pregnant woman writing hospital bag checklist

Hospital Bag Must Haves: What to Pack for Giving Birth

Mar 24, 2020

Hospital Bag Must Haves: What to Pack for Giving Birth

I’m about to tell you everything that’s going in my hospital bag (and what’s not) next time around…

First: a few of words of wisdom about packing your hospital bag…


The hospital will give you 99% of what you actually need.

I know you’re going to anyway, but I had to try.

Hopefully, these lists will at least take the stress out of packing.

Be sure to grab the free hospital bag checklist PDF at the end 🙂

There may be affiliate links in this post. Read this disclosure policy to learn more.


hospital bag must haves birth

Non-obvious hospital bag must haves

Staying in the hospital isn’t like staying in a hotel. There are a few things you’ll want to pack for your comfort and convenience.

​A super-duper long phone charger »

Listen, 6 feet won’t cut it.

You need 10 feet. Hospital beds can be far from the wall.

If you have an iPhone, you need one like this:


My 6-ft cord didn’t reach the bed. 🙁

I was in labor for 24 hours and my battery life was hanging on by a thread while I was updating my family and friends.

10-ft cables are pricey, but this one is quite reasonable.

Check the current price here.

Links for non-iPhone users:

Haakaa »

If you’ve never heard of the Haakaa, you’re welcome. So many moms are obsessed with this thing.

Have a nurse or lactation consultant show you how to use it during your hospital stay.

P.S. If you’re expecting your first baby, you’ll love this list of genius baby hacks. *60 ideas you haven’t seen before*

Quickly email yourself the list of mom hacks here.

Towel »

This sounds bulky and unnecessary, I know. I thought so too.

Then, I gave birth in a brand new state-of-the-art hospital and the “towel” they gave me was a scratchy piece of cloth that hardly qualified as a hand towel.

If you’re even the slightest bit high maintenance, bring one.

4A swaddle for dummies»

And by dummies, I mean deliriously sleep-deprived new parents.

If you’ve never swaddled a baby before, the worst possible time to learn is when you’re the most exhausted human on the planet.

newborn baby in hospital


I highly recommend packing a velcro or zip-up swaddle in your hospital bag.

velcro swaddles for hospital birth

L&D will provide receiving blankets and you can always ring for a nurse to help you swaddle.

However, it’s SO much easier not to have to do this each time you change the baby’s diaper.

Not to mention, the idea of the swaddle coming loose was stressing me out.

This swaddle was my favorite when Aden was a newborn. We had it in zebra print

newborn baby hospital receiving blanket father

Here is newborn Aden swaddled in a receiving blanket before we (thankfully) switched to a velcro swaddle.

5Pacifiers »

Most hospitals are doing the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative thing. (Many members of the scientific community are critical of the BFHI).

This means that hospitals won’t provide a pacifier.

Bring your own!

These are really small and were great for Aden when he was brand new.

newborn pacifiers hospital bagTHE BEST PACIFIERS FOR NEWBORNS!

(If you can get the 3-pack for less than 10 bucks, it’s a steal)

You’ve probably heard this before and it’s true: your nipples may be indescribably sore from breastfeeding at first.

When you need a break, a pacifier is your best friend once your baby’s stomach is full.

(FYI, nipple confusion isn’t a thing).

» TIP: Don’t forget to sterilize the pacifiers before you pack them! Here’s a list of what else you should do 1 month before your due date.

Adult diapers »

The hospital will give you disposable mesh underwear and giant pads. They work fine; they’re just kind of bulky and the pad doesn’t stay put.

These are better:

hospital bag checklist pack adult diapers postpartum

As soon as I got home I switched to Depends… much easier! Definite hospital bag must haves for next time.

7Your own pillow »

Hospital pillows are made out of plastic. Sanitary but NOT comfortable.

If you’re the kind of person who can fall asleep anytime / anywhere, then you can skip this one.

I am not one of these people and I learned my lesson the hard way. This is a must have for next time!

Huckleberry »

This one’s cheating a little, because it’s technically not something you pack in your hospital bag…

I suggest downloading the Huckleberry app (my favorite) before heading to the hospital.

huckleberry app

Your doctors and nurses are going to ask you to keep track of feedings, pees, and poops.

Our nurse gave us a physical pencil and notepad for this… don’t you know I’m a millennial?

An app will make your life easier, and you may find that it’s useful for many months to come.

P.S. Don’t worry if you didn’t write any of this down, it’s all on the printable hospital bag checklist PDF at the end of the post!

Moving on to the next category of hospital bag must haves…

What to pack to wear in the hospital

If this is your first baby, it’s hard to picture what this experience will be like, which makes it hard to know what clothes you’ll want to wear after giving birth.

