Hospital Bag Checklist: What to Pack for the Birth

hospital-bag-checklist-Storksak cabin bag
Credit: Storksak Cabin Carry on bag, £165

Wherever you’re planning to give birth, packing your bag is an exciting time, but it’s not always easy to know what you will need. Our checklist and guide is here to make your packing a doddle.

It’s time to think about how you want to welcome your new arrival into the world. We like having three birth bags, or hospital bags; one for you, one for baby, and one for your birth partner which is how we’ve broken down our downloadable list. If you want to be prepped with extras in case you need stay in hospital longer, you can always have an extra bag packed at home that your partner or family member can bring in for you if needed. Even if you are planning a home birth, it’s advisable to have a hospital bag packed in case you do need to go in unexpectedly.

When it comes to packing, our top tip is for you to lay everything out so you can be sure that you will have everything that you and baby will want, then get your birth partner to pack the bags. This means that when you want something during labour, they will know where everything is and won’t be rooting around and leaving you hanging. Also, as every hospital is different, check with your midwives to see what they provide so you can travel a bit lighter.

Every pregnancy and every birth is individual, so you won’t need everything on the list below, but pick what you will want and need to make it your experience, and we’ve linked to some of our favourite products to help you. It’s also recommended to have your bags ready from 35 weeks – and kept in a place that’s easy to grab on the way out – so you’re set to go when needed. Happy packing!

Don’t know where to start? Print out our hospital bag checklist below…

Birth bag checklistYour Hospital Bag

Mum-hospital-bag-checklist- pic 1 pink
What to pack in your hospital bag

For your birth bag you will want to pack the essentials will make you comfortable during and after labour. Your birth preferences, such as whether you are hoping for a water birth or have a pre-planned c-section will affect your choices.

Car Seat

Check with your hospital on their policy, but most expect you to have a car seat in order to go home. Make sure you have worked out how your car seat works so you can fit it easily into the car when you’re leaving hospital for the first time.

Baby recommends: Doona Infant Car Seat, £299.99

The Bag

You want a bag that is easy to transport to the hospital, and one with compartments is extra useful for sectioning off items that you’ll need at different stages. And it will be ideal for any trips you take post-baby.

Baby recommends: Storksak Cabin Carry-on, £165

What to pack for labour

  • Maternity notes
  • Birth preferences – Even if you don’t have a birth plan, having some of your preferences written down can be useful to give to your midwife in case you’re not in the mood for a conversation.
  • Clothes for labour – Remember, hospitals can be quite hot so you want something that you’ll feel cool and comfortable in. Pick a loose outfit, either a button nightdress or very large t-shirt, that you can easily move around in. If you have an abdominal birth you will most likely be in a hospital gown, and if you’re hoping for a water birth you may want to take a bikini top or a vest top. Whatever you’ve planned in advance, chances are you may feel most comfortable without any clothing restrictions so go with how you feel during labour and take off or put on whatever makes you the most comfortable.
  • Slippers/slipper socks – Your feet can get surprisingly chilly during labour. We recommend some cashmere bed socks, like White Company at £36, for optimum comfort.
  • Eye mask – Whether you need to shut out the world to focus, or try to catch some sleep when you can, a super soft silk eye mask won’t take up much extra space in your bag.
  • Ear plugs 
  • Tens Machine – Some hospitals have ones you can borrow, or a friend may have one they can lend you (you will just need to buy some new pads). Or buy yourself one in advance so you can make sure you or your birth partner are familiar with how it works.
  • Hot water bottle/heat pack 
  • Flannel –  Soak in cool water as a compress and even add some of your favourite essential oils to keep you refreshed and calm
  • Hair ties
  • Essential oil/scented diffuser – If you’re finding you’re reacting more to smells during pregnancy, this can help make the space feel like your own and encourage you to relax more. Try the Portable Electronic Diffuser, £40, from the White Company.
  • Quality lip balm – From the heat of the hospital to the breathing and gas & air, your lips will get quite dry, so take your favourite nourishing balm. Elizabeth Arden’s 8 Hour Lib Remedy is always a good choice.
  • Essential oils – Some popular birthing options are a drop of lavender on a towel around your neck or inhaling scents of clary sage.
  • Facial spray
  • Handheld Fan
  • Electric candles/fairy lights – Dim the lights and create an ambiance that makes you feel the most relaxed to get that oxytocin flowing. If you’re having a home birth you can use real candles, but in hospital you will need to take battery powered alternatives.
  • Positive affirmation cards – If you’ve been practising hypnobirthing you may have some of your favourite affirmations already. Take them with you so that you or your birth partner can read them out when you need them.
  • Body oil – A massage from your birth partner is one of the tools that can help to relieve pain and encourage you to relax
  • Phone & charger
  • Headphones
  • Snacks & drinks
  • Water bottle with straw/straws – Remember to drink during labour, and a straw helps make this easier, and also helps relax the face – which relaxes the rest of you
  • Something to keep you entertainment – You may not be in for long, but if you’re having an induction or are planning to be there a little longer you may want some things to keep you occupied and relaxed. Load your iPad with TV shows or movies or have a book to hand just in case – we’d suggest this may not be the time for a thriller!
  • Pillow – Not a necessity, but taking your own pillow can make a big difference, some of those hospital pillows just don’t cut it. If you take a regular pillow, try to use a pillow case that isn’t plain white so it won’t be confused with the hospital’s own. Or take your favourite pregnancy pillow, we’re loving BBhugme, that’s been your companion up until now.
  • Birth ball – A lot of hospitals and birthing centres provide these, but if you want to use one during labour, it’s best to check in advance so you’re not left without.
  • Incontinence sheets/puppy training pads – And if you’re travelling by taxi to the hospital – or just don’t want to worry about your waters in your car – get some incontinence sheets, or some puppy training pads, to put on the seat for the journey in.

