Tick tock, mami…it’s almost time to meet your brand new baby!
And, whether you’ve done this labor-and-delivery thing before or are welcoming your first child, you don’t want to wait until the last minute to pack your baby hospital bag.
Having a home birth? Same advice applies sans the actual bag part.
To make it easy, we’ve composed a list of must-have items to pack that will make your hospital, birth center, or home birth and immediate recovery as comfortable and memorable as possible.
Make sure you call your birth facility, know their visitor policies, and any changes they’ve made since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Many hospitals now allow only one healthy visitor, and that person may no longer be able to come and go. Likely you won’t be able to walk the halls anymore, and if your birth is uncomplicated, there’s a good chance you will have a shorter hospital stay.
The reality is – not much has changed as far as what you need to pack. The exception is a face mask (where required), hand sanitizer, lots of extra snacks and a cooler since you likely won’t be able to access the L&D fridge.
What to pack in your maternity bag (or have at home) for your birth
Admin + Technology
- ID and insurance card for check in, if applicable.
- Portable speaker.
- Earbuds or headphones—in case you want to zone out or block out distractions.
- Smartphone and/or Computer with chargers—for photos, emailing, posting on social, etc.
- Tripod to hold your phone—since your visitors will be limited, this one might come in handy so that you can easily communicate with other family members, friends or support people.
- Pen and stationery.
- Gift/goodies for the labor and delivery nurses—while definitely not required, given how hard these care providers work for new mamis, a gift is a welcomed gesture. Since nursing is physical and the hours are long, consumables often make the best gift. Some ideas include coffee, a fruit/veggie/cheese tray, etc. If you’ve made a connection with someone, they also really appreciate handwritten cards.
- Big sister/brother gift—if you’re mami to more than one, baby can give a gift to big sister or brother when they visit.
- Birth ball, Rebozo or anything else you rely on for positioning
- Birthing gown—What to wear to this epic event is (usually) up to you. Hospitals will provide a birthing gown, but you may want to do your own thing. Birth centers may or may not provide birthing gowns and you’re on your own at home. If you’re providing your own gown, go with either a nursing nightie or button-down style, and if you’d like to re-use it, go for dark colors to hide the stains.
- Bathing suit—if you care about modesty in the tub, shower or birth pool (which you probably won’t once you get there, but just in case…).
- Essential oils—choose oils that help you relax and make you feel happy and motivated. Some of the best include: lavender, neroli, mandarin, frankincense, and peppermint. We used them on a cold washcloth to get through the painful contractions. You can also bring along your diffuser.
- Playlist/recorded affirmations/hypnotracks, etc.—play this on your portable speaker or grab earbuds in case you want to zone out or block out distractions.
- Hard candies—these can help keep you distracted, especially during a natural labor. We love Bach Rescue Pastilles which are all-natural homeopathic candies that might help take the edge off anxiety, nervousness, and other stressors (great for birth partners too).
- Nourishment—stay hydrated during labor with good sources of electrolytes and minerals. We loved sipping on Gerolsteiner Mineral Water and Harmless Harvest Coconut Water. Thanks to new research proving its safety and benefits (eg: shorter labors for low-risk mothers),1 many hospitals and birth centers now allow some mothers to eat during labor (and it’s about bloody time!). But this depends on your unique situation – so be sure to ask your doctor or midwife first. If they give you the thumbs up, you might also enjoy organic cold pressed green juice, smoothies, bone broth and soups—you can prepare these ahead of time and freeze in mason jars until it’s go-time.
For general comfort
- Pillow—doctor’s tip: health care facility pillows generally suck! Plus, you’ll never be more grateful for your own pillow than after birth.
- PJs—trust us, you’ll want your own PJs after labor. Our favorites are these Caftans from Dwell + Slumber, which are perfect for breastfeeding and can take you from pregnancy to postpartum and beyond.
- Robe—this feels so cozy after giving birth and is great for nursing.
- Slippers and a couple pairs of comfy socks—because nobody needs to be walking barefoot on a hospital or birth center floor!
- Comfy clothes for going home—You will probably be most comfortable in maternity style sweatpants or joggers… but leave some room (i.e. no yoga pants) to accommodate the mesh undies and extra large pad.
