Pregnant Ladies, All Hell Will Not Break Loose If You Don’t Pack A Hospital Bag

There is one aspect of labor preparation that always eluded me – the packing of the hospital bag. What is with the emphasis on the hospital bag? Why do we act like a trip to the hospital is akin to traveling to a third world country, where we’ll need to bring everything we’ll possibly need for fear it won’t exist there?

I guess the huge list of things they tell you you’ll need during labor escaped me because I ended up with two c-sections. I had no use for the massage oil and special slippers, the soothing music and birth ball. So I won’t address that part of the hospital bag, because for all I know you really need all that stuff. I just want to talk about what they tell you you’ll need after labor and for your baby.

If you were to pack all of the stuff they tell you you need for your trip to the hospital, you would be rolling in there with the biggest suitcase you’ve ever seen. The truth is, most hospitals provide pretty much everything you need, from diapers, to maxi-pads to underwear. As far as snacks are concerned there are vending machines and this little thing called the outside world where your loved ones can acquire you food.

You’ll probably feel like more of a human if you bring your own nightgown and slippers – so definitely do that. Forget your own underwear, just use the mesh garbage the hospital supplies because you are going to be bleeding all over it anyway. Bring a little face wash and shampoo for your own sanity. Do not look in a mirror.

Planning on catching up on your reading or bringing those baby books you never got to during pregnancy? Forget it. Whatever time you’re not spending staring at this little human you just created wondering how you are going to keep it alive, you’ll probably just be staring into space out of pure exhaustion, since the nurses will be waking you up every hour for one thing or another.

Definitely bring a cell phone charger so you can call someone to demand all the things that you don’t have. For baby – something to leave the hospital in.

So, to recap – night gown, slippers, some toiletries, cell phone and charger and an outfit for you and the baby. Voila! List complete.

(photo: Getty Images)

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  • jane

    One more thing – soft towel that you don’t mind ruining. My body was so sore and my nipples so aching from learning to breastfeed, and then rubbing, even gently, with the industrial-washed sandpaper towel that the hospital gave me made me cry.

    • Michelle

      Yes! I brought a robe but I either didn’t pull my big towel out of my bag or I forgot to pack it. The hospital towels were the tiny sandpaper hotel towels that don’t even dry you off. Next time around I will buy a big fluffy towel in a dark color for just that purpose.

  • Aimee Beff

    My sister brought outfits for her baby for everyday they were in the hospital. Mine wore diapers and swaddle blankets and hats, all of which were provided by the hospital, because AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.

  • Shelly Lloyd

    The only thing I wanted to pack was wine. But the hospital frowned on that.

    • jane

      My daughter was born on St. Patrick’s Day. My husband got sent out for a 6-pack of Guinness.

    • Natasha B

      Some of Hub’s coworkers came to visit in hospital, brought a 6 pack of those mini champagne bottles, orange juice, and cherries. Good men.

    • Heather

      I had champagne after the birth of my kids!

  • Dusty

    Upon doing some reading on the subject I learned that it’s the exact opposite in Canada. Apparently, it’s bring your own everything: pads, diapers, etc. (Correct me if I’m wrong fellow socialists.) Luckily I’ll be paying through through the teeth to have my baby in the US where I can take consolation in making off with all the crap the hospital provides and demands my insurance company pays for whether I want and/or need it.

    • ted3553

      Canadian here and I didn’t bring my own diapers or pads etc. It was all provided by the hospital. I brought my clothes to go home the next day in (I was barely in the hospital 24hrs because everything went well) and a change of clothes for the baby. They provided cloth diapers so I had to have a diaper for him to go home in but they sent him home with a couple small bottles of formula, his baby hat, gauze and a small tube of vaseline for the stump. I didn’t go home with a bunch of extra stuff but people I know did. I think it depends on the hospital.

    • pineapplegrasss

      did you say stump?

    • ted3553

      umbilical stump. I should have clarified

    • pineapplegrasss

      oh god lol, I was kinda wondering if you meant a circumcision but had never heard it referred to as that. But you never know

    • AnastasiaMcNally

      Umbilical stump maybe!

    • pineapplegrasss

      I never called it that either lol

    • AnastasiaMcNally

      Haha I only knew because I DID call it that! People would be like “stump? What? You had a girl!”

