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women thinking about what to put in her hospital bag ready for labour

What To Pack in Your Hospital Bag for Labour

It’s amazing how a little bundle of joy can need so much stuff, but in the 2020s we are accustomed to having all of the comforts with us, all of the time.

So, navigate your packing to clinical levels of organisation with our super-sequenced guide to hospital bag-packing. We have formatted it to take you from home to labour, on to delivery, through your hospital stay, and heading home. And we’ve done it for you, your baby and your partner! It’s enough to make Stacey Solomon’s eyelashes flutter!

How to organise and pack your bags for labour

Any big enough bag will do the job, but a wheeled bag can be really useful when you have your hands full and need to avoid lifting anything weighty.

If you keep your items in a separate bag from that of your baby, it’ll be much faster for others to find what’s needed. Use the packing method that works for you but consider using packing cubes or pouches to divide and conquer!

Washing things in advance

Washing baby clothes, blankets and other items that’ll come into contact with your newborn can be important for hygiene and health.

However, babies have very sensitive skin and are more susceptible to being exposed to chemicals. Dr. Jennifer Davis Alexander explains; “Skin is our largest organ so everything that comes in contact with your baby’s skin not only impacts their skin but their overall health.” By washing baby clothes in advance you can remove chemicals that fabrics are finished with, as well as any dust or pollutants from clothing that has been in storage. Be careful to use a detergent that doesn’t have further chemicals in it (such as sulfates, phosphates or petrochemicals) and opt for organic and plant-based ingredients wherever you can.

While they can seem cheaper and save time, regular disposable nappies can have harsh chemicals in them that cause nappy rash because the baby’s genital skin is thinner. Look out for VOCs (volatile organic compounds), formaldehyde, plastics, adhesives, fragrances and glyphosate. These chemicals can disrupt hormones and potentially cause illness in later life.

You can avoid a huge array of harmful chemicals by buying organic cotton sleepsuits and using reusable cloth or disposable eco-friendly nappies. It’s definitely worth some thought in advance!

Essentials to pack for your baby

Section off immediate items for as soon as the baby is born (your baby’s first nappy, knitted hat, sleepsuit, vest, mittens, cellular blanket) and then pack the rest into the baby’s bag.

Don’t only pick newborn-size clothes, pack 0-1 month as well, as your baby may be a bit bigger or longer than the typical newborn size (many a mum has cut the feet of a newborn sleepsuit!).

  • 4 x vests
  • 4 x Babygrows with fold-over sleeves (or scratch mittens)
  • A coming home outfit (if you feel this is important)
  • A knitted hat. Your hospital may give you one of these but it depends on the supporting charity
  • A knitted cardigan, booties in case it’s cold going home
  • 2-3 Muslins
  • Swaddle blanket and/or a warmer one for going home
  • Cellular blanket
  • Nappies size 1 (4-11lb) x 20 (nappy liners for reusable nappies)
  • Cotton wool or unscented eco wipes
  • Some nappy sacks

What to pack for yourself

Handbag Essentials

  • Phone with lots of space for photos (clear it off in advance!)
  • Wallet
  • A pouch for valuables like rings
  • Some cash for vending machines, and lots of loose change for the car park
  • Glasses and contact lenses/solution
  • Any medicines you take
  • Paperwork – hospital notes and birth plan
  • Any prenatal vitamins you are intending to carry on taking

Things for labour

  • TENS machine (if you plan to use one)
  • Any aromatherapy oils (make sure they have been deemed safe for labour and baby)
  • Lip balm
  • Hairbands
  • A few sweets to keep your mouth moist
  • Snacks and Isotonic drink in case you need an energy pick-me-up
  • Face wipes for refreshing yourself
  • Charger – with a long cable
  • Water bottle so that you can have cool water during labour
  • A handheld battery fan in case you get too hot

Your clothes for labour, hospital and going home

Think comfort every step of the way! For labour, you’ll need clothes that are loose and easy for the staff to clip monitors to your skin underneath. For the hospital, if you’re not wearing the hospital gown, you’ll need lightweight and cool clothing for the hot, dry air. You can pack a going-home outfit for yourself, but you will probably be able to wear the same clothes home that you wore to arrive, along with shoes that are easy to slide on without bending over.

