Seven Starling's Hospital Bag Checklist
Having a baby? Download our checklist of hospital bag essentials, and use this guide for what to pack, when to pack it, and tips for your labor, birth and delivery stay planning.
If you are planning to give birth at a hospital or birth center, there are some must-haves, good ideas, and things to avoid when preparing and packing your bag. Save space, eliminate hassle and create the perfect hospital bag for your optimal comfort and ease with this overview and hospital bag checklist pdf!
When to Pack Your Hospital Bag
- A super simple starter bag for right now
- Preparing for birth and planning ahead
Your Hospital Bag Checklist
- Essential items
- Expert-recommended for your comfort
- Ask your hospital
- Things you can skip
Hospital Bag Checklist for Your Baby
- Essential and expert-recommended items for your newborn
- Ask your hospital
- Things you can skip
Hospital Bag Checklist for Partner / Support Person
- Essential and expert-recommended items
- Ask your hospital
- Things you can skip
Considerations for Hospital Bag during COVID
- Questions for your hospital
- Extra supplies
When to Pack Your Hospital Bag
You can start using your hospital bag checklist today, or treat it as a long term project throughout your pregnancy. Continue reading for the best timing considerations for packing your hospital bag, now and later.
A super simple starter bag for right now
It’s not a bad idea to keep a super simple go-bag handy, even if it’s still early in your pregnancy. Occasionally, a standard screening can take awhile, or a minor complication like an allergic reaction or dehydration can mean spending some unexpected hours at a clinical site. You might also be someone who feels decidedly less anxious when you feel prepared. If for any reason you decide you want to ready a simple starter bag, or add hospital essentials to your daily backpack, you’ll want to make sure it includes the following basics, for which more detail is listed in the following sections:
- Important documents and ID
- A warm layer
- A spare charger
- Headphones and/or earplugs
- Ready-to-eat snacks
- Any small toiletries you would want if you had an unexpected overnight stay
- Cash, in case a vending machine is your primary option for food
Preparing for birth and planning ahead
Beyond the very basics listed above, the planning that goes into preparing a labor and delivery hospital bag is meant to help you create as much comfort, ease, familiarity and convenience as possible, in a new clinical setting. While most items directly related to safety and certainly medical care will be provided in any hospital setting, what you bring with you can influence the level of relaxation, confidence and enjoyment you feel during birth and after your baby is born. In turn, this planning can improve health outcomes, because a person who feels safe, supported and calm is better able to navigate the sensations and processes of labor, receive appropriate care if needed, and make important decisions about medical care.
Depending on your pregnancy and any specific health considerations or risks that have been a part of your experience, you may want to download this hospital bag checklist and start packing early on in your journey. More generally, since a full term pregnancy lasts anywhere from about 38-42 weeks, it’s recommended to have your hospital bag packed by around week 36 or so. If you are planning for an out-of-hospital birth, it is still recommended to have the essentials below packed, in case of any need for shared or transferred medical care between your midwife and other medical health care providers.
Your Hospital Bag Checklist
When assembling items for yourself during the prenatal period, you may have favorite comfort objects, clothing, or food items that have sustained and nourished you throughout your pregnancy. You may find that many of those same items are what support you during your labor and hospital birth, or that your tastes have entirely changed by the time you are heading to the hospital. Use this checklist to get started, and then come back to it to update, replenish, or switch out items as needed.
The birthing person is the decision maker for their body, their care and their baby, and some decisions are easier to make when you and your medical staff are on the same page - literally! You’ll want to include hard copies of these documents if possible, to facilitate a smoother admission process and the most appropriate care for your unique needs.
- Photo identification
- Health insurance card
- Your primary care provider’s contact information
- Digital or printed copies of your recent health history
- Written contact information for emergency contacts
- Your pediatrician’s contact information, if known
- Any forms provided by your hospital or provider ahead of time
- 3 copies of your birth plan - 1 for you, 1 for your nurses, 1 just in case!
