Hospital bag checklist

Hospital bag

As you get ready to meet your little one for the first time, making that hospital bag checklist is one of the most exciting pregnancy milestones.

From your hospital bag essentials[1]  and when you should pack[2] , to packing for a C-section [3] and what size bag[4]  to use, we’re covering everything you need to know, so that you can be as prepared as possible for your baby’s birth.

When should I pack my hospital bag?

There’s no one size fits all answer here. Whilst some people like to be prepared early, others prefer to leave things until a little later. In general, it’s a good idea to have your hospital bag packed and ready to go from around 3 weeks before your estimated due date.

If you’re having twins or multiples, perhaps have your bag ready at around 26 weeks, because they have a tendency to arrive earlier than single babies.

In addition, if you’re planning a homebirth, you might still want to consider having a bag of essentials ready, just in case your plans change at the last minute and you need to head to the hospital.

As well as your own hospital bag essentials, there are quite a few things that you’ll want to take with you in your baby’s hospital bag. Some handy pieces for your new arrival include:

  • Vests, clothes, hats and booties - Take a few sleepsuits, vests and other outfits to keep them fresh, warm and cosy. 
  • Muslin cloths - Perfect for any baby dribbles as your little one gets to grips with feeding.
  • Newborn nappies - Make sure you take plenty of nappies with you. If in doubt, take one full pack of newborn nappies to the hospital, friends and family can always bring you more if you need them.
  • Cotton wool - Your newborn’s skin is incredibly delicate, so opt for gentle cotton wool and water to clean your baby in these precious early hours and days.
  • Suitable car seat - Remember to practice putting this in and taking it out of your car before your little one arrives. You want to know that everything is as safe and secure as it can be as you prepare to bring your baby home.
  • Going home outfit - Think about what you’d like your baby to wear on their very first journey home. This marks a very special moment, so feel free to choose something special. It’s a good idea to check the weather to make sure that your new arrival will be warm and cosy or cool and comfortable as needed. 

What size baby clothes should I take in my baby’s hospital bag?

There’s no way of knowing how big or small your baby will be when they come into the world.

Generally, you’ll want to pack newborn sized clothes in your baby’s hospital bag. If  you’ve been told your baby is measuring bigger or smaller than average during your hospital appointments, you might want to pack a selection of early sizes.

How many nappies should I pack in my hospital bag?

It's recommended to bring a full pack of newborn nappies with you to the hospital. This is roughly 24 nappies which should get you through the first few days.

Your birth partner, friends or family can always bring you more if you need them during your stay in hospital.

We’ve combined our expert knowledge with real parents and family bloggers to bring you a list of everything you’ll need when it comes to those hospital bag essentials. 

These include:

  • Birth plan and hospital notes - You want your wishes to be followed as far as possible when it comes to your birth. This is your birth experience, so it’s important that everyone knows exactly what your birth plan and preferences are.
  • For some helpful tips and guidance for creating a birth plan that works for you and your labour, take a look here.
  • Sanitary pads - Vaginal bleeding is normal after giving birth, and using internal sanitary products after giving birth may put you at higher risk of infection. Make sure you’re stocked up on thick, overnight sanitary pads to keep you as comfortable as possible.
  • Loose, comfortable clothing - They might not be your most glamorous pair of pyjamas, but comfort is the name of the game when it comes to labour and birth.
  • Plenty of knickers - Soft, cotton underwear is ideal following the birth of your baby. 
  • Sensible shoes - You might want to bring slippers for your stay to make you feel more at home. Flip flops make a great choice for hospital showers and it’s best to make sure your chosen footwear is slip-on.
  • Phone and phone charger - Each hospital has their own policy on mobile phones so check with yours to see what the rules are. Get yourself ready to snap away and share the news of your little one's arrival with friends and family.
  • Nursing bras and breast pads - To save your clean clothes from any leaks.
  • Laundry bag - Keep your fresh clothes fresh by separating the washing for later on.
  • Water bottle (with a straw) - Labour is thirsty work. Make sure you stay hydrated with an easy-access bottle either you or your birth partner can grab quickly.