This will help!

what to wear during labor

What to wear during labor

This one’s easy: Before and during labor, wear the hospital gown provided to you.

It’s 100% unnecessary to bring any sort of “cute” outfit to labor in because it’s going to end up covered in all sorts of bodily fluids.

Sorry to be gross, but it’s true.


What to wear after giving birth

You’ll probably remain in the hospital gown for a while; but when you finally get a chance to clean up, you can change into something fresh.

I wore a long-sleeved night gown.

Here’s one of my favorite pics taken the day Aden was born:

what to wear after giving birth

A nightgown with a button front is an absolute hospital bag must have.

Here’s the #1 best seller (with almost 6,000 reviews)…

night gown for after giving birth

See it on a real pregnant mama here.

Your doctors and nurses are going to be regularly checking you “down there” in the days after giving birth, so wearing pants isn’t ideal.

long sleeved gown after giving birth


(This one’s great if you’re usually cold like me!)

See it on a real pregnant mama here.

Plus, you’re going to be nursing your new baby! You’ll want your boobs to be easily accessible—hence my suggestion to wear a gown that buttons.

long sleeve gown hospital birth

{This is almost exactly like the one I wore in black}

One other option for what to wear after giving birth in the hospital:

Instead of a button-down, you can get an actual “nursing gown”.

I preferred a button-down top, though, because it made it easier to do skin-to-skin.

Other stuff to wear after giving birth

A gown is all you actually need, but there are a few other items you might be glad to have in your hospital bag:

Next, we’re going to talk about what to wear home from the hospital as well as the stuff you can leave at home….


Going home outfit for mom

You’re probably thinking about what your baby will wear home, but don’t forget to bring something for YOU to leave the hospital in!

I’d recommend comfortable sweatpants with a drawstring waistband and a loose-fitting shirt.

You’re not going to be in a state of mind to try to look chic.

You’re still going to look very pregnant after you’ve given birth, so make sure to pack maternity clothes that fit you between 6-8 months along.

Worst case, if you forget a ‘going home outfit for mom’, you can wear the clothes you wore when you were admitted. (Which is 100% fine to do).

Next, we’ll talk about the opposite of hospital bag must haves… i.e. the stuff you can leave behind.

what not to pack hospital bag birth

Stuff you can leave at home

To keep your hospital overnight bag as light and lean as possible, you can skip all of this…

Your medications

For safety reasons, my hospital didn’t let me take anything that wasn’t administered by them.

You should verify that your hospital has a list of your current medications and that they’ll be providing them during your stay.


After giving birth, it’s going to be at least a few days until you start wearing normal underwear.

The hospital will give you disposable undies and pads. And as I suggested earlier, you may prefer to bring your own Depends.

Your full makeup bag

Honestly, you can leave it all at home. Nobody—really nobody—cares how you look right after you give birth.

At most, maybe bring a mascara or something to cover your under-eye circles.

A blowdryer and/or flat iron

Throw your hair in a pony tail and forget about it 🙂

Any sort of “put together” outfit

You’re going to be lying in a hospital bed the vast majority of the time, so there’s ZERO need for anything nice.

A nursing pillow

If you own a Boppy or a My Brest Friend (my fave), you can leave it at home, primarily because it’s bulky to pack.

Some hospitals actually have these on hand; and if not, you can always use a regular pillow for a couple of days.

Your breast pump 

I heavily debated whether I should bring mine. I thought it would be good to have a lactation consultant teach me how to use it.

I’m glad I left it at home, though: there was too much other stuff going on to think about learning how to pump.

Postpartum aftercare items

The hospital will have you covered on everything you need to take care of your lady parts after giving birth.

This includes stuff like witch hazel pads and peri bottles.

Breastfeeding supplies

The hospital will also give you nipple cream (for sore nipples).

A birthing ball

Most hospitals provide this labor tool.

husband on birthing ball

My husband made good use out of it ha 🙂

Continuing our list of hospital bag must haves! …

Hospital bag must haves for your baby

There’s actually very little that you need to pack in your hospital overnight bag for the baby.

Hospitals provide diapers, wipes, a hat, onesies, and receiving blankets.

Here are the only items I would consider hospital bag must haves for your baby:

  • A going home outfit (more on this in a moment)
  • A pacifier or two
  • A zipper or velcro swaddle

That’s it!

It’s really not necessary to bring clothes for your newborn to wear at the hospital.

You’ll either be doing skin to skin (which is often)—or your baby will be swaddled.

And again, if you want a onesie, the hospital will give you one.

There are a couple of other baby items to keep in your car for the drive home. We’ll get to those in just a bit!

Taking home baby outfits: what to know

Bringing your baby home from the hospital is undoubtedly one of the most exciting things possible.

