Tips on packing your hospital bag – A helpful, illustrated guide about what to pack in your hospital bag and why

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The question of what to pack in the hospital bag (or “Baby bag” / “Go bag”) is important for all parents. Men and women alike have wondered what they should take, particularly if first time parents. No matter what, it can be so difficult to imagine what you might need at the time when rushed to hospital.

In a strange way, as the hospital bag is one of the few things people can prepare for before having a child, there can be a big determination to ‘get it right’, which in itself can create pressure. When we start thinking about what to put in the bag(s) it can be difficult to know where to start for many reasons:

  • What do you generally need if away from home for a day or 2?
  • Are there any known risks I need to plan for?
  • How long will I be in hospital for?
  • What does baby need in the hospital bag?
  • What should dad / your partner pack?

….and so the list of common unknowns goes on. 

In short, we have identified and recommend more than 50 items to include in your hospital bag. These items are useful from the onset of labour, will help your transition to the hospital or birth centre, keep you energised and comfortable during birth and then make it easier to deal with the immediate time after baby arrives. The key principle that eventually worked for us was to think about packing the hospital bag like going to a spa [with some notable additions]. It can help you to think creatively in a way that makes you feel prepared, comfortable and adaptable.

So why prepare like you’re going to a spa?

Whilst this might seem strange on the surface, there were many reasons the spa experience came to mind and could help you too:

  1. You think about what items help you relax and feel comfortable
  2. The duration in a Spa is typically 1-3 days, which fits well with ‘typical’ durations in hospital
  3. You’ll need clothing to cover a range of scenarios but primarily focus on comfort and sometime bagginess!

Using the list below and adding in your own personal items should hopefully help give you a solid start to your bag and increase your level of confidence. We also include a range of the excellent products and affiliate links to the items we personally used (after very extensive research) and feel can be relied upon.

What type of bag should I use?

One of the key principles for the hospital bag is to balance space and mobility – pack too little and you feel underprepared and come up short. On the other hand, pack too much and there is barely any space for you and the baby in the hospital or the car on the way home. Also work with the principle that we should always have one hand free if possible, which will be great training for always carrying a baby around.

To help with mobility, you can have a small roller case, 1 holdall on top and small shoulder bag. These 3 items give plenty of space and can usually stack one on top of the other. We opted for a luggage nest to start for ~£20 comprising a roller case as the base and a shoulder bag. We added a third holdall that sat on top of the case. We generally prefer to have a nest of bags that fit together in order to remove some of the guess work.

What are the key items to pack for mum in the hospital bag?

Before you put anything in the case, it can be a great idea to plan the pack first. This will help ensure you have all the items you want and it’s easier to spot any gaps. Then you can pack right at the end when you’re feeling confident about being ready for the 3 stages of the baby experience – pre-labour, labour and post birth.

Pre-labour

  • Tens Machine: A fantastic pain reliever that, when used properly with the progressive build-up, can be an amazing. Use when contractions start and keep in the bag.

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  • Contraction timer: Can get free apps on your phone. Very helpful to track the timings of your contractions and helps decide when to go to the hospital.
  • Hairbands: Practical and will prevent the annoyance of hair dropping in your face.

Labour

  • Phone with music and chargers and headphones: Whilst you might not use the phone much for calling or messages, music or some hypnobirthing tracks could be helpful items for creating the relaxed, calm atmosphere that helps mum prepare. During a long labour, it’s can be great to put on some of your favourite music to keep energised. We chose the Spice Girls!

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  • Portable speaker: A small, cheap portable speaker is a good purchase to project your music.

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      • Lucozade or similar energy drink (+straws): Energy drinks are helpful for mum and partner during the labour, as you never know how much time you need to stay alert and focussed for. Also ensure you have straws….It’ll be hard for mum to drink from the bottle when trying to stay comfortable during contractions (e.g., laying in the bed or on all fours, so straws will help.
      • Water: Generally taking some water is helpful as you might not want to leave the room much in order to get some.
      • High protein bars: Protein has a filling effect and can be very helpful if needing to top-up during longer labours / if you miss a meal. Particularly in the early hours of the morning when shops are closed and it’s not as easy to ask someone else (e.g., friends / family) to get you some food, a few bars go down well.
      • Favourite snacks, sweets and nibbles: The cool bag wouldn’t be complete without the indulgences that we all enjoy. Be mindful not to bring too much chocolate as labour rooms can be warm and it might melt.

