The Comprehensive Hospital Bag Checklist Guide
Posted on August 12 2021
I’ve always been inclined to be in control of my life so with motherhood, I knew it was going to rock my world. I always thought of myself as being fairly organised, so preparing for the hospital bag part was no problem and I completely threw myself into it. If I was going to be prepared for anything, at least this was something that I could 100% control. Physically, I had bags packed now. Mentally, I was packing myself! Sure, I had a birth plan, but we all know that it doesn’t always go as planned.
Having this hospital bag checklist made me feel much less anxious. I have since shared this list to multiple first time mothers. It can be overwhelming at first, but once you get started with packing your bags, I can only hope that this has eased some of that anxiousness.
I understand that there is so much that goes into preparing for your first time going to the hospital to give birth, that the packing of the hospital bag is a sliver in all things, but it does seem to take up lots of your mental load.
What week should you pack your hospital bag?
I had my bags packed two weeks in advance. It was a massive brain dump. It then gave me mental space to prepare for anything and everything else. I could focus on my breathing, my growing baby, positive affirmations, reading, relaxing, massages, pilates-ing, and last minute nesting.
Let me help you take some of that mental load by putting it down on paper for you so that you can prepare yourself in other areas.
What are the essentials for a hospital bag?
It’s important to ask your hospital for advice on their “what to pack” list, as each provider will suggest different amenities. Some hospitals may already provide everything for the baby’s arrival, so you only need to pack for yourself. However, others may only provide towels and the first nappy. For me, that was my hospital. I was provided with the first nappy, first outfit and all the towels. But loads of free samples for the baby; an assortment of nappies, baby moisturiser, baby shampoo/conditioner, baby wash and sudocrem. When I didn’t have enough milk for my daughter, they also provided a breast pump, bottles, teats and formula. You can also check with your hospital what their lactation consultants provide if an issue arises with your milk supply.
The following list is what I packed for 5 days. I was fortunate enough to spend 2 days in the hospital and 3 days in a hotel room that had a nurse available 24/7. Chop and change as you need, you’ll find the link below to a spreadsheet.
What kind of bag should I use for my hospital bag?
I have broken down the packing into 3 separate bags because it was easiest to know which one to grab straight away. You’ll most likely go straight into the birthing room and just need to grab the one bag that would contain everything you need for the first 24 hours or so. No need for your partner to lug all the bags into the suite: the other two bags will be for later once you’ve settled into your room at the Maternity Ward.
Tip: If you don’t have bags big enough for all the things, attach the separate bags together with a scrap of material/rope and label them so your partner knows which ones to grab without having to double (or triple or quadruple!) check and/or running back and forth to the car.
What to pack for hospital
Documentation/paperwork, notebook and pen
Your birth plan and maternity notes should be kept all in one place. I bought a clear documentation wallet to keep everything in. Have an extra copy of your medicare number, insurance information and pens (trust me: they are scarce when you need them, so it’s handy to have a couple on you). Also handy to note down your midwives names. I had a few come through the room that were so helpful and by having their name I could write thank you cards afterwards.
I swore by my 1 litre bottle with a straw. You’ll find this so much easier to drink from, especially when you’re in all sorts of positions while labouring and need a drink. I also packed an extra one with coconut water ready to go (or a sports drink for the electrolytes).
Sugar to fuel. Birthing is like running a marathon. What snacks can you eat while you're running? I would recommend small lollies you can suck on. I personally had frozen grapes.
Some people find it helpful to go into the shower during intense contractions. Your partner might have to join you, and they’ll need to wear something suitable just in case.
- Bathing suit for mum
- Bathing suit for partner
Change of clothes for mum
You'll most likely shower straight after the birth in the birthing room.
- Underwear and maternity pad or Adult diaper (pack 1-2 in this bag)
- Nursing Bra
- Lounge pants (You'll want them to be black - no need to explain!)