That said, I never understood the hype about buying a “special” outfit to bring your baby home in.

Sure, it will be photographed…

But other than that, you’re buckling your baby in a car seat, sitting in the car (baby is probably covered in a blanket), and then walking into your house.

If you’ve already picked out an adorable outfit to bring your baby home from the hospital in, don’t let me rain on your parade.

But otherwise, I’d just choose a one-piece romper from your baby’s wardrobe and call it a day.

Here’s what Aden wore leaving the hospital:

taking home baby outfits

We called that his wizard move. Newborn reflexes are so wacky!

A few tips for your baby’s going home outfit:

  • Pack options in 2 different sizes, NB and 0-3M. You never know how big or small your baby will be. It doesn’t matter how you are “measuring”; Aden was measuring big but was born at 7lbs.
  • Don’t forget to pre-wash your baby’s clothes. We use Free & Clear for the whole family.
  • Keep the weather in mind, but remember that your newborn won’t actually be spending more than a few moments outside. If it’s hot out, you’ll run from the air conditioned hospital into an air conditioned car. If it’s cold out, you can always cover your baby in additional blankets.
  • Pack socks if the outfit doesn’t have footies!
  • You can use the hat the hospital gives you, or bring your own.

Recommendations for taking home baby outfits

Here are a few options for cute and simple going home outfits:

simple taking home baby outfit
{Comes in other beautiful colors too!}

If you can get it for less than 20 bucks it’s a great deal for this brand!

Anything from this next company is a splurge, but their stuff is great quality (the fabric is AMAZING) and the patterns are precious…
going home from hospital outfit girlFLORAL RUFFLED ROMPER IN SOFT BAMBOO FABRIC

Click here to see a picture of a real newborn wearing it.

One more cute *reasonably priced* AND *high quality* option…

baby outfit for leaving hospital


It also comes in dozens of amazing prints!

Now that we’ve covered hospital bag must haves for your baby, let’s talk about newborn items to have for the drive home…

What to leave in the car

You’re more than welcome to bring this stuff inside, but you won’t actually need it until it’s time to leave, if at all.

  • Car seat (most hospitals want you to show them you have one, so have your partner bring it in on discharge day)
  • Baby blanket (if it’s chilly)
  • Diapers & wipes (probably only necessary if you live far from the hospital)
  • Burp cloths (always good to have around)

I left my diaper bag at home and just had our car caddy (which doesn’t leave the car) stocked.

car kit for new baby caddy with diapers new mom hack


Now that we’ve covered mom and baby, let’s talk about dad’s hospital bag must haves…

What to pack in your hospital bag for dad

(I’ve also included dad’s hospital bag items in the hospital bag checklist PDF at the end).

My advice is for dad to pack light. One comfortable outfit may last him his entire hospital stay.

Note: Dad doesn’t need his own separate hospital bag. Just bring a bag that’s large enough to hold everything for the whole family. It’s less to lug home.

Here’s what you’ll want to make sure goes in the hospital bag for dad:

  • Lots and lots of snacks (you’ll be stealing a lot of them from him)
  • Cash for vending machines
  • A comfortable change of clothes (that can double as PJs)
  • Clean underwear
  • Socks
  • Slippers and/or flip flops
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, contact lenses, etc.)
  • Medications (don’t forget OTC stuff like Tums if he tends to need them regularly)
  • A pillow (optional)

In all honesty, my husband would have been fine if he didn’t pack a single thing.

That completes our list of hospital bag must haves… but now we need to talk about what to put it all in!

What bag to use as a hospital bag

I must have seen 50 posts in my due date group asking about the “best hospital bag”.

I’m here to tell you this:

The best hospital bag is the one that holds all your stuff.

It doesn’t matter one iota whether you bring a giant rolling suitcase, a duffle bag, or even a garbage bag.

Want to bring 2 bags? Bring 2.

Don’t get hung up on any bag-related questions.

No one will notice your bag because they’re too busy taking care of you and your vag 😉 …you’re welcome for that beautiful rhyme.

Now go ahead and grab this free printable hospital bag checklist PDF in the next section!

Hospital bag checklist PDF

The PDF I linked to above contains everything we talked about packing in your hospital overnight bag (plus more), consolidated into a one-page document.

It includes all hospital bag must haves, what to wear after giving birth, a going home outfit for mom, an outfit to bring baby home from the hospital, what goes in the hospital bag for dad, and more!

Final thoughts on hospital bag must haves…

Don’t stress about packing your hospital bag too much.

Pack the essentials and don’t worry about how you look while you’re there. Once you’re admitted, you’ll see very quickly that not much of this matters. The hospital will have you covered on 99% of what you need.

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