Due dates are great little things, but they're not always known for their accuracy. So it's always best to be prepared. It's recommended that you start packing your hospital bag by week 36, so we've helpfully broken things down to make it a little easier.
At 36 weeks you should still have some time, but even so, if you haven't packed your hospital bag yet, it’s probably best to start. It may seem a little early, but it’ll be the last thing you want to sort in the coming weeks. And no one wants to be looking for maternity pads once your water has broken. Preparing ahead of time will make you, your baby and your birthing partner’s hospital stay as comfortable as possible.
How much am I allowed to pack in my hospital bag?
Good question. Remember, it's not an all-expenses-paid trip to the Maldives, hospitals may limit the number of items that you are allowed to bring; so it’s best to check in advance whether your hospital of choice has any such restrictions. If they do, you may want to pack one bag for before and during labour, and another for after which can be kept in the car until needed (there's no way they will know!).
What Should I pack for labour? Mum-to-be hospital bag essentials
The biggie. What to pack. There’s no right or wrong way to prepare a hospital bag, just try ensure you have everything - from toiletries and clothes to items you turn to in stressful times, such as your favourite book. If you're anything like us, your list of essentials will probably end up being quite long, so it’s best to get organised ahead of time.
Sometimes there’s nothing quite as comforting as knowing you are following your own guidelines for a safe, low-stress birth. Whether your birth plan consists of a few bullet points or a detailed flowchart, you won’t regret taking a copy with you.
Here are some top tips for how to, ahem, style yourself while on the ward.
- Clothing is the last thing you want to worry about as you go into labour. Make sure the clothes for labour are extra roomy and easy to change into. A comfy t-shirt or front fastening nightdress will work best.
- You might have to pace the hospital corridors, so bring some fuzzy, open-backed slippers, for that girl-about-the ward look. Take a dressing gown or loose nightgown as well, since you will be constantly in and out of the bathroom.
- Bring a couple changes of clothes for the ward. Choose clothes you aren’t especially fond of, that are high-waisted and preferably dark, since they might get stained. You'll also need roomy shoes: your feet might be swollen for a short while after delivery. Even if they don’t swell, you won’t want to be dealing with shoes that pinch your feet. Don’t forget to pack a few pairs of socks just in case.
- Pack an outfit for the journey home. You don’t have to give up style, but take something comfortable for travelling. Maternity clothes will be your best friend. Same applies to underwear: bring several oversized, soft cotton briefs.
- Finally, bring a jacket or cardigan; hospitals can get chilly! But more importantly, you might need some outerwear for the trip to and from the hospital. Obviously, this doesn’t apply if you live somewhere warm and sunny (lucky you!)
If you are going to be nursing, pack at least 3 nursing bras, some breast pads, and cream. If you have any pamphlets or guides about breastfeeding, you will need them. Even if you aren’t, take some support bras, and don’t forget to bring bottles and formula.
Maternity pads and disposable knickers:
You don't need us to go into details...
2 towels and facecloth or facial cooling spray:
Because nothing works up a sweat quite like producing another living human.
Toiletries and makeup:
This may seem unimportant, but having your own, familiar toiletries around you can make a cold hospital room that much more welcoming. You might think you’ll be too busy or tired for beauty products and make-up, and you might end up being right, but what’s the harm in packing them just in case? And remember the essentials - you will definitely need a toothbrush, deodorant, shower gel and shampoo.
Lip balm and massage oil:
Giving birth is hard work! Relieve your muscles by getting your birthing partner to massage your lower back and neck (if you can't milk this, then when can you scrounge a free massage?) with some soothing, scented oil.. You will probably need lip balm, too - it’s just one of those everyday items you don’t miss until it’s gone.
TENS machine or hot water bottle:
The hospital will provide some form of pain relief, but a hot water bottle or a TENS machine can be useful for soothing lower back pain and twinges from contractions.
High energy snacks and bottled water or juice:
Especially important if you live somewhere warm: you need to replenish electrolytes, and stay hydrated. You'll need plenty of food and drink in order to recover, so keep it on hand.