    • Igottagetoutmore

      Also Canadian (Mt Sinai-Toronto). I had a crap load of stuff with me (was there 5 days with planned c-section due to breech).

      Chick beside me who was in my birthing class (total PITA) had nothing so nurse wasn’t too friendly to her but I gave her stuff (nurse was like “you’re lucky she’s nice”.)

      We got 2 blankets, 1 we still have, pink and blue reversible and that was it. I had to provide everything…pads, undies everything although I did get to use their double breast pump free and the food was regular and quite good.

    • jendra_berri

      They provided me with giant pads and about a day and a half’s worth of diapers and wipes, plus swaddling blankets. If there was anything else, I can’t remember it. FATIGUE.

    • SnoozyPuppies

      Any other Canadians get the frozen maxi pads to bring down the swelling? They were awesome. Also the warmed blankets after the birth. I still think fondly of those because I was FREEZING after giving birth (maybe a mild shock reaction?) We also got diapers and pads while we were in the hospital and I was sent home with a peri-bottle, extra pads and some stylish pairs of mesh underwear.

    • Lilly

      My hospital provided a kit with diapers, pads, a small bottle of baby shampoo, vaseline. mesh undies, swaddle blanket, baby hat, and spray cleaning bottle thing (don’t remember the actual name for it). The big things that I had to bring were clothes for me and baby and car seat. I was in Toronto so sent hubby to get food right after birth. Since I used a midwife I was only in the hospital for 6 hours (2.5 hrs labour and 3 hours recovery — rest was done at home with midwife). I brought everything that I was told to but used nothing but sleeper and snowsuit for baby and walked out in the same clothes I walked in with (had hospital gown during the messy parts so regular mat clothes were re-wearable).

      Since there seems to be a lot of variety in Canada, I would ask the hospital that you plan to birth at what is in their kit.

    • Véronique Houde

      Nah, my hospital provided a lot of stuff, including a sitz bath for home and some free meds for my tear.

    • Litterboxjen

      My baby had hospital-issue gowns to wear while she was in (fleece dress sleeper things), and they supplied diapers, clothes for cleaning (face cloths though, not wipes), bed pads for me, and vaseline (which we were told to take home, since they had to throw it out anyhow after we left).

      I had packed the diaper bag oh-so-carefully, and without knowing how long we’d be there or how often she’d need changing, the diapers I packed would’ve lasted us half a day, maybe. I did pack a bunch of stuff for me, but when I was labouring I had morphine and couldn’t stay awake long enough to read an article or knit, and I never did get to listen to the music or anything. When I was in the recovery room and she was sleeping, I was usually cuddling her and/or watching tv.

      Next time, whenever that happens, I’ll probably still pack some books/magazines and a knitting project because I can’t really go anywhere without those, but otherwise some clothes for both of us, lots of wipes for baby, and my own toiletries and that’ll probably do me fine. Oh, and the nursing pillow. My back was spasming like crazy for a few days after sleeping in the hospital beds and trying to use the hospital pillows for nursing.

    • TashaB

      Also Canadian, in Toronto, and we were provided with some things (pads, diapers, baby hat, blanket, peri-bottle . . . I forget what else) but only enough for one or two days. This was fine, since we had midwives and got out in the morning (kiddo made her appearance at 9:30pm, so we decided it was better to sleep there, rather than try to call a cab to get home).
      It really depends on the hospital.

    • allisonjayne

      Just chiming in here that I’m in Toronto and ended up with a hospital birth – I got a bag of pads and even bigger pads, a peri bottle, some diapers for the kid, couple of hats for her, and….some other stuff too but I can’t remember.

  • phoenix81

    I’m in Canada and my hospital didn’t provide much of anything.
    Things I’m glad I brought: my own pillow, my laptop (we binge watched Homeland after being induced), and yes- my slippers. My feet were so swollen after birth I rocked the fuzzy slipper look while walking out to the car when we left.

    • Véronique Houde

      Oh, my hospital gave me so much stuff!!! And i’m in canada too

    • eating perogies

      I’m in Regina and our labour and delivery unit provided a lot as well!

    • phoenix81

      Don’t be me wrong, our hospital was fantastic. I’m in the GTA and the hospital had huge private birthing rooms (that we could stay in after delivery), I had a dedicated nurse throughout my labour (who is now a good friend), but unless we wanted to use formula- which they would provide, we brought everything else (no pads, mesh underwear or diapers etc.).

