How to Pack a Hospital Bag (with Free Printable!)

I am so amazed at you, my readers! There are some great additional ideas for what to pack in your hospital bag in the comments. Be sure to check them out after you’ve read this post and leave your own suggestions.

Being someone who has already had a baby, I tend to be the go-to person for friends and family who are about to have their first. One of the main questions I have received is “What do I pack in my hospital bag?“. Thankfully, my hospital has a handy-dandy little booklet that gives a list of what Mama’s bag should contain and what Baby’s bag should contain (just don’t forget about Daddy’s bag!) but sometimes it is really nice to hear a personal opinion from someone who has been there before. What items could you do without? Which ones are absolutely crucial?

The problem is, in all the hubbub of having a baby, remembering what I packed over two years ago is no easy task. When I first got this question from my sister, I spent a few hours putting together a list for her. Thankfully, I now have a pretty thorough checklist of what I need to be packing as I put together the final things in my hospital bag.

So here it is. I hope that it will provide that little bit of experience for anyone needing to pack a hospital bag for the first time, or for anyone who needs a little reminder (like me). (Remember, different hospitals and birthing centres will provide different amenities and things might change depending on how and where you give birth.)

Laura’s List for an Awesome Hospital Kit

  • Clothes: Consider how long you could possibly be in the hospital and bring enough comfortable clothes to accommodate. Remember that stretch is important! Some people come out of the hospital even bigger than when they went in because of swelling. (I have even heard stories of some people not being able to fit into their shoes post-partum). In my case, I brought way too many clothing options when I was in the hospital with Cameron, but this is because I was too uncomfortable to even put on pants and socks each day. I spent my entire hospital stay in a hospital gown. Don’t feel bad if you do too, but most people prefer to actually get dressed each day.
    • Pants: Remember that your body will likely be recovering from major trauma no matter how you deliver. Jeans might not be the most comfortable option. Yoga pants and sweat pants are great.
    • Shirts: Assuming you are planning to try breastfeeding, consider shirts that are loose-fitting and give you easy boob access.  I really suggest investing in some nursing tank-tops. These tops have been a crucial part of my wardrobe all throughout the year following Cameron’s birth, and even during this pregnancy. I prefer ones that are nice and heavy because they helped keep all my jiggly bits secure. With a nursing tank-top, almost any shirt can be used as a nursing top.
    • Nursing Bra: There is always a big question about whether you should purchase a nursing bra before or after baby is born.  It is true that your breast size will change after your baby is born. And it will continue to change throughout your nursing life. But it is good to have at least one nursing bra during those first few days after delivery before you are able to get sized for another bra. My best advice is to get a night-time nursing bra that fits you in your late pregnancy and leaves room for expansion. Don’t worry about under-wire or padding. The goal here is to allow for maximum comfort and possible stretch. Once your size starts to even out, you can then go and invest in a few good daily nursing bras. (Also, see note on what to wear during labour below.)
    • Underwear: Again, it is important to remember that your body will be recovering from major trauma no matter how you deliver. When packing underwear consider that you’ll either be wanting to pack your underwear with ice or be avoiding elastic over a c-section incision. Thankfully, most hospitals will provide you with some disposable underwear to wear directly after the birth of your baby, but I also suggest bringing some of those awesome maternity underwear or giant granny-panties. Yup, I went there.
    • Socks (Also, see note on what to wear during labour below.)
    • Pajamas and maybe even a housecoat
  • Nursing Gear: If you put nothing else in your hospital bag, do not forget nursing pads and nipple cream. You will probably want the nursing pads even if you aren’t planning to nurse. And don’t do what I did during my first birthing experience by assuming I would get nipple cream if I needed it. If you are breastfeeding you will definitely need nipple cream at some point during your nursing life and you will likely need it when you first start nursing. It is way better to have it in an accessible pocket in your kit bag than trying to send out a confused husband to the store when you can absolutely not stand the pain any more.
    • (Optional) Nursing Pillow
    • (Optional) Nursing Cover
  • Heavy-duty, Long Pads: Even if your hospital will provide these, you will need them when you get home, assuming you delivered vaginally at least.
  • Tucks wipes or some other cooling pain relief for your sensitive bits.
  • Lip Balm: Hospitals tend to get dry. You also shouldn’t forget…
  • Moisturiser
  • Slippers: But not your favourite slippers to wear around the house. Make sure these ones can be thrown out if they get covered in any number of bodily fluids.
  • Bathroom bag: Tooth brush, tooth paste, shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, hair brush, elastics, headbands, hair pins. It might be a great idea to get new items or travel-sized items for your hospital bag so that you can still have these things at home for your main grooming necessities as you wait to go into labour.
  • Entertainment: You might spend hours in the hospital waiting for your baby to be born. You might find yourself awake at night nursing a baby with very little else to do but gaze at the perfection of the life you created. You might never touch your entertainment items, but you might use them all. Consider packing things like a deck of cards, magazines, laptop, tablet, cell phone, book, ebook reader, book light, notebook, pens, and of course all chargers that you will require to keep these things running.
  • Camera
  • Food and/or Money: Know what food amenities your hospital boasts but also consider that you might be wheeled into your room in the middle of the night when everything is closed after not being able to eat for 15 hours. Consider bringing change for vending machines and granola bars or something for a quick snack.
  • List of phone numbers for those people you want to call as soon as labour starts or when Baby arrives

