I am pregnant with my second child (yay!) and am starting to feel overwhelmed by the endless lists. You know what I mean – lists for the nursery, lists for postpartum, lists for maternity leave – and yes, the list of things to take in your hospital bag. This one seems like it should be simple – but it’s not. The majority of us tend to overpack. All we want is a hospital bag checklist telling us exactly what to bring.
Before you click away because you are not an expectant mother, don’t go! After I had my first baby (seven weeks later), I ended up in the hospital twice for an acute condition – one of the stays lasting 2 weeks. So, my list actually stems more from my general hospital stay than my maternity stay. Hopefully my experience will help anyone planning a hospital stay.
And, if you aren’t planning to go to the hospital any time soon, keep reading. I now have a list of “what to grab” if ever an emergency arises. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
The goal? Simplify your baby preparations by only packing the most vital items in your hospital bag for you and your family.
Like I mentioned, I had 3 hospital stays over the course of 3 months. All three were at a general hospital with full doctor care (I didn’t use a midwife, etc.). My philosophy about hospital stays is “give me all the medicine”, so for my labor and delivery I was induced and had an epidural. Because of this, and also, because I apparently have good genes, my labor was super fast – like 6 hours fast. So, that is what I am reflecting on with my labor and delivery experience.
But, my “2 weeks in the hospital in writhing pain” experience was not fast. It was long, painful, boring and a blur. So that experience will definitely weigh in when I think about “what do you actually need in a hospital bag.”
Lastly, no one likes to be in the hospital – whether it’s planned or not. It can be sad, uncomfortable, worrisome, costly, and often just plain scary. Being hooked up to machines and being interrupted by the doctors every hour – not fun. But with a little preparation, you can be adequately prepared and have everything you might need. You might even be relieved that you thought ahead.
Here is my list of essentials of what to pack in your hospital bag – and 5 things you don’t need
1. The Basics
Everyone tells you to bring the basics: chapstick, hair ties, contacts + glasses, lotion (which is true!), but here is the essential: your own hand soap and bath soap or body wash. We actually always include this on any trip we take (see my vacation checklist here), but this is SO NICE to have in the hospital. I love Bath and Body Works foaming hand soap, and regular Dial bath soap – both of which I wanted when I was scrubbing my hands and body with cheap, drying, hospital soap. If you are able to pack this – I definitely recommend!
2. Hospital Clothes
I didn’t wear clothes in the hospital. Ever. During my labor and delivery, I wore one pair of pajamas on the second day. I didn’t even pull out my robe. During my hospital stays, I was always in an ugly hospital gown with ugly hospital socks. I didn’t have the energy, where-with-all, or care to find something nicer to wear. I was gross, always being poked and prodded, and hospital gowns are just way easier. For all my stays, I took leggings, tee shirts, and options for “casual wear”, but never wore them. But the last thing you want when you are uncomfortable in the hospital? More clothing options. My advice: take one pair of pajamas and robe for maternity, and a few pairs of easy pajamas/relaxed wear for an extended stay. Nothing more.
What you should take? Extra pajama pants to cover your booty. Especially for labor and delivery. Accidents and nasty things happen, and I was grateful for clean pants once or twice. Gross.
3. Going Home Clothes
Women like to complicate things and wear all the pretty things to make an “I have it all together” exit. No one has it together when they leave the hospital. My advice? Keep it casual and simple. Every time I left the hospital I wore leggings, a camisole, baggy cardigan, and week-old gross hair and no makeup. No one is watching, people.
But you know what I did wear EVERY day in the hospital? Easy slide-on, comfy, closed-toe shoes. I’m not talking about slippers or sandals. You want something that gets you to the gross bathroom, can take the dirt, pee, and blood, walk you to the shower, walk you down the hall, walk you home – without you having to bend down and tie those laces. Also, they have to match a hospital gown!
I wear these Sketchers Go Walk all the time – and they were perfect for the hospital. They are SO comfy – like walking on a cloud. They are washable. They slide on. And they don’t look pretty. Perfect. Totally recommend.
4. The Face
No one wants to look dead in hospital photos – especially that most important photo right after you have a new baby. So, take some makeup and a hair brush – but keep it super simple. No one has time for eye liner in the hospital. What I did survive on? Face wipes. Simple Neutrogena face wipes. These things basically were my shower for weeks on end.
Want another tip? Have a pre-packed travel toiletry bag at all times. Keep samples of products, extra face wipes, deodorant and dry shampoo. Many times that year I ended up in the hospital or an urgent situation when I could tell my husband “Just grab my whole toiletry bag!” No packing needed – just what I needed when I didn’t have time to prepare.
