I scoured the internet for advice and asked the women in my life for their words of wisdom about what I should pack but then, wouldn’t you know, Chase decided to make his debut two weeks early and I had NOTHING packed the night I went into labor. My hospital bag was empty and my mind went blank as I threw clothes, toiletries and snacks into a duffle back in the middle of the night in between contractions.
I’m hoping to be a little more prepared this time around but, honestly, I was quite surprised at how little I actually needed to have with me at the hospital both before and after Chase’s birth.
Our hospital was more than equipped to handle everything I may have needed, especially all of the essentials (thick pads, mesh underwear, etc.) that so many online articles said I “needed” to bring. I’m not sure if this is standard (I think so and I hope so!) but this time around, I am planning to keep my hospital bag limited to things I truly believe I’ll use that our hospital won’t have, whether they be essentials or some comforts from home I wish I would’ve packed the first time around.
So when it comes to what to pack in your hospital bag, I’d focus on the things your hospital does not supply.
(Note: My hospital provided all of the self care items I needed but it might be worth checking with your hospital to see if they do ahead of time. You can see everything I felt like I needed for postpartum care in the first bullet in this post: What I Wish I Knew Before My Baby Was Born.)
What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag
Here is what I decided to pack in my bag when I was getting closer to giving birth:
I didn’t get the My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow until after I gave birth to Chase and had an appointment with a lactation consultant but it quickly became my absolute favorite nursing pillow. The Boppy is great, too, but My Brest Friend offers more support and closes up the hole between mom and baby to make it easier to support a little one as they nurse. I know I’m going to want this in the hospital as I attempt to nurse our little one for the first time.
- Nursing-Friendly Pajamas + Nursing Tank + Nursing Bra + Robe
When I gave birth to Chase, I didn’t bring any pajamas with me and only packed my “going home” outfit. I basically lived in the hospital gown during the two days we were in the hospital. I had no problem with this at all and thought the hospital gown was comfy and nursing-friendly but by the second day one thing began to bother me… the arm pits!
First and foremost, I’ve never been much of an arm pit sweater (my face, on the other hand…) and think I’ve smelled my arm pits less than 10 times in my entire life. That being said, I think that the combination of my warm pits coupled with all of the arm pits before me activated a bit of a stench in the gown and I wanted that gown OFF. I was so happy for my clean nursing-friendly pajamas when I got home! I’m also planning to pack one of my Gilligan & O’Malley nursing-friendly tank tops since I lived in those things after Chase was born.
I went braless at the hospital after Chase was born but know I’ll want a nursing bra with me this time around both for my personal comfort and to have something that will help hold nursing pads in place since I know my breasts will likely be leaky while I’m trying to navigate nursing. I love the Bravado Nursing Bra both for comfort and functionality.
A robe isn’t necessary but since I get cold easily, having a lightweight robe I can throw on and comfortably wear in bed is something I’m planning to include in my bag. Honeydew Intimates’ robes have super-soft fabrics that are breezy and so comfortable. (Note: Ryan highly encourages any partners or caregivers to pack a sweatshirt for themselves. I was obviously hot and sweaty when I was contracting during labor but Ryan was freezing and he’s not the type that usually gets too cold.)
- Slipper Socks
The hospital provided me with a pair of sticky socks when I had Chase but I’m kind of weird about wanting my feet to feel clean and after a day in the same socks, I wished I would’ve packed a fresh pair or two of sticky slipper socks that were a little fluffier and thicker than the ones provided by the hospital.
- Going Home Outfit
Since Chase was a late summer baby, I packed a flowy black maxi dress as my going home outfit and it was perfect. No tight waistband to worry about and no tight pants to reveal the fact that I was sporting a pad that was basically the size of a diaper in my underwear. I’m planning to pack something similar this time around – either a maxi dress or a maternity maxi skirt with a nursing tank or tee.
- Yeti/Hydro Flask with a Straw
Opening and closing a water bottle may not sound like a big pain, but I really appreciated having water handy that I could slurp down with a straw since I was often holding a nursing newborn in one arm when I felt the insane need for water kick in. A straw is key and my Yeti and Hydro Flask cups and water bottles are my favorites for keeping water cold since I’m not a big room-temp water fan.
I still remember Ryan and I laughing purely out of frustration and exhaustion when we tried to swaddle Chase in the skilled and incredibly fast way the nurses did using the hospital’s baby blankets. Ain’t nobody got time for that… especially a new mother or father! Once we realized they make super easy adjustable swaddles specifically for babies, our lives became much easier and Chase became much happier and less fussy when we tried to settle him down. You better believe I will be packing one of these handy little swaddles for our new baby to use in the hospital so we aren’t trying to flag down a nurse to help us as our little one flails about waiting to be wrapped up tightly in their cozy little blanket.
