Hospital Bag Checklist — What to Pack In Your Diaper Bag for the Hospital

Hospital Bag Checklist — What to Pack In Your Diaper Bag for the Hospital

As your due date approaches, you’re likely spending those last weeks checking off the items on your pre-baby to-do list, like finalizing your nursery and packing your hospital bag. 

Trust us—having a well-prepared diaper bag for your hospital stay can help you feel a little more at ease whenever *that* moment comes. Rather than running around at the last minute, you can feel good knowing that you’ve already packed all the items you and your baby need to feel prepared and stay comfortable before, during, and after birth. 

The only question is, what should you pack? We’ve put together a comprehensive list, so you know exactly what to bring in your hospital bag, plus a few items you can leave behind. 

When Should I Pack My Hospital Bag? 

Packing your hospital bag should be on your to-do list around weeks 36-37 of your pregnancy, just in case you go into labor earlier than expected. It’s always a good idea to be prepared early, leaving you time to double-check that you have everything you need and make any last-minute additions. Additionally, having your bag ready to go in advance will save you from the stress of last-minute packing before heading to the hospital. 

Once your bag is packed, keep it in an easy-to-access spot, like by your bed or near the door, so you’ll be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Make sure your partner knows where the bag is, too, in case they are the ones grabbing it on the way out the door. 

How long do you stay in the hospital after giving birth? 

If you have a healthy vaginal birth (without complications), you can expect to stay in the hospital for at least 24 hours (1).  However, many women spend closer to 1-2 days in the hospital. 

You’ll likely stay longer if you have a complicated labor, an emergency cesarean section, or if you or your baby need extra care post-birth. Overall, the length of your hospital stay will depend on how you and your baby are doing. You can always talk with your doctor or midwife to learn more about what to expect during your hospital stay.

What To Pack: Essentials for Mom 

Think about before, during, and after labor and delivery when you pack your hospital bag. Between important documents, comfortable clothes, and postpartum care essentials, here are the must-have items to add to your bag for you

  • Important Documents 

Think beyond the essentials, like your ID and insurance card. While those are certainly must-pack items, you’ll also want to  consider packing your birth plan, if you have one.  Having a few printed copies of your birth plan on hand allows you to easily communicate your preferences to your medical team while ensuring your wishes are respected during labor and delivery.

  • Comfort Items 

Labor and delivery can be a physically and emotionally demanding experience, so it’s important that you feel as comfortable as possible. Pack soft and comfy clothing items like a robe and loungewear. If you plan on breastfeeding, be sure to include nursing-friendly pajamas to wear post-delivery, too. Additionally, consider a pair of cozy socks to keep your feet warm during labor and slip-on footwear, like slippers or sandals, for walking around. Remember, comfort and convenience are key here. Don't forget to include a comfortable pillow and a snuggly blanket to help you relax and feel at home.

  • Toiletries and Personal Care Items 

Maintaining personal hygiene during and after labor is essential, so don't forget to pack your favorite toiletries. Bring the essentials, like a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, and lotion. Hair ties are also a must-have item. Pack any skincare products you typically use and, if you have a few makeup products you want to include, feel free—just stick to the essentials. Lastly, the air in the hospital might be a little dry, so it’s best to pack  lip balm and hand lotion.

  • Snacks and Hydration for Mom 

Labor can be long, and you'll need sustenance to keep your energy up. Pack easy-to-eat snacks like granola bars, nuts, or dried fruit. However, don’t be afraid to toss in your favorite guilt pleasure snack for when you need a pick-me-up.  Bring a refillable water bottle to help you stay hydrated, along with  electrolyte-rich drinks or coconut water to replenish lost fluids during labor.

  • Other Nice-to-Have Items

In addition to the must-haves mentioned above, there are a few additional items that can add an extra sense of comfort and relaxation during your hospital stay. You never know where the hospital outlets will be located, so bringing an extra-long phone charger is always a good idea. Bringing a mini-fan, portable noise machine, or small diffuser may help add a sense of relaxation to your hospital room.  A book is a great way to keep you entertained during downtime, too.  Lastly, studies reveal there may be a benefit to playing music during labor, so you might want to consider making a hospital stay playlist on your phone (2).

  • What postpartum care items should I include in my hospital bag?

While the hospital will likely provide postpartum basics, we recommend you bring your choice of heavy-duty postpartum pads or adult diapers. Additionally, pack soothing witch hazel pads or spray for extra relief and an upside down peri bottle for gentle cleansing after using the restroom. If you plan to breastfeed, bring a nursing bra or two and some reusable nursing pads to help prevent leaks. Remember, as much as you want to pack for comfort before and during labor, you also want to consider postpartum needs as well.

