Hello hello! Today June and I are on our way to Santa Barbara and I am so excited! It’s my mom’s birthday and we’re going to visit my aunt who lives in Santa Ynez, along with my other aunt. (Neither of my aunts have met June yet, so I’m so thrilled for that!) My best friend also lives in SB that I haven’t seen in months–she moved there during the Pandemic and this is my first time going out to see her in her new city.
Anyway, today on the blog is my second installment of *updated* baby prep posts, now that June is nearing her first birthday. 😭 If you missed my updated baby registry post (what we used and didn’t use), make sure to check that out as well in case it’s helpful! It’s SO funny going through this post again, reading my thoughts when I had no idea how much our lives were about to change (for the better!) I still get so many questions on what to pack for the hospital, what I used the most, and what I didn’t need! I’m going to leave this post exactly the same, with my updated thoughts provided in bold.
In summary: honestly, I used pretty much everything I packed, and if I didn’t use it, it’s just because of our individual situation and I still would pack it next time! My hospital experience was a very positive one. (It’s true what they say–the nurses are literal angels. I will never forget any of them!) Keep reading for the original post + my updated notes!
My Hospital Packing List:
Today we are talking about an activity that has thankfully kept me busy over the past couple of days. (Because let’s be honest, at 38 weeks it’s getting pretty hard to focus on anything else!!): Packing for the hospital! **I still can’t believe we’re having a baby**
This is a HOT topic of conversation lately as I know many of you are also expecting! When it comes to the whole, “what to pack for the hospital” approach, There are the minimalists that bring next-to-nothing, and there are the maximalists that bring ALL the stuff–I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle–but there’s no “good” or “bad” approach to have!
I will say I’ve approached packing for the hospital much like I do packing for any other trip: paring down to maximize space, but packing very intentionally with lots of little “nice to haves” that will make our stay extra comfortable. In this post, I’m including what I’m packing based on recommendations from other moms, as well as some really invaluable tips that will be good to know going into your hospital stay.
Before we jump in, let me preface, mostly everything on this list is a *nice to have*
If you are of a different generation and you’re reading this, you will likely say something like, “WELL I DIDN’T HAVE ANY OF THAT AND I WAS JUST FINE.” (I know this because I can’t tell you how many Boomers and even Gen X’s have dmed me with a “well in my day…” kind of message.) YES YES, WE KNOW!
The point of this post is not that you NEED all of these things–they just might make your first two days of parenthood in the hospital a little bit easier and more comfortable. I am someone who likes to go to a little extra effort to have extra comforts at my disposal, without being the bag lady that always has way too much stuff with her. But also, if you have nothing with you in the hospital–you’ll be just fine.
That being said, all of these items are suggestions from my friends (real life friends, that is) and online friends (YOU) who have been through this process recently–so rest assured, they are vetted by REAL moms! (Not just what *I personally think* I will need as someone who has never done this before.)
Some of these tips might be Chicago-specific:
Because most of my friends who have had babies recently are in Chicago, and I have such a heavy Chicago readership, some of these tips might be specific to Northwestern’s Prentice Hospital, which is the most common hospital to deliver at. Every hospital is different, and my best piece of advice is to find someone who delivered at the hospital you’ll be going to recently, so you can ask them about their experience and tips they have to better plan ahead.
Space requirements may change based on your hospital:
Every hospital is different in this regard too. In some, you won’t have a ton of space for a ton of stuff and/or have shared rooms–others, you will get a huge private room all to yourself. If you live in the burbs, you’ll probably have easy access to your car where you can keep any of those ‘just in case’ items, if you live in the city, you might not have that luxury and will need everything with you. It just depends! Again, recommend talking to friends who have delivered at your hospital for more intel so you aren’t showing up with a TON of stuff when you have no room. (Word to the wise: Prentice has valet parking. Definitely one of those occasions in which it’s worth the splurge to valet. 😂)
Okay–let’s jump in!
Hospital Bag Packing List:
First, the bag(s):
Opting for my Delsey carry-on for my bag as it’s been my go-to for ALL kinds of trips now for many years, and this time is no different. I chose this over a duffel because it’s easy to wheel (vs. me having to carry a heavy bag). It also doesn’t take up much room and holds a TON more stuff than a duffel bag and makes it easy to stay organized.
