Packing your hospital bag before you give birth is a refined art, and the most apropos introduction to motherhood for first timers. It's a preview of what it will be like now any time you want to leave the house, for any amount of time. Packing your luggage for even a weekend trip will never be the same and even when you are going to a routine doctor appointment, you'll quickly learn what the must haves are for your children while they wait so (or not so) patiently to be seen.
I recall googling what to include in mine before giving birth to my first baby. Leggings, a robe, witch hazel, ice packs, a breast pump, extra phone chargers, pacifiers, nursing bras, etc.
But by the time I was pregnant with my second, I understood that I was a packing minimalist.
Where I live in Livingston Manor, NY is a short 18 minute drive to our local hospital, Garnet Health Harris, the possibility that I might forget something was no big deal. I could send my husband to run home and get it.
Keeping this option in mind, your distance from your hospital and your partner's willingness to run home to retrieve forgetting items, here's a non exhaustive list of what I personally have found to be "must pack" hospital bag items.
1. A Robe. Slippers too. Yes, the hospital does provide you with a hospital gown and grippy socks, and for some, that might be enough, but if modesty is a concern for you, or if you expect visitors or are planning for a Fresh 48, you'll want a robe that looks nice. If you're going to have a Fresh 48 Session, I don't recommend the matching mother/baby sets, where your robe matches your baby's swaddle. Why not? In my experience, the swaddle may as well be camouflage for the baby when you hold them! A nice waffle knit robe in a neutral color, like this one from LL Bean, is a a great choice that will serve you long after you're home from the hospital!
2. Dry Shampoo. Yes! While you might expect to take a shower as soon as you need to, this won't be the case if you end up having a C-Section (which was the case for me.) By the second kid, knowing how hot and sweaty I got while recovering from major surgery, I knew I needed to bring my own dry shampoo. There are a ton of great options out there, but if you're worried about the ingredients you're putting on your body, an all natural one like this is great, and comes in travel size!
3. Basic Toiletries. It seems to go without saying, but you'd be surprised by how easy it is to forget your toothbrush, hairbrush and deodorant when you're packing to have a baby! If you're a contact wearing momma, don't forget those, or your glasses. Lotion if you're prone to dry skin or delivering in the winter. Extra hair ties and/or a headband to help keep your hair out of your face during labor.
4. Lanolin! The duct tape of early motherhood. This product has become a must have in my bathroom drawer, long after my children have weaned. Whether or not you plan to breastfeed, grab a few tubes of this magical stuff to keep all over. Lanolin makes a great all natural chapstick that's safe for you, and baby, a great multipurpose salve for scratches on delicate skin, and of course, it's most commonly known use, chapped nipples! Ouch!
5. Joggers. Yoga pants or leggings seem to be a popular suggestion, but I personally prefer a looser fitting pair of joggers. Remember, there's always the chance you'll end up needing a C-Section, and anything you can do to make a post-op version of yourself more comfortable, the better. Joggers have come a long way, thanks to the pandemic! I own several pairs of these super comfy and soft joggers from pact. If you're big on sustainability in your clothing and also appreciate a well made article of clothing, check this company out!
6. High Waisted Period Panties. Ok here's something that I definitely would have appreciated if they existed when I had my babies. Say good bye (for now) to your cheeky lace panties and thongs and get yourself a generous amount of high waisted panties that are a little bigger than the size you normally wear. These from Aerie look awesome!
7. A camera. Ha. I know. So this was something I actually was not going to pack, but my doctor insisted I bring along for my C-Section! He was adamant that my husband photograph the very moment my baby was pulled out, and then again in the hospital room, and At the time I was extremely hesitant, but you better believe this was the first thing I packed for my second child. Those photos I took of my babies while we were just getting to know one another are some of the photos I cherish more than anything. In fact, in addition to packing my camera the second time around, I hired another photographer to take my Fresh 48 photos, just in case I wasn't feeling up to taking photos myself postpartum!
A photo I took of my son when he was not even 24 hours old.
A favorite shot from my Fresh 48 with Niki Torres.
As I said, this is by no means an exhaustive list. I didn't include things like your phone charger, photo ID, cash and your birth plan because those are on so many other lists like this one.
Still, I hope this list has helped you feel slightly more prepared when you start packing your own hospital bag. If there's anything you feel I left out, let me know in the comments below!