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I remember the car for my first birth. Crammed into our little Passat were a semi-inflated yoga ball, enough food and bedding for a weeklong camping trip, make-up (ha!), photos and trinkets to make my hospital room like home…

I’ve streamlined the hospital bag list a bit.

I’ve done the birth thing twice now, in two different hospitals. That doesn’t make me Michelle Duggar-efficient, but I have a pretty good idea of what I like to have on hand while I’m, you know, bringing forth life.

courtney hospital
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This is me sometime after hour 35. Epidural was in, and I was just waking from the most restful nap of my life. Because I could relax and change positions, I was almost fully dilated. Mine was one of those cases where an epidural helped avoid a cesarean. (c)Project Courtney – all rights reserved


If you don’t want to read my big long dissertation on what you should put in your hospital bag and why, have no fear. I put together a printable hospital bag checklist. You know, for those of you whose contractions are now four minutes apart and find that your husbands just dumped out their smelly gym bags and started throwing stuff in…

None of you would do that, would you?


My Perfect Hospital Bag


For the Drive

Old towels and a few trash bags. It’s unlikely, but things could get messy in the car. Even if they don’t, rolled up towels provide great support when you wouldn’t anticipate needing it.


Arrival and Settling In 

Photo I.D. and insurance information. Ideally, you’ve pre-registered and you won’t need this stuff. But just in case, keep your I.D. cards and insurance cards in your wallet, and make sure your wallet comes with you. (Looking at you, birth partner!) Seems obvious, but you may be paying more attention to the hee hee hoo-ing than making sure your cards are together.

Birth plan. If you discussed your birth plan with your obstetrician or midwife already, it’s probably in your chart. But bring along your most up-to-date copy anyway, in case it’s not there.

Call or text list. You may have memorized your favorite Aunt Gertie’s phone number at age two. But when you and your partner are working hard to get that baby out, you may find that you’ve forgotten your own phone number. Worse, you could skip something and hurt feelings just because you’re not thinking straight (most people would understand, but I’ve got a crazy one in my circle who wouldn’t). Make the list when you’re thinking clearly and all of your information is accessible.


Not in the Bag, Per Se

Pre-loaded apps. I like Full Term to time contractions, and the What to Expect Baby Tracker app to record feeds, wets and dirties. The nurses will ask you to keep track anyway, so you can just hand over your phone.


For Labor

5 pairs of socks. Many hospitals provide thick socks with traction, and by all means, get your birth goo all over theirs. In case they don’t, it’s nice to have something to keep the tootsies warm.

Flip flops. Do you know what ends up on hospital floors?

Pillows in non-white cases. I’ve birthed in two hospitals, and one was mighty stingy with the pillows. If you bring them, you’ll have them.

Camera and/or video camera. No matter how you feel during labor, you’ll want to remember the moments before you met your baby. Just make sure those who may grab the camera are clear on what you would want captured, and what “parts” you might not want on film. For example, I made a “no privates” rule. No need to have frames of my posterior for posterity.

Lip balm. Most hospitals are getting away from restricting eating and drinking, but if your situation calls for it, you may be stuck with just ice chips to hydrate. You don’t need extra annoyances like dry lips, and lip balm takes up such a small space.

Focal object. Objects you can lose yourself in during contractions are more helpful than you could ever know. A focus point gives your mind a place to concentrate, instead of running straight to discomfort or worse, running haywire and causing panic. It helps to practice concentrating on your chosen focal object in advance.


Tired of reading yet? Get the printable hospital bag checklist.


Calm music and a means to play it. You’ll want music to be soothing. I prefer instrumentals that make me feel like I’m at the spa, but if you choose music with lyrics, it helps if songs are positive and encouraging.

Books and magazines. Despite what the T.V. shows want you to think, labor isn’t go-go-go the entire time. There are waves of intensity and calm, and even boredom. Bring something to do.

Bathing suit. You may want to use baths or showers to help you through. You may be thinking about modesty, or you may be at the point where it just doesn’t matter. Bring a suit, just in case you want it.

