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What’s in My Bag? Lessons From a Labor Nurse: The Ultimate Hospital Bag Packing List

I have seen it all as a labor and delivery nurse for almost two decades. I have welcomed women totally unprepared for labor with just their car keys and the clothes on their backs. I have also greeted families who appear to be moving into the hospital for weeks, bringing every new gadget on the market. The goal is to find the sweet spot somewhere in between. 


Let’s get packing! Without a doubt, some essential items will make your hospital stay more comfortable for you, your partner, and your baby. By outlining the must-have list for your hospital bag, I hope to calm your nerves and make you feel ready for the big day.


Breaking It Down: Essential Items For Mom During Labor
  • Paperwork: If you have one, you will want your ID or driver’s license, insurance cards, and birth plan.  

  • Entertainment Items: Labor can be a long process. You may want to bring a tablet to watch movies or play games to distract you as things get going. Music relaxes during labor, energizes pushing, and helps pass the time. You may find yourself swaying with your labor partner or bouncing on a birthing ball to your favorite beats. But music isn’t just for vaginal deliveries! Music can be particularly soothing in cesarean delivery, so don’t be afraid to ask to bring tunes with you to the operating room if things go that way. 

  • Make Your Labor Room a Spa: The hospital is definitely not a hotel! We do our best to make your stay pleasant, but our goals focus more on safety and less on comfort. Bring creature comforts like your pregnancy pillow, a soft blanket, and slippers or flip-flops from home. I have witnessed beautiful labor room makeovers using essential oils and battery-operated candles.  

  • Ponytail Holders and Lip Balm: You will want a small bag of essential toiletries such as a toothbrush, shampoo (the hospital will have them if you forget), etc. However, the most valuable personal care items to bring are a ponytail holder and lip balm! Labor is hard work, and you will get shaky and sweaty. A big water bottle and some lip balm will help keep your lips moist once you start breathing hard.  

  • Eyeglasses: Labor and postpartum are not a time to mess around with contact lenses. Be prepared for long days and nights. Your eyes will thank you! Also, for those who need reading glasses, don’t forget to pack a pair into your hospital bag.  

  • Labor gown or outfit from home: I would like to point out that while this is not necessary as we provide hospital gowns for you, many women really love wearing their own clothing while laboring. Bringing something from home can make being in the hospital feel less medical. Choose something easy-access as your nurses, midwives, or physicians will need to assess all the body parts. My favorite outfit for a laboring mother was a bikini top and a quick-dry skirt. She could get in and out of the tub, felt like she was covered, and the nursing staff could quickly assess her belly and cervix.

What About After Delivery?
  • Loose, comfortable clothing: At the end of the day, you will need an outfit to go home in, and it’s not the time to try and squeeze into your jeans from before pregnancy (yes, I have seen it!). Go for clothing that will not put pressure on your perineum. The perineum is the area from your vagina to your anus, and it will be sore. Also, there is always a chance that you may need a cesarean delivery, so soft and loose clothing will feel better on your belly. Think sweats or a loose dress.

  • Eye mask and earplugs: Babies crying. Nurses talking. Sounds of laboring mothers. Getting a good night’s sleep in the hospital setting can be challenging. Earplugs can muffle these noises so you can catch some zzz's; don’t worry, you will still hear your baby cry! An eye mask diminishes light from medical equipment and computer monitors. 

  • Device chargers: Most families stay for at least a day or two. Bring chargers for all

electronics you want with you.  


  • Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding essentials: While hospitals usually provide anything needed to help nourish your baby, the hospital stay is a prime time to practice using the items you will use at home. For example, we have pillows, but it is ideal to bring your nursing pillow from home to practice with. Not only for breastfeeding, these pillows can also get your baby into a comfortable position for giving a bottle. The nurses or lactation consultants can help you figure out your pump if you would like. If you are using formula, bring some from home to ensure your baby tolerates the kind you choose.  

  • Let the hospital provide your “down-there” care items: Many companies specialize in postpartum underwear, pads, and ice packs. Don’t waste the space in your bag; we have it. I promise you will adore our disposable mesh panties! Keep your supply for use at home after the hospital.

Baby Bag Basics
  • Carseat: Hands down, the essential baby item is the baby’s car seat. The hospital will have everything you need to take care of your baby while in the hospital setting. Your packing should center around getting your new cutie from the hospital to your home. I love the Boppy car seat cover that doubles as a breastfeeding cover.  

  • Going home outfit and blanket: While it can be fun to dress your newborn in cute teeny ensembles, you don’t need to bring a ton of choices with you to the hospital. We will have basic shirts, hats, diapers, etc., but you will need one outfit for your baby to wear going home. 

Don’t Forget Your Partner!
  • Comfortable clothing: Your partner will also need some comfortable clothing for the hospital. Include pajamas and slip-on shoes. I have seen support partners get into the tub during labor with swim trunks on, so pack some if that is in your plan.

  • Phone and charger: For updating all the friends and family and sending pics of your adorable new baby!

  • Snacks: A hangry person isn’t very supportive, so throw a few snacks in your hospital bag for your partner. Favorites include granola bars, apples, and other easy-to-grab foods that don’t need refrigeration.

  • Toiletry Kit: Bring all the things your partner might need to feel human, too. Toothbrush, toothpaste, hair care, etc. You’ve got this!

Packing your hospital bag can be a source of fun and excitement. Don’t let it stress you out! Ultimately, all you need to make your hospital stay great is a safe, healthy mom and baby.  

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