So, you're pregnant and getting closer to your due date. You may be feeling a little anxious about going into labour and giving birth. But don't worry, you're not alone. Many women feel the same way. One thing that can help you feel more prepared for labour and delivery is to have your hospital bag packed and ready to go.
If you are a first time mum, it can be daunting knowing what to pack. It’s easy to pack too much, so we have put together this hospital bag checklist of absolute must-have items. If you need to stay in hospital longer than expected, your partner can bring you more things from home.
We recommend packing two bags: one for labour and the hours immediately after your baby is born, and another for your stay on the postnatal ward. This way your birth partner won’t have to rummage through your clothes to find things when you really need them during labour. (If you have a straightforward birth, you may even leave hospital on the same day, so you may not need the second bag at all.)
Keep this checklist handy as you're packing your bags:
What should I pack for labour?
Paperwork: Your Medicare card, health insurance details (if you have it), hospital paperwork, antenatal card and your birth plan.
Loose clothes to wear during labour such as an oversized T-shirt. Take something old, as it will probably get a bit messy.
TENS machine to help manage pain during contractions. These need to be hired ahead of time (hospitals and birth centres don't usually supply them). You may also want to bring a heat pack (one that you can attach to your back or tummy is fantastic so your hands are kept free). Check first that your hospital allows microwaved heat packs and that they have a microwave available for your birth partner to heat the packs.
Lip balm - you’ll be surprised how much your lips dry out during labour with all that heavy breathing.
Soothing music. Bring a small portable speaker and load your smartphone with your favourite playlist. (Don't skimp, you may need several hours of music). If you're planning a hypnobirth, you may opt for relaxing music or affirmations. Or you may you prefer some uplifting tunes to dance that baby down!
Snacks. You’ll be thankful for some snacks in those early hours of labour. Choose snacks that give slow-release energy to keep you going such as fruit, nuts or muesli bars.
Electrolyte drinks or coconut water to give you a boost when you need it. The electrolytes help your muscles to contract efficiently and also help regulate your nerve function and blood pressure.
Hairband and/or hair elastics to keep your hair off your face.
Water bottle with a straw - essential! When those contractions are coming hard and fast, you need to stay hydrated. Sipping from a straw is preferable in labour as you may be prone to gagging or vomiting if you drink too much too quickly. Get your support person to put your drink to your mouth (grecian-goddess-style). A cup with a bendy straw will also do the job!
LED candles and essential oils to soften the room and help you relax. Birthing suites can be very clinical.
Books, magazines, or games to help you relax or pass the time during early labour.
Bathers for your partner to wear if you want them to help you in the shower or bath (the midwives will appreciate it).
Hand mirror if you want to watch baby’s head crowning and see her being born (not for the faint of heart!)
A camera or smartphone to capture your new baby’s journey earth-side and precious first moments of life. Don’t forget the charger and to check there is plenty of storage available for photos.
What should I pack for after the birth?
Nipple cream - breastfeeding doesn’t come easy for everyone and your nipples can be sore and chapped after just a couple of feeds. Lansinoh will be your new best friend, and it doubles as a nourishing lip balm.
Nursing bra and shirts with easy access for breastfeeding.
Bottles and formula if you are formula feeding.
Ear plugs and eye mask. Try to sleep as much as you can in hospital, because once you’re home with your newborn it will be all systems go! An eye mask and earplugs will prove invaluable, especially if you’re in a shared room. Hospitals are noisy and you'll have nurses coming in to check on you all through the night.
Insulated coffee cup with a lid to keep your cuppa warm and safely drink while you’re feeding bub.
Comfy, dark-coloured undies. You’ll be wearing big maternity pads but there may be leakages, so pack some extra pairs of underwear. We recommend packing a few “granny undies” - these can help especially if you've had a c-section as the waistband should be high enough to avoid your incision. High-waisted undies can also help to support your belly and keep maternity pads in place.
Maternity sanitary pads - pack at least 2 packs for all the postpartum bleeding.
Thongs or backless slippers that are easy to get on and off.
Snacks (again)! Pack some healthy and filling snacks for after labour to help tide you over between meals. Lactation cookies are a great high-energy option - breastfeeding makes you very hungry! You may want to pack your favourite tea or drink, as hospital supplies are pretty basic.
Loose, comfortable clothes for you to wear while you're in hospital and for the trip home, including a pair of button-down pyjamas.
Your own pillow - the hospital may not have enough pillows to make you really comfortable. Plus resting your head on your own pillow can help you relax and settle. A C-shaped pillow can also give you extra support when breastfeeding your baby.
Essentials - pack whatever you would for a night or two away from home: toiletries, glasses/contacts, tissues, phone and charger and headphones.
What should I pack for baby?
Your baby doesn't need much at first - just milk, warmth and love. Most hospitals in Australia provide nappies, basic baby clothing and blankets to use during your stay. Check with your hospital or birthing centre first to be sure. We recommend packing:
Stretchy swaddle - babies love being swaddled. Ask the nurses and midwives to show you how to swaddle baby while you're in hospital. This will be invaluable once you’re home.
Socks and mittens. Pack a few pairs, depending on how long you'll be in hospital.
Hat - to help keep your newborn warm when they're not sleeping.
Birth announcement. You may want to pack a special outfit for bub and wooden milestone card for the perfect announcement picture.
Going home outfit for baby. Bring a couple of outfits in different sizes for your baby's trip home.
Avoid bringing valuables including jewellery and lots of money.
Have your bag packed by 36 weeks, just in case things kick off earlier than expected.
Put a checklist on top of your bag of last-minute things you need to throw in on the day, such as your phone and charger. You don’t want to forget anything important in the excitement of the moment.
Packing your hospital bag is a great way to help you feel more prepared for labour and delivery. So, don't wait until the last minute. Start packing your bag now and you'll be one step ahead when your little one arrives!