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What essentials do you really need to pack in that mom and newborn hospital bag for labor? As a doula, I’ve seen people literally bring it all. Some have arrived with full-sized suitcases, multiple hospital bags for mom, a single backpack, or simply their handbag. There are a plethora of hospital bag checklists for moms available on the internet, but here’s the real deal list from a birth pro (me!).

So here’s the complete list of everything you might need to pack, including a postpartum hospital bag checklist:

Inside mom's hospital birth bag:

  • Change of loose fitting clothes or robe
  • Birth clothes, if preferred over a hospital gown
  • Sweater or sweatshirt
  • Socks (2 pairs minimum)
  • Flip flops for the shower
  • Personal care items (toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, face lotion, deodorant)
  • Contacts, solution, glasses 
  • Hairbands or soft headband
  • Unscented lotion
  • Essential oils (recommend lavender, orange, peppermint)
  • Phone charger with a long cord
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Food and drinks (nonperishable items)
  • Water bottle with straw
  • Lip balm
  • Copies of all documents in a folder (Insurance card, ID, personal information, hospital preregistration)
  • Earplugs and eye mask
  • Washcloth or hand towel
  • Birth ball/ pump
  • Pillow and/or blanket with extra, dark-colored, pillowcase 
  • Any necessary notes/ references from birth class like labor position images

What snacks should I pack in my hospital bag?

  • High-fat snacks like nuts
  • Fruits
  • Pretzels
  • Protein bars & other nonperishables
  • Drinks: Water, sports drink, etc.

Postpartum hospital bag item checklist:

  • Soft underwear in a dark color
  • Nursing bras and pads (2-3 bras)
  • Loose-fitting clothes/ PJs or robe (2-3 changes of clothing)
  • Slippers or flipflops for shower (can be the same from the birth bag)
  • Personal care items (shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, unscented lotion, face products)
  • Sanitary pads (hospital will have along with mesh underwear. Just be forewarned, they are massive)
  • Change of clothes for partner with a button-down or zippered shirt for skin-to-skin
  • Partner’s toiletries
  • Baby’s going home outfit
  • Mom’s going home outfit
  • Pretty swaddle or blanket if you choose to take photos in the hospital

Hospital bags for mom & newborn conclusion

Some items may be more applicable than others for your personal preferences. My recommendation is to pack smart, without going overboard, particularly on the postpartum and newborn item checklist as you can have your partner or a friend/ family member gather those for you and bring them after you have delivered. If you have chosen to have a birth doula, speak with them about what items they bring so you don’t have to pack extra things unnecessarily.

I love an organized suitcase and find either packing cubes or having 2 separate bags to help with organization. Divide items into birth-specific needs and postpartum/baby needs to help not only yourself but others find things. Add in an extra packing cube or plastic bag to place soiled clothes.

The name of the game is comfort, and that means packing things that will help you achieve your most comfortable state. If you have a favorite blanket, PJs, slippers, or even photographs bring those to help create the space as your own. I do, however, caution against using your favorite blanket or PJs in labor and rather save those for post-birth as labor can be messy. Items for labor to help set a relaxing environment like essential oils, a Bluetooth speaker, and favorite photos or inspirational quotes can help you turn your hospital room into your own unique retreat. If using essential oils, I recommend placing a drop or two of the preferred oil on a tissue nearby rather than diffuse into the entire room as preferences can change suddenly in labor.

Keep in mind that hospitals tend to be very cold. Pack layers for yourself and your partner. Likely the laboring person will be very warm while the support person will run colder. An extra blanket can be helpful for partners as hospital blankets tend to run in short supply and are quite thin. Remind your partner to pack their own comfortable clothes, including at least one change of clothes, and toiletries. I highly recommend that partners maintain fresh breath as smells can become particularly bothersome in labor.

If your partner or a family member/friend will be coming and going, I typically recommend leaving the car seat at home or having it already installed in your car during the final weeks of pregnancy. It’s large and unwieldy and you won't’ need it until your final day. They can bring it on the last day prior to discharge. I do, however, recommend practicing installing the car seat and familiarizing yourself with it prior to labor.

To make sure the big day goes even smoother, be sure to print the full hospital bag for mom and newborn checklist here. It's a good idea to have this bag ready in the weeks leading up to your due date, so you can simply grab it and go.

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