Would you still trust me with this guide if I told you technically, I’ve never given birth in a hospital? My first birth was in a birthing center attached to a hospital with a much more “hospital like” experience. In the birth center, you can stay up to 12 hours after birth and then you’re headed home to bond and settle in. This kind of terrified me because I couldn’t get over the fact that I’d pop my first baby out and be in charge of keeping it alive all in the same day. I wasn’t ready! We ended up having to stay for two nights because I gave birth in the evening (leading to night 1) and Oshiolema had a heart murmur they needed to monitor (leading to night 2). It was perfect for us.
My second birth was in a standalone birth center and was definitely the birthing center experience I pictured. Think verrry granola. An old Victorian house, waterbirth, sent home 6 hours after giving birth. It, again, was perfect for us that time around.
For my first birth (you can read that birth story here) we started packing the hosipital bag at 35 weeks. We packed genuinely everything we could ever possibly need and enough to sustain us for a good 5 day stay in the hospital for no reason whatsoever. That bag was stacked. Sure, we were hilarious shlepping all this stuff around like we were moving in, but I felt prepared and that helped tremendously in making me comfortable.
For my second birth (you can find K’s birth story and video right here)I had the bags packed and ready at 35 weeks again mainly because I was positive I’d have this baby by 37 weeks. I was wrong. But we were ready. I had exactly what I needed in the bag and exactly what I needed when I got home and it’s the number one birth related thing my friends ask me about so without further ado, here are my hospital bag essentials.
Whether you have the most medically intervened birth there ever was or you give birth in the middle of the forest and deliver your own baby, you will encounter discomfort in labor. Depending on where you fall in that spectrum, you may need more or less of these items. Pick and choose depending on what you think you’ll need to bring you comfort while bringing this baby into the world!
Ginger ale: Your birth experience will definitely determine whether or not you’ll be able to sip the bubbly (sipping bubbly in my world means sipping ginger ale) but if you can swing it, I highly recommend it. I keep these in the fridge until it’s go time! This helps with queasiness in labor and is oddly satisfying.
Straw: because who wants to hold a can between contractions?
Gown: My first labor was 24 hours long and wearing that crunchy awkwardly sized everyone-has-worn-this gown certainly didn’t bother me but it didn’t make me excited either. I loved changing into my gown the second time around. I had a water birth so while I only wore that gown for less than an hour, I can’t tell you how much better it felt than the gown I wore in my first delivery. It’s totally and completely unnecessary, but if that’s your sort of thing, I got mine here
Sports Bra: Like I said, I had a water birth and knew I would feel much more comfortable in a sports bra than a shirt. I wore this exact one and really didn’t put much thought into it but it ended up being insanely comfortable to the point that I felt like I had nothing on at all.
Essential Oils: Okay. I realize people are either all in or totally not in to essential oils. I actually wasn’t very interested at all in oils until my very first labor. My favorite midwife had been with me guiding me and taking care of me from 9pm-7am when -GASP- her shift changed. A midwife I had only met once before and felt a little less naturally drawn to suddenly took over and I was pretty bummed. Little did I know, she would absolutely save the day. I had been stuck at 5 centimeters for about eight hours and that safe 24-hour window after your water breaks was ticking away and I was totally desperate. Finally around 3pm the midwife let me know that we really needed to get things moving so she pulled out an essential oil kit and said, “do you mind?” She could have pulled out a porcupine at that point and asked the same question…anything that was promised to speed up this process would get the same answer. YES. She rubbed a concoction right on my belly and within thirty minutes I was pushing. It was fantastic. I was immediately converted and oils are our entire medicine cabinet. If you are an oil lover, bring your favorites to diffuse and talk to an expert on what’s safe to put on your body during labor. If you’re new- I love to diffuse Serenity during labor just as a calming, soothing helper and I put balance on my temples to help with the nausea and discomfort. Important side note: Talk to your doctor or midwife before using oils before 38 weeks. Also, pregnancy and labor are not the time to use cheap oils. Even the oils you grab at whole foods may be fine to diffuse but should really not be put your body. Only use oils from certified super pure companies to be safe for you and your baby. My favorites are doTerra and Young Living.
