Essential Hospital Bag Items for You and Your Partner

pregnant woman packing her hospital

Having just given birth to a new baby a few days ago, I am writing this post with fresh (but tired) eyes and the most up-to-date advice possible, because, you know, my hospital bag is still slumped on my bedroom floor full of all of the stuff I took with me and most definitely needed!

It felt different packing my bag this time around. I already have 2 children, but they were born pre-covid when partners and visitors could come freely, grab any extras you needed or help you get things throughout the day/night if they stayed over. Most hospitals are still not allowing partners to stay over now, I know mine certainly weren’t, and this was a huge source of anxiety knowing I’d be without those extra hands overnight on a potentially busy ward. Planning ahead is key.

It’s worth checking your hospital’s maternity policy in advance so that you can prepare yourself and members of your family. Visitors are likely to still be limited, if allowed at all - it is worth preparing your family for this in advance so that expectations are at the right level. Let them know you will send photos and keep them updated but that FaceTime or calls etc may not be possible if you’re in a ward with other new mothers and babies. (I was placed next to a family who were on the phone constantly, loudly, which was incredibly hard after a night of no sleep and needing to rest and heal. Please do be mindful of your surroundings).

My hospital did allow siblings to visit, but only at a certain time (make the school aware in advance that they may be leaving early for this) and when they arrived their policy was “one at a time”. We weren’t prepared for this and we did have to do some pleading to allow both our children to see their new sibling at the same time - but again, try to bring something for one child to do whilst another has a visit if you find yourself in the same situation.

Now, onto the hospital bag…or bags!

You will need a bag for mum, a bag for baby and a bag for your birth partner. You may fit everything into one bag, but equally, you may find it easier to separate everything out so it is easier to find what you need. I decided on an overnight bag for myself, a change bag for baby and I kept a spare bag in the car for my husband just in case!

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Hospital bag essentials for mum:

Phone charger with a long cable - it won’t reach the bedside table otherwise

Water bottle with a straw attached which allows you to drink with the bottle in an upright position

Snacks - think easy access food and treats you can navigate with one hand such as sweets, fruit, chocolate, crisps in a pot, mints, crackers, oaty bars, biscuits. You will need them in between hospital meals and possibly during labour too. Pack extra for your birth partner, along with change for the vending machines!

Glasses, contact lenses, lens pots and solutions if this is something you usually wear or need

Eye drops - hospitals can be really warm and dehydrating.

Lip balm/nipple balm - you can use nipple balm on your lips to keep them hydrated and this means it is still safe to kiss your baby too!

Mini shower gel and moisturiser - you’ll need this if you have a stay on the ward and are offered a shower during your stay. Most hospitals have towels but you may wish to bring your own anyway

Baby wipes - not for baby, but for you! Things can get hot and sweaty and you may wish to have a quick freshen up whilst you’re still confined to your hospital bed

Makeup - optional extra, for going home or having photos taken if this makes you feel better. Sticking to products that won’t transfer to baby such as mascara rather than a full face is best.

Toothbrush and toothpaste - you will be glad of these once you’re up and about!

Earplugs - you may not want to use these if you’re staying in after birth as you’ll want to hear your baby, but if you’re in labour or being induced and have a stay beforehand then earplugs are really handy to help you rest before baby arrives!

Deodrant - again, this is an optional extra and most new mums prefer not to wear it so that baby can smell their natural smell and their milk without it being masked by a heavy perfume or scent

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Nursing pillow and bed pillow - a nursing pillow will help you to hold and position your baby in hospital whether you’re breastfeeding or not. You may also wish to bring your pillow from home to sleep on during your stay. If you’re having a c section then you will need a pillow to protect your tummy for the journey home!

Maternity pads - you will bleed after birth, just like a period but usually heavier. Hospitals usually pop a pad between your legs after birth and check you regularly but at the very least you will need your own once you’re up and about to the toilet and getting ready to go home. My advice is the bigger the better!

BIG knickers - no matter what type of birth you’re planning you need to be covered for all eventualities. Buy a pack of the biggest cotton pants you can find, in high rise, so that they fit over your tummy afterwards. You don’t want anything that will be tight or rubbing against your skin or stitches. I didn’t get any of the mesh knickers from the hospital that people talk about, it was my own or nothing!

Pyjamas, slippers and dressing gown - a long nightie with front fastening is best which you can swap into once your hospital gown is removed. This allows for skin-to-skin with baby too. Dressing gowns are a must for use with hospital gowns otherwise you will be flashing your bottom!

I took my flip-flops with me, but also a pair of hotel slippers I could just get rid of afterwards without worrying about hospital germs!

Going home outfit - this isn’t as glamorous as it sounds! Remember you will still have a bump, and depending on whether you had a c-section or a vaginal birth, you will need to think about where your waistband sits. My advice is go big and comfy - I wore some harem-style maternity ‘over the bump’ PJ bottoms and a baggy, long, cotton nursing top, along with a stretchy maternity ‘sleep bra’ to allow for growth and feeding. You’ll probably have compression stockings on if you needed any surgery so plan for those too!

Dirty laundry bag - for any knickers or clothes that need cleaning at home

Hospital bag essentials for baby:

Nappies - newborn size

Cotton wool pads - new babies have their bottoms cleaned with cotton wool and water rather than wipes due to their skin being so sensitive. You may wish you use reusable pads instead but do bring a wash bag to keep the dirty clothes in.

Vests, babygrows and sleepsuits with and without feet - try to pack newborn and 0-3 sizes so that you’ll be covered for both smaller and larger babies. Hospitals can be warm, but it is hard to plan around the weather and other patients who may be using fans on the ward so bring full suits and also suits without legs just to be on the safe side. Look for items with front fastenings and openings rather than ‘over the head’ - it makes it so much easier for changing a new baby and also allows for skin-to-skin contact too.

Hats and mitts - your baby will need a hat for the journey home and any outing outside. Depending on the weather they may also need hand mitts too.

Muslin cloths, large and small and blankets - standard small muslin cloths are great for winding and burping your baby. The large swaddle cloths allow for swaddling and wrapping even on a warm day in a warm hospital ward. Your baby will also need a blanket for use in their cot and for your journey home. We packed a waffle blanket for use in the hospital, and a slightly warmer one for in the car seat.

Fabric change mat - babies are usually changed in their crib at the hospital, to avoid getting poop on their mattress or blankets, pop a fabric change mat under their bottom.

Dirty clothes bag for washing

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Hospital bag essentials for the birth partner:

Duvet and pillow if your hospital allows overnight stays

Lots of snacks and food, plus change for vending machines and cafes

Toothbrush and toothpaste

Magazines or books to read during a long wait

Phone charger

Toiletries - baby wipes, cleaning cloths, deodorant etc, the long days can take their toll!

Is there anything you would include on this list?

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