  • Nica

    First baby – big duffel bag filled with all kinds of stuff. Never opened bag during 3 days in hospital except to take out a ratty t-shirt and yoga pants for the ride home.
    Second baby – cell phone, charger, camera, outfits for me and baby to go home in and a brush (hosp brushes were awful). My excellent sis brought me a bag o’ snacks after the baby was born. Had just about everything I needed.
    I had to laugh about bringing books, etc. If I wasn’t bf’ing my babies, then I was just snuggling them and looking at them saying to myself “How is it even possible that this perfect little being came out of me??” WAY better than any book!

  • pineapplegrasss

    I like my babies to wear the little gowns where they can still curl up their legs and be covered, so I do take those. and you def want to make sure you bring the right kind of gown if you’re nursing. I found a fantastic ugly oldlady floral Wal-Mart gown that had a zipper down the front. So lucky. But books and stuff hahah yeah right. Even if you’re all epiduraled up, you better be sleeping!

  • ted3553

    I suppose it would be different if you were in labor for a day or so at the hospital but that doesn’t really happen often because they send you home. I went with basically nothing but a couple basic hygiene items. I hung out with my sister because my husband was working in camp and they induced me pretty quickly so once that pitocin kicked in, I could barely breathe let alone read. Once the baby came, I just stared at him and had a couple visitors so I wasn’t bored at all.

  • MAC

    First time pregnant lady here. I am so excited this topic came up today because one thing I haven’t been able to figure out about the hospital bag is, what size outfit should I bring to wear post-birth? Will I be more or less the same size as I was pre-birth, or will my stomach shrink significantly afterwards? I have been completely unable to find an answer, feedback is most appreciated. thanks ladies!

    • Maria Guido

      Just bring your pregnancy clothes – they’ll be the most comfortable. Your belly doesn’t shrink back immediately after birth.

    • Jallun-Keatres

      It’ll still be pretty big but now it will be all squishy and jelly and you won’t stop playing with it! Mine shrank down within that week to about where it was before.

    • Véronique Houde

      Pregnancy clothes after giving birth is a godsend. Your belly will still be a bit swollen and flappy, and it’ll feel weird.

    • Dusty

      Swollen and flappy? *cringe* Is eight months too late to call this whole thing off? Totally asking for a friend.

    • Véronique Houde

      LOL the good news is that it goes down pretty fast ;)

    • Alanna Jorgensen

      My fiance called it my stomach boob. I would’ve hit him if it wasn’t so accurate.

    • Jessica

      I used one of those “belly bandit” compression wraps after both my births. Totally purchased out of vanity but actually used for the comfort! I have no idea if it helped my belly shrink faster, but after the baby is no longer inside, you feel all weak and wobbly! The compression wrap really held everything in and felt wonderful. Pay no regard to the fact that they are endorsed by a Kardashian haha

    • Kay_Sue

      It doesn’t take long to feel more normal in most cases, I promise.

    • noelle 02

      I can’t unhear Kate from that stupid reality show calling her stomach fat the jowls of a dog. Too true.

    • JussyLee

      Perhaps I’m just really weird, but I kind of enjoy my loose, squishy belly (I’m one week post postpartum)…under clothes at least. I’m all marshmallow-y soft. I wish I could hug me right now.

    • jane

      If you can, stop wearing a single pair of maternity pants now. Only because when I had to put the exact same pair of maternity pants back on upon leaving the hospital, I wanted to cry cry cry cry. Bring oversized everything – belly gets a little smaller, but boobs get a lot bigger. Oh! And slip on shoes! My feet were so swollen after giving birth I couldn’t even get my clogs on!

    • Shannon

      Yes! Slip on shoes. My feet were so swollen after having the baby I felt like my skin was going to split.

    • eating perogies

      My belly was like a deflated balloon….lots of squishy skin. It was a lot smaller, but my ass didn’t change size so just wear the same stuff you are in before the delivery.