These daily essentials are for your hygiene, comfort, and convenience - items you would want for any overnight with a few considerations specifically for laboring people.
- A water bottle or thermos - preferably with a straw so you an sip from different positions, and 24 oz. or more to avoid frequent refill requests
- Any important medications and prescription information
- A comfortable, loose-fitting and cozy change of clothes
- A nursing bra or shirt may be helpful
- Pack an extra light top as you may have spilled breast milk or spit up right away
- Compression stockings may be useful postpartum
- A robe or comfortable gown to labor in - you may wear your own clothing instead of a hospital gown, as long as it is easy to adjust or remove if needed, and you don’t mind soiling it with blood and other body fluids
- Warm layer such as a zippered sweatshirt, and no-slip socks
- Energizing snacks - think easy-to-eat options that will give you a boost of energy, like protein bars, granolas, cheese sticks, honey sticks, dry fruit, yogurt
- Nourishing liquids with electrolytes and calories, such as broth, coconut water, electrolyte drinks, or instant powdered protein or plant-based shakes
- Your phone or any device you rely on frequently
- Pack a charger and an extra long cord
- A charging dock or battery pack is helpful if outlets are limited
Plus, toiletries, including
- Toothbrush, floss and toothpaste; small bottle of mouthwash, gum or mints
- Hair brush/comb/ties
- Chapstick or lip moisturizer
- Preferred body wash, shampoo, conditioner
- Preferred lotion
- Glasses, contact lenses and solution
- Makeup, scarf, and other toiletries to your preference
- Shower shoes/flip-flops
Expert-recommended for your comfort
These recommendations are specific to supporting someone who is laboring with contractions, trying to rest, or finding comfort in a limited clinical space. What works for you may be different than what you have heard works for others and that’s okay! Try out some comfort measures ahead of time to see what works for you, and focus on familiar items that help you to feel calm, connected, safe or happy.
- For sleeping and resting - an eye mask, ear plugs
- If you bring a favorite pillow, make sure it’s easy to identify and that it can be cleaned, or you don’t mind it getting soiled
- For labor support - depending on your preferences, you and your support team, including your doula, might bring the following to help you navigate contractions and ease discomforts
- Affirmation cards, art or script
- Playlist of music - consider having one upbeat and one mellow collection
- Headphones and/or small speaker
- Bluetooth is easiest for listening while moving around the room
- Visual focus points such as family photos, a lucky charm, or spiritual item
- LED lights or electric tea lights for low lighting
- Essential oils - choose ones you like!
- Lavender, florals, woody scents tend to be calming
- Citrus, lemongrass or minty scents tend to be energizing
- Cotton Balls, or diffuser
- Heat packs/ Rice Sock (if microwave is available) / hot water bottle
- Fan, cold packs
- TENS unit for muscular tension
- Soft or preferred washcloths (hospital cloths tend to be scratchy and thin)
- Your preferred massage oil or lotion
- Tennis or pressure point ball
- A rebozo, if you know how to use it or have a doula or provider who does
Ask your hospital
Depending on the region you live in and the type of hospital you are planning to birth at, different accommodations may be available to you or in limited supply during your stay. An on-site or virtual hospital tour is usually a good time to ask initial questions. Follow up with a phone call to get specific details on what’s provided and what limitations there might be, if any, before adding these helpful items to your bag.
- A birth ball - many hospitals have birth balls, but since they take up a lot of space and must be cleaned between users, there may be a limited number or quality of options. If you do bring your own birth ball, make sure it’s the right size for you, and don’t forget the air pump!
- A birth bar and other labor props - usually an L&D hospital bed is adjustable, but it might also come with a hand bar or other props and comfort measures, such as peanut balls, TENS units, or wedge pillows. Other items, like yoga mats, are probably up to you.
- Hot/Cold Packs - you may not need to pack extras if they have a supply of instant heating or cooling pads on site.
- Slippers, socks, postpartum underwear- simple and disposable versions of these items might come with your room admission or be provided as needed, so save yourself the space - and dirty laundry - if you don’t have to pack your own.
