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What to pack in a hospital bag

General items

  • Pen and paper for taking notes
  • Your birth plan (multiple copies so you can give it to your practitioner plus the various nurses and other staff on all shifts)
  • Your insurance card
  • Any other hospital paperwork you've filled out
  • Your phone
  • Hair clips or hair ties to keep your hair out of your face
  • Sugarless candies or lollipops to keep your mouth moist
  • Snacks to eat during labor (your own snacks will be limited and must be approved by your practitioner; your partner should pack sandwiches and nutritious nibbles so he or she doesn't have to leave your side to find something to eat)
  • Diversions for a long labor: books, music, puzzles, magazines, a deck of cards, laptop, handheld electronic games
  • A camera and/or video camera, if you have one — even if you don't want to capture your labor and delivery experience, you'll definitely want to capture your first family portrait
  • Your cord blood banking kit, if you're banking your baby's cord blood
  • Any mementos you'll want with you, such as family photos
  • Your "who to call" list and possibly a prepaid calling card if your hospital doesn't allow cellphones (check with your doctor or the hospital)
  • Stopwatch to time contractions (this is optional but can come in handy if you can't use the timer on your phone)
  • Massage oils or lotions if you have any you really want with you and a tennis ball or plastic rolling pin (both make excellent back rub tools) or an actual massager if you can fit it and want to bring it
  • A small basket of goodies for the staff to give along with the birth plan if you'd like
  • A baby care book, like What to Expect the First Year (if you want to carry it and think you'll have a chance to look at it), and your baby book if you want to get a head start

Personal items

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Hairbrush
  • Your main essential toiletry items (don't forget moisturizer)
  • Extra-absorbent maxi pads (the hospital will provide some, but you might want to use the brand you're most comfortable with)
  • Snacks for after delivery — don't count on the hospital or birthing center to provide them in the middle of the night
  • Shampoo, conditioner, face wash, soap or shower gel, makeup and whatever else it takes to make you feel human again after delivery (the hospital often provides these, but if you have your favorites, you can bring some of them)

Clothing for you and your baby

  • Extra pairs of underwear suitable for wearing with maxi pads and a nursing bra
  • Nightgown or PJs, socks and slippers
  • Comfortable outfit to head home in (remember you'll still look 6 months pregnant, so plan accordingly)
  • Going-home outfit for baby (don't forget socks or booties and a receiving blanket, plus extra layers if it's cold). Bring along a few diapers, although the hospital will probably provide them