What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag and Preparing for Baby
With so many things to think about during the countdown to your new baby, we thought we’d put together this comprehensive list of the essential items to pack in your hospital bag. It’s never too early to start thinking about all of the things you’ll need during labour and after your baby is born.
It’s advised to pack your hospital bag 4-6 weeks before your due date, to save yourself from any last-minute stress, and just in case the baby comes early. Even if you don’t plan to have your baby in hospital or at a birth centre, try to have a hospital bag prepared should you have to go in unexpectedly.
1. What to pack in your hospital bag
What to pack in your hospital bag before the birth
Take a look at our full checklist of things to take to the hospital:
- Maternity notes and hospital documents
- Birth plan (if you have one)
- A comfortable and loose outfit: An old t-shirt or birthing nightie is perfect for wear during labour as it helps you move around and allows skin-to-skin contact with your newborn.
• A dressing gown and slippers: These will be helpful to wear around the hospital and also in the postnatal ward, helping you feel cosy. The best slippers are those that feel comfortable and familiar and are easy to take on and off, so backless or padded slippers are recommended.
- Socks in case your feet get cold during labour!
- A fan or water spray to cool you down: You want to be as comfy as possible, and hospitals can get quite hot, so think about practical ways to help you lower your temperature.
- Massage oil: Being massaged during labour is a good way to promote relaxation and relieve pain.
• Birthing Ball: This can help you find different positions for labour, help to deal with the pain of contractions and regulate your breathing. Remember to bring a pump in case it needs re-inflating.
- Snacks and drinks: Most women are able to eat during labour and it’s important to keep your energy levels up, especially as it may last a while! While the hospital will provide snacks, you may prefer to bring things you know you like. Think in advance of any high-carb snacks that will give you slow-release sustained energy. Fruit, nuts, cereal bars, crisps and popcorn are all good choices. You might also want some boiled sweets or mints to refresh your mouth. Isotonic sports drinks are also fantastic at giving you an added boost of energy when you need it.
- Things to pass the time: During early labour, you might find it helpful to have some fun or distracting apps on your phone or tablet to keep you busy. Books, magazines or a tablet are ideal. Don’t forget to bring your phone or tablet charger.
- Extra pillows: Hospitals often only provide one pillow, so having extra will keep you comfier. A C-shaped pillow can also be useful for giving you extra support when breastfeeding.
- Lip balm: Your lips can easily become dry on a warm labour ward, especially if you’re using gas and air, so make this one less thing to worry about and bring along some lip balm.
- Hairbands or hair clips: If you have long hair, you may want to tie it up to be more comfortable during the labour process.
- TENS pain relief machine and batteries: If you want to use one and your hospital doesn’t provide one, consider taking your own, but always check with the hospital first.
- Music: Create a playlist of your favourite songs or songs you find relaxing to calm and distract you during labour. You can even find an already created playlist online. You might also want to bring along some headphones/earpods to help you focus.
- Medication: If you take regular medication, it’s important to bring this with you.
- Toiletries: You may be in hospital for more than a night so you’ll want to take a wash bag containing your toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shower gel, shampoo, hairbrush, moisturiser, and other toiletries, to help you stay fresh. It might be better to decant these into smaller bottles to help save space on the ward. Face wipes are also great for a quick refresh.
- Aromatherapy oils: If you have been using them during pregnancy, such as for hypnobirthing, then you’ll want to pack these with you.
- Spare and clean set of PJs: Your stay could be extended so having these to hand will help you stay feeling comfortable.
What to pack in your hospital bag for after the birth
Once the labour is over, there are a few new-mum essentials you’ll need.
Bring these in your hospital bag so that you’re all prepared to welcome your little one into the world:
- Comfy outfit to wear home: You’ll need loose and comfy clothes to wear in the hospital and to go home in. You’ll probably still need your maternity clothes or large size clothes, as it takes a while for your tummy to go down.
- Maternity pads: These are an absolute essential, so make sure to bring a few packs.
