Pregnancy hospital bag checklist

Packing your pregnancy hospital bag is a bit like packing for a mystery holiday (apart from the holiday bit at the end): you chuck in random stuff to cover every eventuality - and then find when you get there that the one thing you really need you've left at home.

So, to save you loads of suitcase-stuffing time, we've pared your hospital bag must-haves down to the essentials.

What to pack | EssentialsExtrasFood and drink | What to pack it in 

Pregnancy hospital bag


What to pack

First things first: you are going to hospital, not the Gobi desert - there will be some things already there that you are perfectly entitled (and probably expected) to use.

It's worth finding out exactly what your hospital provides by asking beforehand. Some will give you nappies, for example, while others don't. These are the sort of things you need to know.  

The essentials

No pregnancy hospital bag (compact or cavernous) should be without this Mumsnetter's list of absolute necessities:

  • An old nightdress to give birth in
  • Clothes to go home in (for you and your baby)
  • Bodysuits and babygros (five of each - just in case)
  • Baby blanket
  • Night-time sanitary towels
  • Loads of pairs of 'old' knickers
    (or paper ones)
  • Toiletries
  • Nappies, wipes, nappy sacks
  • Smartphone and charger
  • Plastic bag to put dirty clothes in

To these it's definitely worth adding:

  • Your birth plan
  • Your hospital notes

If you don't think you'll have enough room for your going-home clothes, you can always leave them behind to be brought in later. But if you're other half's not exactly au fait with your wardrobe, you'd be wise to pick out something suitable and leave it in a prominent place.

One Mumsnetter says: "Don't trust your husband to find you clothes for going home in. Mine brought me a skirt and heavy, walking-style trainers with no tights or socks. It was February - with snow on the ground."


The make-all-the-difference extras

Here are 12 things you could easily do without, but which make the whole hospital experience a much more pleasant thing.

  1. A hairbrush. For essential combing and mussing before the regulation 'happy mum and baby' photos. "I forgot mine and I was gutted. I have long hair - and it looked a mess in the photos."
  2. A water spray. For dampening you down during hot and sweaty moments during labour. "It's utterly fab. You can spray it all over your face and neck and in your mouth, as it's just a pure mist of water. Really refreshing."
  3. Not your first baby?
    "Don't forget to pack a present for the baby to give his older brother or sister. It's much easier to do this before the birth than have to get your husband to try to smuggle it in later." Gem13
  4. A hot water bottle. For soothing backache during contractions. "Surprisingly great for pain relief."
  5. A dressing gown. In a dark colour. "You never know if you have had a leak and you don't want to be traipsing around the ward with a big stain."
  6. Massage oil, CDs, birthing ball... "I actually used none of them. But it made me feel confident to have them all there - even the birthing ball in the car."
  7. A book. For dull moments - yes, there might be some. "Choose a really simple book because your brain'll be fried. The House at Pooh Corner worked for me."
  8. Pen and paper. For the communication of important instructions. "I found it essential to keep producing lists for my husband!"
  9. A pillow/duvet. For a little slice of extra comfort. "I took my own pillow after other Mumsnettters recommended it. It was good to have an extra pillow to lie/lean/kneel over."
  10. "The one thing I could not do without was my duvet! I took in a single one and it was so lovely just to have a bit of home in hospital with me."
  11. A plastic water jug. For post-birth toilet trips (really). "It's so handy for pouring warm water over your bits while you wee. Whether you tear or not, you will likely be sore and this can be really soothing."
  12. "I took in a fold-up changing mat so I could change babes in their cots without worrying about leaving meconium all over the sheets."
  13. Something for your midwife. Because, once she's delivered your baby, she'll be your new best friend. "And, if you stay in hospital any length of time, take nice chocolates to offer the staff - it's amazing how much more interested doctors get when they're scoffing."
  14. Something to celebrate with. For obvious reasons. "We took champagne but nothing to drink it out of. The orderly found us some specimen bottles or something!"

The knicker conundrum: paper or not?

  • "Paper to begin with, definitely."
  • "If you go for paper knickers, do check the fit first. The ones I bought were like cheesewire, and I ended up sending my husband home for some old cotton ones."
  • "Oh no, paper knickers are so uncomfortable. Get a couple of multi-packs of cheap big pants instead."
  • "I'd definitely recommend the NCT mesh knickers - not exactly Agent Provocateur but they were brilliant after my caesarean."

The edible bits

Labour is not exactly conducive to fine dining, but birth-seasoned Mumsnetters will tell you you're often keen for a little something to keep your energy up before the baby comes.

Suggestions for snacks to eat during labour include: Melba toast, rice cakes, sweet chalky lollies, jelly sweets and small cartons of juice.

For afterwards, have something a bit more substantial with you, such as cereal bars, in case you give birth in the wee small hours, hospital catering is closed and the vending machine's on the blink.

What to put it all in

OK, so picture the scene: you're in labour and arriving at hospital.

You have to walk from the car to reception - with your bags. Then from the reception to the maternity ward - with your bags. Then from the maternity ward to the delivery suite - with your bags. Then from the delivery suite to the postnatal ward - with your bags.

That's a lot of bag-carrying for your nominated bag-carrier, especially if he's feeling rather more emotional the usual. "From my experience," says one Mumsnetter, "one bag to one panic-stricken man is all you can reasonably expect."

So, how do you fit everything into a single bag, then? Mumsnetters recommend:

  • "Pack only what you think you may need for the first day or so in your labour bags, and leave the rest for you and baby packed in a separate bag for your partner to bring when he visits. Put a whopping great A4 label on it, though, so that no-one grabs it in a hurry when you go into labour and brings the wrong bag in by mistake!"
  • "Put items you need for labour, a couple of pads, a nappy, babygro and baby hat in a smaller bag. Put pack of nappies, rest of pads, dressing gown, bath towel, baby clothes, food supplies etc in larger bag and leave it in the car boot. When baby is out and your partner leaves to ring everyone, get him to make the calls while walking to car park to fetch the large bag. My midwife commented on how light I travel - till she tripped over the large bag on the ward later on"!

And if you're planning a home birth

  • "I'm planning a home birth but will be packing a labour bag just in case. I would suggest putting 'bathroom' things in one small bag that fits into the others. Skin/hair care products, lip balm, sanitary pads, toothbrush. Most important though, go through the bag(s) thoroughly with your partner and make sure he knows exactly where everything is."


Other things Mumsnetters suggest you do - and don't - include in your hospital bag

  • "Towels. There were none where I gave birth. And, as I hadn't expected to have my baby at 35 weeks, I hadn't packed very well. I had to dry myself on the blue paper stuff in the labour suite."
  • "Fill sports bottles with water, so you can drink when lying down."
  • "Do not, repeat, do not take anything that is precious to you! I had my watch stolen from the delivery suite when I was in labour. I was devastated - it was not expensive but had an awful lot of sentimental value."

Liked this? Try these: 

Newborn essentials: what to buy

Preparing for life with a baby

Read Mumsnet reviews of baby products

Last updated: 3 days ago