I am frequently asked “what should be in a hospital bag?” or “do I need one”?

Wherever you plan to birth your baby, I always advise that from around 30 weeks you have a bag ready containing essentials for mum and baby. The timing and circumstances will obviously determine what you need to some extent, but the basics remain the same. Packing a bag means that if circumstances mean that you need to go to hospital suddenly you can feel in control of one thing at least. If it is all in one place you can send anyone to get it. Pack a bag anyway, even if you are planning a homebirth.

I suggest that when you are at home you keep your pregnancy notes (in a wellbeing wallet from MAMA Academy) with the bag.

What should be in a hospital bag for you:

  • Loose, light, comfy clothes. Hospitals are usually hot! Choose dark colours in case of stains. Cheap or old things are good, so you can throw them away.
  • Nighties are easier than pyjamas if you have surgery, need a catheter or a bleeding heavily.
  • Warm socks (your feet often get cold in labour)
  • A cosy cardigan or wrap
  • Flipflops to wear around the ward or on the shower
  • Cheap slippers (eg giveaway hotel ones) if you have any – throw them away when you go home
  • Big knickers! The bleeding after birth is heavy and your tummy will still be big and may be sore. Some people like the pull-up incontinence style pants for the first few days.
  • Maternity pads – basic sanitary towels won’t do in the first few days. Tampons/mooncups etc are not advised in the first 6 weeks after birth.
  • Bras (at least 2) – once you milk comes in you will need a bigger size than before.
  • Breast pads
  • Toiletries
  • Lip salve
  • Hairbrush/hairbands etc
  • Phone charger and adaptor plug
  • Headphones/airpods
  • Coins for vending machines or car parking. Your bank card details in case you want to pay to log into a paid wifi service.
  • Book/magazines/things to pass the time (download some stuff onto your phone too)
  • Things you want during the birth: affirmation cards, battery powered candles, TENS machine, massage oil
  • Your birth preferences summary or birthplan

You do not need anything special to wear in labour. Some women choose to have their normal clothes, other like a big shirt (easy for access to monitor baby and for skin to skin after birth), or a nightie. If you plan to use a birthing pool you may want to wear a bikini top or a baggy tee shirt. Many women prefer to wear nothing.

Towels are supplied by hospitals. Pillows are usually in short supply in the NHS so you may want to take one with you. You do not need to take your own birth ball.

Snacks for waiting around time/labour and afterwards

What should be in a hospital bag for baby:

  • nappies (first size) – disposables for hospital even if you plan to use washable nappies at home
  • cotton wool balls for face washing
  • wipes (or cotton wool) for cleaning baby during nappy changes
  • vests
  • babygrows with enclosed feet
  • knitted hat for first cuddles when baby is still wet. Knitted hats tend to stretch & stay on better than others. It is likely to get mucky so don’t choose something expensive
  • a special blanket
  • muslin squares (for mopping up dribble etc)
  • any colostrum that you have collected & frozen – put a note on top of the bag to remind whoever picks the bag up to get these from your freezer. Frozen syringes should be packed into a small insulated bag with icepacks.

I do not advise use of any nappy cream or other skin care products for baby in the early days.

If you plan to bottle feed you need to take bottles and formula with you (hospitals provide steriliser units). If you are planning to breast feed don’t take any formula.

If your baby is born early or is unwell and needs care in a baby unit in an incubator they will usually be naked apart from a nappy, so you do not need tiny clothes. If needed you will have time to buy some. If you know in advance that your baby faces major challenges, you may need to think about other things – I am always willing to talk with those facing challenging or frightening news. I am here to help you make the very best preparations.