I remember planning my hospital bag when I had my daughter and I’ll be honest, I was clueless. I had my hair straighteners and make up in my bag – need I say more . . . .
But as a brand new mum, or even as a second time mum with baby brain, how are we supposed to know what to pack? Which items are absolute essentials? We’ve created the ultimate guide so that you won’t make the same mistakes I did!
When should you pack your hospital bag?
The NHS recommends you get this done 3 weeks before your due date and leave it somewhere easily accessible, like a hallway cupboard. Obviously there are last minute things that will go into it, such as your phone and snacks like fresh fruit, but if you have the majority of your bag ready, then you’ll feel less panicked if little one makes an early appearance.
Early packing is also sensible if pregnancy has limited your mobility, as it prevents bending and lifting more than necessary as your due date nears.
What should I pack for myself?
Hopefully labour will be straightforward and won’t require a prolonged hospital stay, but as this can never be guaranteed, pack as if you will be away from home for 2-3 days, bearing in mind you’ll get through a lot more changes of clothes than usual.
Here’s your checklist of things for you:
- Your birth plan and any necessary medical notes.
- Your phone and a charger. You may also want a tablet / laptop / e-reader so make sure you have the correct chargers for all items.
- A TENS machine if you are planning to use one.
- Any medicines you are currently taking.
- Lots of snacks and drinks – I underestimated how much I would need, especially when you’re awake through the night and can’t sleep – I found pots of rice pudding, brioche rolls and bags of dried fruit especially useful. I’m not a fan of chewing gum, but stole my husband's during labour as I found it helped me cope with the contractions, and the minty freshness was reviving. I’m also not a lover of soft drinks, but water wasn’t cutting it so I’d recommend a selection of flavoured drinks as staying hydrated is so important.
- A washbag with your toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, hair bobbles, shower gel, shampoo / conditioner, deodorant and lip balm – I used gas and air which really dried my lips, so I was really grateful for my lip balm! I also took my perfume which helped me feel more like myself.
- You’ll likely arrive at hospital wearing something loose, light, comfy and dark for labour – you don’t want anything restrictive or too hot. Pack a similar outfit as chances are you’ll get very sweaty and want a change!
- 3 further changes of similar clothes for once the baby is born. If you are planning to breast feed, tops with buttons at the front might be the most useful.
- 3 comfortable and supportive bras, bearing in mind your breasts will be a lot bigger than normal. Nursing bras are useful if you are wanting to breastfeed, as well as breast pads.
- Nipple cream! You won’t appreciate how much this will be needed. Depending on the brand, it can also double up as a soothing cream for nappy rash, bonus!
- Loads of knickers, ideally ones you don’t mind throwing away afterwards if necessary. You could consider disposable knickers. If you think you’ve packed enough, pack some more!
- At least 2 packs of ultra absorbent sanitary or maternity pads. I actually found the very thick maternity pads better as they “cushioned” all my sore bits, even though I would never consider these very thick pads normally.
- Towels for your face and for showering / bathing.
- Dressing gown and slippers – you’ll be walking around more than you think so something you’re happy to be seen in!
- If you use more than one pillow for bed at home, take an extra one to help you get comfy.
- I loved my handheld fan during labour, or you could get a cooling water spray.
- Plan for sleepless nights – personally I was too high on adrenaline the first night having given birth around 8.30pm, so a book was very much my friend, and distracted me from worrying about my precious new bundle. Basically whatever you do for distraction at home, make sure you have that with you, whether its listening to music, watching Netflix (don’t forget your headphones) or doing the crossword!
- “Introducing” cards (or name cards) if you plan to make a new baby announcement on your socials– these can really make your posts “pop”!
And here’s your checklist of things for baby:
- Simple baby clothes – I found sleepsuits and vests the easiest to get on and off. Don’t underestimate how scary it is putting your tiny, fragile (in your mind!) newborn in and out of clothes – the easier to put on the better until you’ve had practice would be my advice! And make sure you have a couple of sizes – I naively thought newborn would be sufficient but would have been better with 0-3 months which give a bit more room. Also consider what you will bring them home in – it might be really warm in the hospital but you may need warm layers, including a hat and socks or booties for getting your baby home during the colder months.
