Have you packed your hospital bag yet? From sleep suits to baby wipes, our checklist reveals the top 10 most important things to bring with you wherever you choose to give birth.
Top 10 hospital bag essentials
As your baby’s due date gets closer, it’s very sensible to pack a bag full of labour essentials that you can grab on the way out of the door. But what should you put in this vital bag?
The best people to ask are those who have been through labour themselves, so we surveyed around 2,000 parents to find out what they had in their hospital bag. We also asked them to tell us that one thing they forgot that would have made a big difference.
The most popular hospital bag items:
- Sleep suits, hats and nappies for baby
- Maternity sanitary pads
- Blanket for baby
- A change of clothes for you to go home in
- Mobile phone and a charger
- Old disposable knickers
- Your birth plan and maternity medical notes
- Cotton wool or baby wipes
The number one thing to put in your hospital bag is enough sleep suits, hats and nappies – newborns are messy eaters and can get through a stack of clean clothes and nappies faster than you might expect. Your own blanket to keep your baby cosy is also lovely to have in the hospital.
Once your baby’s essentials are covered, parents recommend that you bring some of your own toiletries and your mobile phone to stay in touch with everyone and take photos of your little boy or girl (or have someone less busy/exhausted take photos for you).
It’s important to be as comfortable as possible, and for expectant mums a pack of maternity sanitary pads, your own cosy nightgown and some old, comfy knickers that you don’t mind throwing away can make all the difference on the postnatal ward.
Still deciding where to give birth? Use our Birth Choice tool to help you decide if a birth centre, labour ward or home birth would be best for you.
The hospital bag wishlist: useful extras
When you’re in a hurry to get out the door, it’s easy to forget something that you’ll really miss once you’re 12 hours into labour. The parents in our survey told us about those handy items that they forgot, or simply didn’t realise they would need.
Lots of the parents wished they had food with them – snacks to get you through the long hours of the first stage of labour, high energy foods to give you a boost (one parent wished for a ‘massive Galaxy bar’), or simply something to make up for disappointing hospital food. With all the toing and froing in the maternity ward, it’s easy to miss out on a meal.
Clothes came up again as a popular answer, so it’s probably worth packing extra just in case you’re away from home for longer than expected. For example, if you’re recovering from a c-section you may stay on the postnatal ward three or four days.
Thinking outside the bag
Here are our top five tips on things that can come in really handy when you give birth, but that it’s easy to forget to pack:
There were a few unorthodox hospital bag recommendations in our survey too – here are some of our favourites:
- ‘A how-to handbook’
- ‘My sanity’
C-section hospital bag
If you know that you’ll be having an elective c-section, you can plan your hospital bag to make you as comfortable as possible during and after the birth.
Having big, high-waisted knickers that won’t rub on the wound is the number one thing that many women pack in their bag ahead of a c-section, with many also stocking up on dried fruit to prevent constipation and peppermint tea bags to help with trapped wind.
Use our c-section hospital bag checklist for more tips on what you might find useful during and after the birth.
“A breastfeeding pillow came in really handy to avoid putting pressure on my wound, and an eye mask was helpful to get some sleep on the ward. I also brought long-sleeved nursing nighties which made it a lot easier to go to the bathroom at night.” Read Amanda’s elective c-section birth story
When to get your maternity bag ready
It’s never too soon to pack your hospital bag. The last thing you want to do when labour kicks in is spend half an hour trying to find the sleep suits and nappies you bought in the sales two months ago.
If you’re not sure where to start, use our hospital bag checklist, which has everything you need for before and after labour, plus some handy extras inspired by our survey results.
If you’re still deciding where to give birth, our handy Birth Choice tool will help you decide which local unit is right for you or whether a home birth is the best option.
Don’t forget your baby’s car seat, as you won’t be allowed to leave the hospital in a car without it. Our tough tests uncover the Best Buy child car seats, giving you extra peace of mind at a busy, stressful and very memorable time.
Hospital bag for dads and birth partners
If you’re a birth partner, it’s a really good idea for you to pack a hospital bag of your own as the due date draws nearer. Labour is unpredictable and can take days, or you may end up staying in the postnatal ward for a few nights – and you’ll be a much better support to the mum-to-be if you have your own toiletries, a change of clothes or a pillow from home at hand.
And while the mum will be offered meals and drinks as she’s a patient in the hospital, as a birth partner you’re likely to have to sort out your own food. Having drinks and snacks packed in your bag can be invaluable: you don’t want to have to choose between going hungry or leaving your partner in labour/with a newborn baby, while you hunt for an open cafe or working vending machine.
We’ve got a special checklist for dads and other birth partners – check it out for more tips on how to make the birth and hospital stay as comfortable as possible for both of you.
More from Which?
- Money-saving tips for expectant parents: thrifty tips to help you cut costs, shop smart and avoid overspending as your due date approaches.
- Things to do in the third trimester: download our checklist to get organised before your baby arrives.
- Pain relief during labour: from having an epidural to finding the best natural pain relief method for you – have a look at what’s available.