Hospital Bag Checklist: the essentials and optional items

I'm getting really close to go time and my hospital bag is packed!! Also check out my list of what to take from the hospital besides your baby.

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Before you start packing

Contact your hospital

This is my second child and I'm delivering at the same hospital as last time, so I have a good idea of what my hospital provides.  I encourage you to contact your hospital to ask what they provide in terms of toiletries, nursing supplies, mesh underwear, pads, pumps and baby supplies.  Check out my list of what to take from the hospital besides your baby for an idea of what nursing supplies my hospital provided.  NYC hospitals tend to provide a lot of supplies, but I've heard that some Canadian hospitals don't even provide diapers for the baby!

Think about your personal needs

My list may not be the most minimalistic, but you can pick and choose from the optional items based on where you fall on the minimalist / finicky spectrum!

Consider the length of your stay

Consider the potential length of your hospital stay when deciding what / how much of each item to pack.

At least in NY, insurance companies are required to allow you to stay two nights after baby is born for a vaginal birth and up to four nights for a c-section (and they usually count from midnight, so if your baby is born at 12:01 am you can expect to stay 24 hours longer than the mom who gave birth two minutes earlier). 

Packing light is generally more manageable, so you might want to lay out some items at home for someone to bring for you after your first or second night in the event that you need to stay beyond two days. 

The Packing List

Labor items

  • lip balm and other items to keep you comfortable
  • pretty paper or memory book to stamp baby's footprints in delivery room

Washable packing bag or wheeled bag

Hospitals are gross and there is a good chance that your bag will be on the floor at some point, so a washable bag is ideal.  I packed in my Herschel duffel, which has impressive capacity, is durable and washes beautifully (if I was buying it now, I might consider this new one that is designed to serve as a diaper bag).

If you are taking a wheeled bag, I recommend one that will help you stay organized.  I've had this one for years and love it.  It's super durable and has amazing internal organization.  Plus it is designed to fit way more than other similarly sized bags.  

If you are taking a bag without compartments, I recommend using packing cubes or labeled  ziploc bags to stay organized.  


Black comfy nursing-friendly pajamas/lounge wear (one/day)

After my son was born, I was eager to change out of my hospital gown and into something comfortable!  Members of my Facebook group recommended Kindred Bravely's Davy pajama sets to me for both maternity and nursing.  I  got them in both long sleeves and short sleeves and they are perfect -- super soft, nursing friendly and the tops could pass for regular clothing.   Kindred Bravely also makes really popular nursing bras, recovery and c-section friendly underwear, labor and delivery gowns, adorable labor and delivery socks (see below) and more.  Get 20% off your entire Kindred Bravely purchase when you click here and use code  BESTBABY20 at checkout (expires 5/14/18, exclusions may apply).

Pro tip: for as long as you are in a hospital gown, avoid mooning others on the floor, by layering the gowns so the bottom one opens in back and you wear the second one open to the front like a robe. 

Though not strictly necessary, some women like to bring a robe, I have one from this brand that I am bringing with me.

Cozy grippy socks 

My hospital provides socks with traction on the bottom but they are kind of thin and rough.  After carrying you and your baby for 9+ months, your feet deserve to be pampered!  These super soft socks from Kindred Bravely have inspirational quotes on the bottom and traction to keep you from slipping during your recovery.  See above for 20% Kindred Bravely discount details.  

 

Nursing Bra/Tank and Pumping Bra

For these items, I recommend against light colors as breast milk and nipple balms can stain.  You could choose either a nursing bra or tank, but you will want at least one per day because you will likely be wearing it 24/7.

Nursing Tank

I love the idea of a nursing tank but never found one that I really liked.  Members of my Facebook group recommended this Bamboobies nursing tank and I'm excited to try it this time around!  I've heard that it is less bulky than other tanks.  

 

Nursing Bra

I've recommended this nursing bra to countless friends and members of my groups and many agree that it's the most comfortable item of clothing they ever owned!  It's available at Amazon or Target (check both sites for best price in your size and color).  I find that it runs small.  

Pumping Bra

While at the hospital you should request to meet with a lactation consultant who can give you a nursing and pumping tutorial.  Pumping is infinitely easier when you can do it handsfree with the help of a pumping bra, and I found it helpful to have it on when trying out the pump for the first time.  This one is my favorite.  It runs big, so size down. Also, I used a Medela pump last time and it was compatible and friends have confirmed that it is compatible with Spectra parts too.  

If you are able to schedule the session session with the lactation consultant, it would be great to have someone bring your pump and accessories for you so you learn on your own equipment.  But don't drive yourself crazy with that.  Do, however, read my post my list of what to take from the hospital besides your baby to potentially save yourself more than $50 on nursing supplies!!

Other nursing supplies

Nursing pads

My hospital provides disposable nursing pads.  Still, I'm packing Bamboobies washable / reusable nursing pads

Yes, they are more environmentally friendly, but also your nipples can get really irritated during those first days of nursing.  These help limit irritation as they are way softer and less likely to stick to you than disposables.  

Nipple balm / Silverette nursing cups

Speaking of sore nipples, nipple balm can alleviate discomfort.  I tried a few nursing balms when my son was a baby.  This one was my favorite (this one is popular too, but the smell doesn't agree with me).  

I recently came across the Silverette nursing cups as an alternative to nipple balm and am going to give it a try with this baby.  While many nipple balms say that they don't need to be washed off, I'm not crazy about my newborn ingesting them.  Silverette is made of silver, which the brand claims has healing properties.  They recommend that you apply some breast milk to your nipples and then wear the Silverette nursing cups in your bra to alleviate or prevent discomfort. 

Nursing cover

A nursing cover is optional, but I suggest packing one if there is a chance that you will be uncomfortable being exposed in front of hospital staff or visitors.  I had this nursing cover last time, it's 100% cotton, washable and the rigid neck line allows you to see and maintain eye contact with your  baby. 

I'm packing this Bamboobies cover/shawl instead this time as it's really lightweight and takes up almost no room in my bag.  

Miscelaneous nursing supplies

My hospital provided all sorts of nursing supplies (including these soothing gel pads), and on my last day my nurse stuffed my bag so I had supplies when I got home.  Check out my list of what to take from the hospital besides your baby, and consider stocking up on some of these items if your hospital doesn't provide them. 
 

Care for down there

Disposable underwear

Yes, you will bleed post-delivery, whether you have a vaginal birth or c-section.  My hospital provided mesh underwear and pads, but the underwear gave me a burning rash around my waist line after a day.  This time I'm bringing these incontinence underwear, which lots of my friends swear feel more comfortable and dignified!  They are almost cute!
 

Sitz Spray

I brought this sitz spray with me last time but ended up having an emergency c-section, so I didn't use it.  But lots of my friends swear that it gave them relief after their vaginal births!

Flip flops for the shower

A running theme of this post is that hospitals are disgusting.  I recommend bringing cheap flip flops so you don't contract a fungus in the shower!

Sleep mask and other items to help ensure sleep

Hospitals aren't always the best places to recover.  After giving birth to my son, I spent four nights in the hospital.  It felt like the night time nurses went out of their way to not let me sleep.  Starting the first night, they would flip on all the lights every time they came to check on me.  Every night I'd ask them to only turn on the one least bright light and they never obliged.  One night at midnight they asked if I wanted to be woken up in the middle of the night for my baby's Vitamin K shot.  I asked them not to wake me and they did anyway.  

This time I'm bringing an eye mask, as well as index cards and painter's tape to make little signs that say "if entering in middle of the night, please turn on as few lights as possible."  Hopefully I will get a reputation among the nurses as the lady not to be messed with!!

My sleep mask is out of stock so I polled my group of NYC moms having 2018 babies, and these were the sleep masks they recommended most (#1 is molded so shouldn't interfere with lash extensions, #2 and #3 are silk, which is best for anti-aging):

I've heard of moms bringing a sound machine, but I would just use a white noise or meditation app on my phone (see my blog post on insomnia).

Toiletries

Assuming that your hospital doesn't provide these items, bring whatever basic toiletries you would need for any overnight stay:

Electronics

  • phone
  • earpods
  • splitter to allow you to charge your phone and use your earpods simultaneously (I find this so useful, even for being able to fall asleep to white noise while charging my phone).
  • extra long charging cord (outlets are often awkwardly placed) and plug (consider bringing one for your partner too)
  • external battery (I have this one and customer service is amazing)
  • charged camera

Snacks

By the time you are given something to eat after birth, many hours may have passed since your last meal.  I am packing a bunch of RX Bars and my favorite flavor LARABAR.  

Basic necessities for your partner

If your partner is staying over (or even if he just spent a bunch of hours in the hospital while you labored), he will need basics including:

  • change of clothes
  • pajamas
  • toiletries

Mom/baby clothing for photos

At my hospital, a photographer comes around to take photos of the families and babies.  If your hospital does this, I  recommend bringing one nice top for you and some cute swaddles and hats or headbands for the baby.  I'm a blogger and share a lot of photos on Instagram (follow me here), so may have gone overboard in this department!

I'm packing the adorable Copper Pearl swaddle + top knot hat (pictured just above) for the baby (click here and use code VRYBSTCP for 15% off items from Copper Pearl, expires 5/31/18, exclusions may apply).

I'm also packing some additional swaddles and this adorable newborn bonnet, which my son also wore in hospital photos, and some super sweet baby headbands..  

For second time moms (to prevent jealousy in older kids)

If your older kids will be visiting you in the hopsital, my friend Rachel from The Analytical Mommy recommends preventing jealousy by having a photo of your older kid(s) out when they come to visit. 

TheVeryBestBabyStuff_28.jpg

You may also want to have a gift or favorite snack on hand for your older kid(s). 

Look out for my upcoming post with tips on preventing jealousy in older kids when the baby arrives (I touched on one of my tips in this Instagram post, but a have a few more up my sleeve)!

For Moms of fur babies

Members of my Facebook group for NYC moms of 2018 babies suggested bringing a spare swaddle, wrapping the baby in it and sending it home for the dog to get used to the baby's smell.  

Going home items

You can leave these items home and have someone bring them before your discharge day.  

Mom going home outfit & shoes

For yourself, comfort is key.  Keep in mind that a lot of moms swell from all the fluids that they pump into your IV.  So a loose outfit and pair of shoes with a generous fit would be perfect (I'm packing these shoes, also available here).  

Baby going home outfit & blanket

For baby, it's nice to bring a cute outfit.  Just keep in mind that it needs to work with your car seat, (so avoid gowns).  I'm bringing this outfit, which I already had from my son (it comes in pink too). 

You will also want to have a blanket (check out the Copper Pearl discount above) or car seat cover to wrap the baby in  -- but for safety, it should be put over the car seat straps (see my post on surviving winter with a newborn for more info).  

Car Seat

You definitely don't want to bring your car seat to the hospital until discharge day (hospital rooms are cramped), but most hospitals won't let you leave without a car seat. 

Nursing and baby supplies provided by the hospital

Your hospital may or may not send you home with supplies, but it can't hurt to ask!!  Here is my list of items that you can request.  

Items I didn't pack

Here are some items that lots of moms pack.  While I see the value, I had to draw the line somewhere and did not include them.  

  • nursing pillow (I had this one last time, and am trying this one, which doubles as a body pillow, this time)
  • slippers (hospitals are dirty and you might not want to bring the germs back home)
  • natural or cloth diapers (I do use natural diapers at home, but don't feel like shlepping) 
  • blow dryer and styling brush (I'd bring this one if any, as it is quick and foolproof)
  • Newborn nail scissors in case the baby comes out with long nails (I love this brand, I've yet to cut my son in 3+ years)
  • Infant mittens to keep baby from scratching herself (these ones are amazing and really stay on)
  • pillow, bath and face towel (hospital towels are small and scratchy), just avoid white so the staff realizes that they are yours from home
  • water bottle with straw for labor and recovery (water is so important for recovery and nursing, but I just used the hospital pitchers and had every visitor fill two for me)
  • pacifier with clip -- my hospital provides pacifiers but I was advised not to give one so early on to avoid nipple confusion, (if the hospital provides then there is no need for a clip as if it falls on the floor they will just give you a new one and you can take the old one home to wash)

Best of luck with your delivery!  Please comment below if I forgot anything!