As a first time mom, I must have read at least 20 of these types of posts before packing my hospital bag. But still I found myself wondering whose advice to trust and what I should actually pack.
When I gave birth I had several friends who were pregnant and due after me, so I decided to keep a running list while I was in the hospital of what I used, didn’t use and things I wished I’d had so my friends could be more prepared than I was. I’d invested a lot of time in typing up advice so I decided I’d go ahead and share my list publicly here and pile on to the thousands of posts like this that already exist!
This is not a comprehensive pack list, but rather a collection of things I loved, tips, tricks and advice!
Due to a short stint in the NICU (I’ll explain more in a post about Annabelle’s Birth story which I’m working on now!) we ended up being in the hospital for six nights, which made our needs list a little different, but, as I’ll explain below, I only left on what I feel are the necessities.
For the Bathroom
This is obviously not a comprehensive list of toiletries to pack for the hospital, but here are the things I had or wish I had.
1. Good, soft Toilet paper – They told us this in our childbirth class, and I didn’t think it would matter. It did. The hospital TP is awful and abrasive. Trust me, you will want something soft after the trauma of a natural childbirth. I had my parents bring a 4-pack of Charmin and it was life changing. (I used about 1 roll per day.) Once home I went out and bought Quilted Northern Ultra Plush after reading that it was the softest via some reviews. It is my new favorite.
2. Prenatal Vitamins – In the hospital, the nurses will give you prenatal vitamins to take with your pain killers and stool softener (very important to take these). I had so many prenatals that upset my stomach I was so glad I brought my own and didn’t have to use theirs. I use Thorne Basic Prenatal Vitamins, available at People’s Pharmacy in Austin or online.
3. Earth Mama Bottom Spray – The witch hazel pads they give you at the hospital are nice and cooling but I really enjoyed this spray as well. The pads aren’t absorbent and can make a mess when you change them. I sprayed this on my pad and on myself and it was super relieving and smelled good. Thank you to my friend Alison for this tip!
5. A Dark Towel – This was another tip learned in our childbirth classes. The hospital towels are tiny (basically bath mat size) and scratchy. Bring one that is dark (so the cleaning crews can distinguish it from the hospital ones) and not a favorite (there is lots of blood!). I love these Nate Berkus Towels from Target, they’re inexpensive and super soft. I would say one for hubby too if you don’t live close to the hospital and he won’t go home to shower. That first shower is so wonderful you’ll want to end it with a good (regular sized) towel!
6. Hand Mirror – If you’re brave. My most used makeup item was an eyeshadow palette that had a mirror. At one point I thought I may have ripped a stitch and wanted to check it out. I got brave and looked. It’s awful to look at but has been good to track better the healing process. (Wait util at least day 2 to look!)
Who knew you’d need so many things to feed a tiny human?
7. My Breast Friend Nursing Pillow – It is critical to bring this and to have one in general. Load the little pocket up with chapstick, headband, nipple cream/lanolin and anything else you might want while feeding to be easily accessible.
Also, I recommend getting a darker color cover as it will get dirty quickly! I plan to do another post on the My Breast Friend vs. the Boppy later, but, in short, I think you should register both. (I registered with Target Baby Registry and Amazon Baby Registry.)
8. Water Bottle – They have big water bottles for you in the hospital but I brought my giant Yeti and it kept ice much longer. If you plan on breastfeeding you will want to drink tons of water and you don’t want your husband to have to run to the nourishment room every time you want ice water! The one peril with the Yeti is that it will spill.
You’ll need all your hands when breastfeeding so it’s nice to have water that can sit beside you in the bed and not spill. (I spilled my Yeti more than once!) When I got home my friend Rachel purchased me this Contigo Auto-Seal Bottle (you can buy on Amazon or from Target) and now I have it by my side at all times. I wish I would have had it in the hospital.
9. Lanolin or Earth Mama Nipple Butter – Buy and bring lanolin or nipple butter. I bought the mini tubes and used about half of one in 4 days. I like these for my diaper bag, but go ahead and buy the big tube. I also loved the nipple butter after things got a little more sore – it’s more gentle to apply. Use before and after every time you breast feed. A friend told me this and I think it’s helped a ton.
