Hospital Bag Checklist for Labour & Birth

Article By
Kate
Published On
10 May, 2022
Read Time
7 minutes

Babies are unpredictable. Whether you're planning on giving birth at home or the hospital, you can't really predict the timing of your delivery (unless you're having a C-section that's been planned ahead of time).

Only around 5% of babies born in Australia arrive on their due date and so it's important to always be prepared and ready to go to a hospital. One thing you can do to make sure you're well and truly prepared is pack a well-stocked hospital bag - or bags plural. You and your birth partner may want a bag each, plus one for the baby!

So, if you're wondering where to start with prepping your hospital bag and feeling a little overwhelmed, don't stress, we're here to help with a comprehensive hospital bag checklist to ensure nothing's forgotten.

What to pack in mum's hospital bag

Here are some key things to remember before we get started...

  1. Even if you're planning a home birth, you'll still want to pack a hospital bag and have the essentials ready to go - just in case!
  2. If you think you might not need it, you're probably wrong, just pack it anyway to be safe.
  3. Trust no one else to pack it - check your bag yourself before you go, after all, you know what you need more than anyone else!

For before the baby arrives

  • Paperwork: You'll need to pack your medical notes and a few copies of your birth plan (if you've written one). You'll also need extra documentation like your obstetrician's details, your Medicare card and, if you have private health insurance, your insurance membership number.
  • A cool, loose-fitting nightie or T-shirt for labour: You're going to be bringing life into the world, so now more than ever you deserve to be as comfortable as possible. A loose-fitting outfit also makes it easy for your midwife to check how your labour is progressing.
  • A few pairs of comfy, high-coverage underwear: Trust us, big cotton knickers are a hospital bag essential!
  • Your favourite deodorant, shampoo, shower gel, face cleanser and moisturiser: Perfect for your first post-labour shower and a freshen-up to help you feel like yourself.
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush: To keep you feeling minty fresh.
  • A face flannel and a soft towel: These will help you feel a little fresher post-birth.
  • Some lip balm or salve: To keep your lips comfortable and hydrated.
  • A hairbrush, comb, hair clips and ties: You'll want these to keep your hair under control and out of your face.
  • A water bottle: Try to find one with a straw that's easy to drink from.

For once the baby is born

  • A comfortable, maternity-sized outfit to go home in: Go for something loose-fitting that's easy to pull on and off.
  • A lightweight dressing gown: One that's not too bulky but will keep you warm will be perfect.
  • Slippers or flip flops: Pack some shoes with a grippy sole and that slip on and off easily. You don't want to be bending down to tie laces!
  • A nursing bra and some front-opening nighties or pyjama tops: These are perfect for when you're breastfeeding.
  • Breast pads and nipple cream: To absorb any leaks and keep your boobs comfortable.
  • Maternity pads and disposable maternity briefs: You can buy pads and disposable briefs that are specially developed for use in the days following the birth of your baby. Look for extra-long, thick pads with an absorbent core for maximum comfort and protection.

Optional extras for the hospital bag

Comfort

  • A comfortable pillow: Whether it's a pregnancy pillow or a normal one, your very own pillow might be the perfect thing to keep you relaxed throughout labour.
  • Heat packs or a hot water bottle: These can really help to soothe aches and pains and can also help to relieve sore muscles after birth.
  • A fan or water spray: These can help you feel cool, labour is hard work and hospitals tend to be hot!
  • Essential oils and cotton pads: Soothing scents can be a great tool during labour and delivery. Peppermint can help with nausea, lavender is calming, and citrus will wake you up. It's good to note that strong smells can become overwhelming, so instead of using a diffuser, just pop a few drops of the oil on a cotton pad and use as needed.
  • An eye mask and ear plugs: Hospitals are noisy places that're on the go 24/7, so an eye mask and ear plugs may come in useful.

Personal hygiene

  • Makeup: If that's your thing, go for it!
  • Some lip balm or salve: To keep your lips comfortable and hydrated.

Entertainment

  • A camera or mobile phone plus charger: It's the job of your birth partner to snap at least 200 photos of your new perfect baby so you can remember their arrival for years to come, so they best bring their phone or camera, and keep it fully charged!
  • A birthing playlist: This is your chance to set the scene and compile the perfect playlist of songs and sounds to keep you calm, motivated and in the zone during labour.
  • Books, magazines, podcasts, and a tablet or iPad if you have one: These will help keep you and your birthing partner entertained and calm during the early stages of labour.
  • Headphones or a portable speaker: So that you can listen to your playlist!
  • Earbuds or headphones: Block out the distracting hospital noises or listen to your perfectly curated labour playlist!

Food and drink

  • High-energy snacks: A couple of packets of chips won't cut it. You'll need a plethora of your favourite foods to get you through labour. Eating lots of small meals frequently can give you an energy boost and keep your momentum going. Nuts and raisins, boiled sweets, sandwiches, flapjacks, and fruits like bananas are ideal!
  • Drinks: You and your birthing partner are bound to feel very thirsty during and after labour, so as well as keeping hydrated with small and frequent sips of water, bringing along some of your favourite flavoured drinks will help you stay hydrated and energised.

