A Nurse’s Guide to Packing Your Hospital Bag

Most pregnant women tend to over-pack when packing your hospital bag, and nobody wants to lug around a giant bag of unnecessary items if they don’t have to! As an OB nurse, I have seen what women cannot live without, what hospitals normally supply and what items tend to stay in the bag. Here is a guide for soon to be Mamas for what you should pack for your labour, delivery and postpartum journey.

What to Bring When Packing Your Hospital Bag:

Your Pillow!

Let me be frank – sleeping on a hospital pillow is like sleeping on a bag of bricks. This is my NUMBER ONE recommended thing to bring when packing your hospital bag! You will want to make sure you are able to sleep like a baby (pun intended) when you finally get the chance to get some shut-eye.

Chapstick, Gum & Gatorade

Being in labour sucks. Having dry lips while being in labour? The worst! Most new moms who don’t bring chapstick regret it. Labour wards tend to be as dry as the Mojave Desert, so chapstick, gum and Gatorade will be your buddies during labour and beyond.

Yummy Snacks

Pack a couple protein bars with fibre for late night snacking and you will not regret it. Breastfeeding requires you to eat a lot more (roughly 500 extra calories) and you will be ravenous after labour. It’s always good to have an alternative option at hand if you’re not a big fan of the hospitals menu selection! A couple snacks won’t take up much room when packing your hospital bag.

A Nursing Pillow

If you have one that you are hoping to use later on, why not start breastfeeding on the right foot and use it while in hospital? Learning to nurse in a hospital bed can be difficult, especially after a c-section. A nursing pillow can be a big back saver and help with correct positioning while you and baby figure each other out.

Lanolin Ointment

This is a must if you are planning to breastfeed. Lanolin cream can be applied to your nipples after each feed to prevent cracking and pain. Slathering it on in the beginning will do wonders for to your breastfeeding experience and it is safe for baby to ingest so there is no need to wipe it off. Another option is to express some colostrum (it has healing properties) onto your nipples and let them air dry after feeding baby.

Hygiene Products

Having a shower postpartum is the one thing that makes women feel human after giving birth. Though hospitals will supply body wash and shampoo, it won’t be what you’re used to. Bring your own travel sized shampoo, body wash, and loofahs that you can throw away after your discharge. Trust me, it will make you feel like you are in a Scandinavian spa compared to how you felt after delivering your baby. You will also want to pack essential hygiene products like your toothbrush and toothpaste, a couple hair ties, deodorant, a razor, make up, glasses or contact solution and case and a moisturizer.

User-Friendly Baby Clothes

You don’t need to go crazy here. I would recommend bringing a couple of sleepers, hats and onesies and a “going home” outfit if you want. The sleepers with fold over mittens are fantastic so you don’t need to worry about mittens falling off. You may want to bring both newborn and three month sizes just in case. Newborn babies are ridiculously hard to get clothes onto and hate being cold, so leave the adorable, inefficient clothing contraptions at home when packing your hospital bag. By this I mean overalls, pants, dresses, and anything else that doesn’t have snaps to change diapers. Babies at this age only do four things: Sleep, cry, feed and poop. You will want to dress them accordingly. You will want a favourite baby blanket or car seat coverall for the ride home if the weather is chilly.

Comfortable Clothes for Mom

Make sure you dress for comfort – yoga pants will be your best friend for the next couple of weeks. Make sure you bring a couple of nursing bras and tops to make feeding easier. You shouldn’t need to worry about nursing pads unless you have an extended stay at the hospital as your milk won’t come in until day three or so. Bring a pair of slippers or flip flops that you can take off and on easily and that you won’t mind throwing out. They will come in handy both when you are pacing the halls with contractions and with a fussy baby. A robe may also be a good idea since hospital gowns conveniently are open in the back!

A Portable DVD Player

I know, I know. You and your partner should be spending quality time with your newborn baby, not watching movies right? I agree that parents need to be attentive to their infants. However, sometimes newborn babies sleep… a lot. Hospitals are not very exciting places, and buying TV and Wi-Fi access can be pricey. My husband and I wished we brought one of these babies to zone out to when we had a bit of quiet time, even if it was just for a short while. Make sure you also pack your cell phone charger, cell phone, camera and tablet as well.

Diapers and Wipes

You only need to bring a couple just in case you run out in the middle of the night (you can also ring the nurses as we are available 24/7) and for the ride home. A couple newborn and size one diapers of your liking will suffice!

Depends and Always Infinity Maxi Pads

OK, hear me out. I have heard from a couple different sources that this combination is the best way to deal with the first few weeks of bleeding. Once you get used to wearing an adult diaper (and learn to disregard your spouses jokes), you will notice the benefits right away. With this combo you won’t have to worry about staining your personal underwear or feeling weighed down by bulky pads that don’t stay in place. Winning! You should just need a pair for the way home as pads will be supplied while in hospital. (If you don’t feel comfortable wearing these, feel free to bring whatever pad you would like!)

