The Ultimate Hospital Bag Checklist (from a labor nurse)

written by: Lo Mansfield, RN, MSN, CLC

Guess what? When you Google “hospital bag checklist” do you know how many results come up? About 14,000,000. Yep. 14 million. Isn’t that insane? 🤯 I’m not here to tell you that I have all of these secrets or surprises that no one else knows about. Clearly, all of the ideas are out there somewhere. But I do think that after having delivered 3 babies of my own AND watching thousands of you bring in so much stuff, I may have some helpful suggestions for what should and shouldn’t be in your hospital bag.

pregnant woman packing her hospital bag

Who is The Labor Mama and Why Am I Here?

Hey friend! I’m Lo – also known around here and social media as The Labor Mama. I’ve spent my nursing career in labor, delivery, and postpartum, have birthed 3 of my own babies, have labored thousands of mamas at the bedside, have taught hundreds of students online, and have even delivered a few speedy little babies with my bare hands (oops).

Here at TLM, I offer online birth classes to empower you the way everyone should be. The education + support I offer gives you experience, evidence, and empathy; you’re getting all of my years of “clinical” RN knowledge, beautifully combined with my real experiences as a mama and a nurse. These are not your hospital birth classes (those won’t do it, I promise), and honestly, birth doesn’t follow a textbook or protocol anyway – you need to know so much more than that.
If you want to connect with me further, head to Instagram. There are hundreds of thousands of us over there learning together daily.

When should you pack your hospital bag?

I think you should have your hospital bag ready to go by week 36, unless there is a reason that your baby may be born earlier. It’s very likely that your care team will want baby to stay inside until at least week 36, so this is a good time to be ready by. If you want to start earlier, you can pack the things that can go in there that you don’t need at home, and then have a list of what needs to be added when it truly is go-time.

Also, it really is true that you might not have time to do it later…so do it! I was just talking to a friend who had to be unexpectedly induced for preeclampsia at her 39-week appointment. They sent her straight from the office to the unit, and she said she hadn’t packed anything yet because “she thought she’d have time when labor started.” She also said it was super hard to try to tell her husband what to bring for her over the phone (it really would be), so don’t let this happen to you!

What not to pack in your hospital bag

This might feel a little counterintuitive, but we are going to start with what not to pack. These are the things I recommend you pull out of that bag before you start filling it up.

  • A lot of my patients brought in a ton of food and drinks. Unless you have specific dietary needs or preferences, many hospitals have room service, restaurants, a coffee shop, etc. On the labor + delivery floor, we also had cheese, yogurts, different juices and sodas, pre-made sandwiches, toast (and toppings), saltines and graham crackers, broths, and popsicles stocked for those who needed a quick snack or pick me up.
  • I think you can skip a DSLR camera or video camera. Unless you are a photographer or this is a specific passion of yours, your phone takes some pretty amazing pictures and videos now.
  • Slippers – hang on, hear me out. If we’re being honest, when we bleed post birth if runs down our legs pretty quickly when we stand up. It’s almost guaranteed the blood will get your socks, your slippers, and the floor at some point. I leave my fuzzy, comfy slippers at home.
  • Skip a stack of cute baby clothes. If you’re comfortable with it, that little one is going to be skin to skin and nursing a lot and they’ll get assessed a least once or twice a shift by your care providers – it’s best if they’re only in a diaper for these things. One outfit to go home or take some pictures really is enough!
  • Don’t bring your own birthing or yoga balls. We had 3 different kinds and sizes on our unit for those in labor.
  • Skip your own pericare supplies. We stocked all peri care items, diapers and wipes for baby, pumps if needed and nursing pillows. If you have clothes you care about, don’t bring them. There’s a good amount of bleeding post delivery and it is impossible to guarantee that you won’t get it on your clothes. Also, most of us look about 20 weeks pregnant when we leave – bring clothes that will fit that 20 weeks pregnant looking body COMFORTABLY.

Want a copy of my full list for what you, baby, and any birth partner should bring along? You can snag that right here.

Hospital bag essentials for mom and baby

After packing a bag 3 times, I can truly say I’ve used all of these items every single time. As you pack, I’d encourage you to remember the amount of time you may be at the hospital too. Vaginal deliveries usually stay 24-48 hours after birth and a cesarean delivery usually stays 2-4 days after birth.

For mama

If you want to labor in a bra, make sure it’s one that opens in the front. Sports bras aren’t great for skin to skin, but they are comfy, so I know why people use them. If you think this is your jam, try this nursing style one from Auden. It unclips down and will make skin to skin easy! Some women who want to labor in tub or shower also switch to a swim top.

For after birth, I always pack nursing pajamas, a bra and/or tank, comfy (dark) pajama-y pants or bottoms, and a thin robe or open sweater. When you change to drive home, think comfy, that you can still be bleeding, and that you’ll still (could) be pretty swollen and pregnant looking (ie sweats, joggers (use code , a loose dress, etc).