  • Baby Items:
    • Diapers: Check to see if your hospital provides diapers or not. Mine recommends bringing them, but I am sure they also have them available for use. This is extra important if you plan to cloth diaper right away.
    • Baby Wipes: Sometimes a wipe is just easier to use than a facecloth. It is good to bring these in case you need them.
    • Diaper Cream
    • Clothes: Lots of people pick a special “take home outfit”. This is great, but also make sure to bring some sleepers and onesies.
    • Burp cloths and/or receiving blankets
    • One heavy baby blanket
    • Infant Car Seat

You should also consider what you want to be wearing while labouring. Keep these things at the top of your hospital bag for easy access. My biggest mistake last time was wearing a sports bra during child-birth. It was comfortable but couldn’t easily be taken off to nurse once Cameron was born, especially because it was one that needed to be taken off over the head. I will definitely be wearing a comfortable nursing bra or a bathing suit top this time. I loved spending some of my labour time in the bathtub and so perhaps a bathing suit for you (and maybe even your husband) is a good idea.

One of my best decisions last time was wearing giant, fluffy socks. Although the nurses and my husband totally made fun of my fat, cookie-monster blue, furry socks, my feet stayed comfortable and warm all throughout my labour. Often, delivery rooms are kept cooler, and your circulation isn’t always top-notch, so many women find their feet get cold. Don’t forget some nice, warm socks. (And remind your partner to dress in layers to accommodate the room temperature).

There is one thing you won’t find on my list. Makeup. When I gave birth to Cameron, I trucked my giant makeup bag to and from the hospital knowing that there would be lots of pictures taken. But when post-partum realities hit, makeup was the last priority on my list. This time I will do myself a favour and leave my makeup at home.

**If there is anything that your bag is missing when you pack it add it to a list of what needs to be added last-minute and keep that list next to the bag. Don’t try to rely on your memory when the excitement of labour starts.**

Now that your bag is packed, remind your husband to pack his bag too!

Guess what?! I have created a check-list that you can print and use for your hospital bag packing needs. Click Here to print.

Did I forget anything? What was the most important thing you brought to the hospital or plan to bring the hospital for your labour and delivery experience?

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About Laura O'Rourke

Laura is a Mom of three who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Currently on maternity leave, she blogs about life at home with her husband Dan and three sons Cameron (age 5), Gavin (age 3), and Logan (not yet 1). When she has time, she can be found reading, writing, snapping photos, or awkwardly running. Laura has been recognized as one of Canada's Top 10 Mom Bloggers by multiple publications, including Reader's Digest. Keep up with the fun by following @LauraORourke on Twitter or liking Mommy Miracles on Facebook. Like what you see? Have something to add? Be sure to leave a comment!


  1. Caroline

    Awesome list – reminds me of when I was packing for my delivery of L…except, I nixed the granny panties and went straight to women’s Depends underwear (*yep – I’m totally admitting that*)! No tight elastics and full protection. Probably TMI but it was handy tip that my cousin gave me after her labour experience.

