An open packed suitcase / hospital bag

Be ready for delivery day with a hospital bag stocked with essentials

Everyone’s labor, delivery and recovery experience is a little bit different. Natural birth, C-section, induction, your hospital, individual preferences—all of these factors will influence what you need to pack in your hospital bag. Combining advice from moms who’ve been there with the things you know will make you comfortable is the best way to go. We’ve got the first part covered: read on for advice from the moms of Ashland Health.

Toiletries

Pack all the basics you’d bring on an overnight trip or in your gym bag: think toothbrush, deodorant, contact solution, hairbrush, etc. Stash some facial wipes and dry shampoo, which many moms find helpful when they’re sweaty and need a refresh but don’t feel up to a bathroom trip. The hospital will provide a basic shampoo, soap and a hairdryer, but familiar scents and products you love can be comforting, so consider packing travel-sized ones. If you like makeup, don’t feel silly about packing some—a little mascara and blush can make you feel a lot more human when camera-wielding visitors start to stream in.

Clothing

You’ll be walking a hospital hallway, not a red carpet, so dress for it: it’s all about comfort, cleanliness and easy access. A comfy robe and/or cute pajamas (with a button-down top) provides full coverage while offering access easy for doctors and for nursing. The hospital will provide gowns, but consider packing loose, light clothing that you don’t mind getting sweaty or stained. Pro tip: size up. You won’t want anything tight when your milk comes in. A nursing top, bra and pads will give you support as your boobs change sizes—and leak—in those first few days. Flip-flops will be helpful for showers at the hospital (think: college dorms), and if you’re bringing slippers, make sure they have good traction

Some moms don’t mind the hospital-provided mesh undies (and some LOVE them), but others feel more comfortable in stretchy cotton underwear, so if you’re unsure, consider bringing your own. Leave your jewelry or other valuables at home so you don’t risk losing them. It will take time for your belly to shrink down to size after delivery; you’ll likely leave the hospital looking five months pregnant. So pack comfy, belly-friendly maternity clothes for your stay and for the trip home. And don’t forget clothes for baby: a cute, comfy, simple (and maybe sentimental!) bring-home outfit will make the trip back all the more special.

Documentation

Hospital check-in usually requires an ID and insurance card, so tuck both into your wallet when your due date is approaching. If you have a birth plan in mind, consider bringing a written version for hospital staff to reference; this is especially helpful for long deliveries that stretch across one or more nursing shifts. Finally, if your hospital collects cord blood donations and you’d like to do so, bring the documents and any materials needed to ensure that happens.

Pro tips from moms who’ve been there

Remind your partner to have cash or change on hand for vending machines and parking, and if you don’t love chips and M&Ms, pack a supply of your own snacks too. An extra-long phone charging cord is great to have: sometimes the only open outlet is across the room from your bed. One big pro tip: pack baby wipes. Hospitals usually provide paper cloths and water for diaper changes, which are no match for baby’s first sticky meconium poops. Slip a foldable tote in your bag to bring home extra diapers, ice packs, mesh underwear and other awesome supplies that will help you shift into mom gear. Consider an extra bag of essentials at home for your partner to grab in case you end up staying a few extra days in the event of an unexpected c-section or other delay.

This is one we hear over and over again: chapstick, chapstick, CHAPSTICK. Pack your favorite lip balm (maybe more than one) and an extra-emollient lotion to combat dry hospital air, as well as nipple cream to ease soreness during the first days of nursing.

One non-negotiable must-have: you won’t be allowed to take your baby home without a car seat, so sort that out well in advance. Don’t worry if you don’t have it with you when you arrive, but be sure to have your partner grab and install it when it’s time to go home.

What not to pack

The hospital will have diapers, breast pumps, and other new-baby essentials. Leave the books and DVDs at home, though music might be nice to have. It might seem comforting to have your favorite pillow, towel or blanket, but they’re bulky, they’ll get sweaty, and you might not want them back once they’ve picked up that hospital smell (or germs). Expect to leave with more gear than you arrived with (plus: a new baby!) and your partner will likely be carrying it all, so fight the urge to overpack.

It’s great to go into your birth experience feeling prepared, but with a support network of friends, family and a community of moms that has your back, know that you have everything you need. Before, during and after your new baby’s arrival, the moms at Ashland Health are here to help—from baby bump to breast pump.