    • The Kez

      Stretchy pants! Under no circumstances should you take normal jeans/ pants.dont do it to yourself. You will wear them again, just not straight away, and trying to put them on immediately after growing a human will make you sad. Hide your normal pants in the back of the wardrobe and bring them out slowly after a few months ( the biggest and stretchiest ones first, duh) so then you can feel encouraged and like you’ll be back to normal in no time (spoiler alert, you will be normal again but it is a new and different post baby normal)

    • kay

      I heard how you look post-partum as being 5 months pregnant. I definitely still had a belly, but less than when I went in. I wore home yoga pants and a tank top-things that are comfy and will adjust easily to whatever size you are.
      And your feet will swell like nuts-my cousin is a nurse and she said it’s the IV fluids + anesthesia (if you have an epidural or c-section) that make you bloat. All I know is that my ankles looked like someone who weighed a good 400 pounds more than I did.

      (my tummy was fairly normal, I didn’t feel pregnant looking within like 2 weeks. I had stocked up on some comfy clothes that worked well for my last trimester and post-partum: yoga pants, stretchy skirts, maxi dresses, etc. These skirts from Old Navy were amazing for both pregnancy and non-pregnant life: )

    • pineapplegrasss

      oh wow. Yes, the swollen legs. I had an cesarean and after I got home, I looked down at my thighs and said to my husband ‘oh no! I never noticed that my legs got this fat because of the belly wah!!’ real tears and all. ie hormones, pain meds. lol. ahh memories

    • noelle 02

      I brought my biggest pair of pre-pregnancy jeans to wear home after baby #1 and they fit, more or less. I was absolutely miserable in them, however. After baby #2, I wore yoga pants home and they were okay. For baby #3, my mom bought a pair of maternity jeans that were low cut and did not look at all like maternity jeans for me to wear home from the hospital. They were fantastic as I felt “normal” but they were comfortable and didn’t upset my stomach. Also, keep in mind that your breasts may well be swollen and larger too and bring a loose fitting shirt. If your stomach shrinks significantly, praise whatever being you praise and don’t brag!

    • darras

      It took me a week for my belly to start going down so definitely pregnancy clothes! But the BEST advice I can give is something really loose.. If you go for a vaginal birth you are not going to want ANYTHING near your hoohah for at least two weeks.. Oh god I tried jeans.. my husband had to make a special trip home to fetch my pregnancy gym trousers ;)

  • rachel

    Question — I usually sleep in a tank top and underwear at home. Is there any reason I wouldn’t want to wear my usual sleepwear after giving birth? I understand I may want a little more coverage at times, in which case I would wear sweatpants. Is there any reason why I should have a nightgown? Should I go out and buy a comfortable nightgown so that I don’t have to wear a scratchy one from the hospital?

    • Maria Guido

      I think a comfy nightgown is a good bet. I had no idea I was going to end up with an incision from a c-section – sweatpants would not have been comfy for me!

    • Véronique Houde

      The nightgown is good because, if you go “traditional vag labour”, you’re gonna be lying, sitting, standing, crouching, crying, all without your undies on. You don’t want it all hanging out – ’cause trust me, millions of hospital staff (actual number) will be walking in and out of your room at ALL hours of the day. And yes, once your water breaks, it’s messy. It keeps leaking, and leaking, and leaking for HOURS.

    • Jallun-Keatres

      After birth I continued to wear what I had been for the whole month before: sweat pants, a maternity V neck shirt, and a camisole. Only change was the addition of breast pads because OMG the milk.

      You might want to wear more than just undies because you’ll be bleeding a lot and the big pads never fit right.I had on sweats with PJ bottoms layered under them (it was FREEZING outside so I was pretty cold) and I never bled through them but my PJ bottoms are definitely spotted now haha

    • Dusty

      I have read that you shouldn’t bring anything you love in the way of panties or nightgowns because they’ll be ruined.

    • Pumplestilskin

      The mesh hospital undies were just not comfortable to me. I made my mom go to the store and buy me granny panties in all dark colors that I could throw away when the bleeding was done. While she was there she also bought me some grandma style housecoats to wear but I had old sweatpants that I brought with me. I rocked those housecoats at home though

    • Kay_Sue

      I did this to my husband, actually. It held the big pad better than the mesh undies.

    • pineapplegrasss

      I’m thinking afterwards.. stick to the hospital net undies, they are actually very comfy and hold that big pad in. Tanks ok but what if you’re cold or just don’t want your ass hanging out while you’re sleeping. I would get a gown jic, if you get stuck with the hosp one, its not stretchy or comfy and you need it to open in the front if you plan to nurse, and they suck bc you’d have to keep untying it and taking your whole arm out to pull it down…
      They are going to come in a check your bleeding etc and youre going to be sore no matter how you deliver, I would not go with pants at all.

