What to Pack for a Hospital Delivery

What to Pack for a Hospital Delivery - Illustration by Theresa Chiechi

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

One of the most common worries among first-time parents is whether or not they are prepared for their baby's arrival. So they spend time getting the nursery ready, purchasing clothes and diapers, taking childbirth classes, and perhaps touring the hospital where they plan to have their baby.

Then, the final step most parents take is packing a bag so it's ready to go on the day they go into labor. Since many people tend to overpack for this big event, we spoke with experts and first-time parents about what they brought, what they actually used, and what they wished they had packed (but didn't) for their hospital delivery. Read on for tried-and-true childbirth packing tips.

What the Hospital Provides

Before you start packing, it's important to know what hospitals typically provide at no cost to you. Consider leaving these items at home rather than cramming your hospital bag with them.

Baby Basics

Hospitals usually provide plenty of receiving blankets, hats, newborn diapers, wipes, and diaper cream. Typically, they can't hand off items you did not end up using to another new baby's family, so you are encouraged to take these baby basics home with you.

Formula

If you are planning to feed your baby formula, keep whatever stash you have pre-purchased at home, unless you are committed to a specific brand. "Most hospitals are contracted with Enfantil or Abbott, so unless you have a strong preference I would not recommend bringing it," says pediatric and neonatal nurse Jaylee Hilliard, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, CPXP, and a MAM Baby ambassador.

Underwear and Socks

The hospital provides stretchy mesh underwear to help contain post-childbirth pads, so best not to pack your prettiest undergarments for your hospital stay. Likewise, hospitals usually provide stretchy, cushy socks with textured soles to allow you to walk safely around your room when you are ready. They aren't glamorous but trust us, you won't be picky about these clothing basics in the days following childbirth.

Supplements and OTC Medications

When I had my son last year, I brought the prenatal vitamins I'd been taking throughout my pregnancy. But when I pulled them out to take one, my nurse told me that there's a bunch of paperwork involved if you want to take medications you've brought from home while at the hospital. Taking medications that they provide—and they will usually offer vitamins, painkillers (like Advil and Tylenol), stool softener, and any others you might need—will eliminate this headache and ensure you are making safe postpartum choices.

Birthing and Recovery Aids

"As far as specific birthing items such as birthing balls, I would recommend inquiring the clinic before delivery to get specific requirements and to identify which birthing options are available," suggests Hilliard. If you know you want to use something like a ball or a birthing bar to facilitate delivery, it's best to first check with your hospital to see if they have them.

After you give birth, the hospital will provide plenty of, ice packs, witch hazel pads, peri squirt bottles, and anything else you might need to aid in your physical recovery. Before my baby and I were discharged I asked for more of these to take home—especially the ice packs, which were the perfect shape for my needs.

What to Bring For Yourself and Your Partner

Change of Clothes

No cute outfits are necessary, but you will welcome a comfortable change of clothes after childbirth, and perhaps one more to go home in.

"I brought a nice nursing/hospital gown that I changed into after I got to shower," says new mom Meaghan F. of Boston, Mass. "I was very happy I did this instead of the standard hospital gown." For my final day in the hospital, I brought a pair of loose maternity sweatpants and a nursing tank top with a built-in bra. I was happy to have this super-comfortable outfit to go home in.

Phone charger

Between communicating with family and close friends, taking photos of your new baby, and taking notes on what the doctors and nurses say, you're going to want your phone to stay charged. If you have an extra-long charger, adds Hilliard, that's even better, since the outlets in your hospital room may be in strange places.

Insurance Cards

You'll need your insurance information to check into the hospital and get your paperwork started. Many hospitals will want to see and make photocopies of the card itself. Knowing your cards are somewhere easily accessible will make checking in between contractions much easier.

Snacks and Drinks

"We brought a bunch of snacks for my husband, but none for me," recalls Meaghan. "Next time I would bring more healthy snacks like KIND Bars and veggies for after delivery."