Tip: Many also said to bring another empty packable duffel or soft cloth bag to bring hospital supplies home with you.
Update: Was glad I had my trusty roller bag carry on. It doesn’t take up much space and holds a lot more than a duffle. I actually didn’t end up bringing many of the hospital provided supplies back home aside from as many bottles of ready-to-feed formula that they’d give us, and diapers. (Neither of which take up a ton of room). I much preferred my own postpartum supplies to the hospital’s but many people have no preference. My doctor also said she wanted me to ease off the ice-packs as soon as possible as that would speed my healing, so I tried to taper off of those after a couple days, but everyone is different!
ID, Insurance Card + Printout with Any Birth Preferences
Fairly self explanatory. Just don’t forget your ID and insurance card as you may not get let in without them. Most hospitals will have an intake form that will ask you to write down any birth preferences, but if you prefer to have them written out ahead of time, feel free to do so! (I say “preferences” and not “plan” because it’s all out of your hands, and rarely does everything go according to plan!)
Whatever your favorites are, make sure to have some on hand (enough for you and your partner). Not just junk food–but something that will actually fill you both up if you aren’t able to get real food for a while. (Think protein bars, beef jerky, nuts, etc!)
Update: Prentice has a lot of great food options, and a couple restaurants that are open 24/7. (Neal walked to get me Panera downstairs right after June was born around 1am!) Neither of us are big “snackers” so I didn’t find we ate a ton of the snacks we brought, but everyone is different. There’s a Whole Foods down the street where Neal walked to get aperitivo supplies and champagne for us to have the next day and it’s one of my favorite memories. ♥️ Also, Prentice has great breakfast! HIGHLY RECOMMEND all of the above!
Glasses/contacts if you wear them
Seeing is important! (Don’t forget extra contacts + solution!)
Extra long phone chargers + portable battery chargers
These two were one of the most suggested items! Reason being, your hospital bed is probably not super close to an outlet. (Though some have outlets on the beds, check when you get there–though those at Prentice said no dice, you need a long cord!) I bought this charging cord and we have a portable battery similar to this one.
Update: The long charging cord is VERY MUCH an essential! You’ll be on your phone so much while holding your baby because you’re so excited to tell everyone the news and sending them photos!
Camera, memory card, charger, tripod if using
Again, self explanatory! Most people are not me so having a DSLR and tripod with you probably isn’t high up on your priority list. If you have interest in an iPhone tripod though, this one is a good one! A few of you also suggested a disposable camera, or a Polaroid camera, which is such a fun idea!
Update: I actually forgot my big camera’s tripod or battery or something, I don’t remember specifics, and there was no hospital photographer because of Covid, so I shot our own portraits on my iPhone and they turned out amazing! Was VERY glad I had my iPhone tripod!
Laptop or iPad with movies + tv shows, ROKU/Fire Stick/ ETC.
Because there’s usually quittteeee a bit of downtime. Many said you used your ROKU/Fire Stick/Apple TV, etc. Prentice peeps, my friends have told me their TV’s don’t work with these, womp womp, so bring your iPad. (UPDATE: One reader did say hers worked at Prentice! I think it probably just depends on the room! So worth bringing just in case!)
Update: We forgot the iPad and kicked ourselves the whole time. Hospital TV is AWFUL.
Portable speaker for music
We have the UE mega boom speaker that we’ve used and loved for years–we bring it on every vacation, too!
Update: MUST HAVE. Can’t imagine not being able to listen to music the whole time we were there! It made our time so special.
Hospitals get very dry, plus, you’re breathing heavily when in labor–a recipe for VERY dry, chapped lips. This is my all-time favorite lip balm. It works better than any I’ve ever used. I have one in multiple areas of the house and ordered two for the hospital in case the first one gets lost. I have legitimate anxiety about not having it at all times.
Update: Very big essential.
It’s not uncommon to throw up during labor–this was a tip from my two besties saying gum is one of the things they were most thankful for. Also, sometimes it’s just too much to get up and brush your teeth!