Clothing for your hospital stay

  • Pyjamas or a button-up nightdress in case you don’t want to wear the hospital gown
  • Dressing gown
  • Buttoned top or clip-down vests (such as feeding vests)
  • Nursing bra x 2
  • Slippers or non-slip socks
  • Flip flops for the shower
  • A plastic bag for used clothes

A postpartum bag for you

To help you deal with new levels of sensitivity, this bag will be your best friend.

We love a good pair of pants at Kari to help deal with postpartum bleeding, but recommend pants in order of non-sexiness for the initial duration:

The first pair you’ll need are the Very Sexy disposable pants. These are underwear with built-in pads, you can wear these to start and then move on to the Super Sexy special big black cotton pants (never, ever get these in any other colour). These are a delightfully stylish, waist-high number because if you have a C-section they need to be high to go over the bandage. And then after that, you’re allowed to move on to the Actually Sexy WUKA period pants.

Also pack:

  • 10 x Maternity pads
  • Perineal witch hazel pads – pad liners/witch hazel foam for soothing your labia
  • A perineal water bottle to spray water to soothe the first wee(s). Your hospital may have one of these you can use.
  • A few breast pads for when milk comes in
  • Nipple shields in case of feeding difficulty
  • Nipple balm

Other things to make you feel good:

  • Notebook/pen so you can write any notes, or thoughts/ messages for your baby when they are born
  • Eye mask, ear plugs. It can be hard to sleep in a hospital with the heat, light and noise from other mums and babies and all the 24-hour medical checks
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Cosmetics that you love to use at home such as hand cream
  • Newspaper of the days date

Your food can be topped up by visitors, but it’s good to have a few things like favourite tea bags and favourite supermarket snacks if you don’t like the hospital food!

Your toiletry bag

  • Hairbrush
  • Stick or rollerball deodorant
  • Washcloths for cooling yourself during labour, or for washing after (throw them away if needed)
  • Shower gel, shampoo and conditioner
  • Dental care items
  • Face wipes
  • Stretch mark oil that you have been using during pregnancy
  • Hairdryer, bath towel

Did you know?

Did you know that babies prefer your natural fragrance to your favourite perfume?

“a newborn placed on the mother’s ventrum [abdomen] will crawl to the mother’s breast, as it is a potent source of maternal odor”

At birth, your baby is introduced to a whole new world of light, sights and smells, but they can’t see well at first, so smell is a primary source of comfort and bonding. Your baby can recognise your individual scent and voice, so in a world of new senses, they are soothed by the scent of their mother. By avoiding perfumes and fragrances, you can help your baby to navigate this new world.

Recommended by mums – Kari’s favourite hospital bag essentials

  • Wireless headphones for your calming audio recordings and handsfree phone calls
  • A ‘do not disturb’ sign for your curtain (to turn away that pushy hospital camera person!)
  • Face spritz
  • Mirror/make-up in case you want to take some flattering photos!
  • Something cute for memories – you might leave this until you get home, but some Mums like to have milestone cards for the first photos or a first footprint kit.
  • A plan for who to call so you can let the people who matter most find out first!

Some things for your birth partner

Let’s not forget that it is likely to be a long stint for your birth partner too, so between you be prepared with spare clothes and snacks, wallet, entertainment, camera, phone charger, toothbrush, a small pillow and any medication or contact lenses they use.

When to pack your bag

Because most labours happen in the 37-42 week window, 34-35 weeks is a good time to think about having your bags packed so that they are ready a few weeks in advance.

Trialling your car baby seat in advance

Newborn babies are particularly vulnerable and it’s not legal to transport them without an appropriate baby seat. Make sure you have trialled your baby’s car seat and that you have it when you leave to go to the hospital to give birth. ROSPA has a guide to choosing and fitting your baby seat.

Keep your car fuelled ready!

We hope that you find the last stage of pregnancy to be a time full of excitement and celebration as you gear up for your new arrival. Just remember also to keep the car fuelled, roadworthy and ready to go!

Evidence Based
This article has been reviewed by our Kari Health Experts and Editorial Board to ensure accuracy and reliability of the information presented. However, please note that the content provided is for informational purposes only and should not replace advice from your medical professional.

Did you find this article helpful this article? 

If so, you can read related Kari Health articles here:

What Are My Options When I Give Birth?

Five Things to Expect From Your Body Postpartum

Do I Need To Breastfeed? A Look at the Pros and Cons

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