Mom and dad packing a hospital bag for delivering their baby

Hospital Bag Checklist: What to Pack for Your Baby’s Delivery

By Stacey Feintuch
Reviewed by Alyssa Quimby, M.D.
April 19, 2024

Before any big life event, we all want to be prepared, with all the gear we need. Giving birth is no exception.

We talked to experienced parents to find out exactly what to pack in a hospital bag for delivery. They also shared their tips on when to pack and how to do it.

Based on their tips, we created this hospital bag checklist for moms and birthing people, babies, and partners or support people, so you don't forget a thing.

hospital bag checklist for mom, dad or birthing partner, and baby

Download a PDF of this printable hospital bag checklist.

When to Pack Your Hospital Bag

Have your hospital bag packed by week 38. It’s even better to pack it as early as week 36 if you’re feeling up to it, suggests Melissa Kotlen, a registered nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital, in New York City.

About 57% of births happen between weeks 39 and 40. What’s key, of course, is having the packed bag ready to go at a moment’s notice, so you’re not rushing to pack when it’s time to get to the hospital.

Keep the bag somewhere it’s easy to remember, like by the front door or in the car. If you’re afraid you’ll forget it in the excitement of the big moment, stash it near something you grab every day before leaving home, like your car keys or phone.

Shelley Alonso, 37, from Los Angeles, packed more than a month before her due date, leaving a carry-on suitcase beside her bed prior to the birth of her first child.

Things to Consider When Deciding What to Bring to the Hospital

pregnant woman packing a duffle bag for her delivery

Choose a bag that’s not too big or fancy. “Some people pack like they’re on a European vacation. I’ve seen garbage bags. And some come in with literally just their pocketbook,” says Kotlen.

She recommends using a roller bag duffel that you can tuck into a narrow hospital closet if needed. Kotlen also advises that luxury luggage probably isn’t the best call. It’s common for things to get messy, she explains.

Consider the length of your hospital stay when packing. People who deliver vaginally typically stay two days in the hospital after birth. Those who deliver by C-section typically stay three or four days after birth.

Remember that even if you’re planning on a vaginal delivery, you likely will want to pack some extra gear just in case you need to stay longer. Emergency C-sections can happen.

Know what not to pack. Find out what your hospital provides, so you can take those items off your hospital bag list. Usually, they’ll give you postpartum essentials and baby care items, including:

  • Nonslip socks
  • Receiving blankets
  • Diapers
  • Baby wipes
  • Formula
  • Onesies or kimono-style baby shirts
  • Pacifiers
  • Ice packs
  • Witch hazel
  • Pain-relieving spray
  • Hemorrhoid cream or pads
  • Maxi pads

If you’re chest/breastfeeding, they usually provide a hospital-grade breast pump and accessories to use while you're there.

In fact, you’ll likely be provided with almost everything you’ll need, even underwear.

Amanda Duman, 34, of Richmond, Virginia says she packed underwear but didn’t use it. “I was provided with hospital-grade disposable mesh underwear that was much more comfortable and practical.”

Stacie Rothman, 36, of Plainview, New York, says she packed light after talking to her friends, who told her she needed very little. “I’m so happy I did that, because I barely even opened my hospital bag,” she says.

Also, save some space for all the hospital items you’re encouraged to take home. Pamela Mendelson, 38, of Fanwood, New Jersey, brought an empty bag to stash them in for the birth of her second child.

8 Hospital Bag Essentials, According to Parents

expectant parents with a hospital bag and infant car seat

Here are a few items that parents suggest you bring along:

1. Breastfeeding Supplies

One of the first things many new parents do after their baby’s birth is to breastfeed or chestfeed the newborn, which means you will want to be prepared for that. Consider packing:

  • Nursing bra(s). These support tender and swollen breasts and keep breast pads in place. Most importantly, they open quickly for feeding. “They made it easier to breastfeed,” Shelley says. Amanda says she likes these cotton ones without an underwire.
  • Nursing pillow. A special u-shaped pillow can be used if you’re breast- or bottle-feeding to help decrease strain on your arms, neck, and back during feedings. “I left mine at home thinking I wouldn’t need it,” says Shelley. “I was wrong. It would’ve made nursing much easier than using a regular bed pillow.”

2. Clothing

When it comes to clothing, focus on ease and comfort, which are key to accommodating all of the changes in your body after birth.

You can always wear what the hospital provides, usually a gown. But if you think you might be more comfortable with your own clothing, consider packing:

  • Comfortable pajamas or a nightgown. Amanda, who had a C-section, packed loose-fitting, high-waisted pajama bottoms. She raved about this maternity PJ set. “I didn’t want anything tight on my lower abdomen,” she says.
  • Slippers. These can be worn if you walk around during early labor.
  • Loose button-up tops. These allow easy access if you plan to breastfeed or chestfeed.
  • Robe. Jordan Corcoran, 34, of Pittsburgh, packed two robes for the birth of her second child. And because she had an emergency C-section, she was especially glad she did. “They are so comfortable and easy access for doctors [to examine you], for skin-to-skin [contact with the baby], breastfeeding, and more,” she says. “I recommend packing two, because the first one will get dirty very quickly.”
  • Flip-flops. Alana Shemtob, 35, of Scotts Valley, California, says she was glad she had a pair of flip-flops, since her feet were too swollen for shoes. They also can also be worn as shower shoes.
  • Comfy clothes. “With my first pregnancy, I didn’t pack enough loose-fitting, comfy postpartum clothing,” says Amanda. Try to pick garments you wore when you were about six months pregnant to ensure the right fit to wear home.

