mom packing hospital bag

Hospital Bag Must-Haves and How To Avoid Overpacking

What should you pack in your hospital bag and what should you leave home? I’m revealing my must-haves and things to leave at home.

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Tips for packing your hospital bag

When it comes to packing your hospital bag, the key is to keep it simple to avoid overpacking. Not sure what your hospital will provide? Taking a hospital tour, asking your OBGYN, or joining your hospital’s mother/baby Facebook group if it has one are great avenues to ask questions and learn what is provided for you.

Most hospitals will provide at least the basics to get you through the hospital stay. This includes postpartum care supplies for mama, and diapers, wipes, and swaddle blankets for baby. (Hint: ALL of these items you should take home with you!)

Choosing what hospital bag to use

You DO NOT want to store your bags on the hospital floor. Hospital floors are gross. Decide whether you want to use smaller bags that can live easily on a chair or in the skinny closet space provided. Or, would you rather use a roller bag that can stand in the corner for the few days you’ll be there (so long as you’ll have enough room to lie it down and open it somewhere that IS NOT on the floor)? Unless, of course, you have luggage that has a hard outer shell so it can easily be wiped down.

I chose this overnight bag (size XL). It’s small enough to fit in the closet or on a chair, but big enough to fit all the essential items I packed. It also has a separate compartment for shoes.

What to absolutely pack in your hospital bag

What do you absolutely need to pack in your hospital bag? Here is my list of hospital bag must-haves:

  • Your insurance card
  • Your photo ID
  • A phone charger (with a long cord)
  • Your baby’s pediatrician information
  • Your birth plan
  • Car seat (This doesn’t actually go in your hospital bag, but you need to remember to bring it!)
  • A going home outfit for baby
  • A going home outfit for mom
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Lip balm
  • Hair ties
  • Shower flip flops
  • Socks or slippers for walking around hospital room and hospital (again hospital floors are gross!)

While I’m not normally a robe girl, I also was happy to have a robe for walking to get my own water, and for when I was chilly.

More must-haves for your hospital bag

Did you know that your baby’s stomach will grow from the size of a grape to the size of an apricot in the first week? And then grow to be the size of an egg by the end of the first month?

It can take up to a week for your breastmilk to come in. Newborns do not need very much at first. Do not fret if your milk doesn’t come in right away. The nutrient-dense colostrum is often all your baby needs at first. But when your milk does come in, it won’t yet be regulated to what your baby needs.

Why is this important? You’ll likely produce either more or less than what your baby needs until you and your baby establish a more regular feeding schedule. My milk came in with a vengeance on day 2 of our hospital stay after plenty of skin-to-skin with our little one. She had nursed 18 times in 24 hours and had a very strong latch that the nurses actually described to be, “like a piranha!” (My boobs couldn’t have agreed more.)

This is why comfy nursing bras that can grow with your boobs also are on my must-have items list.

The bras that fit fine throughout my pregnancy that I brought with me last hospital stay were soon way too tight and so uncomfortable. But I couldn’t take them off or I would leak everywhere. Gone were my bra-less days. This hospital stay, I’m bringing these bras that are super comfy for sleeping in, and that will allow plenty of room for growing and engorged boobs.

I also recommend bringing breast pads, collection cups, burp cloths, or all of the above. If you overproduce at first, you’ll want to be prepared with milk collection devices to either save the liquid gold your baby doesn’t need, or simply to avoid a milk shower that drenches you every time you have a letdown.

What’s the difference?

  • Breast pads act as a sanitary pad for your bra. They absorb the milk and are either disposable or reusable (washable). I found the disposable pads to be most comfortable in the early days.
  • Collection cups like these are an alternate option to breast pads. They gather milk while sitting in your bra between nursing sessions. Another benefit is the air flow they provide, which can help reduce the risk of bacteria growth on your nipple. You have to monitor how much milk you’re collecting so it doesn’t overflow.
  • Silicone breast pumps like this one manually suction to your breast to draw out milk while you nurse your little one from the opposite breast. These are a bit larger than the collection cups so they hold more milk. Separately, the suction is helpful while massaging your breast to relieve built-up pressure. If you get a clog, you can fill this with hot water and Epsom salt and attach it to your nipple multiple times throughout the day to help draw out the clog.