Notebook and Pen. You’ll want to write down happenings or keep record of what’s going on in between doctor or midwife check-ins. More accurately, you’ll want someone else to write this stuff down. Either way, you’ll be prepared.

Tennis balls. These are compact and make excellent massagers.

Calming essential oils. Don’t bring the bottle, because it could break and everyone will end up with a headache. Instead, dab cotton balls in the oils and seal in a zip-top bag.

Candy or Tic tacs. I was GBS positive, which meant I got a bag of antibiotics every four hours. As soon as the IV would start, I’d get this horrible metallic taste in my mouth. Candy kept me from Christening all the scrubs. Even if your GBS test comes back negative, there may be other medicines involved that have the same effect.



Snacks. He’ll need to keep his energy up too.

Swim trunks. He can hop into the tub and help you from there if you choose. The nurses are used to seeing the moms in all their glory, but seeing dads may make everyone uncomfortable.

Cash. Bring enough for parking, the cafeteria, coffee shop, vending machine, whatever you may need.

Change of clothes and toiletries. Bring enough for 3 days.

Books and magazines. Like I said above, there will be downtime.

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The Mister relaxes during one of many lulls. (c)Project Courtney – all rights reserved


Snacks (my preferences)

Flavored coconut water. Coconut water is packed full of electrolytes, and it will keep you hydrated. The flavored kind will be sweetened, and you need that energy.

Fruit, especially watermelon. Fruit will keep your energy up, will help with the dreaded post-birth constipation, and watermelon has electrolytes to keep you hydrated.

Easy-to-digest foods. You won’t want anything too heavy. Light, carby snacks will keep you going. Snack like a marathon runner!


Your Hospital Stay

Toiletries. Stick to the bare basics. Toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, contact lens care, glasses, a soap you can use for hair, face and body (Dr. Bronner’s is my favorite!), and moisturizer should cover it. You can bring simple make-up if you’re having a lot of visitors, but chances are you won’t be thinking about impressing anyone.

Non-white pillow cases. Remember the pillows from labor? Well, they might be all crusty now from yesterday’s fresh baby. You can change the pillowcases for your hospital stay.


Post Partum Care

Disposable underoos (Depends). Those mesh gutchies are made one-size-fits-everyone, which means they’re one-size-fits-noone. So, they’re flimsy, and after tossing and turning for a night you may find your pad somehow migrated to your shoulder. Depends sized for you will hold your pad in place and will keep your clothes clean in case of leaks. I use them with a pad – I’ve found that I feel swampy and gross if they’re the catch-all, so to speak.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm. Tearing or not, your lady bits get pretty sore after a vaginal birth. EMABBB is something natural and soothing you can bring along. It’s pretty calming to open the little jar when everything else around smells like an antiseptic closet.

Nipple Cream. You can get your own full-size tube at the drugstore for $10, or you can pay the gift shop $9 for a trial tube the size of your pinkie finger. Your choice.


Post Partum Clothes

3 nursing tanks. In case visitors don’t get that you and your little one are learning how to nurse together (they won’t), you’ll be more comfortable if you’re able to cover up a bit. Nursing tanks hide the jelly belly and a small blanket over the baby’s head hides the business.

Lightweight bath robe. I like to have one on most, if not all of the time, even sleeping. Hospitals are cold!

Going home outfit for you. Bring what you wore 3-4 months ago.



Coming home outfit. Pack both Newborn size and 0-3 months size. No matter what the ultrasounds say, you don’t know how big your baby will be.

2-3 soft receiving blankets, washed and ready. Sometimes the blankets at the hospital are scratchy.

Car seat, installed. Practice strapping in a teddy bear before the big day.

Head support for the car seat if the included one is flimsy.

Any special soap you might want for baby’s first bath. I tell the nurses to use plain water. A slippery slimy baby just seconds old is the cleanest and most germ-free he’ll ever be during his human life.

Winter wear or car seat cover for going home, if applicable.

Gifts for older siblings “from the baby.” This totally averted crisis when #2 was born.


Okay, mamas who have done this before, what am I forgetting?


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