- Nursing friendly Top or Dress - I found snap button the best
First Clothes for Baby
Most hospitals give the first outfit and blanket. But otherwise pack:
- Onesie Size 0000 (Newborn or NB) or Size 00000 (Preemie if you believe you'll have a small baby)
- Singlet Size 0000 (Newborn or NB)
- Swaddle (The perfect size is 120cm x 120cm)
After birth, I was able to shower in the attached bathroom. This birthing suite didn't have soap etc, so good thing I had packed by own:
- Travel size soap
- Travel size shampoo/conditioner
- Travel size moisturiser
- Toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
- Lip balm (lips will get really chapped!)
- Face cleanser (sample sachets really came in handy if you have any)
- Face cream/tinted BB cream
- Hairbrush and hair ties
- Toilet wet wipes (You might be a bit sore and these will be softer than hospital toilet paper.)
Wet bag or a plastic bag
You can place all your dirty clothes in here.
Birth plan accessories
These will be different for everyone, but I had these set up in my birthing suite to create a calm and beautiful space.
- LED fairy lights - I actually had these wrapped around the bassinet. It helped me visualise that my baby was going to be placed in this beautiful and inviting space.
- LED Candles - I had the room lights dimmed and these candles scattered around to help create a soothing mood.
- Aroma diffuser/bluetooth speaker - Check that your hospital will be okay with this. There have been studies which show essential oils reducing anxiety for some people. I really found Geranium Rose as a scent to be grounding for me so I wanted this as part of my atmosphere. This machine also happened to be my bluetooth speaker to play my music set list. Make sure you have it all connected and tested prior to going!
- Music playlist - I had a mixture of empowering and romantic songs.
- Massage oil - This was handy when the midwife had to “spin” my daughter. Her head wasn’t quite in the right place, so we spent nearly an hour rotating her into position.
- Camera and charger
A separate bag for the baby was handy so that nothing was lost amongst the adult things. I was able to pack everything into my favourite OiOi backpack bag. If you're expecting twins or more, I would multiply the garments required by the number of babies.
Pack 8 per day. I actually packed this bulk in the adult luggage but had a couple in the backpack. Some hospitals will provide nappies so please check with yours.
1 Pack. Some hospitals will provide this, but bring your own if you prefer.
Onesies - Zippy
Pack 2 x Size 0000 Newborn (1 more in the Birth Suite Bag) & 1 x Prem Size 00000. Zips are by far the easiest to dress your baby in. My daughter lived in them until she was about 4 months old.
Tip: You don't need socks and mittens - some onesies have them inbuilt. Other brands might not have them so mittens and socks will come in handy then.
Onesies - Snap Button
Pack 1 x Size 0000 (Newborn). It’s never pleasant to think about, but just in case your baby needs to have tubes and wires, pop buttons are easy so that tubes can go through. If you need more onesies, someone can go out and buy more for you.
Pack 2 (1 more in Birth Suite Bag). For newborns, singlets without the fasteners at the crotch are easier. When they’re a bit older and more wriggly, you’ll want bodysuits with snap buttons so they don’t ride up.
Milestone Announcement Cards
Welcome to the world baby!
Going Home Outfit/Photo
Some hospitals will have a photographer going around offering a newborn photoshoot at the maternity ward. Have a cute outfit handy! I went with a matching beanie and swaddle for the photo.
Only recommended for when the baby is outside.
Pack 2. 120cm x 120cm. Get the nurse to show you over and over again how to swaddle!
Pack 1. Use this to wrap your baby up when taking them home. I was given a beautiful heirloom merino wool one which I absolutely adored.
Pack 1. Sterilise and place in a zip lock bag/container. It’s not essential, but I found my daughter wanted the comfort of sucking ALL THE TIME. It would have been handy, but we preserved and I didn’t buy any until maybe a week after we were home.
Bottle and teats
I would check with your hospital if they provide any in case milk supply is an issue. If you do plan on taking them, sterilise them and put them into a zip lock bag/container. You might also won’t need them, so don’t pack them unless you will be bottle feeding. Your partner can go home to pick them up.