- Postpartum care items, including a peri bottle, compression stockings, and pads are used soon after birth. Many of these are provided, but it’s worth asking, especially as some supplies are limited and you might not go home for 24 hours or more after birth.
- Soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste - if you forget yours or don’t want to pack the extra bulky products, many locations have automatic dispensers installed in their showers or travel size products on site.
- Showers/tubs - speaking of toiletries, it’s a good idea to confirm what kind of bathing and/or hydrotherapy options you’ll have; few locations have an abundance of tubs and those that do have varying protocols around when during labor and birth you can be immersed in water. Shower access is more common but get the details in case an extra towel or flip flops will make its use more comfortable.
- Meals - nourishment is important one way or another, but the status and hours of any on-site cafeterias, room service, refrigeration access, delivery policies or accessible vendors will influence how much and what types of food you’ll want to bring from home. Even if basics like jello or plain broth are available, you might prefer a heartier home-made or store-bought version you bring yourself.
- Photos/Video - many clinical settings have rules about videos if they show treatment or a care provider’s identity. Call ahead and ask about the rules so that your team can capture family moments without causing any tension or misunderstandings.
- Supplement/product policy - if you use daily vitamins, supplements, or even certain body products such as those used for perineal massage, inform your provider ahead of time and they might ask you to bring a new, unopened, sealed bottle. It’s worth asking about any limitations on bringing your own supplements and personal products so you can take whatever steps you decide on for accessing your preferences.
Things you can skip
- Dressy or cherished clothing - chances are, you won’t wear it, and if you do, there’s a good chance it will get dirty between labor and birth fluids and a new baby on board.
- A video camera - unless you are a pro, having a full video setup probably won’t capture moments any better than a standard phone camera, and the tabletop space in the room is probably limited, so it may be hard to safeguard and easily access such equipment.
- Work or heavy reading - not only will you be interrupted regularly, but in terms of how the neurology of labor and birth works, the left-brained activities of analytical focus and intellectual stress about deadlines are not conducive to the hormones of birth, nor the psychological endurance of what can be a long, intimate, vulnerable and even transformative process. If you wouldn’t bring it on a honeymoon, it probably isn’t going to help here.
- Lots of perishable food - we do recommend snacks, procuring meals, or making arrangements to get nourished. Plan ahead so that you aren’t scrambling because last minute options might mean food that goes bad quickly or is difficult to prepare and access in the hospital setting, not to mention time and money wasted!
- Real candles, incense - Sorry, no open flames in the birthing room!
Baby Hospital Bag Checklist
The primary item your baby requires is you. In the first hours and days of full term newborn life outside of the womb, being skin to skin with a parent is the primary way a baby learns to regulate their own breathing, temperature and heart rate while adjusting to the outside world. In a hospital setting, the supplies that are helpful for diaper changes and safe swaddling are usually provided, but may be in limited supply - or perhaps you’d simply rather use your own. Here are our suggestions of what to pack, and what to skip, for your baby’s first day or so after birth.
Essential and expert-recommended items
- Having a carseat that meets current safety standards and is properly installed is actually required to take your baby home. Practice and install the carseat ahead of time in case you need to move it before putting it into action, so that once you are discharged you can get home smoothly and safely.
- Pack two outfits in newborn and 3-month sizes (or similar) as the difference between a 6.5 and 8.5 lb baby can be enough to need a different onesie. Your baby will mostly be swaddled in a blanket, wrapped up for comfort, warmth, and easy access for you to feed them, cuddle them close, and change dirty diapers. Many parents do not dress their newborn while hanging out inside, but once it’s time to go home, or if you have a special onesie for a family photo, you may want to dress them lightly.
- A special newborn blanket, baby socks to cover their feet when you leave, a few burp cloths. Your hospital will likely provide a receiving blanket or two but you might have a sentimental item or want an extra for the car ride home. Burp cloths can be any cloth, but have something on hand as spit up is a regular feature of newborn expression.