Diffuser: If you decide to pack the essential oils, don’t forget to pack one of these bad boys. Orderin one with your oils ensures you have the best quality diffuser on the market.
Playlist: Music is so incredibly personal. Some of my friends listen to R&B love songs throughout their labor, some listen to country and others listen to Worship. This is totally up to you, but the last thing you want to do is flip through Pandora mid contraction. Music can be such a focusing and calming tool and in a time where very few things are in your control, its nice to have the comfort of a playlist you love. For both my births I had a mixture of spa music and worship. This may be the most important step: make the playlist and play through it before calling it good-to-go! I found some songs really annoying after playing the playlist and that’s the last thing you want! I put the playlist on the iPad so it didn’t have to be on either one of our phones.
Granola Bar: Again, this depends on your labor but just incase you have a marathon labor and really need some substance to keep you going- choose a mild granola bar you know you love to keep you going.
Water: You will be exhausted. You will be dehydrated. A human will be removed from your body…you need water.
Lip Balm: Said dehydration and exhaustion will lead to some seriously crunchy lips. I actually find this so distracting so just pack your favorite chapstick and set it out somewhere so its accessible!
Gum/Mints: Chewing gum in labor is such a routine distraction in labor. It also keeps you from having dry mouth which is awesome.
Graham Crackers: I don’t know about you, but I always crave graham crackers. For some reason, nothing tastes better after birth than something simple and these do the trick for me! Whatever that packable food is for you, keep it in the hospital bag. If you eat your hospital stash well before you go into labor (not speaking from experience or anything…) remember to replenish it!
Pineapple Juice: Pineapple juice is a natural anti-inflammitory. I stick it in a fridge right when I get to the birth center and in all seriousness, I look forward to the first sip of that sweet juice the entire labor.
Makeup Essentials: I will say, I am 0 for 2 when it comes to putting makeup on after giving birth. When it came down to it, I just really didn’t mind being without it. I had filled in my eyebrows and under-eye concealer before labor really got challenging and whatever was left over the whole ordeal was enough for me. If you’re getting professional photos done or will have a bunch of visitors, you may want to have the essentials on hand. An eyebrow pencil, concealer, mascara and tinted moisturizer should be more than enough but you know yourself best- if you think you’ll miss something while you’re there, just pack it. Better safe than sorry!
Dark Robe: This is my favorite item in this entire thing. Nothing, I mean n o t h i n g feels better after giving birth than taking a shower and changing into that robe. The one pictured is if you’re feeling really fancy. I personally chose to get a pretty inexpensive one, this exact version, because lots of things will go on inside that robe. Things you’re not prepared for. Just to be safe, I want to be able to get rid of it if need be without feeling like I just tossed out a bucket of money. I’m normally a super cozy plush robe gal (this is the one I dive into once my hormones level out again) but for the first few postpartum months I like a lightweight jersey robe. You sweat a lot.
Loose Dress: This is a pricey investment but I must have worn it at least once a week during my pregnancy. It’s breezy and lightweight but you look so put together and it hides all the things. Just be sure if you go the dress route that it’s nursing accessible because you’ll be doing a whole lot of that in that first day and no one has time for buttons and zippers. After delivering my daughter, I wore this home and it stood up to the Texas heat and made me forget I had depends and an ice pack hidden under there.
Depends: For my first birth I was sent home with those dreamy mesh panties everyone tells you about and was so happy with them. They really are great. BUT. A friend told me to try Depends this time around and once I started doing some research, it felt like everyone was telling me to use Depends. So I did. And it was perfect. So much less mess and less pads and it just makes things really easy.
Flip flops/Easy Shoes: You don’t want to be barefoot there, not even for the short shower or walk to and from the bathroom. A pair of dark flip-flops are essential.