You can always buy a tin just in case, but more likely than not, the hospital will have sachets available to you if you find you’re unable to breastfeed. Then your partner can always go out to buy the tin version when they also have to grab the baby bottles.
Pack 4 dribble bibs. You might save some outfits from spew and milk.
Bassinet Fitted Sheet/ Pillow Slip from home
THIS WAS A LIFESAVER - I actually brought along a silk black pillow slip to put on the hospital pillows (extra comfort) but I ended up using this on the hospital bassinet because for some reason, they only had towels for the ones in the hotel we were staying at - weird. Plus this will smell like mum to the baby.
Gift for older sibling
The brother or sister would be ecstatic that their baby sibling bought them a gift!
I packed a suitcase for all our needs, plus room for bulky baby items.
Buy an extra phone charger to pop into this bag so you don't have to worry about bringing the one from home. If possible, make sure it's an extra long one! Power points are usually further away than where you need them to be at all times.
- Charger for your phone
- Charger for your partner’s phone
Spare clothes for partner
Pack enough for the days that they will be staying. They can always go home to grab more if needed. This is mostly so they have something to change out of after a busy day.
Spare toiletries for partner
Going home outfit for mum
I picked a loose button up dress, so it was still nursing friendly, but cute for a photo with the newborn.
Depending on what the weather is like, but just in case there’s a chill or rain.
I packed a couple of comfy shoes.
Pack some compression socks just in case. A couple of days later, I had all the water go down to my ankles which was quite painful.
You’ll want slip-on ones as they're much easier than the ugg boots… especially if you’re getting up multiple times at night. These might already be packed in your birth bag.
- Shorts/long Pants
- 2 x Tops - ensure nursing friendly or
- Night Shirt Dress - ensure nursing friendly. I had snap button ones, easy to undo with one hand.
You will be walking around the hospital at night a lot with a baby trying to shush them. I know I sure did with my daughter! Hospitals are usually warm, so you’ll only need a light maternity robe.
Sleeping eye mask/ear plugs
In case you find the lights in the room too bright and noises too disturbing. It won’t be completely dark and quiet as you’ll still get some light creeping in from the nurses station, nurses coming in and out checking up on you and the baby and other babies crying.
Mixed trail nuts/snacks
I made a jar up of mixed nuts with white chocolate drops. I kept some on my bedside to help fuel me while breastfeeding overnight. You get so hungry.
Get professionally fitted for your bras. However, I also lived in the Bonds feeding crops and singlets. I still do, even though we finished our feeding journey 4 months ago.
If you’re planning on breastfeeding, this cream will help as your nipples will get tender. Look for Lanolin Cream as it is generally safe to use on intact skin while breastfeeding and non toxic to both mum and bub. Test to make sure that it doesn’t irritate your skin and you can look for an alternative best suited for you.
I didn't need these, but others swear these helped with baby latching onto the nipple.
Your breast might leak a bit of milk and these will act as a barrier.
Adult diapers/Incontinence underwear
Pack 1 packet. These can feel more secure than a pad and more protective against leaks.
Black period underwear
These are the alternatives if you don’t want disposables. In my case, I didn’t wear underwear until I healed a bit. I then was able to just wear my normal ones with maternity pads. If you know you're going in for a C-section, consider packing ones that would go well over your wound.
This is what I wore in my underwear after I had healed and it was okay. Afterwards, if I had any discharge it was manageable with even just liners.
Aloe Vera and Witch Hazel
Use this on your pad to help with swelling. You can also prepare these in advance. Then pop the pads in the freezer. Make sure there is no alcohol in the witch hazel!!
Breast and perineal cool/heat pack
I actually didn't use mine. The hospital gave me ice packs, but you could use condoms, add water, freeze them, then put them in your underwear.
Dirty laundry bag
A place to put all the dirty clothes while you’re away from your laundry basket.