- Large comfy knickers (or disposable ones): Don’t bring your best ones as they will get grubby. Large cotton ones will be great if you’ve had a C-section because they won’t rub or irritate your wound.
- Towels: The hospital or birth centre will probably have towels, but they can be quite well worn, so you might prefer to bring your own.
- Breast pads: Even if you’re not planning to breastfeed, you’ll need these as you’ll still be producing milk.
- Lanolin: This is great to help with sore nipples during the first few days of breastfeeding.
• Stretch mark oil: As a new mum, it can be handy to have some stretch mark oil on hand, to help soothe and calm your skin after birth.
- Cash: It’s always handy to have a small amount of cash on you, in case you need it for parking or to grab a magazine or snack/drink.
And if you’re planning to breastfeed, add:
- Nursing bras – Take a pack of two or three of these if possible.
- Front-opening nighties or pyjama tops: These are extremely useful in the early days of breastfeeding. You’ll be feeling tired after going through the birth process, so why not make your life as easy as possible?
What do I pack in my hospital bag for my new baby?
For the baby, don’t forget to pack:
- Disposable or reusable nappies: Your new baby will use as many as 12 a day, so it’s important not to forget these!
- Baby blankets: You might not need these inside the hospital as it could be warm, but for going home your baby might need a blanket if it’s not warm outside.
- Clothes: Your baby will need an outfit to go home in. All-in-one outfits made from stretchy material are the easiest. Your baby might also need a vest to go underneath.
- A hat: Especially if it’s cold outside!
- Socks or booties: You definitely don’t want your new arrival’s feet getting cold!
- Muslin squares: These are essential for wiping up any excess milk or spit-up around your baby’s mouth. Many new parents say these are among the most useful items you can have!
- Cotton wool balls or pads: Your new baby’s skin will be incredibly delicate so it can be a good idea to use cotton wool and water for nappy changes at first. These are more gentle on your baby’s skin than wipes.
- Jacket or snowsuit: If you’re having a winter baby, you might need one of these to protect your baby from the cold! Just remember to remove this first before placing your baby in the car seat.
- Car seat: This is so important for bringing your baby home, some hospitals won’t let you leave without one! In the upcoming weeks before your baby’s birth, it’s a good idea to practise fitting the car seat in your car. This means there’ll be less fuss on the day itself, and if you’re taking a taxi home, you’ll be able to fit in the car seat. If you’re taking your own car to the hospital, it’s advised to leave it in the car until you’re ready to go home.
2. Stocking the Fridge/Freezer
Once your new baby gets here, you’ll have your hands full, so it can be a challenge to find time to make trips to the shops! Making sure you have a stocked fridge and freezer, will definitely make the transition into new parenthood easier. It’s important to make sure you at least have the fridge and freezer essentials. Here are some ideas of things to stock up on:
- Salad mixes
- Ready to eat or pre-cut vegetables
- Ready to eat or pre-cut fruits
- Eggs/egg substitute
- Milk/milk alternatives
- Meat/meat substitutes
- Pre-made pasta sauce
In your freezer it can be really useful to have:
- Frozen vegetables
- Frozen fruits
- Ice lollies (if it’s summer)
If you’re someone who likes to prepare things in advance, it can be really useful to prepare for your new baby by cooking meals for future selves and freezing them. When your baby arrives, you might find it hard to fit in cooking time, so freezing home-cooked meals is a great solution to this problem. There are plenty of amazing freezable recipes available, and this could be a real lifesaver in the first week or so after your little one gets here.
You can also save yourself some stress by making sure you’ve stocked up on other essential household items too. To minimise trips to the shop, try to make sure you have a good supply of:
- Cupboard staples: Things like pasta, beans, rice, tinned fruits, tinned tomatoes, tea bags, tinned soup, tinned fish (tuna) pasta sauce, noodles, nuts, crackers, bread, jam and honey can all be super helpful when you’ve just come home with your new baby.
- Toiletries: shower gel, shampoo, deodorant, moisturiser and toilet paper are all vital things you’ll need when you return home.
