While packing a hospital bag might seem like a pretty straightforward process, well, it’s not always so simple.
Sure, there are obvious things you’ll need to pack — a toothbrush, clothes for your newborn bub, and a few pairs of undies — but some are a little more unexpected. Ever thought you’d need a decent snack supply or a cossie for your birthing partner?
Plus, with so many things going on towards the end of pregnancy and that ever-present pregnancy exhaustion, sometimes it helps to have a list that you can easily turn to.
It’s worth noting that every pregnancy, birth and baby is different: you might think of items that are absolute must-haves, while others may never come in handy. That being said, there are several staples that should be in every hospital bag to ease you through labour and the first few days after the birth.
So without further ado, here’s our ultimate hospital bag checklist, along with some guidance on when you should have your bag packed and ready for the big day.
When should you pack your hospital bag?
Needless to say, stuffing a bag with nappies and onesies as soon as you feel your first contraction probably isn’t the wisest move. Instead, it’s best to have your hospital bag packed by around 35 weeks, just in case your baby comes earlier than planned. Early in your third trimester is an ideal time.
The final few weeks of pregnancy are also pretty exhausting, so preparing your bag ahead of time means you’ll have the energy to put it together. You can start packing your hospital bag earlier if you like to be organised well in advance, or if there’s a chance your baby will be born prematurely.
Keep the bag in the car or by the door, ready to go once labour starts. If you’re having a home birth, it’s still worth packing a bag, because you might need to go to the hospital or birth centre if there are any complications.
Things to organise ahead of your labour and birth
On top of your hospital bag, there are several other things to think about in advance:
What the hospital provides
Some hospitals provide supplies for you and bub, including nappies and wipes, blankets, nipple cream (for sore and cracked nipples!) and nipple shields, and maternity pads (padsicles are great for soothing post-birth skin), but others have different policies. Check in advance what you’ll receive and what you’ll need to pack.
What the hospital allows you to bring
You might be able to bring your own labour aids, like an exercise ball, TENS machine or speakers. However, some hospitals have certain rules around what you can and can’t bring into the birthing suite. Again, checking in advance will save you from overpacking.
Preparing the car
Make sure you’ve got enough petrol in the tank for your drive to and from the hospital, and have your car seat installed in advance, too. Hospitals generally won’t allow you to take bub home without one.
Babysitting and pet sitting
If you’ve got pets or other kids at home, you’ll need to have sitters on standby. You could be in hospital for several days — or more if there are complications — so make sure they can take the reigns the entire time you’re away.
Getting your home ready
It’s worth having your home prepared for bub’s arrival, too. Set up a safe sleep space, ensure you’ve got a decent supply of nappies and wipes, and stock up your freezer with meals — because we can guarantee cooking is the last thing you’ll want to do post-birth.
What you'll need in your hospital bag for labour
There are lots of different things you can pack for when you go into labour — some necessary, some that’ll ease the discomfort and some that are simply nice-to-haves. You could also have a list of non-negotiables that deserve a spot in your hospital bag for labour — block of choccy, anyone?
Here are the essentials you’ll need in your labour bag, as well as a few other things to consider. Note that many of these are helpful or even necessary whether you’re having a vaginal birth or a C-section.
- Paperwork and medical records: These are crucial, as the hospital will need them to assess your medical history and pregnancy. Pack your Medicare card, Health Care Card (if you have one), private health cover information (if you have it), antenatal records, your obstetrician’s details (if relevant) and any other paperwork required by the hospital.
- Your birth plan: If you’ve put together a birth plan, hand it to the hospital team upon your arrival. Make multiple copies in case one gets lost or damaged.
- Something comfortable to wear during the birth: An oversized T-shirt or nightdress is ideal, although the hospital may provide you with a gown.
- Dressing gown: Great for walking around the hospital or birthing suite and keeping you warm.
- Non-slip socks: Hospitals can be cold, so non-slip socks or slippers are a smart thing to pack.
- Hair ties: If you have long hair, you may want to keep it off your face and neck during birth.
- Heat and ice packs: Both of these can ease discomfort during labour.
- Spray bottle: This will help keep you cool during labour.
- Other labour aids like a TENS machine, exercise/birthing ball, spiky balls or massage oil.
- Chargers: You might be able to keep your phone, laptop or iPad on charge in the labour suite, but some hospitals only allow you to plug them in once you get back to your room
- Headphones or speakers: You could listen to relaxing music to keep things calm, or high-energy music to gear you up for labour.