- Save some space for any paperwork that is given regarding your baby’s birth details, care, or other recommendations and resources.
- A baby nail file can be helpful, see below for why we don’t recommend mittens.
- You might decide to have lactation support items on hand for your comfort, but more important than any particular product is appropriate professional support. Some people feel calmer knowing they are prepared with their own nursing pillow and nipple ointment, or if you are someone anticipating the need to supplement due to breast health history, you might consider a lactation aid designed to support the breastfeeding relationship, even with supplementation.
Ask your hospital
- As mentioned above, lactation support from a lactation consultant is one of the best determinants of success in breastfeeding - ask what kind of professional support will be available to you and request it if it’s optional.
- While breastfeeding experts do not recommend starting to pump right away, you may still be able to receive a breast pump to have on hand just in case, and this is often covered by insurance. If your plans don’t include exclusive breastfeeding, you can still work with a lactation consultant to learn the most effective use of a pump for your baby’s nourishment and your satisfaction with your long term feeding relationship.
- Newborn babies make lots of diapers! They should have plenty on hand, as well as wipes, and even give you some to take home - but ask first. They may be limited in brand, sizing, or the amount they can distribute and you might want to have back up in the car.
- Other small items like receiving blankets, are usually part of immediate postpartum care. A nurse will often offer to put a little hat on your baby’s head, and staff should be able to show you safe swaddling and how to hold your baby skin to skin at your chest.
- Recovery care for procedures like circumcision might include care instructions and even medication. Get the full info on what to expect before you go home, if not before our baby arrives.
Things you can skip
- Lots of baby clothes - there are lots of cuddles, feedings, checks, pees, and poops in the first day or so of life, so your time at the hospital will likely include a lot of time swaddling and unswaddling. For discharge, stick to two outfits in different sizes (in case your baby is bigger or smaller), and only bring an outer layer if you live in a cold climate. It’s easy for babies to overheat so usually a onesie or swaddle and light blanket is plenty for a newborn in the car. Otherwise, being skin to skin with you or another trusted adult helps them to keep their own temperature just right!
- Baby mittens - our pediatric advisors like to remind new parents that newborns depend on stimulation and sensory experience to adjust, develop and thrive in their new world. Covering a baby’s tiny fingers and hands can limit some of that early exploration - if you are worried about their very soft but sometimes scratchy, fast-growing fingernails near their face, bring a baby nail file and ask your pediatric nurse to show you how to safely use it. Sometimes they are so thin you can gently “trim” them with your own nails.
- Pacifiers are not recommended right away because your baby’s mouth and jaw are still developing and because it is important they can practice latching and suckling reflexes, both for nourishment and for brain and physical development. Once your infant feeding routines are more established, this item might be helpful as a temporary soother between feeds, but it can be mis-used if used too early and even interrupt hunger cues.
- Toys - your newborn isn’t yet ready to grasp, play or follow along with toy playing. They get plenty of healthy stimulation from making eye contact with you, touching your skin, being touched and massaged and held, being sung or spoken to, and simply looking around when they aren’t eating or sleeping.
Hospital Bag Checklist for Partners & Primary Support People
A partner to a birthing person is essential to family safety and satisfaction - and in turn this person needs to be comfortable and taken care of so they can provide support and participate in welcoming your newborn. Whether your primary support team is a spouse, partner, professional doula, relative, dear friend, or combination, at least one person is likely to be by your side the entire time and may need to rest, eat and take care of themselves during what can be a long hospital stay. Here we recommend items for a team that is on-site with you to provide physical and emotional support, help you make any medical decisions, and welcome your baby together!
Essential and expert-recommended items
- Important documents, as listed above, except for health records. If a support person is co-parent or father to the newborn, their info should be listed as such on your birth plan and in your admission record.
- Important medications for the partner or birthing person. Anyone coming into the hospital for more than a few hours should take responsibility for their medication coming with them.
