Hospital Bag Packing: What Did We Miss?

Alternate title: 36th Week Pregnancy Update

Photo of gear packed on our living room floor. Labels and arrows have been applied that read: mom and dad's suitcase, daughter's suitcase, daughter's inflatable bed, rubber chicken, still and video camera and tripod, travel mug and a fanny pack with food.

Thursday evening my wife and I attended a birthing class.

While other couples learned visualization techniques to cope with pain, I was pushing on my wife’s lower back to help her cope with real contractions that were coming every five minutes.

I would have had us stay home, but my wife figured, hey, it’s a pain coping class and she’s in pain. Let’s go.

Little Miss 3-year-old stayed at a friend’s house.

After the class, my wife’s hospital coworkers passive-aggressively urged her into having her cervix checked. She was only 1 centimeter, a far cry from the 4 centimeters required to stay at the hospital. We went home and an hour later the contractions began to dwindle.

Friday went by uneventfully.

My wife woke up at 4 a.m. Saturday to more contractions every 3 to 5 minutes and by 8 a.m. we were convinced today was the day. We began packing for the hospital and called our support team.

With our daughter’s birth, the team was myself and my wife’s friend. This time we’ve added a doula. Some "involved" dads get defensive at the thought of their wife wanting outside help, but I figure this is her ordeal and if she wants me dancing in a dress and wig, I’ll dance in a dress and wig. Luckily, she only asked for a rubber chicken (yeah, I’ll explain that one after the boy is born).

Our plan was to bring 3-year-old Little Miss to the hospital with us and see how long she lasts with a cadre of solo activities. With 3 people tending my wife, Little Miss would get a good share of attention. If the plan backfired, she would be shuttled to one of her little friend’s homes.

Shucks. Still at home, my wife was in bed listening to Enya when the contractions began slowing and by 10 a.m. the birthday was called off.

Is Enya to blame? *cough* Maybe not. Just before Enya, I was in the garage wrestling with our infant car seat and I had my wife come out to help from the other side of the car (it’s a little tough fitting two seats side-by-side).

She dropped something she had grabbed inside the car, bent over to pick it up, felt a sharp pain, and from there the contractions began to subside. Her theory is that she displaced Baby X, popping him off of her cervix and up out of the pelvis. Who knows.

It’s all good though because the baby is due March 22 and we have a week to go before he’s full term.

In any case, here are the items we packed in a semi-relaxed hurry that morning. Did we miss anything?


  • Mom: clothes to come home in.
  • Mom: pajamas, underwear, nursing bra.
  • Mom: Flip flops (she’ll actually wear them to the hospital).
  • Dad: one change of clothes (unless the hospital is busy, we’ll have a room with a second bed).
  • Two going-home baby outfits (premie and regular)


  • Still camera
  • Video camera
  • Tripod

Music CDs (the hospital has a player):

Address book – We also wrote a short contact list, but you always forget someone.

Travel mug.

Toiletry bag – routine stuff, plus Arnica pain reliever (homeopathic, similar to ibuprofen).

Fanny Pack filled with nonperishable foods:

  • Instant oatmeal packets
  • Single serving apple sauce, peaches, mandarin oranges and cheese rounds.
  • Various energy bars
  • 3 bananas
  • Tea bags
  • Bag of assorted dried fruit
  • Carton of hardboiled eggs. My wife ate hardboiled eggs during our first birth.
  • Container of expressed breast milk just in case

Food is a big deal because our rural hospital’s cafeteria has a limited menu on weekends and closes at 3 p.m. (4 p.m. on weekdays).

Toiletry bag (routine stuff, plus lip balm and hand sanitizer).

Rubber chicken.

Little Miss: Inflatable bed with blanket and travel lovey.

Little Miss’ Suitcase:

  • Two sets of clothing and pajamas.
  • Travel toiletries
  • 1 tracing book for lowercase letters
  • 1 coloring book
  • 1 sticker book
  • 1 writing tablet
  • Color pencils
  • Crazy Eights card deck

Not packed: our birth plan. My wife feels our first birth plan over idealized our daughter’s birth, getting her wrapped up in what was written instead of helping her go with the flow.

There are two things she will remember to insist upon with the birth of our son:

  1. A sign posted on the outside of the door instructing all who enter to wash their hands. It’s a bit reassuring because everyone does wash their hands upon entering the room.
  2. No formula. If my wife has a c-section and is in surgery, the nurses will feed the baby with what’s available. So, they need to know we’ve brought our own expressed breast milk.