    • shel

      The hospital gowns where I delivered unsnapped from the neck all the way down the arm, so you didn’t have to worry about tying/untying to nurse… you just unsnapped and snapped back up when you were done :)

    • JussyLee

      By day 2, I was tired of those snap gowns. I didn’t like having to put my baby down to use two hands to align and button 5 snaps on each shoulder. It was a lot easier to just lift up my shirt and/or unclip a nursing bra.

    • pineapplegrasss

      Nice. I guess they have improved since I first ever tried one. I remember no snaps lol, But my first 2 were born 20 and 17yrs ago. Then I took my own gown for the next 2 :)

    • jane

      Night sweats. I woke up dripping with sweat after the birth of both of my kids. Body’s hormonal purge. I wanted something easy to change into, easy to change out of, and cool.

  • Jallun-Keatres

    I asked my midwife what I should bring and brought just that. Pro.

  • kay

    I saw a blog where a woman posted her hospital bag, and it included pacifiers to match each baby outfit. And blankets to match each outfit. I wouldn’t be shocked if her outfits also matched.

    • Nicole

      I’m pretty excited when my bra and knickers match. I hold out very little hope this baby will be in outfits that look like they we’re put together by a sane person.

  • Lala

    What about your own toiletries? Something about having your own stuff especially a loofah made it that much better after having to use a hospital shower! It is funny how much you pack compared to first time. First baby brought our largest suitcase stuffed as well as an additional bag. Second time our medium suitcase which was barely packed (would’ve brought our smallest one but didn’t want my camera to get squished!)

  • Tara

    Am I the only one who wears the hospital gowns they provide the whole time? I’ve had three babies now, and each time I’ve totally just used those. I do bring a pair of loose pajama type pants to wear once I’m in recovery, but it’s just so much easier to use the hospital ones that they come and collect for you when you bleed on them.

    • jendra_berri

      I wore them too. Getting dresses and undressed after my C section was a bridge too long to cross.

    • SusannahJoy

      I don’t think I even changed out of the hospital night gown more than once. And even then, it was only because it was bloody.

  • EX

    Agree with this list mostly but would add a nursing bra – the kind you can sleep in – and for me, you can take off the nightgown. I was pretty much topless the whole time anyway. And the hospital gowns are pretty convenient for nursing if you want to cover up a bit.

  • Jen

    I would add a nursing pillow if you’ll be nursing. I was all over sore and had a big baby to boot, so my arms weren’t up to the task of propping that kid up.

  • Jessica

    Didn’t see anyone mention this in the comments so thought I would throw it out there….I was completely in love with the depends I brought to wear in place of the mesh undies and gigantic pad combo the hospital provided. To me they were so much more comfortable. And since we keep it real here at Mommyish….sometimes the time it takes from realizing you need to pee and getting to the toilet is a little longer than your bladder will grace you – it’s nice to have that extra layer of absorption! The very first round I would go with the mesh mess, and from then on out the depends. Nothing “sexy time” about either version, but ease and comfort of the depends was a total winner. As a bonus send your partner to the store for the purchase so you can have some giggles thinking about it. It’s the least he or she can do!

  • Kay_Sue

    I did bring outfits for baby in the interim–just the long gowns with the stretchy bottoms. Our hospital just did paper shirts, and I was terrified that they would take after me and always be freezing! ;)

  • L/D RN

    Ouch, this is the second time I’ve read Maria hating on her nurses.

    • JussyLee

      My husband is a nurse. He says there seems to be no such thing as a mediocre nurse. There’s the angels who go to lengths to deliver care with a personal touch, and there’s the jaded witches who make patients feel miserable. Maybe Maria gas just had too much experience with the latter.

  • darras

    A drinking straw! Pack a straw. That thing was a godsend for keeping me hydrated during labour. Best thing ever.

  • SusannahJoy

    Yeah, I brought like 3 books. I think I read maybe 5 pages. I did a lot of staring at the books trying to make all those funny little black marks turn into words with meaning. Just as they were starting to come together, baby would cry or a nurse would come in or it was time for me to watch the “don’t shake the baby” video, which just made me cry.

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