Written by Sarah Mansell Published on 16th January 2022 Updated on 30th August 2023

This blog was updated on 08/30/2023

Your hospital bag checklist is one of the few things you can control about your birth. Pack it up and leave it by the door about three weeks before your due date, ensuring you include everything you’ll need for a comfortable and (hopefully) stress-free birth.

We’ve listed all the essentials you’ll need for a vaginal birth, as well as a few added extras for a planned C-section hospital bag. That’s because you’ll probably be in the hospital longer, so might want a few more home comforts. 

Get your hospital bag ready with your partner so they know where everything is when you arrive at the hospital and you're screaming at them to find that very specific thing you need. 

When to pack your hospital bag

Most expectant parents start packing their hospital bags a few weeks before their due date — it’s recommended that your bag is packed and ready to go at least 3 weeks before you’re due, just in case you go into labor earlier than expected. That way, you’ll be fully prepared if your little one throws you a curveball by deciding to arrive sooner than anticipated. 

If you want to be really prepared, start getting your belongings together during the third trimester of your pregnancy. If your baby is very premature, at least having your essentials to hand might ease the stress and worry you’ll feel when heading to the hospital.

What are the hospital bag essentials?

Every mom’s hospital bag should include a few things that might just seem like common sense. Your cell phone, for example, so you can text and call your friends and family and let's face it, probably put a pic up on the ‘gram. And don’t forget some power — extra-long charging cables can be a bit of a lifesaver post-birth if your movement is limited. 

Your birthing and maternity notes are must-haves, too, as well as your medical insurance card and photo ID details, so put them in a folder and bring them with you. To help you ensure you’ve got everything covered, here are a few things you might not have thought about. Make sure you include the following in your hospital bag.

Some things to entertain you

If you end up waiting a while for surgery or aren’t in full labor yet, a book or a magazine might be able to distract you if you're feeling nervous — maybe pack a few in case you’re waiting for a long time. An audiobook or a podcast is also a great way to take your mind off things. 

Depending on the situation in the birthing room or theater, you might also be allowed to have music playing during the birth, which can create a calmer atmosphere, so come prepared with a pregnancy playlist featuring all your favorite mellow tunes (or something heavier, if that’s your vibe). 

Things to wear

During the birth, you’ll probably be in a hospital gown, but take something of your own to change into afterward so you feel more like yourself. After a C-section, you’ll need some high-waisted underwear that won’t come into contact with the area of the incision, and a nightgown for at least the first night when you’ll have a catheter fitted and won’t be able to wear pajama bottoms. 

Big pants definitely won’t go amiss for any new moms — in fact, the bigger the better. Also, pack some socks and some slip-on shoes or slippers, and a nursing bra if you’re planning on breastfeeding. Finally, you’ll need a going-home outfit. Something loose and comfy like yoga pants – no need to pack your glad rags. Unless you want to of course. 

Little luxuries

Don’t ever feel like you have to brush your hair and apply a little moisturizer, but taking just 30 seconds to yourself in the bathroom can really pep you up. And some new moms might even want to put on some makeup — don’t forget about lip balm, as gas and air can leave your lips feeling dry! 

Pack whatever little luxuries you like to make yourself feel better. A calming room or pillow spray can transport you back to your own bed and an eye mask is good for helping you get some shuteye, especially on busy wards — although we can't guarantee you'll get any sleep for the first few nights (or months). You might also want to swap the hospital pillows for your slightly plumper and more familiar home pillows.


The ultimate hospital bag checklist isn’t complete without your favorite food and drink. Going through labor is a hungry business, so pop a few snacks in your hospital bag to give you an energy (and mood) boost when you need it. You’ll be able to buy snacks from the vending machines at the hospital or birth center, but it’s a good idea to have your go-to foods on standby. 

Granola bars, nuts, muffins, crackers, and other similar snacks are great to nibble on (and tastier than most hospital food) without being too heavy, which can make you feel nauseous and bloated.

Feeding supplies

If you’re planning on breastfeeding, it might be a good idea to pack a breastfeeding pillow, especially if you've had a C-section so that you can feed your baby in a way that doesn’t touch the C-section incision. Alternatively if you’re thinking about pumping, make sure you pack a comfortable and well-fitting breast pump

Remember to also pack some breast pads and a maternity bra, and maybe even some nipple cream or balm. 

Essentials for the baby

A going-home outfit, some newborn nappies, and an installed car seat are really the only three baby essentials, which makes them seem pretty low maintenance. One of the easiest things for newborn babies to wear is a sleepsuit that buttons all the way down the front and on both legs. 

Depending on the time of year your little one is born, most babies will also need a hat. Remember when you put your newborn in the car seat for the journey home, they shouldn't wear any heavy baby clothes like coats or pramsuits. 

Since you’ll probably be staying overnight in the hospital or birth center for at least 1-2 nights (perhaps longer if you have a C-section or need a longer recovery time), take a few extra outfits just in case.

Six bodysuits, six sleepsuits, a knitted hat, two thin cardigans, and a few pairs of baby socks should be enough to keep you going for a few days. You might want to include a special outfit for your baby's home day if you plan on taking photos, but make sure they’re comfortable.

Something for your birthing partner

Your birthing partner is going to be your rock through labor and delivery, and while they can come and go a little more freely than you can (running out for supplies if needed, for example), you might want to consider them when it comes to packing your hospital bag.

Especially if your labor is long and protracted, your partner might appreciate having snacks, water, a wash bag, and something to keep them entertained while they wait. 

Water birth items

If you’re planning a water birth, there are a few extra items to pack in your hospital bag. Some women prefer to have a naked water birth (and if that’s you, don’t let anyone stop you), but if you’d rather cover up, don’t forget to pack a bikini top or t-shirt. A toweling dressing gown can also be useful once you’re out of the water.

The ultimate hospital bag checklist for labor

Want to ensure you’re prepared for all eventualities when labor begins and the time comes to make the dash to the hospital? Here, we've helpfully prepared the ultimate hospital bag checklist for mom. Now, you might not need everything on this list, but carry out a thorough check to ensure you’ve got everything you do need.

  • Your birth plan

  • A folder with all of your paperwork in

  • Phone for contacting loved ones and taking photos. Make sure it's charged up!

  • Extra-long charging cables for all electronics

  • Headphones

  • Book or magazine

  • Breastfeeding pillow

  • Food and snacks

  • Drinks (plenty of water)

  • Nightgown

  • Socks

  • Some slip-on shoes

  • Nursing bra and nursing pads

  • Breast pump (if you’re planning to pump)

  • Nipple balm (one with high lanolin content can also double up as a lip balm)

  • Breast pads

  • Something to wear home

  • High waisted underwear

  • Towel

  • Bathrobe

  • Hair ties

  • Hairbrush

  • Shampoo and conditioner

  • Body wash

  • Moisturizer and any other skincare products

  • Makeup

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

  • Newborn nappies

  • A comfortable outfit for baby to wear home (plus a few extra outfits)

  • Installed car seat

Get your bags packed and ready to go!

Although this hospital bag checklist is long and thorough, you might end up forgetting something, or maybe needing something you hadn’t anticipated. Remember, your partner or a friend will always be able to pop out of the hospital or birthing center to get you whatever you need, so there’s no need to worry too much about what you have and haven’t packed.

Just be as well-prepared as you possibly can, so it’s one less thing to think about when the baby arrives and changes your world.