Hospital bag essential for caesarean births

  • High-waisted cotton undies that don't sit on your wound
  • Clothes with no waistline, such as comfortable dresses that won't irritate your wound
  • Comfort food - whatever makes you feel good
  • Mouthwash and dry shampoo - if you want to freshen up but can't get out of bed

Different hospitals and birthing units across the country will provide different things for mums, so it's best to check with their chosen provider about what you can expect to get.

What to pack in baby's hospital bag?

When it comes to packing for your new arrival, it's best to pack too much rather than too little just in case there are complications and you need to stay in the hospital for longer than expected.

Be sure to check the following new-baby bits and bobs off as you pack your hospital bag list.

  • Newborn bodysuits or vests (preferably cotton)
  • Newborn sleep suits (including one to go home in)
  • A soft hat to keep them warm
  • Scratch mittens
  • Newborn socks or booties
  • Newborn nappies
  • Baby wipes
  • Cotton wool balls or pads
  • Soft blankets
  • Muslin cloths and some bibs
  • A soft baby towel
  • Colostrum, if you have stored this ahead of time be sure to check if your chosen medical facility can store this correctly
  • A coming-home outfit

Hospital bag checklist for multiples

If you're expecting multiple babies, make sure that you pack double (or more) of any baby essentials that you'd like to take into the hospital!

Birthing partner's hospital bag checklist

The last thing you want during labour is to worry about the comfort of your birthing partner. While a birthing partner needs to engage and support in the labour, it is a long process, and they need to be prepared. Although they may not be the one giving birth, it's still important for birthing partners to be prepared too!

They can pack their own bag containing things like:

  • a comfortable change of clothes
  • a toiletry bag
  • some cash for vending machines and car parking meters
  • a list of people to contact with your baby news and send newborn photos
  • something to keep them entertained if their partner is sleeping or wants to be left alone
  • their own snacks and drinks
  • an extra phone charger
  • a small pillow and a light blanket

When to pack the hospital bag

You can start shopping for new baby essentials any time, but don't start worrying about packing your hospital bag in your first and second trimesters. You'll probably just end up taking everything out and re-packing again and again.

You should start packing your hospital bag in your third trimester, but aim to have it fully packed by the 35 or 36-week mark, just in case your new arrival decides to pop out a little early!

That way, you'll have plenty of time to pick out your favourite PJs and slippers, as well as get yourself some special treats for the big day.

When your bag is packed, just keep it by the door so it's ready to go.

What type of bag is best for a hospital bag? 

Which type of bag you choose to take to the hospital is really down to personal preference. Some people like to use packing pods to be extra organised, while others opt for a more throw-in-and-go method. Let's run through the different options.

  • A small wheelie suitcase: Easier to manoeuvre through the hospital corridors and ideal if you're having a C-section.
  • A changing bag: Why not start making use of your changing bag and all its practical pockets before the baby even arrives.
  • A large open-top holdall bag: Lots of room, great if you've organised everything into separate containers.
  • Backpack: These are easy to carry. A large, roomy one with plenty of pockets might work well for you! 
  • Humble reusable plastic bag: There's nothing wrong with re-using carrier bags to hold your birthing bits and bobs.

Don't forget your baby's car seat

It's important that your car seat fits your car and is suitable for a newborn because if your baby is born in the hospital, you'll need it to drive them home safely. You should practise fitting the seat before your baby arrives.

If you're getting a taxi home, make sure that you know how to fit the car seat yourself. You might want to opt for a carry car seat as opposed to a car seat that's left in the car, so you can carry your little one out of the hospital and straight home without disturbing them.  

Baby bag preparation for home births

It's good to prepare for a homebirth by talking to your midwife or doula, and even if you're planning on delivering your baby at home, it's always a good idea to have a hospital bag ready just in case. That way, you know everything you need is one place and it's there if you do need to go to the hospital unexpectedly.

How else can I prepare for labour?

When you and baby get home, you'll probably be too tired to do much cooking, cleaning, or shopping.

So, it can be a good idea to spend some time during your last trimester making your life easier by:

  • prepping and storing freezer-friendly meals.
  • washing all your little one's clothes, bedding, and bibs.
  • setting up automatic bill payments and grocery/prescription deliveries.
  • organising childcare for any other children or pets while you're in the hospital.

What shouldn't I take in my hospital bag?

While it's important to know what to take with you, it's easy to get carried away and overpack, and there are some things you shouldn't take in your hospital bag. Things to leave at home include:

  • Valuables: If you're rushed to theatre you won't always be with your items so it's best to leave any valuables at home.
  • Too many baby clothes: You could only be in hospital for a couple of days. Add extra to your overflow bag for peace of mind.
  • Too many nappies: These are pretty bulky to carry and your hospital is likely to provide extras if you need them (but double-check, just to be sure).