Filed Under: Journal

How to Pack a Hospital Bag

Here we see how in the olden days babies used to love hanging out inside hospital drawers and some lady holding an arcane, unidentifiable device. Photo Credit: Kaiser Permanente

Fear not, your birth won't be ruined because you forgot the curling iron. ps save some room in there for mesh underwear.

For women giving birth in a hospital or birthing center, here’s the sum total of our knowledge on the subject. For those giving birth at home, you may choose to pack a bag as well just in case, but many of the things listed here are non-hospital specific and are nice to have around either way once the babe arrives.

MOTTO: Giving birth is the important thing happening here. It’s fine to sweat the small stuff but we shall not perspire too much over what goes in this bag.

GOALS: Not to overcrowd the new baby and many visitors with your giant piles of stuff. To avoid hypothetical questions about whether you are moving in. To spend your resources (time, monies) wisely on genuine essentials.

RULES: If you don’t wear makeup normally, don’t bring it to the hospital. Stick with what you know you’ll actually need. Do not procrastinate the packing of the bag, have it ready to go in advance.

✘ MYTH: You will surely have a terrible birth experience if you forget to pack something.

There isn't much you can't birth without. Friendly PSA, the baby will be making an appearance no matter what you bring.

✔ TRUTH: The nurses have all the power and will be your BFF if you bring them a little something.

Show them some love and they will do their best to make your experience top notch.

✘ MYTH: Your water will break and then you go to the hospital then the baby slides out. Whoosh!

Birth can go down a lot of different ways. It can be super quick or take days (days!).

✔ TRUTH: Mesh underwear is the very best thing ever. Period. End of story.

A wise woman once described mesh underwear as like wearing cotton candy. Take as much as you can carry.

✔ TRUTH: Grab all the hospital freebies you can find and don’t look back.

See above re: mesh underwear, also the witch hazel pads. And a nasal aspirator for the little one.

✘ MYTH: Having a birth plan is the best and only way to communicate your wishes.

There are actually no rules governing this, so do what you feel comfortable with. Plan or no plan, it's really up to you.

✘ MYTH: Embarrassing things will happen in your lady zone and you will live in shame forever.

So you lost control of your bodily functions back at mile 5, all they'll remember is the finish line, because you are a champ.

A Short-form Hospital Bag Checklist - Just Give Me the Greatest Hits


  • Robe

  • Toiletries

  • Hair Thing

  • Chapstick

  • Face Spray

  • Pillow

  • Grippy Socks or Slippers

  • Going Home Outfit

  • Nursing Bra

  • Nipple Cream


  • Newborn Hat

  • Newborn Onesie

  • Swaddle

  • Blanket

  • Car Seat

Odds & Ends

  • Partner Stuff

  • Chargers

  • Paperwork / Insurance

  • Camera

  • Snacks

  • Nurse's Treat

  • Laptop / Magazine

  • Jambox

Tell Me All Your Thoughts on Birth, Cuz I'd Really like to Hear Them


NEED: You’ll want to bring something to wear in the hospital post-birth, particularly if you end up spending some time in recovery. If you’re new to breastfeeding, it will be nice to have something ultra comfortable that gives you easy access while you’re figuring things out. We like a robe or comfy nightgown, but a top with easy access would also work. Make sure it’s washable because it will need to survive whatever your body is doing.

Don’t forget to bring something to wear home. A caftan makes a great going home outfit because your body is sore and tired and you may not be ready for pants just yet.

Bring your preferred toiletries in case you decide to shower or freshen up, as well as a hair tie to put your hair in a sweet pony while you labor.

Lastly, slippers or grippy socks make life easier when you’re lumbering in and out of the hospital bed for snacking or bathrooming or walking around.

NICE TO HAVE: Your own pillow because they are always provided but not always liberally distributed. Hospital air is like the Gobi Desert so bring some chapstick. A face spray can feel amazing while you’re in labor.

LEAVE IT BEHIND: Curling iron, towel, toiletries you never actually use. You’ll be fine with limp hair or natural waves, and hospital towels are totally passable. You can bring your own maxi pads but the hospital kind is also fine.

Let your normal routine be your guide and don't stress yourself out trying to be prepared for every possible scenario. Bring what you know you'll use and leave the rest for someone to run out and grab if you discover something you can't live without.


NEED: You will need an infant car seat or else you cannot bring your child home and that would be a bummer. Make sure to put transporting your newborn child at the top of your list.

Bring an outfit for your newborn to wear home. We like a crossover style onesie that ties in front because dressing your tiny new human is daunting enough and miniature head holes are just roadblocks on your journey to dressing the babe for success.

NICE TO HAVE: A wee little hat for their teensy baby head. The hospital provides this but you might want to swap it out for one of your own. Also a swaddle blanket. Again, they provide this but you probably have a million and two options from your baby shower and yours will look way cuter in your mass-friend email birth announcement.

Newborns are needy. But if you supply them with cute hats, good food and lots of love you two will get along just fine.

LEAVE IT BEHIND: Books on baby care. Save it for when you get home, you’ve got enough new info coming your way for the moment. Diapers, wipes, formula, and bottles (definitely no judgment) are all provided by the hospital during your stay should you need them.

Cute hats and blankets are nice, but seriously though, do not forget the car seat.


NEED: Do your bosoms a favor and bring a nipple cream or balm of your choosing. Breastfeeding is likely happening around the clock, so make sure you have something baby-safe on hand for relief.

NICE TO HAVE: A nursing bra that pulls aside or clips down can be easy when you’re learning the ropes, milk can take a couple of days to come in so if you’re comfortable going bra-free that works as well. A nursing tank is also a great option so you can get up and go about your biz in some real clothes.

LEAVE IT BEHIND: A nursing pillow (controversy!!). File under something that someone can bring you if you find you cannot live without it or leave it in the car if you drove. You can always stack up regular pillows (gasp!). Nursing pads. You can ask your nurse for some if you have any leakage.


NEED: Bring your insurance card, ID and any inpatient forms from your hospital or birthing center.

The phone does pretty much everything else you would need in the way of photos and communication with friends and family via WhatsApp or other group messaging apps. Don’t forget chargers.

Have your partner bring whatever they need to feel comfortable like an extra set of clothes. 

NICE TO HAVE: A laptop is not totally imperative but very useful for reasons including but not limited to, entertaining your partner and binge watching TV on Netflix. Yes, they have TV but regular TV is for suckers. 

A portable speaker can honestly be nice if you want some non-hospital flavor in your ear.

A small treat for your nurses if you want to maximize the potential of this short-lived, yet powerful relationship.

A sleep mask and earplugs, because not everyone gets a private room and not everyone who shares a room gets an awesome roommate. Feel us?

Snacks! There’s a cafeteria but it feels like a minor miracle to have your favorite stuff on hand pre-epidural or right up to giving birth if you go drug-free. 

DON'T NEED: White noise machine, because of course there’s an app for that. Same with a notebook.


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