Update: Thankfully I did not get sick during labor and I was able to brush my teeth normally but the gum is still nice to have!
Everyone and their mom has this stroller fan, but did you know it’s ideal for labor? Great for keeping you cool and also can be a source of white noise! (I have friends that say this is the best item they brought with them.)
Update: I didn’t need this personally but others rave about it, so bring it!
Back Massager balls
Our amazing friends gifted us a set of these and said they were fantastic for helping massage her back during labor.
Update: Same here, I didn’t need these personally but others rave about it and many people experience back labor.
- Toothbrush + toothpaste
- Shower necessities (nice in case you feel like showering, but you might not!)
- Face wipes, body wipes + lotion (so you can refresh but not need to leave your bed!)
- Curling Iron/whatever hair tools you use (if you decide you’d like to do your hair for photos. This is not a choice for everyone! I’ll bring mine because pulling myself together usually makes me FEEL my best, but also fully realize I might get to that point and could care less).
- Dry shampoo (washing your hair might feel cathartic after labor, or it might feel like climbing a mountain and therefore a little dry shampoo can’t hurt).
- Makeup (Again, might not use, but good to have! A little makeup makes me feel human!)
- Body and/or Deodorant wipes, if showering is too hard but you want a little refresh. (I got these XL Water Wipes which work for adults and kids!)
Update: Yep, used all of these things and was glad I had them!
Portable Battery Powered Light + Sound Machine
Hospital lights are VERY bright, so many said you brought your own softer lamp/source of light, which is ideal so then nurses aren’t turning on the super harsh overhead lights and disorienting you every time they come into the room.
Lots of you raved about the VAVA light on Amazon (which you have for nursery). My best friend gifted me a similar light that she loved and brought with her to the hospital. I have the Hatch+ light (which is great because it’s also a white noise machine). If you don’t have a hatch, make sure you bring whatever portable white noise machine you plan to have on hand for baby as it’s helpful to put right next to their little bassinet. (White noise mimics what it sounds like for them in your belly, which is why its so soothing!) I’m throwing this one in our bag.
Update: I honestly don’t remember whether we used this or not. 😆
Popular suggestion. To calm the room and cover up any labor smells.
Update: Didn’t use these–but many of you loved bringing them!
Ear plugs and eye mask:
So many of you suggested these two since hospital rooms are always bright and always noisy–I have nice silk eye masks but I don’t want to risk losing them or ruining them in the hospital so I ordered this two pack on Amazon for Neal and I.
Update: was SO SO glad we had these. I can’t sleep without it very dark, and I don’t think I would’ve slept without these! We did not use earplugs.
Water bottle or cup:
You will want a big, easy-to-drink-from water bottle. (You will be very thirsty during and after labor!) Whichever one you love from home will work great. (I love my 32 oz Hydroflask with the sport cap!)
Update: Yep, definitely a big essential!
Hospital Gown (totally optional)
This is completely not necessary, but I liked the idea of bringing my own labor and delivery gown! It’s softer, comfy, and cuter! Kindred Bravely makes the one I’m using and several of you have raved about it as well! (FYI my Kindred Bravely code JESS20 gets you a 20% discount!)
Update: I actually didn’t even have time to change into this because I didn’t think to bring it into triage with me and by the time we got upstairs things just went really fast, but I would order it again and I was able to change into it after June was born! Not an essential but a nice to have. I was not remotely concerned about what I was wearing while in labor though. 😂
Comfy undies and bras
Everyone’s experience is different, so there’s a high likelihood you won’t be using any underwear aside from the disposable mesh kind, BUT, it doesn’t hurt to have a couple roomy, comfy pairs! (Kindred Bravely to the rescue here again–I have this multipack which is high rise and good if you end up having a C-Section!)
As for bras, you’ll want something super comfortable (think wireless). SO MANY of you raved about Kindred Bravely’s nursing/pumping bras and tanks for those planning on doing so! (Use code JESS20 for 20% off!) Everyone also raves about the Spanx nursing bra! I chose not to breastfeed so I just wore my regular wireless bra (this one!)
