What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag for a C-Section

Pregnant woman packing suitcase.

Anne Ackermann / Photodisc / Getty Images

If you are having a scheduled C-section, you will want to pack a hospital bag before the big day. There are a few differences in necessities for people having a planned cesarean birth versus a vaginal birth. 

Some people prefer to pack two bags—one that contains the items they need for the birth and the other for things they want to have on-hand postpartum. It may be helpful to have your partner or a family member bring your postpartum bag to you later so, you won’t have so many things to sort through early in your hospital stay.

Keep in mind that a hospital stay after a C-section is generally longer than a hospital stay after vaginal birth. So, plan to have enough items on hand for the length of time that you’ll be there.

C-Section Surgery Packing List

As you think about a packing list for your C-section, consider items that bring you comfort. There may be some waiting time, so items to keep you busy and distracted are a good idea. Also, if you usually wear contacts, keep in mind that they often must be removed for surgery. So, be sure to take along a pair of glasses, too.

Items to pack for the birth:

  • Music to play while you wait or during the birth
  • Camera 
  • Cell phone
  • Your cesarean birth plan if you have one
  • Photo ID and insurance card
  • Hair ties
  • Glasses (contacts will likely need to be removed for surgery)
  • Any clothes of your own that you wish to wear
  • Lip balm 
  • Socks 
  • Special foods or drinks, as allowed
  • Books, card games, tablet, etc. to keep you busy while you wait
  • Charging cables for electronic devices

C-Section Recovery Packing List

For your recovery bag, think about the personal care items that you’ll want to have on hand. For example, your own loungewear and a robe are a couple of things that can make you feel more comfortable during recovery. And if you have a special outfit for the baby, pack that, too.

Items to pack for recovery:

  • Toiletries, hairbrush, makeup, shampoo, dry shampoo
  • Shower shoes
  • Nursing bras and pads 
  • Breastfeeding pillow to keep baby off your incision
  • Breastfeeding book
  • Belly binder
  • Snacks
  • Baby book or journal
  • Towel
  • Pillow from home if it helps you sleep (be sure to use a patterned or colored pillowcase to avoid confusion with hospital linens)
  • Small pillow to brace your incision
  • Going home outfit for baby
  • Blanket for baby
  • Your own nightgown and robe 
  • Underwear that won't irritate your incision
  • Slip-on shoes for going home
  • Car seat with instructions
  • Going home outfit (something comfortable that is incision- and nursing-friendly)

What Not to Pack in Your C-Section Hospital Bag

While some people prefer to have their own things, it’s good to know which items the hospital provides. Eliminating some of them from your packing list can keep your bag a little lighter and make unpacking easier.

Hospitals generally provide the following basics, but be sure to ask about what your hospital provides during your hospital tour:

  • Maxi pads for postpartum bleeding
  • Mesh underwear
  • Squirt bottle (also called a peri bottle)
  • Breast pump (if needed)
  • Baby diapers and wipes
  • Swaddle blankets
  • Baby onesies and hat
  • Hospital gowns and slipper socks

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I pack a hospital bag for a C-section? 

It’s a good idea to pack your back a few weeks before your due date or your scheduled cesarean. Even if your C-section is planned, labor can be unpredictable. So it’s a good idea to have your items ready to go in advance.

What should I wear to a planned C-section?

Wear something comfortable to the hospital. You will need to be in a hospital gown for the surgery, but you may have some time sitting around and waiting before your C-section. Loungewear and yoga pants are both excellent options. Layers like a cardigan or a hoodie over a tee-shirt can help you out if you feel warm or cold.

A Word From Verywell

The good news is that if you forget something, you can usually get it replaced. Your partner or a friend can run to the hospital gift shop or a nearby store for some items. So don’t stress too much about packing!

As you move through the initial postpartum days in the hospital, try to send things home with others (such as friends and family who visit), so you have fewer things to transport when you leave. For example, if you send flowers and gifts home early with your partner or friends, you should have just the basics left to take with you when you’re discharged. 

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.