You've counted down the weeks and nested like crazy, but now it's time to pack your bag for the hospital. But if you're waiting until you feel a labor contraction to get organized, don't. Choosing what to put in your hospital bag and packing it for your stay at the hospital one of the most exciting parts of late pregnancy.
There’s no telling when your baby may arrive, so it’s a good idea to have a hospital bag packed by week 35. Keep it in the car you’ll be traveling in to the hospital, or in the hallway where it will be easy to grab on your way out.
Work out whatever essentials you’ll need for yourself and your newborn by making a list. Your hospital bag should be whatever works best for you, like a large tote or small suitcase.
- Birth plan and insurance information.
- Sleepwear, including slippers. Remember that newborn babies eat around the clock, so when choosing tops choose ones you can nurse in - something that buttons up the front or easily pulls down.
- Going home clothes, which should be loose fitting and comfortable.
- Nursing bras and tanks. Pack a few comfortable bras and make sure that at least a couple are designed for sleep. Wearing a nursing bra designed for sleep helps keep breast pads in place and keeps any nipple ointment you may end up needing to apply from getting all over your pajama top.
- Breast pads. From one mom to another, the re-usable fabric ones are much more comfortable, and way easier on you wallet and the planet.
- Toiletries: just the basics including toothpaste and toothbrush, deodorant and shower stuff.
- Depending on your level of germophobia, you may consider bringing some shower shoes.
- Lip balm! Hospital air is dry. But in a pinch, nipple cream works as a great substitute if you do forget the chapstick.
- Hairbrush and ties or clips for long hair.
- An extra pillow if you're someone with a major pillow preference.
- Phone chargers, headphones, laptop and charger. Labor can be long and often boring, and in the postpartum period you may want to catch up on your Netflix when you're up with baby at 3 a.m.
Things not to pack:
- Your own labor gown. The hospital provides one and the one you are wearing will get messy, quickly. You won't want to bring it home with you, so just skip the expense and buy another cute baby outfit instead.
- Your pre-pregnancy jeans. It took nine months to grow that tiny human of yours, and your uterus had to stretch quit a bit to accommodate that growth. Those changes don't go away in the first few days or even weeks. Expect to still be wearing maternity clothes for at least the first few weeks after delivery.
- Underwear. The hospital will provide disposable underwear for after delivery. Trust me, use the giant disposable hospital underwear. They stretch like crazy to accommodate whatever your postpartum size might be and you can just throw them away when you're done. Postpartum bleeding is unpredictable and sometimes heavy. Don't ruin your own real clothing!
For the baby:
- Onesies and baby outfits and jammies. Pack at least a few more than you think you need, as newborns often go through more than one outfit in a day due to spit up or diaper mishaps!
- Socks or booties.
- Scratch mittens.
- Nursing pillow (like a Boppy or a My Breastfriend).
- Car seat. Although this isn’t packed, make sure it’s in the car and that the base is installed.
Don't forget about your partner! Your birth partner may require a few things including:
- Their clothes and toiletries.
- Their own electronics (phone, charger, an iPad or laptop, etc.)
- Snacks and drinks in case the labor process is a long one. This way they won't have to leave you for long stretches to go and get food.
If you're participating in a post-birth portrait session, include these items in your list:
- A soft cuddly toy. This makes a great photo prop.
- A blanket, whether it’s been knitted specially or bought.
- A plain top for you if you want to be in the photos.
- That special ‘first’ baby outfit.
Working out what you’ll need for yourself and your newborn, and then finally packing it all up really does bring it home just how close you are to holding your baby for the first time! Speaking of, now might also be a good time to find out what the signs of labor are so you’re ready to go when it’s the real thing! Good luck!