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  • Candle: A lot of people bring candles, diffusers or other fragrances to remind them of pleasant memories, home , etc. Not essential but a nice touch if you wish.
  • DVDs to put you in a good mood: Good viewing material is a must. Your favourite DVDs are great or just make sure Netflix, Prime TV or something similar is loaded on your tablet. We opted for The Inbetweeners, Gavin and Stacey and Friends!
  • Bikini swimsuit: Certainly if you expect to use a pool, you’ll be advised to pack a bikini. Consider one that ties at the side.

Post birth

Post-birth when you are hopefully given the all-clear to shower and get ready, there are lots of small activities you can do to aid the feeling of relaxation. At this time, you’ll no-doubt be exhausted and moving slowly and carefully.

  • Luxurious Cosmetics: The aim is to firstly have a calm, relaxing shower and take a few minutes to compose yourself. Some essential items to help the experience:
      • Shower gel
      • Shampoo
      • Conditioner
      • Toothbrush and toothpaste
      • Deodorant
      • Hairbrush
      • Disposable maternity briefs
      • Maternity towels
      • Lip balm
      • Hair brush
      • Tissues

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  • Own towel: Few things beat the feeling of your own towel. For added comfort consider buying a beach towel that can be bigger than the conventional towels used for bathing.
  • Luxurious pyjamas and dressing gown and slippers: After a hot shower and taking time to get grounded, dress to rest! This means comfortable pyjama (bring 2 pairs in case of bleeding) a large dressing gown (to snuggle and stay warm) and sturdy slippers.

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  • Nursing bras and breast pads: If breast feeding bring your nursing bras and breast pads. The bras are practical and the pads help absorb leakage that is common.
  • Preparing to stay in hospital for the night: If staying in overnight, which is fairly common, consider the following to add an extra level of comfort to your bed. These items have extra benefit on a ward (as opposed to private room) when you might want a bit more comfort:
      • Own pillow
      • Own blanket
      • Nightshirt – loose fitting and comfortable is the key
      • Big, comfy socks
      • Entertainment: In addition to phone, Tablet device, headphones and charger with multiple USB inputs (Anker is excellent!).
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      • Magazines
  • Clothes for the day after: Leggings and a t-shirt are generally great. Also big comfy jumpers!

What things should be packed in a baby’s hospital bag?

The article about How much does it cost to have a baby? A helpful view of the upfront costs linked to having a baby and how smart shopping can save you time and money covers a lot of information about what to pack for baby. As a rough guide:

        • Newborn nappies
        • Nappy cream
        • Baby wipes
        • Cotton wool pads
        • Nappy bags

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You might also find the following article and video on nappy changing helpful.

What things should partners pack in the hospital bag?

In contrast to the detailed breakdown for mum, the needs of the partner is quite limited. In fact, the purpose of the shoulder bag in the luggage set mentioned at the start is for the partner. It is a test in efficiency and can be limited to:

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This truly is it and could frankly be a much smaller list.

So what can we conclude?

What the above hopefully shows is bizarre complexity of the hospital bag. The hospital ‘bag’ is in fact maybe 3 or 4 bags in total comprising: mum, baby, partner and snacks. Within these bags, mum is key. Whilst you should always have huge consideration for baby, the complexity lies in determining what mum needs and trying to plan for this. Hopefully treating ‘labour day’ like a spa trip gives a fun, creative context to start your planning.

You should also give careful thought to which bags you take – anything too rigid or not stackable can cause a lot on inconvenience, whereas a luggage set is specially engineered to fit together and can make life simpler. If choosing a luggage set, perhaps keep the case for mum, holdall for baby and the small shoulder bag for dad or partner.

For more information about some of the specific items you might need at home, check out this article.

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