The Go Bag: What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag

Everyone tells expectant mothers to have their hospital bags, or go bags, packed well before the baby is expected to arrive. There are cautionary tales of mothers who went into labor at 36 weeks and had to throw together a go bag as they wrestled with contractions. In those tales, the expectant mother inevitably leaves something important at home. Then there are joyous stories of mothers whose pre-packed hospital bags were their saving grace. And though advice-givers are quick to tell expectant mothers to pack the go bag, they aren’t always as quick to detail what all should be included.

As with many things in pregnancy, some items are necessary for every mother while other items are up to the discretion of the individual. We’ve compiled a comprehensive go bag packing list so that you can focus on other facets of birth preparation rather than worrying about what to bring to the hospital

Here are our suggestions for packing the ultimate hospital bag

When packing your go bag, it helps to think about the birthing process chronologically. What items will you need at each stage? Some items are non-negotiable, no matter your birth preferences. Start your packing with those must-haves. Then customize from there.

The Go Bag: What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag
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Stage One: Hospital Arrival

Upon hospital arrival, you may need to provide insurance and medical information, even if you’ve pre-registered.  Gather your documents in a folder or binder.

Make sure you have the following:

  • Your health insurance card – Labor is not the time to be searching for the card at the bottom of your purse
  • Medical records – You want to be sure the hospital has the full context of your health and your pregnancy
  • Your birth plan – If you took the time to create a birth plan, you’ll want to have it on hand during childbirth
  • Pediatrician contact information – Your baby will be the pediatrician’s newest patient! The hospital will want to notify the pediatrician when your newborn arrives

Stage Two: Labor and Delivery

The length of labor varies greatly among women and is generally longer for new mothers. The goal here is to make sure you’ve packed everything required to make labor as comfortable as possible. Remember that having a baby is messy. Anything you pack has a high likelihood of coming home in less than perfect condition.

Add these items to your go bag:

  • Toiletries – Pack your toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, and deodorant. Moisturizing toiletries like lotion and chapstick are particularly important in a hospital environment. Fill your toiletry bag with whatever else you need to freshen up during a long labor or wash up after deliver
  • A robe or nightgown – Hospital gowns don’t provide much warmth or comfort. Include an outfit that will make you feel at home
  • Socks and underwear – Over prepare. Pack more than you think you will need because there’s no telling where the journey of childbirth will take you. Many moms prefer non-skid socks for labor so they are free to walk around without fear of slipping
  • Hair ties – Hair ties have a habit of going missing when they’re most needed. Pack extra hair ties to ensure you’ll have something to keep your hair out of your face
  • Tech necessities – Your phone charger. Ear buds. They’re both so small, but forgetting them or their counterparts adds a lot of unnecessary stress. Consider buying backups that live in your hospital bag
  • Distractions – What will make labor more enjoyable for you? A beach read? A celebrity gossip magazine? Your favorite podcast or album? Whatever distraction works for you, add it to your go bag
The Go Bag: What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag
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Stage Three: Headed Home

It bears repeating: every pregnancy, delivery, and recovery is different. Some parents bring their child home the next day while others spend several days in the hospital. Eventually, you will go home.

And when you do, you’ll be glad you packed these items in your hospital bag:

  • A change of clothes – Set aside a particularly comfortable outfit to come home in. Your body will still be recovering from the delivery, so avoid anything too restrictive
  • Maternity bras – Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, the arrival of your newborn sparks physiological changes. Your body will thank you for packing a maternity bra
  • Baby’s first outfit – Choose a special outfit to bring your little one home in. Pay attention to the weather. Depending on the season, the outfit might need to include a hat, a coat, and extra warm socks
  • Car seat – A car seat won’t fit into your go bag, but it is a necessity. If space allows, install the car seat well before your due date to avoid extra stress later
  • Baby blanket – The weather plays a role in this item as well. Pack an appropriately weighted blanket that can provide relief from the sun and protect your newborn from the cold

By now, your go bag is well equipped with the basics. Add special touches that tailor the hospital bag to your own needs. Do you think there’s an item that belongs in everyone’s go bag? Share with us in the comments below.