It’s just over five months since I went into hospital to give birth to Eric, so it’s about time I share the list of hospital bag essentials I hastily scribbled down in my phone notes the day after giving birth.
I know that sounds crazy that I was writing blog post ideas when I had my newborn to stare at, but if you’ve ever had a baby you will know that you just get left with this brand new person, on your own, in hospital, and you have to fill the nighttime hours somehow!
My hospital bag
This post is all about MY hospital bag. I packed one for me and one for baby. That way, you can always leave baby’s bag in the car and get someone to go and get it once things are getting going, or you can just bring it all in together. As this post is a mammoth one I will write a separate one on baby’s bag.
One thing I would say is to not go overboard on the packing. You usually have to move between wards at least once, I moved from the induction ward to labour ward and then to recovery. My induction to labour ward move was done in a wheelchair with a midwive carrying my stuff behind me after packing my bag for me, so I was very glad not to have overpacked!
If you’re worried, you can always leave a bag of extra stuff packed at home to be brought in if necessary. I think I had some sort of fear of taking things into the hospital as even when I had actually been induced I only had one small bag on the ward with me, it was only when it got to 5pm that we walked to the car to get my other bag. I was just so dreading a night in hospital by myself that I refused to accept it was happening until I absolutely had to.
Below are the things I would absolutely recommend that any mama-to-be takes in her hospital bag.
- Lightweight dressing gown
I just bought mine from Primark for the cheapo price of £10. It’s gorgeous and I will definitely wear it again. It was perfect for putting over my pajamas after being induced, when I was pacing the halls of the induction ward whilst in labour.
You don’t want anything too thick as then it takes up more space in your bag. I also wore it over my nightie once I had the baby in my arms, it was great and didn’t make me too hot, which is crucial as maternity wards are always boiling.
- Light pajamas
These for me were for whilst I was being induced. I wore pajama shorts and a vest top. Again, lightweight due to the heat of the ward! I still remember getting changed into them at 9pm and thinking that I wouldn’t be meeting my baby that night, how wrong I was as three hours later I was back in the same bathroom bent over the toilet having a contraction absolutely sure I was in labour.
If there’s ever a time to have nice pajamas, it’s when you’re 40+ weeks preggo and waiting for baby to arrive! These pajamas from ASOS are beautiful.
- Flip flops or slippers
I packed a pair of hotel slippers because I was convinced my waters would break in the hallway and ruin any pair of shoes I was wearing. How wrong I was! In the end because it was summer I just wore my flip flops the whole time.
Basically, slip on footwear is crucial, as bending down post-birth is a bit dodgy. And ideally something with a sole so you can go outside if that’s an option. I did most of my labouring outside on a roof terrace in my flip flops and pajamas.
- Lounge trousers
If I was loaded I would 100% have gone for these Hush beauties. Instead I bought some lightweight joggers in an absolutely massive size from Primark (seriously, like five sizes too big) to wear the day after giving birth, when I knew people would be visiting in hospital. My bump hadn’t gone down yet, I was sporting some sexy maternity pads doubled up, and I just wanted to be comfy but look vaguely presentable.
I also got some other more lightweight trousers again from Primark, you could go for pajama ones if you want, but it’s helpful to have some that you are also happy to wear home.
- Vest top
To pair with the loungewear above, to give access to my boobs for feeding, and to be comfy. Again I went for Primark camis but you could go for any that you fancy (like this one). I didn’t bother with nursing-specific ones and still haven’t now, the Primark ones are stretchy enough to pull down.
- Nightie x 2
I bought my two nighties from Asda, again in large sizes. One was to wear to actually deliver in, and one for afterwards. The larger size of nightie I threw on about 40 minutes before baby arrived. I changed out of my pajamas in between contractions because I wanted to wear my specially chosen nightie. Hilarious.
My labour nightie was loose enough to just be lifted up out of the way and not to annoy me, had a vest top to keep me cool, and had a stretchy back for skin-to-skin after the birth. The second, identical one was to put on following my post-labour shower for when I was moved up to the maternity ward.
- Big pants
So imagine the most unsexy pants you have ever seen, and go and buy them in a size that’s too big. I had size 16-18. A ‘full brief’, though with a bit of lace on to make me feel not quite so frumpy. I bought these because if I had a c-section I knew they wouldn’t irritate the incision. I also wanted something to hold my tummy in and hold my maternity pads.
I actually wore these for a couple of weeks after birth because they were so comfy and just felt secure.
- Maternity pads (x2)
I did not buy enough of these. I would buy at least four packs and take two with you to hospital, because in the early days after birth I doubled them up to help control the bleeding but also because they give lovely cushioning for sitting down. I had the Boots own brand ones and loved them.