  • Bodily has some of my absolute favorite bras. I would recommend them time and again. You can use the code: 10LABORMAMA10 for 10% off $90+. The Everything Bra is my favorite for those first days!
  • Auden bras are also beloved by SO many (including me) and are really affordable. They hold up SO well and I still (years later) am wearing a bunch of different styles of mine just because they’re that good.
  • Sunflower Motherhood, Cozy Earth, and Kindred Bravely are my favorite button up PJ sets. So buttery and soft. Use code: THELABORMAMA40 for 40% off at Cozy Earth and/or code: LABORMAMA for 15% off anything at Sunflower Motherhood. Shop directly through this link at Kindred Bravely to save 15%!

collection of different nursing and postpartum bras
Click the pic to shop all!

A pair or two of comfy socks is also nice, as are slip on “shower-able” shoes. I actually recommend not doing flip flops and doing slides instead, so you can wear those socks and shoes together.

A couple miscellaneous things that have always been really important to me? An extra long phone cord, chapstick, and nipple cream (the hospital often has a sample, but I pack my own just in case. This brand has been a long-time favorite).

Lastly, BASIC toiletries are nice. I don’t ever want to spend a ton of time in the bathroom away from that baby – so mascara, tinted moisturizer, chapstick, toothbrush, deodorant, dry shampoo, and a hairbrush serve me well.

For baby

They really do NOT need much. Firstly, don’t forget the carseat. If it has a base, have it installed ahead of time. Make sure the straps are in the newborn setting. Because of safety concerns, the hospital personnel is NOT expected to do these things for you! I know this sounds a little crazy, but unless your RN is doing a carseat test for a NICU baby, they aren’t even supposed to touch the seat! They’ll likely give a ton of verbal guidance, but you really, really do need to know how to do it.

As for clothing, I bring one going home outfit, a hat or headband, and a swaddle blanket for pictures and tucking them in for the trip home. (The hospital always provides hats, but I like to bring something more special). If you are a waffle blanket fan, I love, love, love this one. She always has such great colors!

More helpful reading:

Newborn Must-Haves: 13 Items My Family Has Loved

Want to check out my discount code page and see where you can snag all kinds of stuff for you and baby? That’s always here for you.

Other things you could pack in your hospital bag

You’ll likely see all of the following items (and more) on lots of other lists. They’re definitely things to consider, but I’d encourage you to remember that everything that comes in has to be schlepped back out – and then put away at home. Those tasks can feel bigger and more exhausting when that new baby is in your arms.

A note: The hospitals usually send you home with a decent amount of stuff too (like leftover peri care items, diapers, wipes, paperwork, etc.). This means your pile of things to load up and take home will get bigger too!

Extra things you could pack

  • Cute swaddle, hat or headband for baby – honestly? Not necessary. This is totally preferential.
  • Your own pillow
  • Breast pump
  • Blue Tooth speaker
  • Stroller (usually I saw these used in the loading up/going home process)
  • Your own towels
  • Delivery gown: Kindred Bravely has 2 great options. This ruffle strap style and this universal style.
  • Mini fan (yes, the hospital often has fans. But they’re big and bulky and obnoxious. And this little guy? It’ll clip right to your bed AND work on your stroller later. It’s the best!
  • Egg light: These are awesome for the nursery at home too. We are soooooo crazy about ours!
  • Portable sound machine: This can be so nice for trying to get some rest in noisy hospital! We’ve been using this one for 6+ years.
  • Baby nail clippers or file: Baby nails are crazy long when they’re born, but the hopsital doesn’t/won’t cut them! I really love the electric filer – so easy to use.

Full disclosure: I have never brought my own pump, a stroller, or my own towels. However, I do choose to pack all of the other things I just mentioned.

baby light, nail file, and sound machine for hospital bag
Click the pic to shop all!

Would you like a copy of my full checklist, including all of the extras and what your partner might want to pack too? Click the button below and it’s yours!

The takeaway on packing your hospital bag

No one is going to stop you at the doors if you bring too much stuff. This is your birth, your baby, your body, your story. But I do think that when you are finally ready to head home with that precious little, all of the extra stuff to take care of can feel extra exhausting and overwhelming – and I’d love to avoid that for you if we can!

What do you think? Am I missing something? Anything you think is totally not necessary? Let me know in the comments so everyone else can see your ideas too! xx- Lo

pregnant woman packing hospital bag with baby clothes

More resources (and freebies!) for you to take a peek at:

A note: This post may include affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I will earn a small commission (thank you)! Rest assured, this comes at no additional cost to you. You can read TLM’s full disclosure here.

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About the Author

Lo Mansfield RN, MSN, CLC, is a specialty-certified registered nurse + certified lactation consultant in obstetrics, postpartum, and fetal monitoring who is passionate about families understanding their integral role in their own stories. She is the owner of The Labor Mama and creator of the The Labor Mama online courses. She is also a mama of four a University of Washington graduate (Go Dawgs), and is recently back in the US after 2 years abroad in Haarlem, NL.


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