Books and magazines:
If you have had to stay at the hospital for a while before, you know it’s about as fun as an Accountancy Convention. Take your favourite magazines with you, or pack your ebook. Load up your phone with anything you want to listen to during birth (might we recommend Thrash Metal?), such as a podcast or meditative music.
A hairbrush and clips:
You may want to keep your hair back during birth: bring a headband, clips or a hair tie. You may be popping sprogs, but you're still worth it.
Hospital bag for a c-section or pool birth
There’s not much difference between packing for a hospital birth and packing specifically for a cesarean, just remember to take large, stretchy underwear with you - you don’t want anything touching the scar.
As for packing for a birthing pool, you might want to include a bikini top in addition to the clothes listed above, and lots of extra towels.
What should I pack for my baby? Baby’s hospital bag essentials
So, that's you sorted. But what about that extra person coming home with you? It's doubtful they've packed a bag, so it's up to you. It always helps to have a few things ready for your new arrival. Take plenty of clothes, outerwear if needed, and all the hygiene products you can think of.
Here are some basics to bring along:
Bring at least 6 bodysuits and 6 all in ones. Your newborn will probably go through multiple outfits a day, so one-piece outfits are easy to match and change your baby into. Additionally, pack 2 cardigans, 2 pairs of scratch mitts and 2 hats and a few pairs of socks as babies are more sensitive to the cold. Keep your little one feeling cosy and looking adorable with a few accessories. Pack at least one jacket or pram suit for those cooler months. At this rate, they'll have more outfits than you.
With the help of bibs, you should be able to keep baby’s outfits clean, but don't hold us to that. Bring at least 4.
Blankets are the quintessential baby product. Bring a soft one to wrap your little one in, and keep them safe and warm.
You'll need a pack of newborn nappies, approximately 10 per day (we know, right?!), nappy bags, and a small pot of nappy cream. Don’t forget to bring some cotton wool balls for your baby’s delicate bottom (baby wipes are not recommended for use until your little one is at least 2 weeks old).
Baby wash and shampoo:
No sooner are they here, than you're having to keep them clean. But nothing beats that first bathtime!
Outfit to travel home:
If they're making a first impression, it really needs to count.
A baby car seat:
This isn’t something you need to pack, strictly speaking, but you will need it when making your first trip home with baby. Hospitals won't let you leave without one! Having it fitted ahead of time will stop your birthing partner from having to fiddle around with straps and bases while you're loitering the car park with a baby in hand.
What should my birth partner pack in their hospital bag?
Your partner will be a pillar of strength in those stressful moments (you hope!). They will likely also be spending a long time in the hospital and will need their own list of basics to make sure they, and you, and baby are as comfortable as possible.
Here are a few quick essentials it’s worth remembering.
A fully charged phone:
Because nothing says 'I'm heavily invested in this birth' like regular updates on Snapchat. Actually, this will be useful for keeping friends and family updated, using as a stopwatch to monitor dilation and filming baby’s first moments. It’s best if they take a charger or portable battery too, it's amazing how much you'll use your phone.
A change of clothes and deodorant:
Your birthing partner may not have access to a shower depending on how long labour lasts. A spare change of clothes will leave them feeling fresh and more relaxed. And a spritz of antiperspirant never hurt anybody.
Something to read or listen to:
Giving birth is a magical time, but if baby is taking their sweet time, it doesn't half drag.
If they plan on joining you for a splash in the birthing pool.
A small hand fan:
You're not exactly Cleopatra, but a gentle breeze during labour is a massive help and great for cooling you down.
Snacks, drinks and bendy straws:
This will ensure that your partner doesn’t have to go hunting around the hospital for food, instead of staying by your side. The bendy straws will come in handy for sipping a drink during labour, trust us.
And that's it. That's everything you need for packing a hospital bag. Once your bags are packed, it's best to keep them by the front door or in the car. You never know when the big day will come, but if you're ready, then it won't take you by surprise.
And one last thing. Remember: You've got this!