What to pack in your hospital bag for labour
When you pack your hospital bag you need to have things for you, your baby, and your birth partner.
If you are having your baby in hospital or in a midwifery-led birthing unit, you must pack a bag with all the things you need for labour and delivery, and for after the baby is born.
This can be a daunting process as you'll be worried you might forget something, but if you follow the list below and organise things in advance you will have everything covered and no reason to worry.
When packing your hospital bag, bear in mind that you may be able to go home from hospital the same day you give birth. Or you could stay in for one night or longer depending on the delivery.
There will be some things you can't pack until the last minute, such as your phone and phone charger, any medications you are taking, fresh sandwiches and your hospital notes. Leave a note inside your bag so you don't forget.
Make sure you have your bag packed and ready to go at least six weeks before your due date, just in case your baby is born a few weeks earlier than expected.
And tell the person who is taking you to the hospital where your hospital bag is so they can find it!
You will need to pack things for you, your baby and your birth partner.
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Hospital bag list for mum
- Loose, comfortable clothing to wear during labour that you don't mind getting messy. Choose an old nightdress or baggy t-shirt, or you could wear a hospital gown.
- Pair of warm socks (cold feet are common during labour)
- Swimwear if you are planning on a waterbirth (this could be a bikini or just a T-shirt), and a towel for when you get out of the pool.
- A couple of loose fitting, comfortable nightdresses (front-opening if you intend to breastfeed), or pyjamas to wear for overnight stays on the ward.
- Several pairs of large, comfy old knickers (definitely not your best lingerie!) or a pack of disposable briefs. Big high waisted knickers that don't rub on your wound are especially important if you are having a planned c-section.
- Dressing gown to wear around the hospital in early labour and for a stay on the ward
- Slippers, sliders or flip flops that are easy to slip on and off without bending down
- Warm cardigan
- Two to three soft, comfortable and supportive bras. These should be nursing bras if you intend to breastfeed.
- Two to three changes of soft, comfortable fresh clothes (if you need more you can always get someone to bring them in for you), you'll probably still need maternity clothes after the birth.
- Big plastic bag for dirty clothing
- A pack of maternity pads for after the birth
- Breast pads in case of leaks
- Wash bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, flannel, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, moisturiser and other toiletries (use travel versions or decant into miniature bottles to save space)
- Face towel and bath towel
- Lip balm - dry lips are common during labour, and gas and air will dry them out even more
- Water spray bottle for cooling you down during labour, or a sponge soaked in water to cool your forehead
- Travel pack of tissues
- Massage lotion or oil - massage can help relax you during labour
- Hairbrush, hair band and hair clips
- Make up and compact mirror – not essential but you might want them for those post-birth photos!
Food and drink
- Snacks to eat during labour such as cereal bars, nuts, fruit, rice cakes or breadsticks
- Glucose tablets, boiled sweets or jelly babies for an instant energy fix
- Bottled water, smoothies, fruit juice, squash or isotonic drinks
- Bendy drinking straws to make taking sips easier
Things to do
- Books, magazines, games, iPad with movies/TV shows etc to pass the time during early labour and for a possible stay in hospital afterwards
- MP3 player/smartphone with a playlist of your favourite music
- Hand held pregnancy notes and other important medical notes or letters
- Copy of your birth plan, if you have made one - you may wish to print several copies
- Prescription medicines
- Glasses or contact lenses, contact lens solution and lense case
- Battery operated hand held fan for cooling you down during labour
- Hot water bottle for pain relief
- Maternity TENS machine
- Birthing ball with pump
- Ear plugs and eye mask - maternity wards can be bright, noisy places and these will help you get some rest
- Anything that makes you feel more at home, such as essential oils, or a comfy throw and pillow
- Mobile phone with plenty of storage space
- Saved list of people on your phone you will want to contact with news of the birth
- Fully charged camera/video camera with plenty of free space on the memory card
- Chargers for mobile devices
- Notepad and pen
- Change for the car park and hospital vending machines
Hospital bag checklist for baby
- Small pack of newborn nappies and nappy sacks
- Baby wipes suitable for sensitive newborn skin
- A couple of muslin cloths
- Small soft towel
- 3 sleepsuits/baby grows with enclosed feet and poppers down the front
- 3 bodysuits/vests with poppers at the crotch
- Soft, warm cardigan
- Going-home outfit
- Jacket or snowsuit with a hood
- Knitted hat for a winter baby
- Shawl or blanket to put over your baby in the car seat when you leave hospital
- Correctly fitted car seat suitable for newborns – practice fitting it in the car beforehand! You can leave this is the car until your baby is ready to go home.
What should your birth partner pack?
- Swimwear and a towel if he/she wants to join you in the pool for a waterbirth
- Spare change of clothes and toiletries (your birth partner could be staying with you at the hospital for quite a while)
- Food and drink
- Smart phone and charger
- Things to do to help pass the time
- Change for the car park and vending machine snacks and drinks
What type of bag to use for a hospital bag
You can either put everything in one big rucksack, holdall or suitcase, or you may find you are better organised with three smaller separate bags.
You could have one bag for you, a bag for your baby and a bag for your birth partner.
Or you could have one bag with the things you'll need for labour and birth, a bag of things you'll need after the birth for you and your baby, and your birth partner can pack for themselves.
It's really up to you what you want to pack your things in. The main thing is that you are as organised and well prepared as you can be with a fully packed bag/bags. Then you can breathe a sigh of relief and forget all about packing for the hospital while you wait for things to happen!
Other things to do before you go into labour
- Make a list of important numbers on your phone or write a list down, these should include your midwife, hospital, birth partner/driver, close family members, local taxi, and your partner if different to your birth partner.
- In the weeks leading up to the birth, make sure the car has plenty of petrol/diesel and is in full working order, you don't want to be faced with an empty tank or a car that won't start!
- Make sure your driver is fully familiar with the route to the hospital and where to park, and plan an alternative route just in case of hold ups on the day. Try to avoid roads under construction, speed bumps and potholes!
- Find out where to go once you get to the hospital (you may have to use a different entrance if you arrive at night), and speak to your midwife about visiting the labour ward during your pregnancy so you know what to expect.
- If you have pets at home, make arrangements for someone else to take care of them; you don't know how long you and your birth partner will be at the hospital. Consider a pet sitting service or enlist the help of a family member, friend or neighbour.
- When you get home from the hospital you're probably not going to feel like spending hours in the kitchen. Fill up your freezer with pre-cooked meals that you can simply re-heat - one pot meals such as stews, soups, casseroles, curry, cottage pie, lasagne and bolognese are excellent options.
Now you have a complete list of everything you need to pack in your hospital bag for you, your baby and your birth partner. You can get prepared in the weeks leading up to your baby's birth and you will be organised and ready to leave for the hospital when labour starts.
Even if you are planning on a home birth, you should still have some essential items packed just in case things don't quite go to plan, and you have to take an unexpected trip to hospital. You don't want to be rushing around trying to gather things together in a blind panic at the last minute.
When you arrive home from the hospital with your baby, it is helpful to have everything ready for your new bundle of joy.
To make sure you have everything in place in the lead up to the birth, you may find this article useful: What do you actually need to buy for a baby?
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