Dry Shampoo: There is just no time or energy-mental or physical- to do your hair throughout this process. If you don’t want to look like you just finished a workout, spray a bit of dry shampoo at your roots and it’ll buy you at least another day, or in my case, another 4. This is my absolute all time favorite (grab the purse size)
Lotion: Breastfeeding can be so drying and so can hospitals. I forgot this the first time and will never make that mistake again.
Nursing Bra: This is my absolute hands down favorite. One of my greater regrets from my first pregnancy was buying so many different nursing bras rather than just committing to the best bra and calling it a day. This bra is so flattering I’m guilty of wearing it long after I finish breastfeeding and it will undoubtedly tempt you to never wear a regular bra again. Snag it in multiple colors so you don’t cry when one is in the wash.
Makeup Wipes: just to clean up under your eyes if anything was messed up during labor and also to take off whatever makeup you put on if you stay overnight.
Towel: Hospital towels have been through a lot. I make sure to pack a cozy (preferably dark) one in the bag and it makes me feel much better.
Nursing Pads: Your boobs are going through a lot. You may leak, you may not but you definitely want to be prepared. I like these) but it’s certainly personal preference.
Prenatals: These are my favorite. You’ll continue taking prenatal as long as you breastfeed so whatever your favorite was during your pregnancy, just pack that bottle as well.
Kimono Outfit or Gowns: this is personal preference. I like having something a little bit looser to let that umbilical chord heal and also to avoid having to slip something over their head at all costs. I was so stressed getting my firstborn dressed that very first time- take away all the guess work and bring a couple easy on, easy off things. I personally love a gown to make diaper changes even easier. the one pictured is a beautiful organic gown but my favorite baby pajama brand ever, KicKeePants, makes sweet gowns and kimonos in the cutest prints-although I mostly stick to the solids. They are made from bamboo and they are softer than anything I’ve ever felt.
Hat: don’t miss out on the sweet pink and blue striped hat every baby since the beginning of time gets to wear home, but I also like to bring my own just so I don’t have to put them back in the birth-goo hat once they’ve had their first rinse. I like to get a matching set from Lou Lou & Company as a special keepsake for each baby
Mittens: those fresh-out-of-the-oven newborn nails are tricky. Since their nails are unruly but they feel safest with their hands all over their face, slip some mittens on to keep your brand new baby from their first scratch as long as possible. I’ve tried tons of mittens and these are my favorite just because they’re the only ones that don’t fall off.
Socks or Booties: their first home was a super cozy hot tub so their transition from hot tub to real life is a cold, abrupt one. Newborns can’t regulate their body temperature yet so its best to send them home with their feet covered.
Diapers: your hospital may send you home with a few newborn diapers but my birth center didn’t. This is a great question to ask your OB or midwives ahead of time to prepare how many you need depending on how long you’ll be staying afterwards. While I personally love the Honest and Parasol diapers for their quality and subscription feature, we use the Pampers Swaddlers diapers for the first month. As moms, we can always tell when they’re wet but when they’re so little and produce such a teeny amount of pee, it can be hard for dad to tell if they’ve peed or not. The line that changes color when wet is a no-brainer to take out all the guess work.
Travel Pack of Wipes: Again, wipes are pretty much guaranteed to be provided, but just incase there’s a blowout on the way home or you just want to use the brand you’re set on, bring your own travel size.
Swaddle Blanket: One thing you absolutely want to master before heading home is the art of swaddling. This baby has spent their entire existence extremely confined and cozy. Their startle reflex makes them feel like they’re falling so to best avoid their discomfort (and endless screaming about said discomfort) perfect your swaddle. Swaddles also make an awesome lightweight blanket for the car ride home if you live in a really warm climate. This brand makes my favorite swaddles.
Car Seat: you literally cannot leave the hospital without this. Do your research and decide what’s best for your baby- then install it and you won’t believe how real it feels to look in the rearview mirror and see that thing in the back seat. It’s such a fun reminded that you’ll be meeting your baby soon! This is our favorite infant carseat right here A little tip: if you take your carseat and base to your local fire station, they will professionally install it for you and teach you how to do it.