Everyone knows to bring your phone charger, camera, head phones, etc. etc. Personally, I didn’t have time to listen to that vital birth playlist, but I did use my headphones once or twice. My advice would be to have these packed ahead of time, because they are so important. Especially your camera and charger. But, I do have a SUPER AWESOME charger recommendation. Everyone needs a 6 foot long phone charger. I have this one from Amazon – and it’s perfect. When you are in the hospital, there will not be an outlet right by your nightstand or bed. So definitely pick one of these up for your next trip or hospital stay!
6. Nursing Pads and Lanolin Cream
This is nothing new. You need nursing pads and lanolin cream. And, because you go through SO MANY nursing pads, these are my favorite for buying in bulk. I have tried the re-usable kind, but I pretty much fail at laundry when I have a newborn, so they only added to the stress. Also, I definitely needed waterproof pads – which I found a lot of cotton ones weren’t. I don’t know how many boxes of these I went through – and they are something you definitely need in the hospital!
7. Items for Baby
For baby, I brought one going home outfit (2 if I wasn’t sure about size), blankets, a special hat and a nail file. I didn’t bring much because 99% of the time the baby was just swaddled in hospital blankets. I brought a regular nail file (emery board) to file her nails, because they were so long at birth! We used that file for weeks before I was brave enough to clip them. And, it’s something we found that was necessary to have at the hospital.
8. Linens for my husband
If your spouse, significant other, or family member is staying in the hospital, come prepared! We brought a whole bag of pillows, a comforter, and some towels. Sleep is already going to be hard – but relying on the hospital linens makes it worst! That comforter was a life saver – so were the towels.
9. Snacks and bottled water
I brought a huge bag of granola bars, fruit, sandwiches, and prepackaged snacks – and they paid off. We also had a case of bottled water in the car, that we used to restock our room. Also, I remember a family member brought my husband a huge burger right after the delivery. Don’t underestimate having food!
I had pre-arranged a phone tree so all my people would be contacted. I would call my dad – he would call so-and-so – and they would tell… . It was very handy for getting the baby news out. Also, I have friends that have pre-written an email draft, that they just filled in with the details and bulk sent. Either way – plan how and whom you are going to announce. It is a LOT easier!
I bet you can tell from this list that I didn’t bring just one bag. I think there turned out to be 4-5 different bags – one for each person and 1-2 additional ones for linens etc. I did bring a lot of extra stuff that I never used…
5 Things you don’t need in your hospital bag…
1. Birth Playlist
This one is optional. A lot of people put a lot of stock in this playlist. But honestly, I just forgot about it. I forgot a lot about optional “fun” things. When you are in pain and preoccupied by nurses and doctors, the “extra” stuff might not seem as important.
2. Books, magazines, playing cards, movies, etc…
This accompanies #1. I had brought all these ways to occupy the time. But honestly, when I had “down time”, all I wanted to do was close my eyes. This goes for all my following hospital stays. I had SO MANY people bring me books, new shows, music, magazines…and I can’t remember one thing I read or watched for all 2 weeks. I take that back, I think once I watched 20 minutes of Mean Girls. Just because you are bored and waiting in the hospital, doesn’t mean you will want to watch or read anything. In fact, I remember being super annoyed whenever the tv was on.
3. Postpartum pads, underwear, diapers, diaper changing items
EVERY hospital will provide these. But like every new mother I’m sure, I took all my own “just to make sure”. Save your bag space – don’t take anything the hospital will provide. You paid for them – max out and take home everything they provide!
4. Hair dryer, extensive makeup, “real clothes”
This was not me. I didn’t want – or have the energy – to “do myself up”. I definitely washed my hair and let it air dry. But, I definitely didn’t wear any real clothes or really cared how I looked. You’re in the hospital, people.
5. Back massager and “gimics” seen in other lists
I read too many lists – and brought a lot of other people’s favorites. I even made a back massager with tennis balls in an old sock. I forgot about any of those things the minute I stepped inside the hospital. When having a baby is on your mind, you don’t have brain space to remember obscure things and make additional decisions. Just leave those things at home.
Honorable Mention –
The Boppy and Breast Pump
I bought my Boppy (nursing pillow) and breast pump to the hospital – and didn’t try/test out either while I was there. I definitely worked with a lactation consultant and nursed as well as I could, but don’t remember those two things being used. They are really good to have if you are a first time parent, I believe. But, if you don’t bring them, it’s not the end of the world.
You got to the end of this post! I really hope this gives you some ideas for what to pack (or not to pack!) in your hospital bag. Of course, these are just my two cents, and everyone’s experience is different. Looking back, my time in the hospital seems like just a blur – one big sleep surrounded by nurses, hospital gowns, and dirty hair. But, I’m hoping that my few experiences can help anyone who is looking forward to time in the hospital.
Do you have agree or disagree with any of these vital things you need on your hospital bag checklist? Any experience that you can share with me as I look forward to packing my hospital bag for baby #2?
Please leave a comment sharing all your favorite – or least favorite – items that you packed in your hospital bag!