Updates: You won’t wear underwear aside from the pair you wear into the hospital! You’ll be in diapers until you go home and probably for at least a few days after that!
Button-up nightgown(s) and/or bathrobe:
Great tips I received: Most of my friends have said you won’t want to be wearing pants in the hospital, and also, you want something that buttons for skin to skin/breastfeeding if you choose to do so/easy access for doctors/nurses. Also, bring an option that is a darker color in case you have a lot of postpartum bleeding–you don’t want to risk getting blood on something light colored and ruining it!
That being said, robes and nightshirts/nightgowns are key! I have two night shirts that I LOVE that I’m bringing with me: This super soft bamboo one from Kindred Bravely (go up a size if you’re in between! Use code JESS20 for discount!), and this one from PrintFresh (let’s be honest I wanted a really cute one for photos, not sure if I’ll actually WEAR that one. ) I also ordered this jersey bathrobe from Amazon, it has great reviews and it’s $19!
Update: I wish I’d brought two dark colored, button-up nightshirts. I only wore the pretty white one for photos–you need something dark colored because you won’t want to worry about getting blood stains on it. (This has nothing to do with how easy/hard your labor is, your body just expels a lot of blood and fluid it’s been holding on to for baby!) I also loved having the bathrobe but would’ve also preferred a second nightshirt.
Warm grippy socks + slippers
Apparently all hospitals are universally freezing, so socks and slippers are a must! (Many say don’t bring nice slippers!) Also, socks with grips on the bottom are helpful during labor if you’re up and moving around! Some hospitals will give you grippy socks too.
Update: never wore these in the hospital but I’ve loved having them at home to wear and not slip on the wood floor! 😆
Many of you said you’ll want shower shoes! Waterproof Birks are my go-to’s, but any flip flops or waterproof shoes will work!
Update: Yep, necessary.
Pillow + blanket for each of you
According to basically all of you, hospitals are notorious for terrible pillows and skimpy blankets. Bring your own for you and your partner. (You know I’ll be bringing my Barefoot Dreams blanket!) Tip: Put your pillows in pillow cases that aren’t white, so they don’t get mixed up with the hospital’s!
Update: Do not be a martyr and skip this. I know it feels childish carrying your own pillow and blanket into the hospital but not a second passed where I wasn’t thankful for my own pillow and barefoot dreams blankets! (Same with Neal, too!)
Going home/photos outfit for parents
If you plan to take photos at the hospital, remember to pack a cute outfit for you two and baby! Same with a going home outfit. For going home, I’m planning to wear a comfy, roomy dress. Bringing this one from Target! It’s perfect because I can wear a comfy sports bra underneath and it won’t show, plus it’s flowy so plenty of room for the diaper underneath. (Plus it’s not too short, you know, bending over a car seat and flashing everyone said adult diaper isn’t ideal!) It’s also cute for photos. Tip: One reader said if you’re wearing a dress you may feel comfortable wearing some bike shorts underneath to hold everything in.
Update: The roomy dress was perfect as it was comfortable and plenty voluminous for the postpartum diaper. LOL. I found I did not want anything constricting so no bike shorts, but that’s a personal preference!
Roomy going home shoes
After two days of being pumped with fluids, your feet will likely be VERY swollen–so roomy shoes are key! Bringing my Birkenstocks!
Update: Can confirm birks were a good call!
Enough warm/comfy clothes for your partner, too:
If you have a husband, he is likely asking, “why would I need socks?” “why would I need long pants?” but rest assured, he WILL need them, again, because hospitals are notoriously freezing. (Plus, do you really want to listen to him whine?)
Update: Yep, yep, yep.
Apparently the towels they give you to shower are absolutely pitiful and are the size of hand towels. Honestly I don’t care that much about having a nice towel for the one shower I will take, but because they take up zero room, I’m bringing our Turkish towels (which we usually use for camping) because they fold up into nothing!
Update: Highly recommend the Turkish towels! I was glad I had them!
Things for baby:
Don’t forget to get it installed and safety checked!
