What to actually pack in your Hospital Baby Bug-out Bag from a Mom with 3 kids all under 3, plus lots of other tips!

With the first baby, you could spend countless hours reading different mommy blogs or pregnancy magazine’s “maternity bag essentials”… well, considering I’ve done this a few times, consecutively… I’ve got to say, these women are packing WAY too much useless stuff!

Imagine one small duffel bag or carry on size piece of luggage, for YOU and BABY.  Everything you actually need will fit in this 1 bag.  If it doesn’t fit, you’re packing too much.  It’s a good rule of thumb to have this bag packed and on “stand by” around week 35.

Now, a few disclaimers, I’m a C Section mom- it wasn’t the plan when I had my first baby, but circumstances led me down that path, and every baby since has been a “scheduled birth”.  Does this effect what I’m packing…? Eh, no.  But, something to consider is that no matter HOW the baby is born there are essential items you’ll want to have with you as well as essentials your Hospital* will provide.

*Every Hospital carries different products, and as a Mom To Be you should be touring said hospital prior to delivery (around the 35 week mark is a good time), ask the nurses questions, view the birthing rooms, learn where to best park at 3am, what toiletries they offer, brand of newborn diapers they carry, what brand of formula do they use…etc etc etc, they will be happy to answer any and all of your questions.  Then make sure to pre-register with the hospital.  Which means you’ll fill out all the paperwork regarding insurance, emergency contacts, basic intake info, primary doctors and who your pediatrician is.  Why do this?  Because trust me when I say, when labor begins, the LAST thing in the world you’ll want to do is fill out paperwork.  By doing this step early, your information will be on file, and instead of sitting in the waiting room trying to remember names and numbers and write it all down through contractions you’ll be able to go directly to the Maternity L&D ward once checked in!

First off, births can go easy AND/OR hard, assume you’ll be in the hospital for a minimum of 1 day, OR your stay could last up to 5 days, depending on your health and most importantly Baby’s health.  That being said, just pack enough for 1-2 days. Husband, family, or friends can always bring you more clothing, if needed.

Okay, to the meat of this topic, “what’s in your Bug Out Bag?”  Where to start?  With Mom!  Now, regardless of HOW your baby comes out of you, you’ll want very loose fitting clothing and you’ve read it before in other mommy blogs but, you will still Look pregnant (roughly 6-7 month size)… don’t worry, that belly swelling will dissipate over time.

Mom will need her purse and wallet.  ID and Insurance cards should already be in your wallet.  Along with cell phone, which will have all your contacts.  Throw in a charger and you’re set.  No need to bring a big camera these days – most cell phones take great pictures and videos.  On to packing:

* 1-2 pairs of pajama like pants, think comfort and avoid drawstrings!
* 1-2 baggy T-shirt’s, low cut necks or v-neck cuts are great for skin to skin contact with baby.
* Socks- get yourself a pair of warm fuzzy socks that are easy to get on.  The only walking you’ll do is to the bathroom and back to bed.
* Slip on shoes – I don’t care who you are or what season Baby is being born in, if you have to bend over to put on shoes you’ll hate your life.  It’s okay to be “socks and sandals” gal for the 1 day you shuffle out of the hospital into your car to go home.
* A zip up hoodie, or flannel, or light button up sweater.  You’ll grow tired of the hospital gowns right away, and while you’re attempting to breast feed Baby, you’ll want a comfortable top cover piece you can easily open and close – keep in mind, hospital rooms are a revolving door of nurses, doctors, and especially family and friends.
* Your hair:  I prefer wearing my long hair up while in the hospital, so pack accordingly for your style, an extra hair tie or two, maybe a few bobby pins, or even a bandana to keep your bangs out of your eyes.
* Why you Don’t need to pack underwear: Some women L.O.V.E. their maternity/ nursing bras, I personally find them extremely cumbersome, especially those first few days lying in a hospital room. But, if you want it – sure, pack it.  Underwear….so, hopefully I’m not the first one to break this news to you but, ahem… you’ll be experiencing the heaviest period of your life that first Post-Partum week.  Totally normal.  That being said, your hospital will (most likely) provide you with mesh undies and all the pads you could ever dream of.  Use these supplies, don’t bother bringing pads to the hospital.  You should buy some “heavy” trifold thick pads and very thin “light” ones, prior to baby’s arrival, but leave them in the bathroom at home. The mesh undies the hospital will supply are very loose fitting, and disposable, and you won’t care if they get stained, so leave your regular undies at home.