3. Toiletries

The hospital will provide toiletries if you want them, says Kotlen, but you can also bring your own. Here’s what you might want to toss in your hospital bag:

  • Lip balm. Veronica Figueroa, 31, of Winter Garden, Florida, says “My lips were incredibly dry, so I was constantly reapplying lip balm.”
  • Dry shampoo. “I did not feel up to washing and drying my hair,” says Amanda.
  • Face wash/wipes. Robyn Rusckowski, 33, of Boston, was glad she packed face wipes and face lotion, since she didn’t end up showering during her hospital stay after giving birth. “[Washing my face] made me feel human before leaving,” she says.
  • Other toiletries. Don’t forget items you may like better than the hospital-issued options, like deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, soap, and lotion. And if you think you might want to style your hair before leaving, you might consider bringing a hairbrush, hair dryer, hair ties, etc.
  • Eyewear. Don’t forget your contact lens case and contact solution, or glasses, if you wear them.
  • Makeup (if you want it!). Shelley regrets not bringing makeup. “We ran out of our home in a panic the morning I went into labor, so I forgot my makeup bag,” she says. “I personally wanted [to wear] makeup for pictures.”

4. Baby Gear

pregnant woman packing an outfit for her baby

You’ll go home with a baby, so you’ll need all the gear they require. The most important things to pack in a hospital bag for a baby are:

  • Going-home outfit (for baby). In fact, you may want to pack two. Alana was sorry she didn’t bring an extra going-home outfit: “Carter immediately pooped on the one I planned to use,” she says.
  • Infant car seat. This won’t fit in a bag, but a word to the wise: You won’t be allowed to leave the hospital without one, if your baby’s being driven!

It’s a good idea to install the car seat about a month before your due date—give yourself extra time to ensure that it’s installed correctly. Local police departments or fire stations typically offer free safety inspections on car seats if you’d like someone to check your work.

5. Electronics

Electronic devices can help you stay in touch with family and friends, and post photos and videos (if you want to). Plus, you may want to ease labor with music or relaxing sounds. Electronics to consider packing include:

  • Phone. You’ll likely want to take pictures and tell everyone about your new arrival!
  • Phone chargers. Remember to pack long charging cords in case power outlets are far from your bed, recommends Stacie. It’s a good idea to bring a portable power bank, too, in case no outlets are nearby.
  • Headphones or AirPods. You may want to listen to music to drown out hospital sounds or a meditation to help you relax.
  • Portable speakers. Have a labor playlist? Speakers are a great way to play your favorite music in the labor and delivery room.

6. Snacks/Drinks

The hospital will provide meals, but you’ll likely also be happy to have treats available during labor and after the birth. These could include:

  • Lollipops or other hard candies. These can alleviate dry mouth.
  • Mints or breath strips. These may help if you get nauseous or vomit during labor.
  • Clear liquids. The hospital will give you ice chips and water. But if you’d rather have coconut water or clear Gatorade, pack that, says Kotlen. She says you can even have broth, if you prefer it, as long as it doesn’t contain solids.
  • Insulated water bottle. Veronica was glad she packed a stainless-steel cup with a straw to keep her water cold. Her hospital provides patients with a large, reusable plastic cup and straw, but the ice melted and the water became lukewarm.

Hospitals usually have vending machines, too, so don't worry too much about bringing a lot of snacks. But feel free to bring along some favorites.

7. Paperwork

Don’t forget these crucial documents that can speed along the hospital registration process and help give those caring for you a sense of your birth plan:

  • Health insurance card
  • Driver’s license or other form of identification
  • Birth plan, if you have one (You can use our birth plan template to write it.)
  • Hospital paperwork

8. Optional: Pillows, Towels, and Blankets

You may want to pack your own pillow, since hospital pillows can be flat and not very soft. “It was good for placing near my C-section incision when getting out of bed, and for having something cozy to sleep on,” says Pamela.

It’s a good idea to choose a nonwhite pillowcase, so you can tell your pillow from the hospital’s. “You may also want to pack a body pillow to put in between your legs,” says Kotlen. (Just know that it could get stained, she adds.)

If you have room, you may want to add some bath and hand towels to your hospital bag, too. “My own towels were larger and fluffier than the hospital towels,” says Veronica.

You can also pack your own blanket—but again, remember that it will likely get dirty, says Kotlen.

Bottom Line: Bring Things to Make You Comfortable, But Don't Overdo It

Recovering from childbirth and spending a couple days in the hospital can be uncomfortable. The goal is to prepare for that by packing items in your hospital bag that can make your stay feel a little better.

Bring what matters most to you and what can provide you with maximum comfort, says Kotlen, who advises every birthing parent to bring a few extra items that will help “make the room cozy.”

That way, everyone gets what they want: a safe and comfortable birth and recovery experience.