- Cellular blankets – the ones with the little breathable holes in. We were actually given one by the hospital as I managed to forget this, they were lovely about it but I felt so incompetent! Maternity wards are usually pretty warm, so a thin one will be adequate.
- Muslins – again, pack lots and then pack some more, you will go through these like there is no tomorrow! I remember my mother-in-law doing an emergency supplies dash and muslins were top of the list!
- Scratch mitts – I’ll admit I thought these were a bit of a silly novelty, until I saw first hand the damage my daughter's flailing arms and little scratchy nails were inflicting on her soft skin! Again, these ended up being an emergency buy . .
- Baby hats – the cuter the better.
- Loads of nappies – get a couple of different sizes and work out which fits best.
- Nappy wipes, or cotton wool to use with water if you prefer.
- Car seat for getting home – I would recommend having this pre-fitted in your car, ideally from a store who can help you make sure it is fitted safely and securely.
Other things to consider
Have someone lined up to look after any other children / pets
With labour you are going a bit into the unknown in terms of how long you’ll be away from home, so ideally have some different options available – a friend who the kids can pop round to for the day, a neighbour who can creep in during the night (have a spare bed set up for them). Or if you have family, maybe book them in for a couple of days for peace of mind.
And consider any pets – you may be in hospital for a few days and you don’t want to be panicking about them – have a dog walker lined up, or arrange a pet sitter.
Have a change bag set up and ready
This is one of the pre-baby arrival jobs I got most excited about, I loved getting my polka dot change bag and filling it with all the essentials! Look out for a bag that includes a change mat as this will be an absolute essential. It needs to be roomy to fit all your paraphernalia - nappies, nappy sacks, wipes, nappy rash cream, muslins, bibs, snacks for me – my change bag actually doubled as my handbag for quite a long time so it’s worth investing in a large bag with lots of different compartments. And don’t forget our compact Mini First Aid kit, jam-packed with 74 essential first aid items so you don’t get caught on the hop.
Get the house in order (as best you can!)
I don’t think anything can quite prepare you for being a new parent, but as someone who has been there, I would strongly advise that if at all possible, get as prepped as you can for your arrival back home after the birth:
- Whether you have chosen a Moses basket or straight to cot, get all the bedding set up and ready – you’ll need it as soon as you get home and trust me, ripping things out of packaging at the last minute is not where you want to be!
- Same for your changing station, bathing and toiletries – have everything where you need it. I ended up with 2 changing areas to avoid the endless trek up and down stairs in our townhouse.
- Get all your admin done in advance – is your car insurance coming up for renewal? Have you filled in all the forms for your older child’s preschool application? Think a few months forward and get everything done before baby arrives, you will not regret it.
- Leave the house as clean and tidy as you can when you set off for hospital. This will help you feel calmer on your return home.
- Meal prep for the first few weeks where possible. You’ll be hungry, whether it’s from breast feeding, or just from barely having a moment to grab a snack, so think hearty and nutritious and freeze a load of your favourites.
If you’re thinking of having a home birth
Discuss what you need to prepare with your midwife – they will have done this lots of times before so are really well placed to advise you. As there are no guarantees with labour, have your hospital bag packed anyway, just in case things don’t go to plan.
I really hope this has helped you get packed and prepared, ready for your exciting new arrival. And if you’re reaching for your hair straighteners trust me – a load of hair bobbles will be much more suited to the task at hand!
Wishing you and your family all the best, Charlotte @ Mini First Aid
Sources: NHS UK, Lansinoh
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- Organic Pre-Birth Preparation Oil 50ml
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- HPA Lanolin Nipple Cream 40ml
- HPA Lanolin Lip Balm
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- 60 x Disposable Breast Pads
- 50 x Breastmilk Storage Bags
- Mini First Aid Family First Aid Kit