And that covers what you’ll be wearing.
On to toiletries:

* toothbrush and toothpaste, floss.  It’s been my experience that the hospital carries mouthwash if you need it.
* Hair brush.  Think small travel size.
* Shampoo/conditioner.  Small travel sizes of some nice stuff you like will be a treat during that first shower you take at the hospital.  Now, the hospital will likely carry these items but, it’s kinda like low-grade hotel quality… so pack yourself some nice conditioner.
* Face wash.  You’ll likely be covered in sweat, maybe have runny mascara raccoon eyes, maybe you even threw-up pushing that baby out… so, do yourself a favor and pack your favorite face wash (and makeup remover if you’re the kind of lady who wears lots of eye makeup).
* Face moisturizer.  Skip all other primers and creams, think minimalistic.
* Body lotion…?  I don’t think it’s necessary, however, if you suffer from dry hands, sure pack a travel size of lotion*.  A word of advice: you just had a baby, and babies rely on smell to root around for your boobies and are learning what mommy smells like – so, PLEASE avoid scents/fragrance!
* Which is also why: Deodorants are NOT necessary.  You’ll be laying in a bed, don’t worry about sweating, the laboring part is over.
* Razor blade… what?!  No.  You seriously think you’ll be able to bend over and shave your legs?  Lol… no but seriously, bringing a razor is useless.  If you were smart, in the build up to the “due date” you were regularly shaving your legs to keep that quick growing ankle stubble at bay.
* A towel.  Again no, don’t waste space packing a towel from home.  The hospital has plenty of towels, and remember my comments about the worst period you’ll ever have… yeah, just stick to the hospital towels so you can throw them on the floor and never think about them again.
* Make up:  You’ll likely be uninterested in applying makeup after Baby arrives.  But, like myself, I carry in my purse with me a small makeup bag of essentials:  base powder, blush, mascara, chap stick.  You may find you like having a little makeup on for when people come to visit, and the countless photos they will take.  Things to avoid: eye liner, bronzer, and lipstick (you’ll be kissing a baby head a-lot!).
* Hair dryer?  Straightener?  Curling iron?  No and no and no!  I mean, if you have to bring a hair dryer… but it’s a waste of space, just plan your hair styles around them being towel dried.  Think braids and buns and low effort!
* Earplugs and eyemask.  Lol!  NO!  Honey, you just had a baby, Welcome to your life without deep sleep 101.  Your hospital room isn’t going to be beeping non stop with machines and if alarms are going off it’s because your automatic blood pressure cuff is picking up something dangerous.  There will almost always be 1 light on, as the 2am night shift nurses will need to check your vitals and Baby’s every few hours.  It’s also been my experience that the night shift nurses will run the hearing tests, blood tests, etc, on Baby in the middle of the night, so they will be in and out of your room often.  You’ll find that you may fall asleep, but you’ll also want to be keenly aware of every noise Baby makes – this will continue and even heighten once Baby is home.
* Baby nail clippers.  Babies are born with claws, razor sharp tiny little claws.  It’s okay to cut Baby’s finger nails to avoid them scratching themselves.  Just be careful, have good lighting, and make one straight cut across the top. Nail files are also good for this.

It’s handy to keep these items in gallon size zip locks or a travel size toiletries bag, for easy viewing and access. The zip lock is handy just incase anything leaks you’ll notice right away!

On to the fun stuff:  Packing for Baby!