These might not all make it into your hospital bag essentials, but here are some tips from other parents out there. They might just make your time in hospital a little more comfortable.

  • Your own pillow from home
  • Deodorant and moisturiser
  • Lip balm
  • A TENS machine
  • A great playlist, speaker and/or headphones
  • A mini fan
  • Sleep mask and ear plugs

Hospital bag toiletries

Anything you can do to feel more like yourself after giving birth is going to make you feel better. Here are some of the toiletries we’d recommend you pack in your hospital bag:

  • Hair tie or headband - to keep your hair away from your face.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste - a simple freshen up can make a big difference.
  • Shower gel and shampoo - ready for when you’re able to enjoy a post-birth shower.
  • Cleansing wipes - so you can freshen up without going backwards and forwards to the bathroom.

Packing snacks in your hospital bag

Having enough energy is important during labour and delivery, both for you and your birth partner. Make sure you pack plenty of healthy and nutritious snacks and drinks in your hospital bag.

You may not feel like eating large amounts at a time, so handy ‘little and often’ snacks are a great choice. Slow release carbohydrates, sports drinks and snacks such as bananas and nuts can help to keep your energy levels up.

Take a look at some more ideas on what to eat during labour here.

How many breast pads should I take in my hospital bag?

Not everyone will have the same experience during the early days of breastfeeding. If this is something you’re concerned about, you might want to bring a small pack of breast pads in your hospital bag to help you manage leakage if it happens. 

If your partner will be with you during your labour, or you’ve chosen another birth partner, here are a few essentials they should think about packing in their hospital bag:

  • Change for parking/transport - Find out ahead of time about what the parking situation is at the hospital. Will you need cash/change? Can you pay by a parking app?
  • Snacks and drinks - Your birth partner might not be the one in labour, but they will be supporting you every step of the way, they’ll need to keep their energy levels up!
  • Games and reading material - There can be a lot of waiting around in the hospital when waiting for your baby to arrive. You and your birth partner will want to keep yourself entertained to pass the time.
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste and a change of clothes - A little freshening up can make all the difference, especially if your labour is long.
  • A written list of contact details - If for whatever reason your phone runs out of battery/you’re not allowed to use mobile phones in your particular hospital, these will come in handy to keep friends and family updated.

Your stay in hospital might last a few more days if you’ve opted for an elective C-Section, so  you might want to make sure you throw in extra high waisted pants to protect your scar after surgery, and some additional entertainment.

Keep in mind that your movement will be restricted after C-Section, so clothes with buttons that are easy to put on, and slip on shoes or flip flops are a great option.

There isn't a massive amount of space on a hospital ward, so try to keep your hospital bag to carry-on suitcase size at most, with the addition of a changing bag if you need it. There are plenty of bags to choose from, with handy compartments to fit all your essentials in.

Don’t panic if you forget something. Your birth partner or friends and family can always bring things to you at the hospital if you need them.

If you’re expecting twins, the same principles apply when it comes to packing your hospital bag. Essentially, you’ll need the same things, just with double the amount of clothes and car seats.

You could pack two separate bags to incorporate the extras you’ll need, and leave one in the car or with your birth partner to bring when you need it.

It’s often a surprise to meet your baby earlier than expected, particularly if you like to be prepared.

However, all you need to do is focus on you and your baby. Hospitals are very well-equipped to deal with premature babies, and will be able to provide everything that they need in the first instance. You’ll have plenty of time for you to get the things you need once you have a better idea of how long you’ll be in hospital.

If your early labour has been planned and advised (for example  if you or your baby have a health condition) you may have some time to pack your hospital bag. Include some early baby sized clothes and smaller sized nappies. 


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