A well packed and organised hospital bag is an absolute essential for your baby’s birth. Knowing that you have everything packed ahead of time means you (and your birthing partner), can fully relax. There’ll be no last-minute panic about whether you’ve got the phone chargers or snacks. And, let’s be honest, that’s the last thing you need on your mind when you’re in labour!
Packing the hospital bag in the car on the day is definitely your birthing partners job, so do make sure they know where it is beforehand. It’s a good idea to keep your bag packed and ready to grab somewhere that's easily accessible - in a porch, utility or the cupboard under the stairs.
Now, when it comes to actually deciding what to pack in your hospital bag, the internet can feel pretty overwhelming. With list after list detailing everything except the kitchen sink, it’s no wonder you don’t know where to start.
In this blog, I’ve rounded up the top 10 essential items for your hospital bag. As a mother of two, I know the things that you really need to pack for birth and what you'll actually use.
1. Absorbent maternity pads
It’s really common to bleed after birth – yes, even after a c-section. This bleed is called lochia and its really similar to having a heavy period. Having big, absorbent maternity pads is a total must have in your hospital bag. You can choose from a variety of different types and brands, but just make sure that they do say ‘maternity’ as normal period pads won’t be thick enough. Amazon sell some amazing maternity pads that are like sitting on big, fluffy clouds – believe me, you’ll thank me later!
Not an ad btw just a product I used after having my own babies and loved!
2. Granny pants, feeding bras & socks
I’m not just talking about briefs here either – I’m talking big, up to your belly granny pants. Full brief cotton knickers are big enough to hold your maternity pads, soft and super comfortable. Just what you need after you've given birth and perfect for c-sections too.
Lots of high street brands sell black full briefs and you might want to go up a size to what you would usually buy for that extra comfort. Welcome to the granny pants crew - you’ll never look at a thong in quite the same way again!
If you want to breastfeed, it’s also a good idea to pack a couple of feeding bras in your hospital bag. Don’t pack sports bras or bras with underwire as these will be far too tight.
Don't forget to pack your socks too. It's fairly common to get cold feet during labour and they'll come in handy for when it's time for you to leave hospital too.
3. Comfy clothes, PJs & slippers
Having warm, comfortable clothing is an absolute must have after you’ve given birth. Think stretchy leggings, cotton tops and fluffy jammies. Don’t forget to pack your slippers too as hospital floors can be cold. 'Slip on' type slippers are best so you don’t need to bend down and pull them on.
If you would like to breastfeed, you might want to buy breastfeeding friendly clothing so you can easily and comfortably expose your breasts. Don’t spend a fortune though or feel like you have to go out and buy new clothes – they’ll most likely end up covered in various bodily fluids anyway!
George at Asda have lots of really reasonably priced slippers/pjs.
4. Toiletries, breast pads and a bath towel
You’ll want to have a shower after you’ve given birth so packing a toiletry bag is a must. Just pack items that you would usually use – shower gel, face wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant etc. You might want to skip on packing the shampoo and take dry shampoo instead. It’s also a good idea to pack your own towel too!
5. Phone chargers, headphones and other electricals
If you don’t have any spare or portable phone chargers, it’s a good idea to put a sticky note on the top of your hospital bag that says something along the lines of PACK CHARGERS. This means that your birthing partner can’t forget to add them in as you make your way to hospital.
You may also want to take headphones with you and any other electrical items you might need such as a portable speaker, or an iPad with some funny movies downloaded if you’re having an induction or a c-section.
6. SNACKS and a water bottle with a straw
It’s really important to keep your energy levels up during labour so do make sure you pack plenty of snacks in your hospital bag. Cereal bars, nuts and flapjacks are all great options but honestly pack whatever snacks you like. This is your birth and you can eat whatever you like!
Isotonic sports drinks are also great to have packed and a water bottle with a straw can make drinking water super easy during labour.
7. Your birth plan and any other comforting items
Although most NHS trusts now use electronic birth notes which include a birth plan section, I would still advise all of my clients to take in a printed-out version of their birth plan. You could make sure that your birthing partner keeps one on them and pack a spare in your hospital bag.
You’ll also want to make sure you take in any additional comforting items that you want from home – cushion, aromatherapy roll on, LED candles etc.
8. Newborn clothes and a blanket
It’s a good idea to pack a couple of different outfits for your newborn but it really doesn’t have to be anything fancy – basic, white sleepsuits are ideal.
You’ll want to dress your baby in a nappy, a vest and then a sleepsuit.
Most maternity units will put a hat on your baby straight after birth but this is entirely optional - your baby doesn’t have to wear a hat if you don’t want them to. It’s important to be aware that smelling your newborns head is amazing for bonding and breastfeeding as it stimulates the release of oxytocin, so putting a hat on your baby can interfere with this. Babies can also regulate their temperature by being held in lots of skin to skin contact with you.
You might want to pack your own blanket for baby although most hospitals will give you one to keep.
Depending on the time of year you may also want to pack baby a thick cardigan or snow suit ready for when you leave hospital. Thick items of clothing should always be removed before strapping your baby into their car seat.
9. Nappies, wipes and nappy sacks
It’s a good idea to pack some newborn and size 1 nappies if you’re using disposable ones. Also make sure that you pack some baby wipes and nappy sacks.
If you’re using cloth nappies, just make sure you have a bag to pop dirty nappies in too.
10. Prepacked formula
If you want to formula feed, you will need to pack enough pre-packed bottles of newborn formula. You can buy starter packs which contain 6 bottles and 6 teats from any local supermarket and this should be enough for your stay in hospital.
By law, if an ingredient in formula is shown to be beneficial to newborns, all formula brands must add this ingredient in. In essence what this means is that all types of formula are essentially the same. Pick a formula which fits within your budget.
If you know you want to breastfeed, discuss with your midwife what support your local trust offers whilst you’re in hospital. Make sure your feeding preferences are in your birth plan too.
It’s never too early to start packing your hospital bag. Do it with your birthing partner, make sure they put in anything they're likely to need and use labelled packing cubes so you can both easily find things. You could use either a large holdall bag or a mini suitcase as your hospital bag.
Even if you’re planning a homebirth, it’s a good idea to have a hospital bag packed just in case your plans for birth do change. You could pack the bag and then hide it out of plain sight if you wanted too.
Hypnobirthing and antenatal teacher
Who am I?
Hi, I'm Emma. 5* rated Hypnobirthing and antenatal teacher and the founder of Blooming Births Hypnobirthing.
I pride myself on offering honest, bespoke and evidence based antenatal courses, developed after years of extensive training.
After giving birth to my own two babies, I continue to work closely with the Newcastle Maternity units and stay up to date with current working practices so that you are well informed about what to expect from your local trust.
I'm also an affiliate member of The Royal College of Midwives and a breastfeeding peer support volunteer. I'm continually updating my knowledge, including training with the UKs leading midwives, doulas and birth rights consultants.
Looking for an antenatal course? Wondering if Hypnobirthing is really for you?