You likely know the sex of your baby and have been looking at their little clothing for months now, dreaming of the first outfit they’ll wear.  Even if you don’t learn the gender, you’ll probably still have invested in newborn outfits, blankets, etc.  But, this is what you really need for Baby’s time in the hospital:

* Hat.  Every hospital will have the generic pink and blue striped hat. If you want something special, bring it.  But keep in mind warmth over fashion and leave the girly headbands at home.
* Swaddling wraps.  The hospital will carry these.  Again, if you really want Baby to wear a special one, bring it, but you won’t need several, maybe 1 or 2 at the most.
* Clothing:  Avoid bringing onesies with the snap up crotch. Baby has an umbilical cord clamp on, think loose fitting clothing for Baby too!  Lots of newborn outfits offer pants with footies (so you can skip needing to bring socks) and snap up kimono style tops with long sleeves – this is a perfect outfit, as there is little rubbing Baby’s delicate bellybutton area.  But, realistically, the majority of their hospital stay, Baby will be wearing a snap-button up top with long sleeves that fold over the hands, which also eliminates needing to bring mittens (this top is likely provided by the hospital) along with diapers and a swaddle.  One other good clothing item is a zip-up full-body onesie for going home in.  Again, you want the kind that covers the feet, so you don’t have to worry about socks. Cotton or Fleece is nice and warm, just avoid ones with big pompoms or frills on the butt.  Baby just wants to be warm and comfortable for the ride home.  *An important note about Baby in the hospital:  It has been my experience that hospitals are VERY diligent about tagging your baby right away – either the wrist or ankle of Baby will have a hospital bracelet with Mom’s name, numbers associated with your hospital account, as well as an “anti-theft” alarm!  Yes, a small device that sets off alarms when Baby gets too near the Exit doors of the Maternity Ward.  I mention this because, depending on what clothing you pack for Baby, certain tops or socks if too tight could get in the way of these tags.
* Baby Blanket.  Think small and fluffy and warm. Avoid quilts or anything big and too heavy.  If it can double as a swaddle that’s about the right size.
* Security Blanket.  These are perfect for when baby is in the car seat.  They are a small blanket that can be tucked in over their lap.
* Number 1 essential:  car seat and base.  Make sure the base is already installed in the car before labor begins, again, around week 35 is a good time to be prepared.  Odds are your husband will have a much easier time installing the base properly, as you’ll be hella pregnant and bending over in the car will be extremely uncomfortable.  If he doesn’t know how to install the seat, or if this is Baby #1, then go to a Fire Station or Police Station, as first responders often offer classes on properly installing car seats.

Other NON-essential items for Baby you DON’T need to bring to the hospital.  I included these because there are practical reason why you don’t or won’t want these things with you.