On day 4 my nipples were a little tender but not chapped or horrible like lots of friends said they would be. (That changed by day 6; my nipples were super sore but still not cracked like some peoples get!) The hospital can give you lanolin but have to order it from the pharmacy and you I’ll be charged for it.
Update: I prefer the lanolin for using after breastfeeding, but the nipple butter works much better for pumping. I put on a little before pumping and it makes it so much more comfortable!
10. Headbands – I don’t love my hair in a pony tail so I was so glad I brought a headband to keep my hair out of my face while breastfeeding. I forgot a few times to put it on and you’re literally using all your hands to breastfeed at first and can’t pull back your hair or scratch your face mid-feed. It’s a pain. A headband was great because Andrew could put it on me easily if I forgot (he crashed and burned on his ponytail attempt).
11. Hands Free Pumping Bra – If you have any difficulty breastfeeding or if they want to increase your supply they might encourage you to pump. I bought a Simple Wishes Hands-Free Breastpump Bra but didn’t bring it. I had to sit there and hold the flanges. It was a pain in the butt. Bring your pumping bra just in case.
For the Baby
I way over packed for the baby. Here is all I think you need:
12. Personalized Hat – For some reason, in the hospital they are big on keeping hats on the baby’s head. While we opted to use the hospital blankets over cute swaddles we brought (they get them dirty so easily!), we were able to up her style game with an embroidered hat that my mom had personalized.
13. & 14. Car Seat – Duh, You have to have it to bring the baby home. I registered the Chicco Keyfit 30 Carseat on the advice of friends and LOVE it. Do yourself a favor and also get the Chicco Keyfit Caddy Stroller Frame. We strolled it right into the hospital and it was much easier than lugging around that heavy carseat! I keep it in my car and use it all the time for running errands. Also, if you got some toys to put on the handle take them off. They don’t want you leaving the hospital with them on there. Put them on later!
15. Velcro Swaddles – We used the hospital’s swaddle blankets but I wish we had introduced our velcro SwaddleMe’s sooner so she would like them more and be used to them. They are easier to do and keep on than hospital blanket swaddles. (At 2 am an extra 5 minutes to swaddle is precious time!)
16. Going Home Outfit – Bring something cute and weather appropriate for the baby to wear home. While you’ll want something cute, also think about comfort. Sleeveless rompers for girls might look adorable online but they aren’t very practical. Even in the Texas summer we took Annie home in a long sleeved onesie. These Footie Pajamas by Kissy Kissy are super soft and sweet to bring baby home in!
What clothing to pack was probably the most difficult thing for me to figure out. Several of the blogs I read displayed super cute pajamas and robes, but several friends had told me to go practical over cute. That meant dark colors and nursing-friendly options.
Also, I was having a baby in the middle of the Texas summer, so I was concerned with whether to pack pants or shorts, camis or long sleeved shirts. (It turns out that didn’t matter much. As you’d expect they keep the hospital at a pretty consistent temperature.)
I ended up wearing the hospital gown for the first 24 hours after having Annabelle. I even wore a new one after my first shower. That said, I didn’t end up needing many clothes (or I wouldn’t have had we not been at the hospital for 7 days). Here are my recommendations for which types of clothing to pack:
17. Nursing Tanks – Not bras! I packed several nursing bras and didn’t use one until the last day. I lived in the Medela Nursing Tanks from Target and loose PJ shorts/pants. (Black is most flattering and not see thru.) The tanks are easy for breastfeeding and make it so you don’t have to change constantly. Plus, they allow easy access to your breasts without having to expose your still-looks-six-months-pregnant stomach.
The Medela tanks provided great support when my milk came in. (They are more expensive but worth it in my opinion. And I’m usually super thrifty!) I brought two and wished I had three or four. (I was at the hospital longer than expected and three probably would have been fine, but I bought several more when I got home since I wear them every day.)
Be sure to size up. I’d usually buy a small, purchased a medium and sort of wish I had large. (My boobs got MUCH larger when my milk came in!)
