Mother and Baby

Your hospital bag checklist: essentials to pack for labour, according to mums and experts

When it comes to packing your hospital bag, preparation is everything. After all, you don't want to be caught without a bag in case your baby decides to show up early!

We spoke to parenting expert Anya Hayes to get the essentials on what you should be packing for you, for your partner and for your baby, to make sure you’re prepared in advance with everything you need. However we know that there's nothing better than first hand experience when it comes to these things, so we've also consulted our #mumtribe community to find out the key things they would recommend you take into labour. Some of them might surprise you!  

When should I start packing my hospital bag?

You can start packing as early as you'd like! However, we recommend having your bag ready and packed at least 2 weeks before your due date so that you have time to add any last minute things you might have forgotten, and to ensure you are prepared in case you go into labour early.

Packing your hospital bag is easier if you start with plenty of time, so get your checklist printed (or save our checklist image to your phone) and keep it on you wherever you go. That way, picking up tenna pads and jaffa cakes can be something you remember on your weekly shop, rather than having to be a mad dash around the place closer to the time. 

Hospital bag checklist:

My Expert Midwife founder, Lesley Gilchrist recomended 10 items that are hospital bag must-haves, from her 20 years experience as a midwife. We've included her top picks in our checklist along with other mum recommendations. 

Expand Image

1) Comfy clothes

Comfy clothes are a must for your hospital bag! Whether it's a vest top, slouchy T-shirt or comfy robe to wear in labour or after. You might prefer to go primal and take it all off or you may want a bikini top if you’re in the pool, but chances are you won’t really care.
Expand Image

2) Hair bands and headbands

Or a headscarf/wide head band to keep your hair out of your face. 

#Mumtribe mum, Aimee Taylor, says to bring plenty of hair bands! 'I only had one and it took my OH ages to find it for me (very annoying when mid-contraction 🙈).'
Expand Image

3) Facial Spray

Facial spray or rose facial spritz: it doesn’t have to be an expensive brand, but it’s great for refreshing and cooling you down during labour, but also for the postnatal ward if you feel you need a pick-me-up. We are huge fans of this hydrating spray by Mario Badescu which is jam-packed with Aloe Herbs And Rosewater. 
Expand Image

4) Lip balm

Mum, Aimee Taylor, recommends having a lip balm handy 'as the gas and air really dries them out' so make sure you have some to hand for later. Check out our guide on the best lip balms for your hospital bag. 
Expand Image

5) Lavender

Lavender oil has multiple uses. It can be used for your partner to massage your lower back or neck, and it has a comforting and uplifting scent which can have amazing powerful effects for relaxing and calming you down during labour.

A few drops on a flannel draped across your forehead can also help to shut out the world around you if needs be, and help you to get into the zone with deep breathing. It’s also an antiseptic, so a few drops on your maternity pad post-birth can help to soothe your perineum. It’s a proven antidepressant as well, and aids relaxation and sleep: so postnatally a few drops on your pillow or dabbed behind your ears can be magic for the soul.
Expand Image

6) Plenty of snacks

Some kind of survival snack pack for the postnatal ward is essentail if you need fuel in the middle of the night. Have a good mix of things you enjoy. Dark chocolate is the healthier option of the cocoa world, but this isn’t the time to berate yourself if all you fancy is a Mars bar. 

You might also want to pack a takeaway menu (thanks to mum Celia Stanworth for the suggestion) and mum, Gemma Bailey, recommends remembering to bring some change for the vending machine - a backup plan is always useful! 

Our #Mumtribe mums share their experience:
  • 'I recommend snacks and a magazine for after as you may not feel like getting up and about and def some snacks for dad.' - Sarah Elizabeth,
  • '{Bring} something to eat overnight... I know everything you read says to pack snacks but you really do need them - I can’t believe how hungry I was after giving birth!' - Emma Dart 
  • '{I had} jelly babies...tea and toast didn’t hit the spot...needed all the sugar!' - Grace Ellen 
Expand Image

7) Lavender wheat bag

They are amazing for relieving tension, and can be placed over your eyes, face or lower back. A hot water bottle can perform the same function for the lower back, easing pain and tension. They’re great postnatally too if you’re on the ward, as a lavender wheat bag over the eyes will help to send you to a zen place. You can buy Violet Lavender Wheat Bags on Amazon here.
Expand Image

8) Entertainment

You never know how long your labour will last or how long you'll be in the hospital for, so packing an iPod or downloading playlists, podcasts, games or books is a must. 

Also, guided meditation or hypnobirthing relaxation downloaded onto your phone, is a must. Think about enjoyable distractions. Games that don't take too much effort, or a bespoke music playlist or birthing playlist.

Mobile internet + tablet + Youtube = unlimited comedy shows! Perfect to keep you laughing and those happy endorphins flowing. 
Expand Image

9) Pillows

Small touches such as a pillow can be a great way to remind yourself of home comforts. #Mumtribe mum, Laura Bratherton, noted this as one of the key things she took in her hospital bag, as it allowed her to soften into labour and feel more relaxed in a totally unfamiliar environment. 