Car Seat

In this day and age this should be a given. In order to discharge your baby from hospital, nurses will need to check out your car seat and make sure that baby is strapped in properly prior to leaving. If you’re unsure how to put baby in and adjust the car seat, they will be a great resource to you!

nurse's guide to packing your hospital bag

What Will the Hospital Provide During Your Stay? Don’t Worry About These Items When Packing Your Hospital Bag!

Amazing Stretchy Underpants!

Though they are not made by Victoria’s Secret by any means, the stretchy underwear hospitals give out are one size and get the job done! These are super comfortable, especially for post C-section Mamas.

Pads… Lots and Lots of Pads

I recommend doubling up pads the first couple of days, which means you will go through a lot of pads. Most hospitals will give you a hefty amount and you can always ask for more.

Ice Pads. Say What? 

You heard me. A lot of OB departments will soak pads in water, wrap them up and freeze them. You can use them like regular pads, but are also the perfect solution to the inevitable postpartum swelling and/or tearing down under. These frozen pads will make sitting while nursing at least tolerable when you have a third degree tear. Ice packs work too but they’re not as exciting.


At the minimum you will be wanting to take a prenatal vitamin, pain reliever (Tylenol), anti-inflammatory (Advil) and stool softener. Even if you are taking your own prescribed medication at home, be aware that nurses will want to keep track of what you’re taking while you’re in the hospital for liability purposes. Still having a lot of pain? Make sure to tell your nurse and she will do her best to make you comfortable.

A Peri Bottle

A peri bottle is used to spray warm water on your perineal area before and while you go pee. Doing so will reduce pain and burning if you have swelling or sutures in place.

Baby Products 

Hospitals generally will cover everything you will need to take care of baby while you are there, so there is not need to bring a giant pack of diapers with you. Baby shampoo, Vaseline for sticky meconium poos), diapers, wipes and more are usually provided.

If you want to be sure what your hospital provides feel free to call the L&D or ask at your next prenatal appointment what will be supplied during your stay.

Did I miss anything vital to bring along when packing your hospital bag for labour & delivery? Help us all out by leaving a comment below! Happy labouring, Mamas!


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Hi! I am a Registered Nurse on a unit that encompasses labour and delivery, postpartum, medical, surgical and palliative care in a rural hospital in Ontario, Canada. I am a mom of two and am passionate about women's rights, mom and infant care, parenting and nursing. I hope to create an educational, entertaining and highly relatable resource for women around the world. Thanks for stopping by! Xo, The Mama Nurse

12 thoughts on “A Nurse’s Guide to Packing Your Hospital Bag

  • December 7, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Hi, Great tips I found them very useful.

  • June 12, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    I don’t know what went wrong with my hospital (in London, Ontario) but they gave me one pad for free and then I had to pay for any more after that and they were ridiculously priced. I was not impressed.

    • June 12, 2016 at 10:27 pm

      That is so strange I am from London and had my baby at victoria it was an endless supply for whenever I needed them. My baby girl is only two! I guess maybe it depends on what nurse you have and what kind of mood they are in lol!

  • June 13, 2016 at 6:05 am

    I delivered both my children in Hamilton, Ontario & the nurses are SO greedy with their supplies. When my son was sick & I had to supplement with formula they would make the women (not a family member, not even my spouse) get up every single time, walk to the nurses station & walk back. After just giving birth with a crying baby this was such a stress in our life, especially if you were set on breastfeeding. It saddens me a little every time I had to ask for formula. They also did the same with diapers/wipes. My biggest tip would be keep a box of formula, diapers & wipes at your door (you don’t want the formula sitting in the car for a week or two but diapers & wipes go in our trunk early on now) just make sure you put the formula in the trunk on your way out haha! A single manual breast pump which is quite small isn’t a horrible thing to throw in your bag either, at our hospital people are practically fighting to get one of the many limited breast pumps if needed as they only have 2 for the entire hospital!

  • June 17, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    I would actually suggest bringing nursing pads. I know you said your milk won’t come in for a few days but with my first baby I was very surprised when I woke up the very next morning after giving birth and had a soaked hospital gown. My milk tends to come in quickly and I found myself without nursing pads. It wasn’t pleasant! Be on the safe side and pack a few.

  • June 24, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    Thanks for these tips! My wife’s due next week and I want to be able to help her as much as I can. 🙂

  • July 6, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Thank you so much for this!
    Extremely helpful for me 🙂

    Britt from Ottawa

    • July 13, 2016 at 7:33 am

      Thanks for your comment Britt, I’m glad it is helpful to you 🙂

  • Pingback: A Nurse's Guide to What's Actually Happens During the Postpartum Period

  • August 28, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Awesome post ! Really Yoga pants are best friend for mom!
    Thanks very very informative and useful post…………


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