A couple outfits for baby
I have a couple sets from Lou Lou that I’ll be bringing for her, and a couple cute swaddle blankets! (Also helpful to have a couple different sizes since you won’t be totally sure how big baby will be!) However, most said your newborn spent the majority of the time in a diaper swaddled in the hospital blanket, so no need to overthink outfit choices TOO much!
Update: I actually am glad I brought my own clothes and hats for June! Much cuter than the hospital blanket and hospital hat. 😂 I put her in a couple of these Goumi gowns and a newborn sized Kyte zippy onesie. These are the two I most recommend for newborns as they’re easiest to get on and for diaper changes! Her little head was so tiny that none of her hats fit her aside from these Kyte hats, and I’m so glad I brought them! FYI, make sure your going home outfit has legs (i.e. isn’t one of those newborn gowns) because it’s hard to buckle the gown into the carseat!
Easy velcro waddles:
Several of you wished you’d brought a swaddle with you (i.e. Ollie/Halo/etc–whatever you plan to use at home) because you couldn’t figure out how to swaddle using the hospital blanket. The nurses are pro’s, but they’re not always around late night when baby is crying!
Update: Yes, this is helpful!
Check with your hospital to see what they provide, some provide all of these, some provide some, etc! Weirdly, one of you recently told me that Prentice doesn’t have baby wipes!? (So odd). All hospitals are different!
Update: Confirmed Prentice uses paper towels instead of wipes which is very odd. You can bring your own, also bring your own Pacis to see what baby likes best. We used the ready to feed hospital formula bottles and then kept her on that formula when we got home! You can transition their formula to whatever you have when you get back home. You don’t need your own bottles.
Baby nail file and baby mittens:
I’m told they won’t trim their nails for you in the hospital–and babies are often born with long fingernails that they can easily scratch themselves with! We’re bringing this little baby nail file/trimmer (no risk of hurting or cutting them with this!) and also some mittens to prevent scratching! **Don’t forget the batteries!!
Update: We did actually use this and it’s so much better than nail clippers because you don’t risk hurting them!
Other Postpartum essentials:
Frida Mom Postpartum Care Essentials + Peri Bottle
I got this Frida Mom postpartum Recovery Essentials kit and peri bottle that are basically an upgraded version of what they give you in the hospital! Most of my friends have said leave it at home for when you return, because the hospital stocks you with everything you need, but the Frida stuff tends to be an upgraded, nicer version. If you can, ask a friend who recently delivered at your hospital to see what the situation is and whether or not you need to bring them. (Most of my friends who delivered at Prentice said to leave everything but the peri bottle for when you get home–apparently the Frida peri bottle is much better!)
Always Briefs/Adult Diapers
A couple friends told me that they preferred these briefs (ahem, they’re adult diapers) to the mesh underwear + pads that they give you in the hospital. Just less steps and easier. But everyone is very split on this! Good to have both so you can decide your own preference.
Update: I found I liked the Always briefs the best because they were the easiest (you didn’t have to deal with the mesh undies + pads–it was an all-in-one and they were roomy enough to fit an ice pack as well). This was just my personal preference, I wish I’d brought more of the Always ones to the hospital with me.
Many rave about Tucks for post-labor relief and also hemorrhoid relief. (Fact: they’re very common post-birth! FUN!) Another popular postpartum option/alternative to the Frida wipes. A lot of times they’ll give these to you in the hospital, but again, worth investigating.
Update: Didn’t need these but would have for next time in case!
Flushable Wipes (easier than TP)
Scratchy TP against your skin is not ideal when recovering from labor–wipes are a much better choice! Throw some in your hospital bag and make sure you have some at home too.
Update: I honestly don’t remember if I used these at the hospital but I used them at home!
Nipple cream/soothers if breastfeeding
Update: Obviously didn’t breastfeed so didn’t need these personally.
Supplies to prevent your milk from coming in if you’re NOT breastfeeding:
I’m not breastfeeding (a personal choice that I know is the best for us–but whatever choice YOU make is the right decision for you!) Ailsa (my wonderful friend who is also a midwife) gave me some SUPER helpful tips to prevent milk from coming in:
Starting the day after delivery (for up to a week), wear a super tight sports bra, then get some ace bandages and wrap your chest VERY tightly. As flat as possible. (Talking, Roberta from Now & Then, style). The goal is to prevent any letdown whatsoever. I also got cabocream, which is supposed to also help immensely (similar effect to cabbage leaves, but without the cabbage, and apparently works better.) that I plan to apply at the same time. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes if you plan to go the same route! (But also cannot stress enough, you should feel confident and empowered whatever your feeding choice! There are no right or wrong choices. Only you know what’s best for you and your baby!)