Laura also highlighted the need for different types of pillows: 'I also didn’t take my feeding pillow first time round, which would’ve been a huge help. I did get a spare one in the hospital but would’ve preferred my own.'

Cushions are also a huge practical help, as Kelly McDonald, mum of six can vouch; 'The hospital room chairs are so uncomfortable,' Kelly warns. She'd recommend a 'big fat comfy cushion to sit on when not in the bed after the birth.' Think of that sore underside!

Bringing your pregnancy pillow can also provide extra comfort when you need it. If you don't yet have a pregnancy pillow, check out our guide here to see if they are for you. 
Expand Image

10) Baby wipes

While you might have already packed some in your baby bag, making sure you have an extra pack is a good idea! They're great for you to use if you need them, but if you run out you don't have to worry about popping to the shops!

These wipes are especially great as they're 100% natural, made of 99% purified water with Aloe Vera. They're super soft and gentle on skin too, so you might want to take a few with you on the bathroom trips instead of using toilet roll! 
Expand Image

11) Portable charger

It's not always easy to find a plug for your phone in a hospital, so make sure you pack a fully charged portable charger.

You’ll be so busy taking photos of your new arrival and answering congratulation texts, you might not realise your phone is running low on charge. That said, a few of you recommended taking a camera as well, just in case the inevitable does happen! We found this portable charger on Amazon for £19.99.
Expand Image

12) Lightweight dressing gown

Or some kind of robe you can throw on if you’re birthing in a pool, or if you have a few days’ stay at hospital and you’re going to the loo and back a lot.

Midwife expert Lesley recomends taking your dressing gown as it "introduces your baby to comforting smells and friendly bacteria."
Expand Image

13) Open front pyjamas

Anything you feel really comfy and cosy in, with a high, loose waistband and easy access for breastfeeding. You need to feel comfortable. Dark colours are best - it’s maybe not the time for your Cath Kidston flowery white stuff, as you never know what kind of bodily fluids from you and your baby are going to be spilling all over it.

You might fluctuate between being boiling and being a bit chilly, so have something that’s easy to take on and off, or maybe bring yourself a scarf you can throw over your shoulders for those chilly moments. Lucy Coe, #mumtribe mum, said 'some nice new PJs' were essential for her hospital bag. 
Expand Image

14) Dark towels

We'll just leave this one at that.
Expand Image

15) Big pants

Always think big with the knickers. You’ll need to have wear maternity pads for a while after your baby is born, and if you’ve had a C-section you really don’t want anything touching the scar area. Granny pants a go-go!

Our #Mumtribe mums agreed:
  • Erin Kyle - 'Maternity C section pants were a must. I was advised just to buy cheap bigger sized pants from ASDA & they were so uncomfortable.'
  • Catherine Dobson Hasnain - ‘M&S maxi pants were the bomb for post c section. But black knicks in case of leaks....’
  • Sophie Knight ‘Massive pants - 'If you have a c-section you need the biggest ones M&S sells.’
Expand Image

16) Handheld fan

Multiple mums recommended bringing a handheld fan, especially if you are giving birth in the summer, as wards can get incredibly hot. Try and get a quiet one too, in case you need to use it in the night. We recommend this portable fan from Amazon.
Expand Image

17) Comfy slippers

They’re much nicer than flip flops, as even if it’s the middle of summer, the floors might be chilly as you’re pottering around the postnatal ward, and it’s another nice item to make you feel at home.
Expand Image

18) Nipple creams

You may not feel sore with the initial stages of breastfeeding in hospital if your baby takes to it like a pro, but you’ll need lots of it during your breastfeeding journey anyway, so it’s best to have it to hand. 

Mums Iwona Bijak and Helen Cordell also recommend two of the creams and balms that feature in our shortlist of the best nipple creams.

Iwona loved 'Multi-Mam Sore Nipples Compresses and Multi-Mam Nipple Balm' as 'both do not need to be washed prior to feeding.'
Helen noted, 'definitely Lanisnoh lanolin nipple cream'
Expand Image

19) Ear plugs

Postnatal wards aren’t generally that peaceful, and don’t worry about not hearing your baby cry. We have a sixth sense for these things. Earplugs might just allow you a bit of valuable rest.
Expand Image

20) Frozen Ribena

Any drink you can have through a straw is a good idea. Chuck loads of cartons of Ribena in the freezer in the days before you go to hospital, then when the moment comes to go to hospital, throw them in the bag. They’ll be cold and refreshing throughout your labour, and it’s useful to have drinks with a straw so that if needs be, your partner can help you to drink and you can be hands-free.
If there are any left over once the baby is born, it’s great for making sure you keep hydrated and keeping your blood sugar levels up.
Expand Image

21) Maternity pads

A common one mums mentioned, although most of you will already have these on your list, you might be surprised by how many you go through during labour itself, so pack some extra ones to get you home!