  2. Thorough list! Here’s a few optional things I did:

    I brought a book to keep me occupied (mainly because I sleep like crap no matter how tired I am while in the hospital) during quiet, restful times, I bought some comfy new clothes for the hospital stay for personal morale, snacks (I got ravenous between meals at the hospital). It’s not imperative, but I brought my mp3 player last time to distract me during labor (which was nice because as it turned out, I couldn’t get pain meds of any kind once again due to an impatient baby) and in the quiet evenings when visiting hours are over, but I’m not ready to sleep yet.

    • Yes! A book is so important. In fact, I am big on the ereaders for new mothers. Seriously, it is SO much easier to nurse and read with an ereader than a regular book. It is (almost) entirely hands-free. Now, I do know that it takes some time to get used to nursing. My sister was unable to read and nurse right away. But it is always good to have a book handy, no matter where you are (that’s my motto!)

      I know a lot of people would agree with you about the mp3 player. I am not a big music person in general. I pretty much just listen to it during my personal worship times and while running. So, having a labour playlist isn’t important for me, but I think the suggestion is great for other people.
      Laura recently posted..How to Pack a Hospital Bag (with Free Printable!)My Profile

  3. Amy Pike says:

    Let me just say that I definitely needed those heavy duty pads despite having a c-section. And I actually brought my makeup with me and did my makeup at the hospital, and straightened my hair, etc. Mostly only to keep me sane though.

  4. Carolyn

    I defiantly stayed in the hospital gown the whole time. :) We sent my husband’s parents to get us really nice toilet paper. Like the super plush, million ply stuff. The hospital has industrial 1 ply toilet paper, and my sore lady bits wanted better. They also brought us a fruit tray which was awesome for snacking.

    • I am so glad to hear I am not the only person who stayed in the hospital gown the whole time. It makes me feel better about myself.

      I have heard someone else suggest nice toilet paper too. I don’t remember it being much of a problem when I was there, but maybe it is just because I was already at my pain threshold in that area anyway! :) I’m a all-Charmin-all-the-time toilet paper user, so I might throw a pack in my bag as per your suggestion.

      And the fruit tray sounds delicious. I’ve been avoiding cold cuts, so my first meal after the baby will be a Subway Club sandwich, but I bet fruit and dip will be really refreshing and delicious after that sub!
      Laura recently posted..How to Pack a Hospital Bag (with Free Printable!)My Profile

  5. This is an awesome list! I so rocked the fluffy socks last time…such a must! And yep nursing tanks are the bomb! I love you made this a printable!
    Natalie recently posted..Enjoying the Last Moments as a Family of ThreeMy Profile

  6. I had a bag packed but when my water broke, I realized I wasn’t ready… eeek, the cards stayed in the car and hubby did not want to go out out numerous times to get them, afraid to miss something i think. Plus I was so scared that I did not want him to go too far away.

    If I were to have a next time I would definitely use this list. I learned the hard way on the underwear part. I had to ask my parents to go to the dollar store and buy cheap underwear that I knew I could throw out if need be. They did their job.

    I painted my toenails blue about 11 hours before my water broke. Unbeknownst to me, I now know I was having some labor pains then. i also stayed in my hospital gown the whole time. I don’t even remember if I brushed my hair 4.5 years ago.. I do know that if I were to get pregnant again i would ask for a private room, if one was available and pay the extra fee. It was not the best experience being in a double room.

    • I am SO thankful that Mom was also at the hospital with us when I was in labour, even just for Dan’s sake. It was so great that they could take little breaks to go get food or coffee or something from the car and not be worried that I’d be left alone (or really like they would miss anything since they could text). This time, Mom will be with Cameron, so it will just be Dan and I. I hope that won’t make things too difficult for Dan.

      I definitely didn’t brush my hair, or even wash it at all in the hospital. As soon as my water broke the day before Cam was born, I jumped in the shower and then threw my hair in a french braid. It stayed like that until after I gave birth and then I took it out and kept it in a ponytail. I’ll probably do that again.

      And YES YES YES! Private room! We have one pre-booked (and were lucky to get one last time) so hopefully we will get one again.
      Laura recently posted..How to Pack a Hospital Bag (with Free Printable!)My Profile

  7. I actually packed a lot less the second time around knowing what the hospital provided. However, since the with first baby I stayed in a hospital gown the whole time I wasn’t really thinking that I would want to get dressed after baby #2 – turns out I DID want to and wished I had brought more clothes. I also put a little makeup on the second time around too – just trying to feel more human! My biggest thing is FOOD. They just do NOT feed you enough at the hospital. Maybe I’m just a big eater (and OK, I definitely am a big eater) but I am constantly starving after the hard work of giving birth and one slice of white french toast just isn’t going to cut it.
    Emily recently posted..Asian [Inspired] Noodle SoupMy Profile

    • Although I didn’t wear clothes at all the first time, I will still bring enough to wear during my stay this time. I kind of *hope* I’ll feel up to getting dressed because until I read these comments I kind of thought I was kind of lousy to not get dressed while in the hospital. Now it is so good to know I am not alone! But I’ll still be bringing comfy clothes.