Update: Wrote all about this in detail in this post! Highly recommend giving it a read where I share more in detail what you need.
Stool softener such as Colace
I know, we’re talking about all the fun things, but many doctors/nurses advise taking a stool softener to make that process as easy as possible post-birth (especially if you have stitches). One of my nurse friends said it’s even helpful to start taking leading up to delivery (she said starting at 38 weeks–so confirm with your doctor, but just something to keep in mind!)
Update: I tried taking these a few days early and it worked TOO WELL and I stopped. Didn’t end up needing it. 😂
Additional tips for the hospital:
Between you guys and my besties, I feel like I have SO MUCH more knowledge going into our hospital stay! This will likely vary from place to place, but are good things to know so you are best able to advocate for yourself in the hospital to make your visit as comfortable as possible. I’m not sure how many of these are just specific to Prentice in Chicago and how many are universal, so not everything here may apply, but again, always helpful to get more info from others who have delivered at your hospital!
You may have to ASK for the nursery:
Some hospitals don’t have nurseries, but many do. It will vary on how widely known they make the nursery. It’s a personal decision whether or not you’d like to send your baby to the nursery so you can get some sleep, but often, you have to know to ASK for it. Many have told me that this is the case at Prentice, so if you and your partner are dying for some sleep, know it’s an option for you. Just ask, the nurses will happily oblige!
Update: We sent her to the nursery from 11pm-7am every night and had zero qualms about it. Parents need sleep! (Also, if you’re choosing between two hospitals and one has a nursery and one doesn’t, GO WITH THE NURSERY!!)
Clearly communicate your feeding choice. If exclusively formula feeding, consider making a sign for the door
I’ve heard from a lot of you guys about hospital staff being very pushy about breastfeeding in the hospital (again, “baby friendly” hospitals especially), so if you don’t want to, make it very clear and you shouldn’t have any issues! Many of you said to make a sign for the outside of your door so any new nurses coming onto a new shift are aware of your preferences and so that lactation consultants know you won’t need their help!
**I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t get ANY shit from anyone at Prentice for choosing not to breastfeed aside from some digs from one Northwestern Pediatrician who was doing rounds and just outrageous in general. Told me powdered formula was dangerous, that I would have to boil water for all of her bottles, etc. I think her name was Dr. Newmann? She was horrible. If you get her, just brush everything off. We could not get that woman out of our room fast enough.
Some hospitals have a “liquids” menu for labor, but you may have to ask for it
My friend just told me about this–she delivered at Prentice, but wasn’t told they had a “liquids” menu until she was in her recovery room. (So…after she ACTUALLY would’ve wanted to know about it.) You can order broth, popsicles, etc if you’re in labor and starving or thirsty! (Most hospitals don’t let you have solids when you’re in labor, FYI!) So if this is something you’re interested in, ask!
Update: My angel of a delivery nurse, Reina, offered this menu to me immediately after I got my epidural. It was great!
You may have to ask for pain medication
My girlfriend who just had a c-section didn’t know this, was in SO much pain, and didn’t know she had to ASK for painkillers until her second day in the hospital, when a nurse finally let her in on the secret. This will likely differ from place to place, but make sure to ask if you’re in a lot of pain. Also, if you tend to get sick on pain medication, again, you may not be automatically given an anti-nausea, but know that’s an option during labor as well.
Update: Didn’t have to worry about this at Prentice but good to know regardless.
Bring a token of appreciation for the nurses!
Whether you’d like to make little goodie bags, have candy, extra snacks for them, whatever–something to make them feel appreciated is always nice!
Update: Neal went out and got donuts and treats for the nurses a couple times, we didn’t pre-make anything, but it was really appreciated! The nurses are actual angels.