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2 March 2021

What to pack in your hospital bag

Have you packed your hospital bag yet? From essentials for your newborn baby to extra comfort during labour, our checklist reveals the most important things to bring with you wherever you choose to give birth.
Gb what to pack hospital bag 483777
Martha Roberts

Getting ready for the birth

For both mum-to-be and birth partner, there are a surprising number of things to keep track of when labour starts. But there are ways you can prepare in advance, so the arrival of your baby can go as smoothly as possible.

Here we go through the top things to put in your hospital bag - whether you’re planning for a vaginal birth or a c-section – as well as how to prepare for the journey to the hospital or birth centre on the big day.

Still thinking about your birth options? Use our Where to give birth tool to help you decide if a birth centre, labour ward or home birth would be best for you.

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? Watch our video to find out:

We thought 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
  • Toiletries
  • Blanket for baby
  • A change of clothes for you to go home in
  • Mobile phone and a charger
  • Nightgown
  • 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 baby clothes and nappies – newborns can get through a stack of clean babygros and nappies faster than you might expect! A blanket of your own 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 to take photos of your new arrival (or have someone less busy/exhausted take photos for you).

It’s important to be as comfortable as possible. For new mums, a pack of maternity sanitary pads, your own nightgown and some big, comfy knickers that you don’t mind throwing away can make all the difference on the postnatal ward.

The hospital bag wishlist: useful extras

When you’re in a hurry to get out of 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 for three or four days.

Thinking outside the bag

There were a few unorthodox hospital bag recommendations in our survey – here are some of our favourites:

  • ‘A how-to handbook’
  • ‘Gin’
  • ‘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. Many also stock up on dried fruit to prevent constipation and peppermint tea bags to help with trapped wind.

Download our c-section hospital bag checklist for more tips on what you might find useful during and after the birth.

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.

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.

If you’re still deciding where to give birth, our handy Where to give birth tool will help you decide which maternity unit is right for you or whether a home birth is the best option.

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.

Download our birth partner hospital checklist for more tips on how to make the birth and hospital stay as comfortable as possible for both of you.

Travelling to the hospital or birth centre

Working out how to get to the maternity unit and where to park in advance can be the difference between a (relatively) calm car journey and a panicked one on the day when your baby decides to make an appearance.

Download our birth partners travel checklist so the arrival of your baby can go as smoothly as possible.

Planning your route and journey time

Make sure you know the best way to drive to the birth centre or labour ward and how long the journey will take. You can even do a few test drives if you live far away or in an area with a lot of congestion, so you know how long to allow at different times of day or night.

Having a back-up route can also be a good idea, just in case there are roadworks or other traffic problems on the day. For complete reassurance, you may also want to check the location of other labour wards and birth centres near you, so you’re not stumped on the day if you can’t go to your first choice if it’s closed temporarily for some reason.

Drop-off and parking

Many large hospitals have a dedicated entrance for the maternity unit, so it can be a good idea to visit in advance to make sure you’re going to the right part of the hospital and won’t have to traipse down endless corridors to get there.

Another thing to bear in mind is where you’re going to park, whether there are any special arrangements for cars arriving with a woman in labour, and whether there’s a parking charge and how to pay it.

You can ask the midwife at your next antenatal appointment about car parking and other useful facilities at the maternity unit, like vending machines and cafes.

Birth partner’s checklist for the journey

Make sure you have the items on this list ready in advance – preferably a month before the due date as babies can arrive at unexpected times – so you’re as prepared as possible for the big day.

  • Keep the car topped up with petrol or diesel at all times.
  • Have the route worked out, preferably with a printed map and address details in case of wi-fi problems on the way.
  • Know where the entrance to the labour ward or birth centre is so you can drop off the mum-to-be as close to it as possible.
  • Be aware of the parking arrangements on site, and bring change for the parking machine if necessary.
  • Know where the mum’s hospital bag is so you can put it in the car, and remember to bring a bag of essentials for yourself as well.
  • Know where maternity notes and the birth plan are kept so you can bring those – they’re essential during labour.
  • Make sure your phone is charged, you never know if you’ll need to make a call when you’re en route or at the maternity unit.
  • Put some towels and water in the car, just in case you get stuck in traffic or labour progresses a lot faster than expected.
  • Have a car seat for the baby in the car, and try setting it up in advance so you know how it works when it’s time to bring the baby home.

Download our hospital bag checklist to keep on your phone as the due date approaches.