When we asked Clemmie Hooper, midwife, mum of four and author of ‘How to Grow a Baby and Push It Out’ this question, she recommended mums looked for incontinence pants with a built in pad. Although they may make you feel like you’re wearing an adult nappy, they’re far comfier than pads and you can just throw them away.  

Otherwise, mums recommended opting for tenna pads over maternity pads, as many found them less likely to leak (and much cheaper) than the pregnancy targeted pads.
Expand Image

22) Mints

Many mums told us the gas and air left a horrible taste in their mouths, so a pack of polos could be a good addition to your hospital bag.

Giovanna Fletcher also packed mint essential oil for her third birthing experience, simply applying to a tissue and keeping it nearby, to give a refreshing lift when needed. 
Expand Image

23) Your birth plan and hospital notes

Having these packed away in your hospital bag means you won't forget them if you suddenly go into labour. 

Lesley Gilchrist said: "Having your notes handy will mean your doctors and wider medical team will know your history easily, whilst your birth plan gives a clear idea of what’s important to you and how you’d ideally like the birth to be."

Anything else I might need?

It's good to think about any contact numbers or information you may wish to have to hand, such as: 

  • your doula's phone number
  • contact details for your hospital, or the doctor, nurse or midwife you have been in contact with 
  • your partner (or birth partner's) phone number
  • your NHS reference number
  • phone numbers for support, such as the NCT parent support helpline: 0300 330 0700

Try and have a writen copy of any key numbers or information in case your phone dies - or if you have a phone charger block and can be sure you'll always have a charged phone to hand, you can save some trees and keep these on your device. 

Tips for packing your hospital bag:

1) Use it as part of your ‘nesting process’

“Packing your hospital bag – or ‘birthing bag’ if you’re planning on a home birth, it’s still good to have all your gear ready and available somewhere – can be a wonderful part of the nesting process, allowing you to positively visualise what is shortly going to be happening,” says Hayes. “It’s a ritual to get you into the mindset for your impending motherhood. It’s a great way of channelling your organising instincts, and allowing any jitters a space to calm.”

2) Get your birthing partner to pack the bag

Hayes recommends first gathering together and laying out all of the things in your hospital bag list that you want to pack. “You can pack the bag yourself if it helps you in terms of nesting and ritual,” she says. “But then, unpack and get your birth partner to pack the bag. They are the ones who will be unpacking it to find things while you’re otherwise engaged during your labour, or lying in bed with your newborn. It’s useful and less stressful for everyone if they have an awareness of what and where on earth it all is.”

3) Get organised!

She also recommends having one maternity hospital bag for your own birthing and postnatal things, and another just for the baby, to make it easier for rummaging purposes. But if you don't manage to get all these items, don't worry.

“Don’t fret too much about the hospital bag,” Hayes adds. “We live in the modern world, so you can always get someone to nip out and buy things you’ve forgotten if you need them.

“It’s more a good nesting ritual to help you to visualise bringing your newborn into the world. Always try to get into a calm mindset when you think about packing it, and never worry about not having something that you hear is ‘essential’.”

What should my birth partner pack?

Whoever will be with you on the day, be it your other half, relative, friend or other, they may wish to prepare a few things to bring as well. The highlights are below, or check out our full list of suggestions here

  • Give your birth partner the responsibility of preparing a birthing music playlist. Most delivery rooms will allow you to play your own music which can really make a difference. Anything that soothes your soul, have it to hand: playlists that make you happy and that you associate with good memories and times where you felt supported, loved and safe.
  • An iPad loaded with films and box sets, as labour can be tedious.
  • Books and newspapers to read during any times where there might be a lull in action.
  • TENS machine, if you’re using one: practise how to put it on first, as you don’t want any fiddling around with the pads while you actually could do with reaping the benefits.
  • Snacks and drinks: it can be tricky for a birth partner because they might feel they don’t “deserve” any time off to go out and refuel if you’ve been in hospital for a while. Have a stash of nibbles. Click here for some suggestions.  
  • Make sure you remember to pack a toothbrush and some toothpaste so you can both freshen up if you’re in hospital for a while.
  • Your birth partner may well need a fresh pair of pants and a change of T-shirt if your home isn’t on an easy trip from the hospital. We tend to forget about birth partners but they’re less likely to be allowed to have a shower and so on, so even packing some deodorant – that you can both use – will mean that you’re slightly more prepared for an extended stay in hospital.
  • You'll see a lot of activity on your phone, with texts and calls from excited and anxious family and friends waiting for the big news. While you both might have your phones in your pocket or bag, don’t forget to pack a charger so the battery has plenty of juice for the huge announcement!
  • We rely so much on our phones for cameras these days, but don’t take any chances and pack a camera to record your baby’s precious first moments in the world.

Make life easy! Print off our handy checklist now: 

hospital bag checklist


Related Content

Related content: