You may want to feel excited about packing your hospital bag(s), yet can’t seem to shake that feeling of dread, wondering “what do I need?!” Let us take some of that stress away from you. Here are some ideas for an organised and, hopefully, stress-free packing.
How should I pack?
The best way to pack for hospital is to be pragmatic and have everything organised in 3 separate main bags that you will take in with you: a main labour bag, a labour bag and a bag for your partner.
You can, then, have a fourth bag with extra clothing, underwear and items like pads and nappies ready at home for your partner to grab in case you have an extended hospital stay.
What Should I Pack?
The main bag
Pack what you’ll need later in your stay first, so that these items are at the bottom of your bag.
Make this the largest of the 3 bags, as it will carry all your essentials, as well as your labour bag and your and baby’s post-birth bags (see below).
- An old dark-coloured towel (remember that you will bleed after birth, so this will not show the stains)
- A change of clothes to go home in
- 2-3 comfortable and supportive bras, but leave one out for your post-birth bag
- 5 pairs of large dark-coloured cotton pants. Again, leave one out for your post-birth bag.
- A toiletries bag that includes toothpaste and toothbrush, flannels, shower gel, shampoo and anything else you’d take for an overnight stay.
- Hand sanitiser – as a minimum, spray your hands after every toilet trip and before and after you care for your perineum or caesarean section wound
- 3 night-dresses with a design that facilitates skin-to-skin and breastfeeding (front button opening is good). Leave one out for your post-birth bag.
- A light-weight and dark coloured dressing gown
- 1 pack of thick maternity pads (common sanitary pads are too thin and made with materials that may irritate your vulva post-birth)
- Your regular medication, if you are on any.
- Pain-relief. Many hospital have cut down on costs and ask patients to bring their own pain-relief.
- Your maternity notes if you have any.
- Your birth plan, if you have one
Your baby’s bag
Your changing bag is the perfect size for everything your baby will need in hospital:
- 8 nappies – If your baby is expected to be an average weight, size one nappies will be fine. If you are expecting your baby to be on the smaller size, get size zero, or micro.
Leave one out to add to your small post-birth baby bag.
- 4 sleep suits (aka ‘baby-grow’) and 4 body suits (aka ‘baby vests’). Leaving one of each out for your small baby bag.
Choose ‘newborn’ size if your baby is expected to be an average weight.
- 5 muslin cloths
- 1 blanket
- 2 hats – leave one for your small baby bag.
Your and baby’s post-birth bags
The post-birth bags will be smaller and fit at the top of your main bag, but under your labour bag.
Your post-birth bag should include everything you’ll need immediately after giving birth and for that first toilet trip:
- Flip-flops. It’s really warm in hospital and most women find that their feet have swollen during pregnancy. Flips flops are quick and easy to get on and help to protect your feet from any germs on communal floors.
- x1 night-dress
- x1 maternity pad
- x1 pair of pants
- Spritz for Bits - My Expert Midwife’s hero product, and fast becoming the number one addition for hospital bags. It's active ingredients will provide instant cooling and relief from pain, keeping you more comfortable in the days after the birth of your baby.
Your baby’s post-birth bag will also be a separate, smaller bag and it should contain everything your baby will need after they are born and before transfer to the postnatal ward:
- A nappy
- A body-suit
- A sleep suit
- A hat in case your baby struggles to maintain their temperature.
You labour bag
It is best to place this at the very top of your main bag, so it is the first thing you see when you open it. This is a small bag that will hold essential items you may need during labour:
- A refillable water bottle
- A hand-fan
- A flannel
- Lip balm or, even better, our hero product No Harm Nipple Balm, which will work far more effectively without the need to double up on things.
- TENS machine/wheat bag. Both offer effective pain relief for the early part of labour and allows you to stay upright and mobile. TENS machines can be hired through large maternity retailers and wheat bags can be heated to the required temperature in the microwave. We would advise checking that your local labour ward offers this facility
You partner’s bag
Your birth partner will also need a hospital bag for food and other supplies. Make sure to pack extra if you are having your labour induced, as this would normally make a stay in hospital longer.
They will need:
- Money – hospital parking meters can use up a lot of change.
- x1 change of clothes, plus warm layers.
- Basic toiletries, like toothbrush and paste, a flannel and deodorant
- Battery pack charger for phone/tablet - Some hospitals don’t allow you to use their power points so these give up to 3 full charges for your phone
- Food and snacks. Not all hospitals have 24-hour restaurant services or retailers, so stock up on sandwiches (these can be frozen and taken out of the freezer when labour starts, so they are fresh), healthy snacks and, perhaps, glucose tablets and chocolate for energy.
- Sports drinks - As well as water, include isotonic sports and/or coconut water.
Your body requires considerable calories during labour and needs this energy quickly, so drinks such as Lucozade sport, isotonic and carbohydrate or glucose gel sachets can be really useful. We know from research that preventing women taking adequate calories during labour can slow down contractions and the progress of labour. These will also keep your partner going if they start to flag!
And you are done!
You can, of course, customise your contents and organisation of your bags to your needs and likes. Yet, we hope this has given you a little nudge in the right direction.