- Toiletries + Personal Hygiene Favorites
I was happy I packed my favorite toiletries with me when I gave birth to Chase and I am planning to do the same this time around. Along with the obvious necessities (toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash and deodorant) I’m planning to pack some facial cleansing cloths, rose hip seed oil, mascara (hey… there will be pictures!), lip balm and dry shampoo (I’m addicted). My go-tos! Side note: I remember being crazy thirsty after I gave birth and my lips felt SO dry, so lip balm is a major MUST.
- Newborn Outfit for Baby
Chase was so teeny tiny when he was born that the 0-3 month outfit I packed for him swallowed him right up! Thank goodness I had some hand-me-down newborn clothes from my friend Caitlin at home that my mom rounded up for me and brought to the hospital so Chase could have a “real” outfit to wear as we left the hospital. For our second child, I’m planning to bring one blue and one pink newborn footie onesie with me because I want to have one clear “I’m a boy!” or “I’m a girl!” cozy outfit for our little one to wear since we’re going to be surprised by the sex. I’ll also probably throw in a 0-3 month onesie just in case this baby comes out bigger than anticipated since ya never know!
- Hospital Gift for Chase
I had a few of my girlfriends recommend getting a little something for Chase “from the baby” for him to open when he meets his brother or sister for the first time. Many of them said their first-born child was rather underwhelmed by the newest addition and reactions varied from mild curiosity to jealousy to indifference.
While I’d love for Chase and his younger sibling to have an instant bond, realistically I know that won’t happen and having a little something to help him know we are all still thinking of him seems like a good idea to me. I ordered a doctor’s kit on Amazon for him that I think will be a fun hospital gift he can play with both in the hospital and back at home to help us “check on the baby” and all that jazz!
- Gift for Chase to Give to Baby
This was another idea I received from one of my girlfriends to help with Chase’s adjustment when his brother or sister is born. I think he will LOVE having a “task” and something “important” to do/give to the baby when he meets our little one for the first time. I’m planning to wrap up something simple (likely a onesie or newborn-friendly toy) for Chase to give to the baby when he visits us at the hospital. He’s in a phase where he loves to help and feel needed, so I think wrapping up a present for him to give to his brother or sister will make him feel like he has a special role as big brother and something important to contribute, too!
- Important Electronics
This is probably a given, but I’m adding it to the list because sometimes it’s easy to forget your camera, phone, charger, etc. in situations like this!
- Healthy Snacks
There’s no shortage of vending machine options at a hospital but if you want something healthy in between the meals the hospital provides (or in between meals people pick up for you), packing healthy snacks is a great idea. Some of my personal favorites: Single-serving packets of nut butter, trail mix, jerky, RXBars, larabars, nuts, bananas and apples.
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Questions of the Day
What is something you felt like you used or really needed at the hospital after birth? Am I forgetting anything?
Is there anything you packed that you felt like you didn’t need at all?
I’m due with my first a few weeks after you, and I haven’t even started to THINK about the hospital bag yet! I feel so behind!
Your list is excellent. I had my baby a few months ago and can’t think of anything critical that you are missing or anything that I wouldn’t have used (except the nursing pillow – I like to bunch up a blanket into whatever shape works best for me in the moment – but that’s just a personal preference). One thing that I would have added to my bag would have been extra snacks for post-birth recovery and drinks for during labor when I couldn’t manage to eat anything. My preference would be for coconut water (frozen ahead so it would stay cold) or the ginger-lemonade-switchel from the book, The First Forty Days (which is an AWESOME read to prep for the postpartum “fourth trimester”), but juice boxes would have also been great.
My 2.5 year old was obsessed with his wubba nub as an infant and when we cut off the pacifier part when we weaned him off at 18 months, he continued to keep the stuffed doggie part of the wubba and continues to sleep with it every night. When we asked him what he wanted to get the baby, he immediately said a “bubba” (what he calls it!), so he picked out a duck “bubba” for our baby boy who was born 7 weeks ago. He was so excited to give his baby brother the gift. It just melted my heart!
Yes to the velcro swaddles! In fact, those are the exact same swaddles my husband bought the very next morning during our stay in the hospital. His instructions: velcro swaddles and tacos, please. New parents, never over-estimate your ability to swaddle with zero sleep.
I love the idea of an extension cord or a new longer phone charger cord. When are they going to start making hospital beds with outlets? 😉
Laura Mendez says
Such a great post! I used that pink/blue reversible onesie for my first since we didn’t know the sex – it’s so cute! I’ll probably use it again for my second due in October 🙂 I remember scouring the internet for “hospital bag check lists” to make sure I would have everything I (thought I) needed. I brought way too much and made a list after of what I thought was useful (robe and pillow from home!) and not useful (razors – ain’t nobody got time to shave legs!). One other thing I thought was helpful was packing everything in packing cubes so everything was organized – one for my clothes, one for the baby’s stuff, toiletries, my husband, etc.
