What to Pack in a Hospital Bag for Labor: Checklist for Mom and Baby

What to Pack in a Hospital Bag for Labor: Checklist for Mom and Baby

There’s just so much you need to get in order before your baby arrives that it could feel a bit overwhelming. Depending on the kind of birth and pregnancy, most parents-to-be start packing their hospital bags from the 36th week onwards.

We say ‘bags’ because you’ll be packing more than one: a bag for you and one for the baby.

However, the items in your bag may vary depending on the type of delivery. That’s why we’ve got three separate hospital bag checklists here: for the baby, a normal delivery, and a planned c-section.

Table of Contents

Hospital Bag Checklist for the Baby

You’ll get some freebies, like diapers, wipes, and basic toiletries, during your hospital stay. But it’s always good to be extra prepared. Here’s a list of things to pack for the newest and cutest member of your growing family.

  1. Wipes: You can never have too many of these! Unscented, chemical-free wipes formulated with a high water content will be perfect for your baby’s extra-sensitive, brand-new skin. The gentle cleansing wipes will also come in handy whenever you need a quick cleanup. So, make sure you pack a big pack, as you’ll be needing quite a few.

  2. Baby Swaddle Blankets: 100% organic cotton muslin swaddle blankets are soft, lightweight, and warm yet airy - making them perfect for swaddling your newborn. The organic factor means they’re free of harsh chemicals or toxic dyes. As far as the versatility, you’ll be surprised at how handy they are. You can also use these organic baby blankets as a nursing cloth, a burp cloth, a car seat cover, a diaper changing mat, a baby receiving blanket - the list is endless!

  3. Onesies: Your baby won’t need much right after they arrive, apart from love, comfort, and warmth. So, bring along a pack of cozy onesies for the stay and a dainty going-home outfit. Keep in mind the weather while you pack the hospital bag. If it’s going to be cold, you’ll need warm cardigans, mittens, and knit caps. Clothes made from 100% organic cotton are considered a good choice because of their breathable and skin-friendly qualities.

  4. Hats and Socks: Babies have trouble adjusting to temperature changes and can lose heat rapidly. So, regardless of the weather, your newborn will need socks and hats to shield their brand-new skin and keep them snug.

  5. Bottles: You’ll need bottles and nipples if you plan on feeding the baby infant formula or expressed breast milk. Used bottles must be washed and sterilized before the next feed, so don’t hesitate to ask the hospital staff to help you with the cleaning.

  6. Burp Cloth: While burps help in releasing the air trapped in the baby’s tummy, they can be messy. Soft, absorbent burp cloths protect baby’s clothes and yours from spit-ups and also help you clean the mess in a jiffy. We recommend buying a pack of muslin squares because of the fabric’s exceptional softness. They are also easy to wash and quick to dry. You can also use a muslin cloth for face.

  7. Diapering Essentials: Diapers will be a part of the complimentary kit, but they’ll be limited in quantity and may not be a brand of your choice. So, carry a few extra newborn or smallest-sized diapers for good measure. And don’t forget to add a small tube of diaper cream to your packing list. Apply the cream after cleaning and before every diaper change to protect your baby from rash and soreness.

  8. Car Seat: No, you cannot fit a car seat in your hospital bag, but this is one of the most important items to ensure safe transport for your baby. You or your partner will need to make sure the car seat base is properly installed in the back seat of your vehicle. Opt for rear-facing car seats designed according to a newborn’s size and weight. Confused about which seat to buy? You can go over the recommendations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before you make the purchase.

Related Article: Eco-friendly Baby Products You Should Add to Your Registry. A list of 20.

Hospital Bag Checklist for the Mommy - Normal Delivery

Mommies with normal delivery typically stay in the hospital for 1-2 days. Their stay is shorter than that of moms who undergo C-sections. So, your length of stay will be a factor in the quantity of items you’ll pack. Here’s a list of things you’ll need for more comfortable labor, delivery, and recovery.

  1. Photo ID, Insurance Information, and Birthing Plan: Yes, you have quite a few documents to pack to streamline your admission, starting with a photo ID, like a driver’s license or a passport. You’ll need your insurance information, medical records, and birthing plan if you have one. Place the copies where you can easily access them without disturbing the contents of your bag.

  2. Maternity Bras and Post-partum Underwear: When shopping for maternity or nursing bras, go for seamless bras and avoid underwired ones. Opt for one or two sizes up for more comfort once you start lactating.

    As far as underwear goes, you’ll receive a set of disposable mesh ones from the hospital. But some mommies may find these uncomfortable. In that case, bring plenty of large-sized undies, roomy enough to accommodate the maxi pads you’ll be wearing after delivery.

  3. Toiletries: We leave it to you to decide what to pack for your daily hygiene and grooming routine, but if you want a list, here it goes: toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, hair care products, and lotion. Avoid wearing perfumed products around the baby, as they can affect your baby’s health. Other must-haves are purified lanolin ointment or cream for your nipples and lip butter, as the air in hospitals is very dry.