      And yes, FOOD! I need lots of food! I know this because I don’t lose any weight after giving birth and during breastfeeding until I actually try to. So, yeah, food is important!
      Laura recently posted..How to Pack a Hospital Bag (with Free Printable!)My Profile

  8. What a GREAT list! I haven’t done this in 4 years, so I know that I’ll be needing this reminder when the time comes :)
    Courtney Kirkland recently posted..The Details of Baby #2My Profile

  9. As I said in a comment to an earlier post, I never actually packed a bag for my first … so this time around, I am trying to get on top of things so I’m not caught unaware again. This list, and the additions here in the comments, are AWESOME!

    I am lucky enough to be pre-registered at our hospital already, c-section already scheduled (long story, but it’s my second one, and I’ve been told it’ll be much more pleasant than the emergency one I had first), and the rooms are all private at the hospital, thank goodness. So, I’ll definitely be packing my ereader, some comfy clothes, and many more of the items you’ve all graciously listed.

    Also – that fruit tray idea? GENIUS!

  10. Oh, and I too lived in my hosptial gown and my bed after the birth of my first!
    Gillian recently posted..7 Quick Takes – Praying for Him, Baby Milestones and Movie Night RecapMy Profile

  11. For me it wasn’t so much a playlist… but I always have to have some soothing music for labor. The kind of thing that can help me relax and BREATHE! I bring a couple cds and make sure I will have a player for them (or if not would bring my own player as well – sets the whole scene, not just my ears alone!).

    And who’s to say you couldn’t have praise music IF you wanted it :P You could make labor a prayer :)
    Gillian recently posted..7 Quick Takes – Praying for Him, Baby Milestones and Movie Night RecapMy Profile

    • Great idea! The problem is, I really do listen to music so rarely that I don’t even have CDs. When I listen to music, I turn on the computer, go to an online radio stream, like Pandora, and listen to a “praise and worship” station. I don’t use an iPod and haven’t put a CD in a CD player in years.
      Laura recently posted..AmbiguityMy Profile

      • Haha yeah… I had my doula give me some…. I wanted something a bit different so close to christmas, but i had a great relaxing music cd for the first 2 that I have all the files on my computer for (even though I don’t know where my copy of the cd went..) I’d be happy to send them to you if you like and you could burn a cd if you want :P My doula’s have mentioned in the past that I think there is supposedly a cd player at the hospital if you ask- not something you can count on – but still might be nice if it worked out. And even if it doesn’t you can still make labor a prayer. Just write out a list of intentions to offer labor for (and certianly some can be for the baby!) between the pain of contractions and the loopiness from the nox gas, it was the only thing that kept me sane. The names on my list of people I had chosen to offer labor for was like the vital link between me and the real world.
        Gillian recently posted..Immunizatons – An UpdateMy Profile

  12. Yes! Great list! Mine is only a little different from yours (and yes, I am considering depends this time around…)

    Here is my list if anyone wants more ideas for their bag:
    Miranda recently posted..What to Pack in Your Hospital BagMy Profile

  13. Thanks for posting! I really needed a checklist for my hospital bag as this is my first born. Everything is still new to me. I also LOVE the layout of the checklist. soooo pretty.

  14. What a great post, its hard to decide what to pack in hospital bag as me and my partner found out during a week long stay in hospital for our baby Laura. It inspired me to create my own site with our list of things! We found that being over prepared helped us. :-)


  1. […] you can find me over here trying out all 40 ways to naturally induce labour… once I finish packing my hospital bag of course. Fun Fact: Cameron was born four days after his due date, though labour started at three […]

  2. […] their earliest convenience to take care of Cameron. I convinced Dan that he should probably pack a hospital bag. I wrapped my arms around my boy for the last time as our only child. And just like that, we were […]

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