- Books/magazines/iPad loaded with movies: There can be a lot of idle time during labour — you’ll be glad you packed something to pass it.
- Snacks: It’s best to keep your energy levels up, so a selection of healthy snacks (and maybe a few treats!) is good to have on hand.
- Water bottle: Labour is thirsty work!
What you'll need in your hospital bag for after labour
Both vaginal births and C-sections involve several weeks of healing, with the first few days after the birth some of the most crucial.
You’ll likely be in the hospital for between 1-5 days depending on your situation, so it pays to pack items designed for postpartum recovery in your hospital bag along with other necessities.
You’ll probably want to get changed soon after the birth. Given your hospital stay could last up to 5 days, pack an ample supply of clothes. And try to go for loose, breathable items like dresses, oversized T-shirts and breezy pants, especially if you’re recovering from a C-section — comfort is key!
Planning to breastfeed? Pack a couple of nursing bras that you can pop open when bub needs a feed. While you’re at it, you may want to sneak in our Breastfeeding Essentials kit, which contains breast pads and nipple balm, to ease into your breastfeeding journey (and the discomfort often associated with it).
Clothes with front openings
Similarly, tops, dresses, nightdresses and jumpers that are either designed for breastfeeding or open at the front are ideal.
You’ll probably be quite sore down there after a vaginal birth, or healing from a C-section. Comfy undies that don’t irritate are great, such as full briefs or even loose boxers. Mesh underwear is designed for the postpartum period, so you might want to try these.
These absorb the ongoing bleeding after a vaginal birth, which can last for a few weeks.
There are lots of fantastic items that help you recover from childbirth, whether it was vaginal or a C-section.
Some of our favourites here at Kin include the Sitz Bath (for relieving tender skin down there), the Peri Bottle (a very handy portable bidet), the Belly Band (to support your core), the Nourishing Cream (to soothe your postpartum belly) and the Postpartum Recovery Kit, which contains everything you need to recuperate from birth.
Essentials include your toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo or dry shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, hairbrush, skincare, lip balm and anything else you use regularly.
Try to make sure the items you pack are scent-free — your baby will need to take in your natural smell as they adjust to the outside world
If you’re on any kind of medication, make sure to pack several days’ supply.
Dirty clothes bag
For taking home any soiled clothes.
Hospitals can be noisy and difficult to sleep in, so things like earplugs, a sleep mask and even your own pillow can help.
What your partner might need in their hospital bag
Your birthing partner might only be attending the birth, or they may be staying at the hospital for several nights. Either way, they’ll need a hospital bag of their own that includes the essentials.
- Birth plan: It’s really helpful if your birth partner is on top of your birth plan, as they’ll effectively act as your advocate while you’re busy labouring.
- Swimmers: If you want to get in the bath or shower and your partner is keen to hop in with you, they’ll need a pair of swimmers.
- Fresh clothes: Vital if they intend to stay with you at the hospital for a few nights.
- Toiletries: Your partner will obviously need their own toothbrush (absolutely no judgement if you share, though), but they’ll also want to bring other toiletries they use regularly.
- Phone or camera: If you’re keen to document the labour or birth, or just want photos of your newborn bub, a phone or camera is a must-have.
- Books/magazines/iPad loaded with movies: If your labour is long, they’re likely to be doing a bit of waiting around, too.
- Snacks: Because your birthing partner also needs to be firing on all cylinders!
What you'll need for baby
Packing for your newborn baby is a really fun and exciting process. Check with your hospital beforehand to see what they provide, then use the below list accordingly.
- Nappies: Your hospital will likely provide these, but if not, a pack of newborn nappies is a necessity. They can be either reusable or disposable nappies.
- Baby wipes: Baby wipes are another must-have. Again, you might receive these from the hospital.
- Blankets and muslin wraps: A couple of light cotton blankets and a few muslin wraps are handy for wrapping your baby. Your hospital may provide a baby blanket or 2.
- Clothes: It’s tricky to gauge exactly how big bub will be when they’re born, so bring several sets of clothing in both 0000 (newborn) and 000 (0-3 months) sizes. Onesies are great and make sure to pack a singlet or 2.
- Baby beanie: This helps your bub regulate their body temperature.
- Bottles: If you plan to express or give your baby formula.
- Breast pump: A must-have for expressing milk.
- Formula: If you intend to formula-feed.
- Baby carrier, baby capsule or pram: Hospitals generally won’t let you walk around or take bub to the car unless they’re in a carrier, capsule, pram or hospital bassinet.
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