18. Optional: Nursing Nightgown – I brought a nursing nightgown too that I like, but the first few days you’ll want pants or shorts to keep the ginormous pads/mesh panties up. The one I love best is the Great Expectations Maternity Lace Trim Nursing Chemise from Walmart. It’s super soft, comfortable and washes well.
19. Flip Flops – I brought slippers but never used them. If you do bring slippers, bring ones you don’t like or plan to throw away as you are guaranteed to bleed on them! When you are in labor they give you nonslip socks to wear and they let you keep them. I wore those, then rubber Old Navy flip flops. You can use in the shower and they won’t get ruined if you bleed on them!
21. Optional: Robe – For the same reason as the button-up, a robe is nice to have too, especially if you’re going to use a nursing nightgown. Again, get a dark color so if you bleed on it it’s not ruined and won’t show. This Modal Robe from Gap is my favorite. Not too heavy so it’s good for Texas summers and winters, and it’s long enough to cover your pregnant and post-partum bump.
22. Chambray Button Up – I liked to have an oversized chambray button up to throw on over nursing tanks when visitors came and for warmth.
Here are a few more tips I thought of after writing this post. I’ll continue to add/update here as I think of things!
Bring Pillows in Dark Color Pillow Cases – Bring one for you and one for hubby. Hospital pillows suck. A tip we got from the birthing class was to bring them in colored pillow cases so you can discern which are yours so housekeeping won’t take them. (Hospital pillow cases are all white.)
Pack Two Bags – I packed two bags – a backpack for the Labor & Delivery Room and a small rolling suitcase that we didn’t get from the car until we were moved to our postpartum room. My bag for the L&D room had snacks for Andrew, a phone charger and my toiletry kit. (I big on having my teeth clean and I brushed mine as soon as I made my first trip to the bathroom after giving birth.) You don’t need too much when you’re in labor and it’s easier to bring in a small bag then get the bigger one later.
Buy a Phone Charger with a Long Cord – In the hospital, plugs aren’t always conveniently located, so it’s nice to have a super long cord to charge your phone. I purchased a 10 foot cord from Amazon and it was perfect.
Felt Letter Board – Obviously this is option, but I thought it was fun so I added it! The day Annie was born I made an impulse purchase and I bought a 10″ Retrogram Board from Amazon. (Good thing it was delivered same day!) to announce Annie’s birth. I set it up with her name and so I just had to add her birthday. Originally I also had her birth weight and height on it, but at the hospital they said to take that off when posting on social media so no one would steal her identity. (Crazy!?) Anyway, it was super fun to have at the hospital to take pictures with and something I’m glad I have!
What to NOT Bring
Here are some things I packed that I do not think you need:
- Blankets – I read somewhere you’ll want to bring your own. Both Andrew and I were fine for the first several days using the hospital blankets. By day 4 though we were wanting something softer so Andrew got some blankets from home. If you’ll only be there a few days I don’t think it’s necessary.
- Panties – I wore the mesh ones the whole time and then home too. Why ruin your good panties?
- Breast Pump – Again, I read somewhere to bring your breast pump. The hospital has pumps if you need to use them, so no need to lug yours in!
- Lots of Baby clothes – I brought several outfits and only used two – one set of long sleeved PJS for after she got out of the NICU, when they wanted to keep her extra warm, and one to go home. Annie was naked most of the time just in swaddles. This made for easier changing/ feeding/skin to skin. We used the baby hospital blankets for everything (swaddling, burp cloth, breast feeding support, etc.) and went through them at a rapid pace with spitup, etc. we brought our own cute ones but never used them.
- Much makeup – I attempted to put it on one day but immediately cried it off and never attempted again. Just bring enough to feel like you look good for going home pics.
- Diaper Bag – My sister-in-law McCall gave me this tip. The hospital has all you’ll need for baby. Instead of lugging around an extra bag I just packed the baby’s items in a gallon baggie in my bag. It made it easy to find and prevented Andrew from having to lug an extra bag around!
Whew. That was a lot! If you have any questions or advice of your own please add them in the comments below!