* Leave the car seat in the car until Baby and Mom are ready to come home.  You won’t need it when walking into the hospital in labor, and it doesn’t need to take up space in the recovery room either.
* You don’t need a stroller.  Baby is going to weigh around 8 lbs and husband can easily carry Baby out of the hospital in the carrier.
* The detailed full page Birth Plan.  Odds are the OB whom you’ve been seeing for the last 280 days (40 weeks) will be your delivery doctor.  They should already know your family history, as well as your ideal laboring situation:  natural birth, epidural choice, etc.  It’s nice to have that “perfect scenario” in your head, but please enter the hospital with an open mind.  Those nurses and doctors want you to deliver a healthy baby – and that should be more important then worrying about an epidural or a c-section if laboring takes longer then expected or if Baby becomes distressed.  Would we all love to have an ideal situation?  Sure.  But, don’t walk into the hospital with a highlighted page of Do’s and Don’ts, it’s simply not practical to be worrying about that, when your focus should be on breathing through contraction and focusing on Baby.  Now, maybe you have reservations about the Vitamin K shot or you don’t want your son circumcised, these are valid points to explain clearly to your OB so they know your wishes.  While at the hospital there is usually a head nurse in charge of your care, discuss these things with them prior to Bbaby’s arrival.
* The Keepsake Baby Book.  Leave this at home. You won’t have the time or space to scrapbook while in the hospital.
* Breast feeding pillow, or ANY pillows for that matter are a huge waste of space.  Don’t bring these items.  The hospital will provide you with several pillows.
* Yoga ball…?  Please leave this at home.  Odd are the hospital has the peanut shaped yoga ball for laboring already.  Are you really going to make your husband walk through a hospital carrying a yoga ball?
* Breast pump.  Leave it at home.  A woman’s milk doesn’t “come in” the day she gives birth…there are some exceptions, if you’re currently feeding another child, but in that case, again why would you need the pump?  Colostrum will likely be the first fluid you notice, and will leak from the breasts in small amounts.  Very nutritious for baby and a good starting point on a breast feeding journey.  Leave the machinery at home.   *If you’re very confused how to use your pump in the days after being discharge, then bring the pump with you to a Breastfeeding/Lactation Consultant for advice.
* Nipple cream… you’ll want that, but not on day 1, leave it at home.
* Stuffed animals…?  No.  Seriously?  A total waste of space in those first few days.  Besides, odds are family of friends will show up to see Baby and bring you things like flowers, balloons, or stuffed animals.  If you assume this will happen, ask these people nicely to deliver these items to your home!  It will only make checking out of the hospital more awkward if you have 3 vases of flowers and a giant balloon of a stork.
* Robe and flip flops can be left at home.  I suggest packing a sweater over a robe, because the robe is long and will be uncomfortable while lying in the hospital bed trying to prop yourself up.  And no flip flops – if the hospital shower is so dirty you won’t walk on the tile floor, maybe you should pick a different hospital.
* Water bottle.  No.  Leave it at home.  The hospital will likely provide you with a “Big Gulp” size water bottle and the nurses will expect you to be drinking that ice-water down and refilling it every time they check in on you.
* Snacks.  I see this suggestion a lot, but the reality is the hospital will provide you with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Plus, lots of Saltines, hot broth, and sandwiches at 2am if you want a late night snack.  Leave the “healthy snacks” at home for when you’re up at 4am with hungry crying Baby, you’ll be more glad you have them then!  If husband is hungry, they’ll have a cafeteria or better yet, find out the hospital’s take-out food policy… maybe husband can bring some fried rice and chow mein into the room for you both.
* Laptop and movies or books, music player and headphones.  So, you think you’ll have enough free time to watch a movie, seriously? No.  Once baby arrives, you’ll be perfectly content to sit in a quiet room just holding Baby.  As for books, you’re a mom now, unless it begins with “Once upon a time” get used to not reading for a few years.
* Sleeping sacks and pacifiers… the sleeping sacks are nice for parents who struggle with swaddling, as they are literally baby shaped sacks with Velcro, but leave them at home and take this time to practice with the nurses on how to swaddle properly.  Pacifiers – this is a more “controversial” topic as some breast feeding experts will advise against it, as the rubber nipple can lead to nipple confusion in those first days of Baby learning how to breast feed.  Same can be said for bottle feeding formula in those crucial first days for Baby.  In general, have a lactation consultant lined up for after Baby’s birth, most hospitals offer this service for free, and offer weekly support groups to discuss these matters.
* The diaper bag.  You don’t need this.  And why would you?  The hospital will provide you with plenty of free diapers, and you’ll be taking home both diapers and wipes.  You’re not going to be pulling over half way home to change Baby’s diaper anyways… so leave the diaper bag at home, and just relax as Husband drives you and the new addition home.

Two other things you may want:
1:  An empty bag, something like a reusable shopping bag in size.  The hospital will likely give you plenty of freebies… from diapers to pads, formula, and paperwork – both about your baby, like the pictures of their feet and newborn card saying time of birth, as well as generic stuff about caring for an infant, which may include books and/or dvds.
2:  Sweet treats for the nursing staff.   I learned this from a friend who is a nurse!  The nurses really appreciate getting some kind of snack or candy.  In the past, for my daughter’s and son’s birth I brought them a giant bag of mixed hard candies and chocolates… and trust me when I say, they notice the nice gesture!

Thus concludes what I believe to be the true Hospital Bag packing essentials for Mom and Baby.  Congratulations on your upcoming Birth-ing day!  xoxo

– The NaCl Wife

One Comment on “The Hospital Bug-out Bag

  1. Yay!! I really needed to read this TODAY. We just hit 34 weeks with baby #4 and I have been putting off even thinking about the hospital bag. I have no idea why, I just completely blocked it out even though we are super excited. This gave me the inspiration/kick in the rear to get prepared 🙂

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