What to Pack: Essentials for Baby 

Next, you’ll want to pack essentials for your bundle of joy. While the hospital will provide the basics, there are a few items to bring to ensure optimal comfort for your baby’s first days. Here are the must-have items we recommend you pack in your hospital diaper bag for your baby:  

  • Diapering Supplies* 

Only back diapering supplies if there is a very specific brand or kind you feel strongly about using. Otherwise, the hospital will provide plenty of diapers and wipes during your stay. Trust us, you already have plenty to pack, so there’s no need to bring items you don’t need. Check with your doctor or hospital in the weeks leading up to your due date to check what they will or will not supply for diapering needs. 

  • Feeding Essentials 

If you plan to breastfeed, pack nursing pads and a comfortable nursing pillow to support you and your baby during feeds. For bottle-feeding parents, bring along bottles, formula, or expressed breast milk as needed. Consider including a manual or electric breast pump, however some hospitals may provide one to use during your stay

  • Newborn Clothing

Your newborn will need comfy clothes to keep warm and cozy. Consider soft, breathable, hypoallergenic outfits made from Tencel Lyocell, like those offered by Cuddle Sprouts, to ensure gentle comfort for delicate newborn skin. While there’s no need to go overboard, you will want to pack a few essential clothing items, such as bodysuits, footed sleepers, hats, and socks, to accommodate changes in temperature during your stay.  

Don't forget to pack an adorable coming-home outfit! We recommend you pack two different outfits in two different sizes because you don’t know how big or small your baby will be! Aim for one outfit in newborn size and one 0-3 months just to be safe. Our collection of newborn coming-home outfits offers convenient style and matching accessories for a practical, yet picture-perfect look. 

While the hospital will provide a traditional receiving blanket following birth, we recommend you bring one or two swaddles that can wrap your baby in the ultimate softness and comfort in those first days. They provide comfort by mimicking the womb's snug feeling and help regulate newborns' body temperature in chilly hospital environments. Thanks to their versatile nature, they can also serve as burp cloths and nursing covers during your stay. Cuddle Sprouts’ buttery soft swaddles offer unparalleled soothing comfort for babies during their first days and beyond. 

  • Car Seat 

Of course, this won’t actually fit in your diaper bag, but it is an essential part of the “getting ready for the hospital” checklist. However, it is an important part of baby prep. A properly installed car seat is an absolute must-have for bringing your baby home from the hospital. Make sure you have the appropriate infant car seat, properly installed according to the manufacturer's instructions, weeks before your due date as well.

What Should Your Partner or Support Person Pack for the Hospital? 

While the focus is often on mom and baby, it's essential to ensure your partner or support person is also prepared. Encourage them to pack a change of clothes, essential toiletries, snacks, and any comfort items they may need during your hospital stay. Additionally, a lightweight blanket and comfortable pillow will keep them comfy during any overnights. They may also want to pack some source of entertainment as well for downtime. Opt for something less lucky, such as a book or an iPad. Better yet, they can download some shows, music, or podcast episodes right onto their phone. Speaking of,  a fully charged phone and charger are also essential for keeping loved ones informed and capturing those precious first moments.

What Not to Pack in Your Hospital Bag

While it's tempting to pack everything but the kitchen sink, try to avoid overpacking. Leave bulky electronics and valuables at home. If you find yourself packing too many clothing items, remind yourself that you’ll likely stay in the same pajamas, robe, and loungewear for the majority of your stay—so keep the clothing to a minimum. You also don’t need to pack too much food. Choose a few of your favorite snacks and hydrating beverages. After birth, you can send your partner to fetch some tasty eats or utilize the hospital cafeteria. Stick to the list, and focus on the essentials to keep your bag manageable and easy to navigate during your hospital stay.

Will the hospital provide any items for you and your baby?

Many hospitals provide the basic essential items for mama and baby during their stay. Maternity units are typically prepared with receiving blankets, diapers, and wipes. Many hospitals also provide pacifiers and some even offer formula for non-breastfeeding mamas or to fill in the gaps for babies who are having trouble latching. Every hospital is different, so we recommend checking with your doctor or hospital in the weeks before your due date to confirm what essentials you will have access to during your stay. This will help you as you pack, preventing you from taking up space in your bag with any unneeded items.

Download Hospital Bag Checklist

Let the Countdown Begin, Mama! 

A well-prepared hospital bag is a significant milestone in your journey to parenthood and brings you one step closer to the big day! With this hospital bag checklist, you can feel confident that mom, dad, and baby will be well prepared for time in the hospital. 

Of course, while this post includes our recommended (and well-researched) must-haves, it’s important to customize your bag based on your personal needs and preferences. Remember, every hospital and birth is different, so if you have a question or are unsure about any items to bring, don't hesitate to ask your healthcare provider for additional guidance. 

With the right preparations in place, you'll be ready to welcome your new arrival into the world with open arms. By ensuring you have all the essentials packed and ready to go, you can approach labor and delivery with confidence and peace of mind. You’ve got this, Mama! 

Reference Links 

1. MedlinePlus, After Vaginal Delivery - In the Hospital

2. National Library of Medicine, Music Therapy in Pain and Anxiety Management during Labor

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