What to pack for after the birth

  • what to pack after birth bagLoungewear PJs/Nightdress – If you’re planning to breastfeed you’ll want something with buttons to make access easier. You’ll also want something loose, and especially if you have had a c-section you won’t want anything with a waistband. For post-birth, we suggest choosing a darker colour so you’re not worrying about lochia leaks. Try this Button Down Maternity Nighties Twin pack, £49 from Seraphine. 
  • Dressing Gown – Depending on your hospital you may need or want to stroll down the corridor during labour, or want to feel cosy when you’re on the ward. As above, we suggest a dark colour and a lighter fabric for post birth and the warm wards.
  • Nursing bra – Comfort is key here. When your milk comes in you may find your boobs are larger and more tender than before. Pack a couple of nursing bras if you’re planning to breastfeed, and even if that’s not your plan will still want to have something to wear that is comfortable and doesn’t irritate the skin. We recommend the Bravado Body Silk nursing bra, £34. 
  • Flip flops – Easy to put on if you’re feet are feeling swollen, and also very handy to wear in the shower
  • Comfortable going home clothes and shoes
  • Maternity pads
  • Disposable underwear – Not an essential, but you may prefer to start with disposable underwear, and always get a bigger size than you think
  • Perineal Cold Pack – No need to freeze, these can be an instant comfort after a vaginal birth
  • Towel – Check if your hospital provides them, but if not take a towel for that lovely post-birth shower
  • Breast pads – Whether you’re planning to breastfeed or formula feed, you will need these in your bag
  • Nipple Compress
  • Nipple Cream
  • Spritz for Bits – Does what it says on the tin, in an oh-so-refreshing way. It’s available to buy on it’s own, but My Expert Midwife also has a Hospital Bag Set to provide relief after labour and those first few weeks postpartum.
  • Califig Syrup – Speak to your midwife about taking this, and not an essential in your hospital bag, but it can be useful if you’ve been suffering with constipation and are finding things a bit uncomfortable or painful after birth
  • Arnica cream – Again, it’s best to check with your midwife before using, but a lot of people swear by using Arnica to help with any post birth bruising
  • Plastic bag for any dirty clothes
  • Tea bags – If you know that you’re having a c-section, taking a few peppermint tea bags can really help relieve any trapped wind. Or if you don’t like regular tea, take some of your favourite bags to have with the heavenly post-birth toast.
  • Thank you cards – If you’re planning to send any thank you cards to your midwives and hospital staff, having them ready to write in your bag can be handy so you can give them out before you’re home with your newborn

Your Washbag

Pack travel size so you can have it ready to go in advance, and don’t have to worry about whizzing round the house to collect your favourite products when you’re in the first throws of labour. And it’ll also help you travel lighter. You know what you like to have in your washbag, but here are a few of our suggestions

  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Hairbrush
  • Shower gel
  • Facewash/oils/moisturisers
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Nail file
  • Body moisturiser
  • Hand cream
  • Paracetamol
  • Deodorant
  • Loo roll/toilet wipes – The loo roll in some hospitals is not the softest, and after a vaginal birth you may want something a little more gentle.
  • Soft tissues
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Make up – This is a personal choice and may be the furthest thing from your mind, or you may want your go-to’s with you for any photos as you’re leaving the hospital.