Crucially, maternity pads and sanitary towels are NOT the same thing. I thought they were, but a new mum friend kindly warned me not to fall into the trap of using sanitary towels, as they are all about being ‘dry’ and the chemicals can really irritate you. So thick maternity pads first, then slim ones a few weeks in.
- Toiletries including a nice shower gel
I was actually pretty excited for the post-birth shower because everyone raves about it. Instead, because I had a small hemorrage, I was basically shaking all over the place, and the door has to be open in case you collapse. And I accidentally left all my mini toiletries in that bathroom on the labour ward. Not good. But what did make it sort of bearable was the nice minis I had taken in, to make me feel human again.
I would also definitely recommend a good deodorant, maternity wards are hot (as mentioned above) plus for some reason post-birth you seem to get super sweaty. It must be all the hormones I guess.
- Your own towel
Oh my god this is so important. Hospital towels are small and not soft and not what you want when you have just given birth. I felt stupid when I was being wheeled down to the labour ward, the midwives had re-packed my bag for me (I hadn’t thought to do it as didn’t think I was going to the labour ward any time soon) and there was my towel draped over the back of my wheelchair! But I was so happy I had it for my post-birth shower and the next day as well. Take the biggest, softest bath sheet you can find.
- Labour snacks
I went to town on prepping my snacks. We had cereal bars, things for Richard to eat, Lucozade for me, and so on. What I actually ended up eating was half a packet of cola bottles, which I scoffed when the midwives didn’t think I was in labour but I was sure I was and that I would need the energy. Oh the strange places your brain goes in labour.
The main thing is that you take stuff you like, that will give you energy, that you can eat easily. And be ready for them not to let you eat it in case of needing anaesthetic.
- A few straws
We took a couple of straws from Wetherspoons at our very glamorous lunch after my induction had been started. It was the wisest thing we did. I didn’t get to use them during labour because I was by myself and didn’t have the brain power for these things but they were super helpful afterwards.
You have a brand new baby in your arms, you might have lost blood, and you are thirsty as hell. You are also lying down, aka in the worst position to drink. So straws help with soft and hot drinks. They’re also useful to have at home for the early days as well when you have no hands and are trapped under baby.
- Cereal bars
When I was packing snacks etc I forgot about after the birth. They are usually really nice and bring you tea and toast directly after, but then there may be a gap between that and the next meal. And also if you’re in overnight you will get hungry in the night time and want something nice to nibble.
- Hair bobble
My post-birth photos aren’t glamorous, but it is a very good idea to tie your hair up during labour, I wasn’t as sweaty as I thought I would be but I definitely wanted my hair out of my face.
- Moisturiser for body
After birth your tummy feels strange, and it’s so nice to be able to nourish your skin with a lovely moisturiser. You could take in any stretch mark cream you have been using in pregnancy, as sometimes the dreaded stretch marks hit when your tummy starts shrinking back down!
This should definitely be higher up the list. Maternity wards usually give you a jug of water and some cups for each bed which is fab, but I certainly found swigging from a bottle much easier, plus I could carry it around with me during my roof terrace pacing.
17. Bras or crop tops
I took one nursing bra and a crop top with me in my bag. I love the Sainsbury’s crop top two pack, because they are super comfy and easy to pull down without having to faff about with clips as you do with nursing bras.
For more structured support once you’re home and sorted, I love the Emma Jane maternity bras from ASOS.
This might seem silly, but you will absolutely kick yourself if your phone runs out of battery when you’re either a. timing contractions using an app you hastily downloaded or b. taking photos of your newborn bundle.
In this day and age we hardly ever need cash but it seems hospitals didn’t get that memo, so most vending machines don’t take card, sometimes the canteen doesn’t either, and the car park invariably doesn’t either. I’m pretty sure we almost needed to remortgage with how much we spent at the venders and the car park, and I was only in hospital 48 hours from start to finish.
20. Stuff for husband or birth partner
I got my husband to pack a bag for himself and leave it in the car, just in case. It had things like deodorant, a change of clothes, a charger, change, and a book in it. Just in case he needed it.
OK! We’re done
I think that’s it. Let me know if I have forgotten anything.
Crucially, stuff I didn’t use included cooling spray, tons of snacks, loads of extra clothing options for the days I expected to be in hospital (things happened faster than I expected!).
And stuff I didn’t take and wouldn’t bother with next time either is a birthing ball, a tens machine, anything to massage your back, your own pillow…all not necessary in my opinion.
As ever, it’s a totally personal choice, some people prefer to pack everything but the kitchen sink. I much prefer to pack lightly and send Richard off on a hunt for anything I don’t have! Plus we only live five minutes from the hospital so I knew in reality I would be able to send people home for anything I really needed.