When my sister had her second child my parents took my niece to the hospital gift shop and had her pick out a gift for her baby brother before they went up to see them. It was a cute way for her to be involved and she was WAY more excited about the new baby since she was able to give him a gift!
I also agree I packed WAY to much stuff when I was in the hospital! I had every intention of putting comfy pajamas on but when it came down to it that was just too much work 😀
I agree with most of your list- especially the nursing pillow! I brought two for my last birth. I don’t think you’ll be dealing with leaking while you’re still in the hospital. I have five kids and my milk has never come in before I was home from the hospital. So don’t stress if that happens and don’t let them worry you if the baby is losing weight. If a doctor or nurse is trying to scare you into supplementing before you leave, talk to a lactation consultant and they will support you and help explain that your baby can survive on a bit of colostrum for a couple of days. But a nursing tank is still a must. I wore those and pajama pants or shorts the entire time.
Amen to the snacks. I’m fine with the hospital food but it is not nearly enough for a postpartum woman. I was still having my husband or any visitor bring me more food!
Stephanie Prause says
ooh, a swaddle blanket is such a good idea! for my upcoming second labor, I added in a fan with a mister…because I got SO HOT during pushing.
what type of underwear do you suggest for postpartum recovery?
Alex Hestilow says
These are amazing!
Hi Julie! Loved this post. We are almost due with number 3 and I swear I’ve forgotten everything I did the past few times with my hospital bag. I’ve been eyeing that Nordstrom maxi you posted and want to get it but was hoping you could help on sizing. What size did you get? Thx!!
Alex Hestilow says
I like the gift idea, when I had my 2nd my kiddo was 2 yrs old and flipped when he saw me in a hospital bed, I wonder if a gift would have calmed him down!
I would also add— a pillow from home (sleeping pillow not nursing). I found the hospital pillows to be thin, flimsy, and uncomfortable, and I was so glad I brought my own from home.
Flip Flops for the shower (I felt weird putting my bare feet in the shower) and my own pillow were really nice to have!
We took our son to the store and he picked out the gift (a stuffed animal) for the new baby which made him feel special and super excited about meeting the baby. When he arrived to meet his sister, he had the stuffed animal for her, it was so sweet and its something his sister will always have. In return we got him a personalized book with his name in it and it came with a Big Brother badge, it was really cute and something he’ll have forever as well.
Its so exciting introducing the new baby into the family, I’m so happy and excited for you all!
Sarah @ Sweet Miles says
Ear plugs! By the time we got back to our recovery room after the birth, my husband was so tired he passed our HARD on the cot and started snoring like a freight train. Thankfully I’d packed a pair of ear plugs in my purse so when the nurses took the baby to the nursery for a couple hours I was able to fully zone out and not hear his snoring or all the random hospital beeps and bings!
Not necessarily for the hospital bag, but a nursing basket for Chase will be a LIFESAVER. We put new toys in it, coloring books, fruit snacks, lollipops, juice boxes (basically all the junk food I never buy). Every time the new baby wanted to nurse, we got down the basket & the big sibling could play with the toys and pick out one snack. She was constantly going up to the baby and asking “Do you want some more mommy milk?” It was awesome for those first few weeks where all you do is nurse.
Stephanie W. says
Thanks for this post! Did you buy any books for Ryan when you were pregnant with Chase? If so did he find them helpful? Thanks!
The robe, nursing tank, and PJ bottoms were essential for me.
Couldn’t live without them.
One thing that someone suggested to me that I LOVED was my own towels. The ones from the hospital are tiny and scratchy. I remember feeling so much better after that first shower after birth with my own toiletries and towels. It was something I never would’ve thought of and not crucial, but it made me feel better. I plan to do it again this time too.
Fiona MacDonald says
I was SOOO Glad to have a box of Depends diapers …I knew about the heavy pads they’d have but having a c-section having underwear that hit right at my scar was so painful so the depends were perfect to go up and over the scar and I felt better about showing my padded butt around when trying to navigate walking to the bathroom and back! lol
I have no shae any more!
I’ve never commented on a blog post before, but THANK YOU. I am due with my first on June 11, and I am utterly clueless on just about everything. I just ordered almost all of the clothes you suggested- somehow didn’t occur to me to start stocking up nursing-friendly tops and bras now! My husband may hit the floor when he sees the credit card bill from everything I ordered before 7 a.m. but…very much needed!
Thank you so much for this post! I’m 5 months with my first and am feeling overwhelmed with registry/hospital stuff- basically everything. This list is very helpful and I love that it’s with the idea of minimal items rather then everything under the sun that you could possibly want.
Great advice! I remember how I was digging the Internet every day to find information. Probably all future mothers are equally restless 🙂
I used exactly three things from my hospital bag, toothbrush, night guard and baby onesie. That’s it! I’m glad the hospital has so many things to use. I have just exact black with pink piping PJ outfit and LOVED it for our summer baby! I felt cute enough for company but but super comfy too.