The Ultimate Hospital Bag Checklist: What to pack for labour and birth

We’ve put together the ultimate hospital bag checklist to give you an exhaustive but realistic list to work with when packing the essentials that you’ll need during labour and after birth. This checklist is based on giving birth here in the UK at an NHS hospital, but most of the recommendations are applicable wherever you are. Don’t forget that even if you’re planning a home birth, it is still recommended that you pack a hospital bag just in case you do need to be transferred to hospital. Even if you do give birth at home, your packed bag will still come in handy as you’ll have everything you need close by and organised.

So when should you pack your hospital bag? Apart from the last-minute additions such as your toothbrush, you should have your hospital bag packed and ready to go by week 36, just in case your baby decides to make an early appearance. Start to gather those hospital bag essentials at around week 34 to ensure that you have plenty of time to pull everything together.

Hospital bag checklist for Mum

Pregnant woman with her hands on her hips
  • Maternity notes and birth plan – make sure the midwife on duty is aware of your birth plan which you can include in your maternity notes.
  • Three outfit changes – for an uncomplicated birth, you are likely to only be in hospital for a couple of days max, but take a spare outfit change just in case you need to be induced or need to stay a little longer after the birth.
  • Pyjamas – choose dark colours as labour can get quite messy! If you plan to breastfeed, you’ll want easy access so front opening pyjamas are best. Ensure that your pjs are made with breathable fabric so that you don’t get too hot or cold; cotton is always a good bet.
  • Flip flops – we recommend flip flops as the heating is usually blasted out on the labour ward and you can also wear them in the shared shower rooms. If you prefer slippers, make sure they are easy to slip on and off without needing to bend down; backless slippers work well for this.
  • Towels – take a couple of dark coloured towels for before and after the birth. You may also want to take a smaller towel for your hair and a flannel that you can wet and apply to your forehead to help keep you cool during labour.
  • Maternity bras – two maternity bras will be plenty. It’s a good idea to size up for when your milk comes in.
  • Comfy underwear – you’ll want plenty of no frills, comfy underwear which is dark coloured.
  • Dressing gown – to pop on when you need to get up and about to go to the loo or to keep active during labour.
  • Pillows – pillows are often overlooked but taking your own means that you can take a bit of home comfort in with you, as your own pillows will be much comfier than the hospital pillows on offer. Your maternity unit may also have limited pillows, and you’ll want an extra pillow or two for support in labour or for when you’re feeding your baby after the birth.
  • Essential toiletries – body wash, shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrush; you’ll want to take a shower at some point during your hospital stay and you’ll also want to make sure you have all of the essential toiletries for staying overnight.
  • Hairbrush, bobbles and hair clips – if you have long hair or a fringe, you may want to pull it back into a ponytail or clip it out of the way.
  • Socks – take some warm socks and some light ones. Even if you are hot, your feet can still get cold during labour.
  • Face wipes – quick and easy if you need to freshen up or take your make up off.
  • Lip balm – if you’re planning to have gas and air, lip balm will make sure that your lips don’t get dry. Even if you are not, the heating on the labour ward is often constantly on, so a lip balm is always good to have on hand to keep dry lips at bay.
  • Maternity sanitary towels – no frills versions will often be offered at hospital but make sure you stock up on your preferred brand for during and after the birth.
  • Antibacterial gel – using antibacterial gel on your hands before you go to the loo can help prevent infection. You may also want to use it during labour when it’s difficult to get up to wash your hands in the sink.
  • Nipple cream – this will be a godsend if you are planning to breastfeed to soothe and protect sore or cracked nipples.
  • Breast pads – whether you plan to breastfeed or not, having breast pads packed will be handy to stop any leaks when your milk comes in.
  • Mobile phone, charger and headphones – you may be in hospital a while, so it’s always good to make sure you can charge your phone so that you can take photos, listen to music and stay in touch with family. A portable charger is also handy just in case you don’t have access to a spare plug socket.
  • Snacks and energy drinks – expect to take a carrier bag with just your snacks and drinks as you’ll want to make sure that you have plenty to keep your energy levels up. Don’t worry too much about being healthy, you’ll deserve an indulgent snack and those sugary energy drinks will keep you going.
  • Water bottle – having a refillable water bottle is a must, as often in hospitals you’ll just be able to get a small cup full of water at a time and you’ll need more than that to keep hydrated. Make sure that your water bottle has a straw so that you can take a drink no matter what angle you may be at during labour.
  • Change for food and drink machines – always a good idea just in case you fancy something you didn’t bring in your snack bag or if you are in for longer than expected and need some extra sustenance. You may also need change for parking, depending on your hospital policies.
  • Eye mask and earplugs – when you’re on the labour ward, there will be other patients and hospital staff coming in and out so it’s best to pack a blackout eye mask and some earplugs for before the baby is born so that you can get some well needed rest.
  • Bag for dirty washing – handy so you know what’s clean and dirty.
  • Book, magazines, films or series – labour can involve a lot of waiting around, so make sure you have some entertainment or at least get the Netflix app with some pre-downloaded films and series to help keep you entertained.
  • Going home outfit – something super comfy is the order of the day for your going home outfit. Think jogging pants and hoodies.

Hospital bag checklist for Baby

newborn baby
  • Baby clothes – when your baby arrives, you’ll want to make sure that you have freshly washed clothes that are simple and easy to put on. Newborn sizes will vary but you’ll probably have an idea of your baby’s size from your ultrasound scans so that you can buy according to how big your baby is measuring.
    • Baby grows x3
    • Sleep suits x3
    • Going home outfit
    • Hats x2
    • Socks x3
    • Scratch mittens
  • Bibs x3 – for milk feeds, you’ll need a lightweight bib for your baby such as our vintage stripe or parachute bib.
  • Muslins x5 – the humble muslin is so versatile that you can never have too many. You’ll need them to wipe away spills and dry your little one’s bottom. Take a look at our selection of super soft organic cotton muslins.
  • Nappies and a bag for dirty nappies – whether you choose disposable or reusable nappies, plan for them to go through as many as 12 a day.
  • Reusable baby wipes or water wipes – you’ll need nothing more than water to clean your baby’s delicate skin.
  • Nappy cream – your chosen nappy cream is a must to help avoid any nappy rashes.
  • Formula and bottles – even if you plan to breastfeed, you may want to take some formula and bottles as a back-up. The starter packs you can get at any supermarket are great for this as they come with ready to feed bottles. If breastfeeding goes well, you can donate the starter pack unopened to a food bank in need.
  • Warm blanket and a cardigan – just in case it’s cold when you are ready to take your baby home.
  • Car seat – for the ride home in either a taxi, lift or your own car. Make sure you have read the instructions in advance as you won’t be able to wait to get your baby home.

That's it for the ultimate list of essential items to pack in your hospital bag for labour and birth. Have we missed anything? Comment below. 

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