Are there any key items we missed that you found useful during your birth experience?


33 Responses to “Hospital Bag Packing: What Did We Miss?”

  1. Wendy says:

    Don’t forget:
    Hemmeroid pads (like Tucks or some such)

    Your own favorite menstrual pad (you’ll be glad to have YOUR OWN BRAND even if you only use it when you head home!)

    Socks… I packed slippers, but honestly, my feet were cold a lot of the time, and you want clean socks (things do drip, so 2-3 pairs never hurt, if you have the room)

    I also packed a snack bag just for my husband (stuff I wouldn’t be tempted by) and a separate snack bag for me (after delivery).

    February 25th, 2008 at 1:48 am

  2. Inki says:

    I don’t know if the hospital provides diapers for the baby, but you might want to bring your own if you have a particular preference. Also, several outfits for the baby since they tend to be messy :-) (Again, I don’t know what your particular hospital provides, especially for taking the baby home with you)

    I brought reading material (for the time after the birth), but found myself so exhausted after all-night labor and distracted by looking at my new baby that I hardly read for the two days I was there!

    Good luck!

    February 25th, 2008 at 5:06 am

  3. Caro says:

    A few serious towels, outside your bag, near your wife in the car, just in case her water breaks en route. :) As you probably know, that can be a real mess.

    I think that the main thing I’ll bring this time that I didn’t bring last time would be some DVDs/videos. (I’m thinking ones of shows that I’ve already seen but don’t mind watching again.) I had some long, rather boring, bits of labor last time but I was too distracted/tired/uncomfortable to really hold a conversation for long or read. Of course, if I bring these things next time, I won’t need them. But that’s good too.

    Oh yeah, and chargers/extra batteries for all of those things you mentioned bringing.

    February 25th, 2008 at 5:56 am

  4. Jody says:

    I am curious where you were able to obtain expressed breast-milk.

    February 25th, 2008 at 6:36 am

  5. thordora says:

    Books/magazines for afterwards…although if your daughter is there, she won’t have the same type of relax time I grabbed.

    We didn’t bring anything compared to you guys! Camera, change of clothes, baby clothes and some snacks. Even that annoyed me. :)

    Good luck making it to full term. March 9 is a lovely birthday!

    February 25th, 2008 at 6:55 am

  6. Robin says:

    My 3-year-old son attended the birth of our 4-week-old son and he brought and used his toddler camera. I brought a nursing pillow and a robe for myself and baby nail clippers, all of which I used. We brought a inflatable travel bed for my son, which he used, but in the end he preferred sleeping in the same bed as my husband. My husband and son ate whatever I packed for them in advance–brazil nuts, pistachios, dried fruit, etc. Good Luck!

    February 25th, 2008 at 7:55 am

  7. JMo says:

    Oral B brush-ups – the fingertip tooth brushes. Brush your teeth/freshen your mouth without getting out of bed.

    February 25th, 2008 at 8:00 am

  8. Jessica G. says:

    I liked having my own pillow from home with both of my births.

    Bring two sizes of “going home” outfits for the babe. No matter what they say, NOBODY is a professional when it comes to guessing the weight of your baby prior to arrival. My last one was a shocking (to the doctor & midwife) 10 lbs 2.5 oz. Not a C-section. I felt so justified in my months of discomfort! She looked like a stuffed sausage in her 0-3 month outfit.

    February 25th, 2008 at 8:21 am

  9. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    A blanket for the baby coming home with!

    I thought I had EVERYTHING packed but forgot the blanket. Luckily we got given one by one of our visitors.

    February 25th, 2008 at 8:22 am

  10. Kathleen says:

    Batteries and chargers…..Batteries and chargers….
    We had charged our video cam but it ended up dying just as I started the “good’ pushing. GRRRRR!! Everything ended up on still pics because we forgot the charger at home. Thanks God we remembered the extra batteries for the still cam :)

    February 25th, 2008 at 9:00 am

  11. Cindi Hoppes says:

    Hi, I think most hospital send mothers home so quickly, I really don’t remember needing much. I entered the hospital both times. Delivered my sons, and got a “little” rest and was sent home! Cindi

    February 25th, 2008 at 9:04 am

  12. Katie says:

    One thing I found really useful is all the handouts from my breastfeeding class. Maybe that is more for first time moms, but I was very glad I brought those.