For super helpful information to get your breastfeeding journey off to good start, check out this course and this Facebook support group. Planning to formula feed? This mama is a great resource for you.

What you can leave at home

There are actually many items you can leave at home, but the one item I always suggest? Light-colored mom and/or baby clothes. I’ll admit, the first time I brought more clothes for myself and our baby than necessary, which took up so much room in the hospital bag. What I ultimately learned is that blood and cute clothes just don’t mix. Umbilical cord stumps are bloody! Your vagina will be bloody. Before you know it, your favorite new photo-worthy outfits are stained and not so cute. Why create extra wash for yourself?

Instead, take advantage of the hospital-provided baby shirts that avoid the umbilical cord and swaddles for the duration of your visit. It ended up being so much easier for the nurses to do their checks with her in hospital-provided clothing and was easier for skin-to-skin access. We also spared her cute little outfits from getting bloody and messy from her umbilical cord stump and vernix, as we chose to postpone her first bath. (Learn more about the benefits of postponing baby’s first bath.)

Avoid the itch to pack a lot of clothes which are unnecessary and take up a lot of space. You will likely spend the entire time in bed with your boobs out (if you’ll be breastfeeding or pumping) and a giant pad on your bits. Save the cute postpartum clothes for when you’re home and the both of you are less bloody.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to pack an outfit or two that are cozy and make you feel comfortable. Being in the hospital is a time for bonding and skin-to-skin with your baby while everything else is taken care of for you. Unless you’re expecting visitors, the hospital provided gown will work wonders for all the checks nurses will be doing. But a softer gown of your own is a nice option to have (so long as it’s a dark color to hide all types of stains you’ll soon grow accustomed to as a new mom!) This gown was great for the couple of days I spent in the hospital. I’m bringing this skin-to-skin shirt this hospital stay because it offers a bit more room for snuggling baby.

Most hospitals will also have a variety of birthing and postpartum supplies for you that would otherwise take up unnecessary space in your bag. This includes birthing and peanut balls, aromatherapy essential oil patches, peri bottles, pain reliever spray, etc.

The lifesaver items you don’t want to forget

The number one item you don’t want to forget is an extra bag! As I mentioned earlier, the hospital has a bunch of supplies for both you and the baby you can bring home. We also had visitors last time who brought gifts and food. When it came time to leave, we had to figure out a way to get all this extra stuff out to our car. Last hospital stay we were unprepared. This hospital stay, I’m bringing a reusable HomeGoods bag for all the extras. Even though we won’t be permitted to have extra visitors, I plan to take advantage of the baby and postpartum supplies.

Some mamas swear by snacks. We were fortunate because our hospital’s mother/baby unit had snacks available 24/7 for us. But if your hospital does not, then I would definitely consider packing some snacks for those late-night cravings. I’m a fan of these cookies for boosting milk production.

Another lifesaver hospital bag item you may want to bring is your own pillow. I struggled with this one. I’m really not a germaphobe, but hospitals are gross. But I decided I just couldn’t leave behind my own pillow and sacrifice even more sleep. So, I brought an older pillow and a white pillow case I felt comfortable either bleaching or throwing out. (In reality, it sat untouched in a corner of our bedroom for about a year and a half until I finally decided the germs were probably dead LOL!)

Two last lifesaver hospital bag items I might consider bringing are an eye mask and a heating pad. The first night in the hospital, I couldn’t find the light switch for the light over my bed. It was so annoying! An eye mask also helps for daytime napping while the baby naps. As for the heating pad, my body was sore from labor and I wished I had the relief of a heating pad. Our hospital only has one available, so I plan to bring it this time.

I’d love to hear about how your hospital bag packing is going. What’s an item you can’t imagine going to the hospital without? Drop me a note in the comments. And consider subscribing for updates and new articles!

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