Packing Your Maternity Hospital Bag

A pregnant woman sits and packs her hospital bag with baby clothes, ticking them off a list.

As your pregnancy works its way towards the third and final trimester, you’re probably starting to think about your stay in hospital. Doctors and midwives recommend packing a hospital bag ahead of time, to make sure you have everything you need when bubba finally decides to make an appearance. We’ve pulled together the best advice below.

Packing your hospital bag | Understanding the basics

So, before we get into the nitty gritty of what to pack, let’s answer some of those basic questions most expectant parents have.

Why do I need a hospital bag?

The reason for a hospital bag is simple: to make sure you have everything you need in preparation for the birth and those first couple of days afterwards. There’s so much to consider and think about when it comes to labour, the last thing you need is to be busy packing as your water breaks. That’s why it’s recommended that you pack your hospital bag early, so that when bubba starts to make their big entrance, you can concentrate on the important stuff.

What week of pregnancy should I start packing my hospital bag?

Everyone is different, but the average time seems to be around week 35 of pregnancy, if not a little bit earlier. Really, this is entirely up to you, but it’s important to give yourself enough time. If you leave it until your due date is imminent, it’s possible that you could go into labour before you’ve had time to pack.

While there’s no issue with packing very early, sometimes it’s useful to see how your pregnancy goes and understand how you’re feeling, so you can pack the right things for your personal condition.

What size hospital bag do I need?

Again, it’s entirely up to you, but there are a lot of things to pack so a bag that is big enough to hold it all, is best. It’s also best to consider backs that are easy to keep in the boot of your car, or easy to throw over your shoulder when the moment comes. Large bags like suitcases would hold everything but do you really want to be dragging one of those around the maternity ward.

What type of bag should I use?

There are several different back types that would work, but the important things to remember are space and storage. You want a bag that’s big enough to hold everything, and ideally one with pockets, so you can organise your essentials. It might be best to bring a couple of smaller bags so you can separate things you need for labour with things you’ll need once baby is here.

Some good options include:

  • Hold-alls
  • Changing bags
  • Duffle bag
  • Large gym bag
  • Rucksacks
  • Small rolling suitcase

I can’t fit everything in my bag – what should I do?

The beauty of packing your bag early is that you can trial a few different types. If you can’t fit everything in your hospital bag, maybe upgrade to a bigger size, or look at separating things out into different bags. If you’re bringing different types of bags, you can leave most of them in the car or get your partner to bring them when you’re ready.

What should I pack in my hospital bag?

We’re going to answer this question in more detail in the next few sections, but as a overview you need:

  • Essentials for keeping comfortable during labour
  • Essentials you need for giving birth and immediately afterwards
  • Essentials you need once baby is here
  • Essentials for baby
  • Essentials for your birth partner

Another couple of good guides are by the NCT and the NHS.

Pregnant lady packing hospital bag

Packing your hospital bag | Pre-birth and labour essentials

That’s the initial questions out of the way, now it’s time to focus on what to pack for giving birth and beforehand.

What should I pack for before giving birth?

This can be hard to plan for as it depends how long and how intense your labour is. You might find yourself sat around for hours, bored stiff, or you might be in and with baby before you know what’s going on. Either way, it’s good to have a few things on hand, including:

  • Toiletries
  • A hairbrush
  • Spare clothes
  • Slippers
  • Hot water bottle or TENS machine for easing back pain
  • Magazines and books
  • Any medication you need

What should I pack for labour?

There’s no right or wrong answer and everyone is different, but there are some items that are good to have on-hand:

  • Your birth plan
  • A nightdress and night gown
  • A towel and flannel
  • Water or juice
  • High energy snacks
  • A hand fan or cooling spray
  • An iPod or device to play calming music
  • Batter lights for a low-light birth
  • Batteries and chargers for all devices

What should I pack for having a c-section?

You should pack the same items if you’re having a c-section, but it’s worth considering extra items like large loose-fitting clothing and stretchy underwear, to avoid anything touching your scar.

What should I pack for a water birth?

Again, the list of items is the same, but it’s useful to make sure you pack a bikini top or some form of t-shirt if you choose to keep you covered while giving birth, ideally one you don’t mind getting wet.

newborn baby snuggled up

Packing your hospital bag | Post-birth essentials

Once you’ve given birth, your list of priorities changes because then you have someone else to pack for. However, it’s important to make sure you have items that keep you comfortable too.

Post-birth essentials for mum

Now baby is here, it’s likely you will feel tired, a little wired and may be experiencing some discomfortable. So, the key is to make sure you pack plenty on things to keep you comfortable while your body readjusts. It’s worth packing:

  • Maternity pads
  • Disposable knickers
  • Fresh pyjamas and nightdresses
  • An outfit for going home
  • A cardigan, hoody or jacket to keep warm while on the ward
  • Nursing bras
  • Breast pads
  • Nipple cream
  • Baby bottles and formula

Post-birth essentials for baby

So, that’s you hopefully sorted and a little more comfortable. Now for bubba. If this is your first birth, it will be a whole new world for you, but here are the essentials.

  • Bodysuits and vests
  • Rompers and all-in-ones
  • Cardigans
  • Hats
  • Socks
  • Scratch mitts
  • An outfit for going home
  • Bibs
  • Muslin squares
  • Nappies
  • Shampoo and bath wash (in case you’re in for longer than expected)

Car seats

This is actually a biggie. No hospital will let you take baby home unless you have an infant car seat for them. It’s the safest way to get back home, so don’t forget to set it up in your car before you leave the hospital, or have it on hand if travelling by taxi.

How many baby clothes should I pack in my hospital bag?

The more the merrier – you won’t know how long you’re going to be in hospital, so it’s best to make sure you have plenty of extra items. Babies famously go through a couple of changes a day, especially as they’re getting use to feeding and pooing – so a safe guide is to bring five or six of each item. If you find you need more, you can always get relatives or friends to bring more in during your stay.

How many nappies should I pack?

Again, pack as many as you feel you can without overloading your bag, you may end up staying for longer than planned. The same is true of bibs and muslin squares.

What should I pack for twins?

If you’re expecting twins or multiples, then it’s important to pack all the same things, but make sure you have plenty of extra and spare items!

Hospital Bag | What your birth partner should bring

The final thing to consider is what you might need to pack for your birth partner – whoever that might be.

What should my birth partner pack for hospital?

Your birth partner’s first loyalty is to you and your needs, but if you end up having a lengthy labour, it’s good to make sure they have a few items to keep them comfortable and prepared too.

Items to pack for a birth partner include:

  • A change of clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Snacks and drinks
  • A phone and charger
  • A book or magazine
  • Money and change for vending machines and parking
  • A camera
  • A pillow

Summary

And that’s about it. Of course, written down it looks like a lot to remember and pack, but at the same time, just focus on the items that feel most essential. And if you have a birth partner or family members nearby, they can always bring you additional items and things you’ve forgotten. The most important thing is to feel prepared enough that when your water breaks, you don’t need to worry about what’s in your hospital bag. If you pack thoroughly and early, it means you can focus on what’s truly important. Good luck and happy packing!