Have you started packing your hospital bag yet? Worried about how you’re going to fit everything in, and if you’ve got everything you need for you and your newborn baby?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! After having two babies I now have an amazing system for packing my hospital bag and I’m going to share it with you!
Now, some hospital checklists include everything but the kitchen sink. This is not one of those checklists.
Only the stuff you really, really need during labour and immediately after features on this hospital bag list. That means I’m deliberately leaving out things like hairdryers, your entire makeup collection and your own pillow.
It is of course worth thinking if these little luxuries will A) make you feel better during your hospital stay and therefore are essential or B) can actually fit in your bag.
Trust me when I say, it will be much easier for you to stick to the absolute essentials only. And you really won’t care what your hair looks like, or whether you’ve put your full contour on!
There are also some new parent essentials that other people swear need to be in your bag, that in reality you won’t need to use until you’re at home. Things like a ton of breast pads, which soak up your milk.
Your milk doesn’t come in until a few days after birth and before then it’s thick colostrum that you produce. It takes a few days for the full on letdown milk spraying experience to begin – then you definitely need a lot of breast pads!
The great thing about packing your hospital bag is it feels pretty exciting. It makes the impending arrival of your baby feel that bit more real!
I lost count of the number of times I packed and repacked my hospital bag.
It’s lovely to look at the little clothes your newborn will wear and imagine them wearing them. It helps to take your mind off the marathon that is giving birth that you’re about to experience.
When I packed my first hospital bag I included lots of stuff I didn’t need and didn’t pack enough of other things, like nappies! What a rookie mistake.
The excess stuff took up unnecessary space in my hospital bag.
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I packed a load of nursing pads, not appreciating that leaking wouldn’t be an issue for a few days when my milk finally came in.
I didn’t pack enough maternity pads. I had no idea quite how much post-birth bleeding there would be. If you think you’ve packed enough, put in two more. It’s a good idea to change them frequently as it helps decrease the risk of infection.
Read more: Postpartum care kit checklist
When it came to the baby I didn’t know how much nappies can leak, particularly when you don’t realise how tightly you need to do them up. So I went through onesies way too quickly!
I’ve produced a list of all the things I put in my hospital bag with my second baby. I stayed in hospital for one night and it was spot on. I also found a much easier way of organising everything.
How to organise your hospital bag
When it came to packing my hospital bag, I actually went with three bags. This sounds a bit nuts, but honestly it really helped.
I had two medium-sized bags which can easily be slung over one shoulder and one smaller bag.
It might sound like I’m overcomplicating things, but this made my life easier. It saved me digging through a load of stuff to reach the thing you need right at the bottom.
Let me explain!
The first medium bag is for when you’re in labour and immediately after labour.
It also contains a fresh pair of pyjamas for after you’ve given birth and had a wash, stuff for having a wash, plus an outfit, blankets and a couple of nappies for the baby.
The second bag is for while you’re on the ward with the baby after the birth is over and you’re undergoing checks while waiting to be discharged. It contains all the baby’s spare clothes, the rest of the nappies, muslin swaddles and maternity pads plus both of your going home outfits.
The giant muslin swaddles are one of my favourite baby products. They’re so useful; can be a blanket, swaddle, burping cover, breastfeeding cover and more. Because they are multi-purpose they are brilliant for a hospital bag. I used them as blankets as the hospital ward was swelteringly hot, the baby only needed something light.
And here’s the great part, your partner can take the first bag away with them and pop it in the car after you’ve given birth so that it’s out the way.
The third smaller bag has emergency supplies and stays in the boot of your car, assuming it’s in the hospital car park, just in case. It’s packed with stuff like spare underwear for you and a few spare outfits for your baby, plus some extra nappies and maternity pads.
If you’re worried about juggling so many bags, then opt for one larger bag and separate out your outfits and the baby’s outfits using large food storage bags. They’re clear so you’ll be able to see the stuff you’re looking for.
In my experience hospital wards are not cold places, if anything they are too hot. Pop an emergency jumper in your car if you’re worried, but otherwise a robe will be fine for keeping you warm.