- Hair ties
- Lip balm
- Skin care
- Toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
- Travel size shampoo, conditioner and body wash
- Blow dryer and hair brush
- Makeup essentials, if you want
- Night guard, if applicable
- Glasses, if applicable
- Contacts and contact lens solution, if applicable
For postpartum pain relief and perineal care
- Heating pad—this is wonderful for reducing discomfort and postpartum cramping, especially while nursing.
- Natural medicine—We love the Wishgarden Herbs After Ease Pain herbal tincture, as well as Arnica. Let your nurse and provider know before using natural medicine.
- Rx and OTC Medications—you may want to bring gluten-free Ibuprofen and a natural laxative option like magnesium citrate, if needed. Don’t forget your thyroid medication if you’re on something special, like Armour. Let your nurse and provider know if you’ve brought any medications from home.
- Postpartum Underwear—these semi-disposable, breathable mesh underwear are a must-have for postpartum healing. We like this brand for the price, quality, and quantity. If you’re delivering in the hospital, they’ll likely have plenty for you to use there.
- Super absorbency maxi pads (look for organic cotton, we like the maternity pads from this brand).
- Peri bottle—hospitals have a basic version or you can bring the easier-to-use Frida Mom Upside Down Peri Bottle.
- Witch Hazel medicated pads—You can bring these cooling pad liners or your hospital will likely have Tucks pads.
- Perineal spray—you can bring a natural herbal perineal spray or your hospital will likely have Dermoplast spray.
- Frida Mom Instant Ice Maxi Pads—When you return home you can make a homemade version by freezing an organic cotton maxipad that’s been saturated with water, a little bit of lavender essential oil and witch hazel. Also stock up on goodies now for a postpartum herbal sitz bath, and plenty of super and regular absorbency organic maxi pads for home.
- Nipple cream—it’s so important to start applying this straight away. Look for natural lanolin or a vegan product like, Boobease or Earth Mama (which you can use as a nice lip balm or healing salve for drool rash later).
- Nursing bra or tanks—bring 2 or 3 in case of colostrum leakage or a longer-than-anticipated hospital stay. We love the BRAVADO! Designs bras.
- Nursing pads—we like Bamboobies reusable pads, or these ones if you need a disposable option.
- Nursing pillow—this is optional, but worth it for first-time moms as the nurses and/or lactation consultants can help you learn how to use it for optimal positioning.
- Haaka Silicone Hand Pump—this is also optional, but you’ll likely have a lactation consultant, so take full advantage if you want to figure out how to use it. After your milk comes in, you can use this for letdown on what would otherwise be lost in a breast pad as you breastfeed on the other breast.
- Baby clothes—bring two sets and a baby hat (not all facilities provide them). Our favorite brands are Under The Nile, Baby Soy, L’ovedbaby. We also love the adorable lines from our friends at Collins + Conley.
- Swaddles—our favorites are the muslin swaddles from Aden & Anais.
- Baby blanket—organic receiving blanket.
- Diapers and wipes—likely these will be provided, but if you prefer more natural options we like Seventh Generations Diapers and either Water Wipes or Seventh Generations Wipes.
- Cold weather gear depending on your climate.
- Car seat—they won’t let you leave the hospital or birth center without one properly installed. If you need help with installation, bring it to your local fire department and they’ll do it for free.
What if you have a c-section?
Obviously some of our recommendations will differ in this case. You cannot eat prior to surgery (for good reason). Wound care and postpartum pain medications may look different. Stay ahead of the pain and follow your doctor’s advice on that one. Generally we recommend minimizing narcotic pain medications as much as possible and would prefer ibuprofen for most mamis, as soon as that is effective enough to control pain. You’ll also need to stock up on wound care supplies at home as well, such as gauze and hypoallergenic tape.
When should you pack your maternity hospital bag?
It’s recommended you have your baby bags packed at least 6 weeks before your due date.
That means you should start purchasing your delivery bag items, like postpartum underwear, essential oils, nipple cream, etc., 8-9 weeks out.
Insofar as snacks go, you can pack the non-perishables in advance and just keep your freezer stocked with whatever else you’ll need at go time. Also keep your fruit bowl and fridge stocked up with anything else you’ll want week-to-week. Then when the time comes, have your partner grab those last-minute items and go!
Extra Mami Tip:
Make a list of anything you can’t pack in advance (like your blow dryer, anything you ordered last-minute, perishable food, etc.) and put it on the fridge. That way your partner can check it and quickly pack up those items when it’s go-time.
If you have some time to spare, check out our postpartum guide, as well as articles specifically written for the postpartum period.