An extra bag
You’ll probably get a whole bunch of freebies from the hospital so this will come in handy.
Gift for the midwives
I wish I had the forethought to do this because the midwives at my hospital were so helpful and I couldn’t thank them enough. It would have been nice to be able to leave them a little something in the staff room to say thanks for helping with the new baby. I would have just packed a nice box of chocolates or biscuits.
Your own pillow
This is just an extra comfort from home. I found the pillows at the hospital very uncomfortable as they were too flat.
iPad/laptop, charger, headphones and books
If you’re being induced and you know that you’ll most likely spend the night, I would pack the ipad/laptop and have it preloaded with movies, tv shows and bring along some headphones. And bring along your favourite book!
Here are some other things that you should consider to organise for the hospital trip:
Baby car seat/capsule installed
You can get this done by booking via your local baby store. Or there is also a really good community on Facebook called "Car Seat Safety Australia" where you can ask about everything.
Pet sitters/childminders organised
If you have pets or other children, have a couple of people on hand that you can message in a group chat to whoever can mind them while you're gone.
Keep an umbrella in the car
Nothing worse than being caught in the rain with a newborn in your arms (especially if you live in Melbourne with its four seasons in one day).
TENS machine on standby (optional)
This is a portable pain-evaporator machine (not really, but kind of!) I swear by this machine. I kept mine by the bedside table for easy access because they really helped with the surges of contractions. As they were getting more intense, I could dial up the machine. It gave me something else to focus on and helped me breathe through my contractions. You can rent one through the hospital or purchase one outright. If you want to find out more or if this will be suitable for you, please discuss this with your midwife or obstetrician.
Download contraction timer
Handy to have this information especially when the midwives ask you how far apart your contractions are and how long they have been going for. I wouldn’t have remembered any of these details off the top of my head.
Download baby tracker
This was sooo handy for me! Doing this prior to being in the hospital is just one last thing to think about. As soon as the baby is born, you’ll be so caught up with the newness of it all, by the time the nurses come around to your room, it’ll be a few hours and they’ll ask you how many times the baby has fed, for how long, how many nappy changes etc. and you will not remember any of this.
Keep these in the freezer for the time being. Explain to your partner where these are stored so they know what to pick up next time they next go home to bring them back into the hospital. Or if you remember, bring them along with you, but give them straight away to the midwife to store in the hospital freezer. Please speak to your obstetrician and midwife about how to safely express colostrum before attempting this.
Click here for your free digital checklist - keep it on your phone or print it off!
As I mentioned above, the packing of the hospital is a sliver of all things to come with motherhood. For your first time, packing can be a time to slow down and enjoy the small momentos you’ve purchased for your newborn. For your second or third or fourth, this could be a moment of reflection; of what's to come and the joy of bringing a life into the world again.
Keep in mind, you don’t need to pack absolutely everything, if you have forgotten something, it’s not the end of the world. I understand that it’ll be annoying, but someone can run out to grab or purchase more things for you.
Take it all as it comes, and I hope that your mind will be too preoccupied by the love for your baby to worry about anything else in the world. I can only hope that you have found this list helpful and wish you all the best for your journey.
We hope that you enjoyed reading this blog article. Special thanks to Bee for writing her wonderful guide, Julz for the gorgeous checklist artworks and our generous customers Melanie & Emmalee for allowing us to share with beautiful photos. OiOi is a family run Melbourne business who have built a strong reputation over 23 years for designing Australia's best nappy bags, stroller organisers & pram liners. We also now have a beautiful range of bamboo baby clothing in unique textiles, perfect for your next baby shower gift. Follow us on Instagram @oioi_global for daily inspiration or subscribe to our newsletter for beautiful fortnightly emails.
The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, should not be construed as medical advice and it is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for answers to their medical questions and to ascertain whether the particular therapy, service, product or treatment described on the website is suitable in their circumstances. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author's employer, organisation, committee or other group or individual.