Baby Book: I remembered this my first birth but, go figure, forgot it for my second. Poor girl. Pack your baby’s birth book because if you ask, the nurses will stamp your newborn’s teeny tiny feet in there! What could be more precious than brand new baby toes? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Burp Cloth: Babies burp. Their just learning how to feed and it can be trickier than it looks. These are my go-to’s because they’re so absorbent and cover a whole lot of surface area.
Car Seat Cover: The sun is too bright, strangers are too touchy, the wind is too intense…whatever makes you apprehensive about taking your little peanut out in their carseat will be totally nullified by a carseat cover. I swear it helps them sleep longer too. This one doubles as a nursing cover and it’s one of my must-have items for motherhood.
Boppy Pillow: Whether you have a c-section and are navigating feeding with a sore midsection or you just are trying to learn how to nurse, a Boppy is such an essential tool for those early weeks. Having it in the hospital with you will make a pretty intimidating and challenging lesson a bit more comfortable. Sure it’s a bit obnoxious to pack but since I nursed what felt like non-stop those two days in the hospital with my son’s birth, it was more than worth the space it took up in the room. I like to have a lactation consultant show me how to feed with it as well, even though I could never quite recreate what I literally just watched her do five times. I got a cute cover here and was super happy with it-just make sure it’s washable because we all know how that goes.
Tennis Ball: remind him you didn’t pack this ball because you’re an awesome mom to be and you’re giving him the go-head to sneak in a quick doubles match mid-labor…no no no, this is for counter pressure. Have dad dig it on in wherever you’re feeling tension all along your back and shoulders. Prepare him, your directions may be poor and you may change your mind often. (think: “between my shoulders-no on my low back- no, lower-lower… okay, put the ball down.”)
Chargers: We never, ever got any kind of work done during our hospital or birth center stay, but I have friends that spend labor watching movies or a favorite TV show so if this is you, be sure to remember the charger for the tablet and laptop in his bag. Both phone chargers too, of course.
Camera: Even if you’re having a professional come in and take photos for your big day, if you own a camera I’d pack it in his bag. Seeing Dad’s perspective on this incredibly mom and baby focused day is really special. Again, my husband was my birth coach and life-line during labor so my sisters tend to be camera crew instead. iPhone photos end up being some of the best on days like this, but I cherish scrolling though my real camera and seeing those videos most.
Snacks (or singles for the vending machine): he’s going to be right by your side for this entire process and while you may not be able to eat, he certainly will be. Remember to pack a few of his favorites so he can quickly reach for something and get back to you.
Change of Clothes: Even if he does nothing but stand by your head and tell you you’re amazing, dad will get stinky. This is a big day! Big day=big emotions which= stress sweat. I like to pack a extra t-shirt and sweatsuit so he can be fresh and pulled together when we head home. I should say my own husband ended up wearing basketball shorts and a mangy hoodie for both deliveries and didn’t change the entire time but hey, I’m lookin’ out for you.
Portable Speaker: Remember to pack a speaker and any chords necessary to play your playlist through labor.
These last few items may be provided, but talk to your provider to be sure. I can’t imagine those first few hours after birth without these essential but not so photogenic gems:
Motrin (A human, no matter how tiny, just exited your body. Things are sore.)
Dermoplast (numbing spray-I use this every time after I use the bathroom for about two weeks!)
Peri bottle (no toilet paper here)
Clobex (don’t ever, EVER forget to take your clobex in the first week. The last thing you want while your lady parts are healing is to wind up constipated. Trust me, unfortunately I’m speaking from experience.)
In the long run, remember it won’t be the end of the world if you forget something, but try to tap into the mind of your in-labor self and anticipate what you could possibly need to be as empowered and prepared as possible. Choose something to meditate on (mine was John 16:21,” A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.”) to make sure your mind is just as prepared as your hospital bag and you’re all set to bring this beautiful baby in the world! Do you have any favorites that I missed? Please share them with me and let me know your hospital bag tips below so I can take note!
If you’re still with me after all that and stuck in baby mode, you can wander to a sweet post from my first week as a mother here
and see my 0-3 month essentials as a first time mom here