- Food duty! It may be a partner’s job to pack and bring food, arrange snacks, or get food delivered/arranged otherwise - and this includes for them to eat! A hangry partner is not usually a supportive partner. Discuss this ahead of time and get clear on the options at your birthing facility so everyone knows what to expect and what is available.
- Water bottle - papas, co-parents, grandparents, doulas - everyone must hydrate!
- Change of clothes, bathing suit - partners may be asked to join their laboring partner in the shower or tub, or if you are at the hospital for a while, they may just want to freshen up.
- Speaking of freshening up - toiletries including dental care and deodorant are particularly helpful - pregnant people have heightened senses of smell and you don’t want to be breathing in a laboring person’s face with stinky breath or body odor.
- Entertainment items listed above might be the support person’s wheelhouse - discuss ahead of time, but if it’s up to a partner or friend to pack the devices, chargers, music, etc., review preferences early and more than once.
- A trusted support person on call - birth can be an emotional and sometimes vulnerable experience. In order to support the person birthing, partners and other team members must sometimes take a moment to gather their thoughts, settle their emotions, or ask for some information or reassurance in private. If you need to step out for 10 minutes to speak to someone or get grounded, do so, so that you can recenter and be there for your loved one.
Ask your hospital
- Sleeping arrangements are one of the most under-prioritized factors for supporting families in a hospital setting. Some facilities have installed rolling pull-out couches or comfortable recliners, but usually space and comfort is limited, and may only be available to one support person. Ask about the room setup and pack a comfy blanket or extra pillow as sheets and pillows for admitted patients are in short supply and you will very likely all need a nap at some point or another.
- Ask about parking! You might be able to drop off members of your party and then park, or you may have to park and then bring everything in. Policies on payment, reentry, and hours of access, so avoid the hassle of an unwelcome surprise and scope it out ahead of time.
- Similarly, visitor policies may vary with facility capacity, although it is generally considered best for birthing people that they can choose at least one person to be with them continuously to receive support outside of the hospital staff’s duties.
Things you can skip
As mentioned above, there’s no need to overdo it on reading materials, fancy clothing, or complicated food arrangements. A support person’s job in labor is to take care of their own needs so that they can be attentive, engaged, and focused on the birthing person. Partner’s bag should compliment the birthing person’s, and if you are working with a doula, ask them what comfort measures they can bring so you don’t add hassle for yourself or duplicate efforts.
Hospital Bag Checklist during COVID
For the most part, labor and birth itself needn’t be much different for a typical healthy pregnant person, but the current pandemic may influence the procedures and policies around admission, screening, visitors, and more. Some questions to include during your tour or with the other considerations above are listed here.
Questions for your hospital
Consider these questions for ongoing discussions with your provider at prenatal health care appointments, as well as any tours, phone calls or other opportunities to ask the hospital directly about these considerations close to your estimated due date.
- What is the visitor policy? Are people allowed in and out? How many visitors are allowed? If limited, can they switch?
- Are doulas considered essential team members or do they count towards the number of visitors a family is allowed? This may vary daily depending on management preferences and how busy the hospital is, as well as other regional or state-mandated factors.
- What is the situation with the cafeteria, food service or on-site vendors? What about contactless delivery or leaving and coming back with takeout?
- Will we be screened for temperature and other symptoms upon entry? What happens if one of our party has symptoms? Will we be tested for COVID? What happens if one of us has a positive test result?
- What is your policy on newborn/parent separation and rooming in? How are you supporting postpartum recovery, lactation and infant care right now? What if a parent is potentially infected?
- Are there any supplies or medical interventions that will be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions? These might include access to water tubs, nitrous oxide as a comfort measure, or limited basic supplies.
- Do we need to bring any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) of our own? What are the expectations around mask wearing for staff, the birthing person, and their support team?
Once you get answers to the above questions, you might need to edit your list, adjust your food planning, strategize about visitors, and possibly pack the following:
- A tablet or camera tripod setup for support people/family to call in from off-site
- Face coverings/masks
- Hand sanitizer
- A waiver discussing recommendations and preferences to room-in with your infant