Babies are unpredictable and whether you're planning on giving birth at home or at 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).
Very few babies are actually born on their 'due date' – only around four or five percent are. One thing you can do to make sure you’re well and truly prepared is packing a well-stocked hospital bag – or bags plural!
Here are some key things to remember before we get started…
- 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!
- If you think you might not need it, you’re probably wrong, just pack it anyway to be safe.
- Trust no one – check your bag yourself before you go, after all you know what you need more than anyone else!
When do you pack your 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 trimester. You’ll probably just end up taking everything out and re-packing again and again!
As you head into the third trimester, you should aim to have everything packed up 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 getting yourself some special treats for the big day!
When your bag is packed, just keep it by the door so it's read to go.
Hospital bag checklist for mom
- Paperwork: You'll need to pack your medical notes and a few copies of your birth plan (if you've written one).
- 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.
- Maternity pads and disposable maternity briefs: You can buy pads and disposable briefs that're 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.
- A few pairs of comfy, high-coverage underwear: Trust us, big cotton knickers are a hospital bag essential!
- Breast pads and nipple cream: To absorb any leaks and keep your boobs comfortable.
- A nursing bra and some front-opening nighties or pyjama tops: These are perfect for when you're breastfeeding.
- A lightweight dressing gown: One that’s not too bulky but will still 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 comfortable, maternity-sized outfit to go home in: Go for something loose fitting that’s easy to pull on and off.
- 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.
- Makeup: if that’s your thing, go for it!
- 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.
- 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 and your birth partner relaxed throughout labour.
- Heat packs or a hot water bottle: These can really help to soothe and aches and pains, and can also help to relive sore muscles after birth.
Hospital bag checklist for baby
- 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
- A changing mat
- Cotton wool balls or pads
- Soft blankets
- Muslin cloths and some bibs
- A soft baby towel
- A snowsuit if it’s cold
Hospital bag checklist for birthing partners
While 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…
- 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
These extras will come in handy too…
- High-energy snacks: A couple of packets of crisps doesn’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 such as 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.
- A fan or water spray: These can help you feel cooler, because 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Headphones or a portable speaker: So that you can listen to your perfectly curated playlist!
- 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!
Don’t forget your 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 hospital, you'll need it to drive them home safely. You can 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.
Preparation for home births
Even 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.
As well as the things listed above, it's good to prepare for a homebirth by talking to your midwife and making sure you have lots of clean clothes and towels to hand.
What else should I prepare?
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 of your little one's clothes, bedding, and bibs.
- Setting up automatic bill payments and grocery/prescription deliveries.
- Organising child care for any other children or pets while you're in hospital.