- Medicine: Make your life easier by ensuring your home is fully stocked with any medication you may need.
- Cleaning supplies: New babies bring lots of cleaning. It’s very handy to keep your home filled up with things like bleach or antibacterial spray, laundry detergent, washing up liquid, bathroom surface cleaner, clean cloths and dish towels.
The first few weeks with a baby can be extremely stressful. New mums may struggle to find time for things like getting enough sleep, preparing healthy food, or simply time to themselves to reset and recharge. Establishing a support team before your baby arrives is a great way to take some of the pressure off yourself, and make yourself feel calmer about the whole experience.
3. Have a support team ready
If you are lucky enough to have friends or relatives who are ready to help, it is worth talking about the details before giving birth and coming home. For example, do you think you will need them more in the first weeks, or after your partner’s paternity leave has ended?
Your support team can be your partner, family, friends or neighbour. Essentially, anyone you trust and have confidence in, especially if you don’t feel the best. When establishing your support team, you can talk to them about how they can find ways to work with you – even remotely. Maybe you can schedule calls with friends or family just to check in with you, and get some much-needed adult conversation. Or your friend could offer to take your dog for a walk. If you feel like you need it, you can try to set up a time for your GP to call to discuss anything you’re struggling with.
It’s so important for new mums to not feel like they’re alone in this new stage of their lives, especially if they feel like they’re finding it difficult to cope. This is totally normal, as a new baby is a big adjustment! Friends and family are often the first to notice if you’re struggling, so keeping them close at this time can be really beneficial.
You might also be considering using paid assistance, such as a cleaning lady or nanny for your older children. If this is the case, it will save you a lot of stress to arrange this in advance, before your baby arrives.
4. Do your prenatal exercises and breathing
There are plenty of myths surrounding prenatal fitness, but staying active whilst pregnant is really important for both you and your baby. During pregnancy your body goes through many changes, and staying active is a great way to prepare yourself for labour and keep yourself healthy.
Before working out, it’s important to check with your doctor to get the all-clear on exercising. And it’s important to keep moderation in mind when it comes to your prenatal exercises, especially as your pregnancy progresses. You might want to consider enlisting the support of a pregnancy personal trainer, as they have the specialist knowledge to make sure you continue to exercise in a safe and effective way during your pregnancy.
Prenatal exercise is not only great for your mental health and preparing your body, but it’s also known to help tackle the aches and pains that go hand in hand with pregnancy. When on your prenatal fitness journey it’s important to know which exercises are safe and will have the most benefits for you. Here are some fantastic and safe forms of exercise that you can do when you are pregnant:
- Walking: It’s a great idea to continue walking throughout your pregnancy. It does wonders for your mental health to get out into the fresh air, and you can go at whatever pace feels comfortable for you.
- Yoga: This is another exercise that’s really fantastic for your mental health, as well as being great for your physical health. If you’re worried or anxious at all during your pregnancy, yoga can really help to relax you.
- Swimming: This is one of the best forms of exercise if you’re pregnant because it’s low intensity and very gentle on the joints. The water gives you added buoyancy and supports your increasing weight, meaning swimming should still be comfortable for you with your growing belly. Swimming will help strengthen your entire body and increase your aerobic capacities.
- Pilates: Pilates provides a non-impact workout which can improve your strength, flexibility, muscle tone, balance and posture. If you make sure to follow pregnancy-safe workouts and incorporate any necessary pregnancy modifications, Pilates can be a great workout if you’re pregnant. It can help you enjoy a more comfortable pregnancy and help your body support the extra weight of carrying your baby.
- Breathing exercises: Another way of preparing your body for the arrival of your baby is to practise breathing exercises. These can help you manage your stress and anxiety during pregnancy and also enable your body to effectively get the oxygen it needs for you and your growing baby. Increased oxygen can also help with aches and pains in your joints. It’s also good to practice breathing exercises to prepare yourself for labour, allowing you to manage the pain of your contractions and stay present and focused during labour.