being charged, of coarse!
I strongly suggest buying depends, it saved my life not having to worry about the over night pads that dont really "soak up" anything. I bought the no name brand and to be honest I was a little "shy" to do so but once I had it double bagged I was so happy to have bought them!! The first few hours after birth the last thing you want to worry about is leaking....why not a diaper for you and your baby !! lol
I agree about the Depends, but in the hospital I was always pretty happy with the overnight pads and the mesh underwear, in any case.
My overall list is pretty standard, but does have a few quirks... first, I pack three seperate bags (small backpack size). One for "during labor" (homeopathics, mp3player with hypnobabies, coconut water, birth plan, etc), one for "mom's postpatrum stuff" (shampoo, comb, a magazine, snacks, etc), and one for "baby's postpartum stuff" (outfits, diapers, folder for paperwork, camera, etc). My husband packs his own bag with things he wants during the birth and postpartum stay. I had one huge bag with my first birth and it was hard for dh to find stuff during the birth and then annoying after the birth to dig through stuff I no longer needed. Having smaller bags means less stuff in the (tiny) hospital room and easier searching.
The other quirky thing that I rarely see on lists is a camping/travel french press and some really good coffee or tea. The hospital can provide hot water but I find their coffee/tea options are miserable! So good coffee/tea and good dark chocolate are a must on my packing list. I usually toss a few packs of instant oatmeal into my postpartum bag too since I'm always hungry during the first few pp days and don't want to rely on hospital catering services. I may not need them, but for those 3am "I'm starving" moments they're a lifesaver and easy enough to slurp one handed out of a coffee mug while breastfeeding!
FOOD! I could not believe how unappealing and unhealthy hospital food really is. I needed real coffee, takeout and good cheese and fruit for snacking - especially when I had to stay longer because of C-section.
I also had a C/S, and the food at my hospital where I delivered (and will pray for a VBAC) was pretty good! I wanted grilled cheese and tomato soup all the time while I was there! LOL Comfort food. I like the idea about asking people not to wear perfume--that's been bothering me lately in my pregnancy, it didn't with my first. We got a lot of goodies, and hospital stuff to take home. We hid a package of diapers in our bags and asked for another one to take with us. :) I hated when they made me get up and walk--I felt like my insides were gonna fall out on the floor, it hurt so bad! I didn't want to get dressed at all until it was our day to leave. Make sure you bring something comfortable to wear--don't overestimate how much your belly will shrink after delivery! I did, and had very little to choose from in my suitcase when it came time to get dressed and go. I also wasn't planning on a C/S, so underwear that goes OVER your belly had to be purchased by my mom and brought back to the hospital. LOL
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