While the hospital cafeteria is always available, as is restaurant delivery if there are options in the area, having healthy snacks on hand can be helpful. For my part, I wasn't hungry for multiple meals after delivering, but I was glad I had some protein bars to keep my strength up. I also brought an electrolyte beverage to help with recovery. If you're tight on space, Hilliard suggests some flavored water packets to add to the water available.

Toiletries

In addition to packing your toothbrush and deodorant, pick up travel-size toothpaste and shampoo (or dry shampoo), conditioner, body wash, and face wash for your first shower post-delivery. "They had everything we needed in the room, but we preferred to use our own and it helped it feel like home," says Meaghan.

While the hospital will provide recovery aids, Hilliard adds that you may want to bring your own nipple cream in case you experience soreness as you begin breastfeeding.

Pillows

Our postpartum room had a pull-out armchair for my husband to sleep on, but he wished he had a bit more cushion to make the chair more comfortable. A small travel or neck pillow may allow your partner to get some sleep. And if you're attached to your pillow at home, Hilliard says it can't hurt to bring that as well. "You'll spend a lot of time in bed and will treasure the sleep you do have."

Bluetooth Speaker

Whether you have a delivery playlist you want to listen to while in labor or a favorite podcast to keep you entertained before or after you give birth, a small Bluetooth-enabled speaker could be a welcome addition to your hospital room.

What to Bring For Your Baby

Your baby's necessities for health and comfort will be covered by the hospital, but there are certain items you will be happy to have for your newborn while you're recovering and bonding.

Car Seat

Many hospitals have rules stating you can't be released following delivery unless you have a safe infant car seat. The car seat base should be installed in your car before you leave for the hospital.

A Going-Home Outfit

Your baby will need something to wear home from the hospital. Regardless of the season, a onesie with long sleeves and long pants is best. "I would recommend baby mittens and booties to protect them from scratching themselves," Hilliard adds.

Many families have a special blanket, hat, or outfit that's been passed down from baby to baby for photos or for your little one to wear home from the hospital. If you do have something like this, make sure it makes it into your bag!

Breast Pump

Many experts will tell you not to bring your breast pump to the hospital with you for delivery. But Meaghan wished she had one. "I struggled a lot with getting comfortable breastfeeding," she shares. "I wish I had the pump in the hospital to use when we were taking a break, to keep my supply up. I am happy to still be breastfeeding now and supplementing, but I think if I had pumped in the hospital while we supplemented I would have been able to have a stronger supply from day one."

Hilliard agrees with Meaghan. "I would recommend bringing your own breast pump with all the pieces and various sizes of flanges," she says. "Be sure to take advantage of the lactation consultants and confirm the appropriate flange size."

Nursing Pillow

If you're trying to breastfeed, you'll have the opportunity to meet with a lactation consultant at least once after giving birth, during which time they can help you work on nursing your little one. A nursing pillow can help give you support as you learn which breastfeeding holds work best for you and your baby.

"I wish I had my nursing pillow for practice with the lactation consultant," Meaghan says. "They had me using almost ten hospital pillows and it was so much easier to use the Boppy pillow when we got home."

Baby Bottles

If you're planning to bottle-feed your baby and you bring some baby bottles with you, the experts in the hospital can work with you to make sure you're supporting your little one and helping them eat. Hilliard recommends a bottle with a slow-flow nipple (like the MAM Anti-Colic Bottle) to help babies pace themselves.

When to Pack

Just when do you need to have all this ready to go? If you're planning to deliver in the hospital, you're likely seeing your doctor weekly between 36 weeks and 40 weeks, so you can base your packing time on what your doctor says during those visits in terms of how far along you are.

Also good to keep in mind: Most postpartum rooms are quite small (mine was about a quarter of the size of my delivery room), so if you can fit everything in one shoulder bag, duffel, or suitcase you'll have more space in your room to move around. Remember, you and your baby will mainly need each other in the early days and little else.

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  1. Planned Parenthood. What are prenatal vitamins?.