Baby’s Hospital Bag

Baby bag pic PinkYou don’t need a huge amount for baby in hospital as a lot is taken care of and hopefully you’ll soon be on your way home, but as you don’t know for sure what size they will be on arrival, it’s handy to have a couple of size options with you just in case.

A baby changing bag works perfectly for hospital, and you know you’ll get a lot of use from it going forwards.

Baby recommends: Jem + Bea Sustainable Edie holdall, £130

What to pack in baby’s bag

  • Blanket – Have a nice soft blanket to keep them cosy on their first trip out into the fresh air. The Organic Cellular Baby Blanket, £29.95 from Little Green Sheep is super soft and also makes for a perfect gift for new mums.
  • Muslins – One of the most useful items you can have with a baby, and especially useful at mopping up after a feed. Aden & Anais are the masters of silky soft yet uber stylish muslins for baby.
  • Sleepsuits and vests – You may want to get a couple of sizes as you don’t know until they arrive what size they will be. Hopefully you have a bit of an idea from your routine check ups so you just need to get a couple of different sizes, perhaps a mix of newborn and 0-3 months. A soft organic fabric will be gentle on your baby’s skin, plus a zip front makes changes easier (especially at nighttime).
  • Cardigan – It’s hard to predict what the weather will be on your baby’s birthday, so it’s best to have a super soft cardigan ready to layer up if needed. We’re a bit obsessed with Olivier Baby’s Cashmere Rose Stitch cardi in cream.
  • Baby hat, mittens, socks and booties 
  • Vaseline and/or olive oil – Take a small pot of olive oil or Vaseline and pop it on baby’s bottom so when their meconium comes in, it will make it a bit easier for you to remove the sticky stuff
  • 20 x nappies (newborn size) – We’re keen on using natural nappies on that soft newborn skin to start with. Then as you get to know your little one you will know what brands and style will work best for them. Kit & Kin’s eco nappies are not only good for baby’s skin, but the environment too.
  • Nappy sacks
  • Wipes – With newborn skin you want to be as pure as possible, we recommend using Waterwipes Biodegradable Wipes, £2.99.
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Going home outfit – You don’t need a separate going home outfit, but why wouldn’t you want to dress them up for their first trip out. Just make sure it’s one that is easy for you to put on, and that they can wear in a carseat
  • Harvested Colostrum – If you have started doing this at the end of your pregnancy follow your hospital guidelines for labelling and transporting.

Your Birth Partner’s Hospital Bag

Birth partner bag pic pinkIt’s handy if your birth partner has their own bag, as depending on how long you’re in for, they will need a few bits to enable them to help you as best they can. Plus, and we can’t stress this enough, they can have their own snacks and drinks so they don’t dive into yours just before you’re desperate for them!

A backpack gives plenty of space and it leaves their hands free to carry your bags and the car seat. We love this backpack that can be used as a baby changing bag afterwards.

Baby recommends: T+M x Smiley Elwood changing backpack, £140

What to pack

  • Camera and charger – Most people will use their phone, but take whatever you need to capture the special moments. A Polaroid instant camera is a nice way to instantly immortalise this special moment.
  • Phone and charger
  • Portable speaker and charger
  • Battery pack and/or extra long charger lead
  • Cash – You don’t want to be caught short in case the parking runs out, or they need to dash to the vending machine for you.
  • Change of clothes – Hospitals can get hot, and depending on how long you’re both there, they (and you) may appreciate a freshen up
  • Swimwear – If you’re planning to have a water birth and would like to be in the pool together
  • Washbag and toiletries
  • Drinks and snacks – It helps if your partner has their own snacks so they don’t tuck into yours before you need them
  • Books or games for entertainment – With varying Covid rules on birth partners in different hospitals, there may be times when your birth partner needs to keep themselves busy while they wait
  • Important phone numbers
  • Birthing playlist/relaxation MP3s
  • Hypnobirthing course notes

Want more information and inspiration on everything parenting and lifestyle? Just hit ‘Like’ on our Baby Facebook page, and ‘Follow’ on our @BabyMagazineUK Twitter account and you’re all set!