  4. Comfy and Loose Clothes: You can stick to the hospital gowns or change into your clothes during the stay. Front-opening tops and joggers, yoga pants, and loose-fitting robes, sleepwear, warm fuzzy socks are a big hit among new mommies. Just make sure it’s nothing too tight, as your post-partum belly will take time to return to its normal size.

  5. Grippy Slippers: Indoor strolls during active labor help ease the intensity of labor and also speed things up. Since hospital floors can be cold and slippery, we recommend packing non-skid socks or grippy slippers for extra comfort and safety.

  6. Maxi Pads: Your hospital will give you heavy-flow sanitary pads for post-partum bleeding (Lochia). But you’ll need plenty of these in the initial days after delivery, at the hospital and back home.

  7. Nursing Pads: Once your milk comes in, you’ll routinely need nursing pads to absorb any leaks. So, remember to pack a few.

  8. Snacks: You’ve probably been gorging on delish snacks throughout your pregnancy, so why should the hospital stay be any different? Here are a few pointers while packing your snack bag - Make sure you only pack healthy and easy-to-digest bites like crackers, granola bars, and fruits. That said, we recommend getting a go-ahead from your practitioner before packing any food items.

  9. Diversions: Labor can get woefully long for some, and diversions in the form of magazines, playlists, podcasts, and light reading can help you relax. We’ve also come across many moms who’ve vouched for pain and anxiety-relieving properties of essential oils like lavender, clary sage, and peppermint oil.

    If you plan on using essential oils, you’ll need an electric aromatherapy diffuser. Also, bring along something neutral to squeeze, like two stress balls, one for each hand, to help calm your nerves during active labor.

  10. Comfy Pillows and Blankets: If you want to avoid thin, trite hospital pillows and blankets, bring your favorite pillows and cotton woven blankets. Pack at least two, one for you and one for your partner.

  11. Cell Phone Charger: A fully charged phone will be a good diversion during labor, not to mention its role in capturing all those precious first moments through pictures and videos. Pack a portable charger or one with a long chord to easily access charging outlets without indulging in awkward acrobatics.

Hospital Bag Checklist for the Mommy - Planned C-section

A C-section or Cesarean involves delivering the baby via an incision to the mother’s abdomen and uterus, and almost one-third of births in the U.S. are cesarean. If you’re undergoing a planned C-section, you’ll need all the items that a normal delivery mommy will pack. But you’ll need extra items to help you through the surgery and the longer post-partum stay. Here’s what you’ll need to pack over and above the previous checklist.

  1. C-section underwear: A pack of roomy, stretchy cotton underwear that sits above or below your incision.

  2. Bendy Straws: Pack a couple of long, bendy straws because sitting up to drink is going to be challenging after the surgery.

  3. Peppermint Tea: Moms who’ve undergone C-sections vouch for peppermint tea and its ability to help eliminate trapped gas and restore intestinal function. Plus, the smell of peppermint keeps nausea at bay.

  4. Loose Cotton Robe: A loose cotton robe or dressing gown is a great idea for C-section mommies as it doesn’t cling to the incision and makes breastfeeding easier. We also recommend packing something warm, as many mommies feel chilly after receiving an epidural. Throwing on a pullover can feel like a task when you have a surgical wound in your belly, so pack a knit wrap or a shawl.

  5. Feminine Wipes: It’ll be difficult to make frequent trips to the bathroom following the surgery. So, having a pack of feminine wipes will help you stay fresh and clean.

  6. Belly Band: C-section mommies swear by this! An abdominal binder or wrap provides mild compression and support to the incision, speeding up healing and mobility.

  7. Glasses: You’ll be asked to remove contact lenses while prepping for your surgery. So, carry a lens case as well as a pair of eyeglasses to wear after you remove the lenses.

  8. Toiletries: We’ve already listed the hygiene and grooming essentials mommies will need during their stay. However, C-section mommies may need to pack a few things extra to prep for their surgery: hair ties or bands to hold your hair back and a pack of organic cotton makeup remover rounds, as you’ll be asked to remove all makeup before the procedure.

  9. Nursing Pillow: Besides helping with latching, a nursing pillow will act as a protective barrier between your baby and your incision wound during breastfeeding.

Final Thoughts

If you found the list a tad long, there are a few things you can do to avoid overpacking. For starters, contact your hospital and ask them for a list of all the complimentary items they provide for you and the baby. Also, instead of packing full-sized toiletries, decant them into smaller bottles.

Go for something roomy and easy to carry when choosing the hospital bag. If you’re looking for ideas, exploring Organic Cotton Mart’s Extra-large Canvas Tote might be worth your while. The sturdy bag is washable and reusable. It’s also multi-function, meaning it can double up as your baby’s diaper bag when you’re back home.

A white swaddle blanket can be a perfect welcome gift for your baby. Or, get a pink swaddle blanket for baby girls.

Author: Karen Lamar

Karen is the Chief Content Officer at Organic Cotton Mart. She has a Master's Degree in Environmental Science from NC State with a special focus in Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy. Since her High School days, she has been an Environmentalist and was the President of her High School's Environmental Club for 3 years before starting her freshman year at NC State. She has a deep knowledge and understanding of various environment-friendly movements like zero waste, minimalistic living, recycling, and upcycling.

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