Here’s my list to be divided between bags one and two, assuming a one-night stay.
Before we get to the list, you may also want to check out my post about staying in hospital after having your baby and tips for the early weeks of breastfeeding. You might also like to check out this ultimate baby registry checklist featuring everything you really need for baby plus this guide to preparing every room in your home for baby.
Maternity hospital bag essentials
Your maternity hospital bag essentials should be packed up at the start of the third trimester.
Try to pack each bag with the items you will need immediately at the top of the bag and the spares at the bottom.
At the top should be your PJs or nightie you will give birth in – make sure it’s something you don’t mind getting ruined. Pop things like lip balm, which you will need easy access to, in a side pocket in your hospital bag.
Nappies and wipes need to be easily accessible in front pockets of your bag if they have them so that you can reach them in an emergency.
It’s worth double checking with your hospital what they may provide to you. Some might provide a towel, but in my experience you’ll need to bring your own!
Don’t bother with a water bottle, as hospitals will have water absolutely everywhere for you. You will definitely need to think about snacks though. Although hospitals have shops, they do have opening hours that could be awkward for when your midnight cravings strike.
Pack energy bars and other things that won’t get crushed in your bag. Don’t forget change for the vending machines too!
For during labour and immediately after baby is born
- Giving birth PJs or nightie
- Lip Balm
- Water and a snack
- Spare underwear
- Phone charger
- Dressing gown
- Clean PJs for after birth
- Maternity pads x4
- Outfit for baby
- Nappies x3
- TENS machine if you plan to use one for pain relief
For the recovery ward
- Clean underwear x3
- Maternity pads x20
- Nursing bra
- Spare PJs
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Vests or bodysuits for baby x3
- Onesies for baby x3
- Hat for baby x2
- Blankets for baby x2
- Muslins x2
- Nappies x20
- Nipple cream
- Simple make-up/toiletries
- Tooth brush and toothpaste
- Face wipes and/or face cloth
- Going home outfits for you and baby
- Vests x3
- Sleepsuits x3
- Cellular blanket
- Nappies x15
- Maternity pads x10
- Muslins x2
- Change of clothes (keep this in the car)
- Phone charger
- Cash including coins
Here’s a printable copy of the hospital bag checklist and you can download a printable PDF version here:
Choosing a hospital bag
When it comes to the bags the best option is something with shoulder straps or that’s a backpack. This makes them easy to carry, and avoid anything too pink or flowery if your other half objects to carrying them too much (mine is a bit averse to super girly changing bags).
Pick something that’s easy to carry, and has plenty of pockets for stashing smaller items like lip balm and your phone charger.
One of the best ways to pick out a hospital bag is to get a good-sized changing bag you will use after the hospital and well into the baby’s toddler years. For my three-bag system I suggest a changing bag for immediately after the birth and a duffle bag for your hospital stay items.
Picking out a going home outfit
For your going home outfit, comfort is your friend. Try leggings or any soft pair of trousers as you’re likely to be pretty battered and bruised.
When looking at tops, opt for ones that are breastfeeding-friendly and choose a bra along the same theme.
Remember to think about the weather. Although the hospital will be warm, it may be cold outside. You’re likely to feel the cold a little more once the baby has been born.
Also even though you will have had the baby, you won’t immediately fit back into your old trousers. That’s not because you’re overweight, never think that, it’s because your bump won’t go down for a few weeks. Stick with the elasticated waistbands for now, which will be especially important if you have a C-section scar to take care of.
Don’t forget that you may want a few pictures to remember the moment you left the hospital, so choose something you love to wear as well as something that’s comfy.
When it comes to your baby’s going home outfit, think about it in layers. In the hospital your baby is likely to be very warm.
Then when they are outside it might be cold, before then getting into a hot car with heating on.
So choose a cotton vest and onesie. Then pop some blankets on top of baby once they are strapped into their car seat. It’s wise to avoid putting baby in huge padded coats and pram suits when strapping them into a car seat as they prevent you from tightening the straps up.
I hope my hospital bag tips come in handy. Please share any of your own!