    I also recommend Sigur Ros as relaxation music.

    I also agree with the earlier poster who said a pillow from home. Those hospital pillows are pathetic.

    February 25th, 2008 at 11:04 am

  13. Erica says:

    I second and third most of the stuff the others said. I also brought my iPod video, which my lovely husband filled with my favorite movies and episodes of Friends, because I didn’t want to be bored and our antiquated rooms had only (gasp!) VHS. If you have the iPod but don’t wanna pay iTunes for the movies, there’s a free program online that lets you rip your own movies into the right format to put on your iPod. It was a lifesaver, especially during those 3 am feedings. :o)

    February 25th, 2008 at 11:08 am

  14. Marjorie says:

    I cannot sleep without my own pillow from my house. I know most pregnancy/delivery books say not to bring your own pillow because it will get dirty and yuck and if you are worried about that get it out after the birth but I kept my own pillow on the bed with me at all times, it smelled like home and kept me comfortable and I loved it (and it didn’t get dirty at all).

    February 25th, 2008 at 11:17 am

  15. AJ says:

    (Thinga-dad here…)

    Oops, correction, we did pack 2 going-home outfits, a premie and a regular.

    Pillows, we’ll definitely bring one or two.

    The baby care kit is another good one. We used a baby hair brush when giving our daughter a sink bath while still at the hospital.

    I won’t worry about videos and books. Spare time will be consumed by our daughter. (Plus, we canceled cable last year in our TV weaning process, so having cable again would be enough of a treat.)

    Jody, we obtained the expressed breast milk from two sources, a friend and my wife. You don’t get much milk before birth, but it adds up if you do it every day and freeze every week (by hand, because a pump stimulates the nipple and could induce labor).

    February 25th, 2008 at 11:50 am

  16. Ed Bacchus says:

    Blank stationary for baby footprints after birth. THe nurses will do it for you.

    February 25th, 2008 at 12:10 pm

  17. ericafromamerica says:

    my water broke at 1:20am. i showered then packed my bag. we were at the hospital by 2:40am. you are so prepared! everything covered…

    February 25th, 2008 at 2:04 pm

  18. adrienne says:

    Phone list or email directory… if not already in your cell phone.


    Notepad and pen… I had the worst time trying to remember who dropped off which gift at the hospital when I later tried write thank yous.

    Pipe cleaners- compact and versatile fun.

    Breast pump flanges, etc. (if you have a hospital compatible pump like Medela).

    February 25th, 2008 at 3:07 pm

  19. Chief Family Officer says:

    I definitely hope you (er, I mean your wife and the baby) hit full term! High on our list of priorities the second time around was plenty of snacks for my husband, which you seem to have covered. We would have been okay with just food and a camera, since my husband could always go home and get whatever we needed after the baby was born.

    Maybe I missed it, but one thing my friend did was get gifts for the kids to give each other after the birth, to help ease the transition for her son (he was 2 1/2 at the time).

    Good luck!

    February 25th, 2008 at 7:41 pm

  20. Stacey says:

    Your own brand of pads are a must….the hospital ones are like having a couch pillow between your legs!

    Change or small bills for vending snacks. Our hospital closed the cafeteria early too and I was craving a sweet that we didn’t bring :o)

    I used homeopathy to help me recover from my c birth of my twins. I have a great book that really helped. When the kids are not sleeping I will fish it out of the nursery and send you the name.

    Good luck!

    February 25th, 2008 at 7:47 pm

  21. Hope says:

    After the birth of my first child, I wanted food so badly. It was a long labor, and they dont let you eat once you get there. I was all for sending out my husband for a huge cheeseburger and fries, but my mother would only let me eat dried fruit. (apples, apricots, prunes) Boy did I thank her the next day, when all the women were complaining how much it hurt to use the washroom after giving birth, especially if they tore. I followed her advice the second time around too, and had no problems either time.

    (I actually had to hide the stool softener pill that the nurse tried to make me take, she couldnt believe that I didnt need it.)

    February 25th, 2008 at 8:20 pm

  22. Allie says:

    Long time reader, first time poster. I’m glad to see that the baby is so close to being full term. I’ve delivered 3 times & always brought a deck of cards. It was good to have them during long labors & later when I couldn’t sleep. Good luck!

    February 26th, 2008 at 12:18 am

  23. Lisa says:

    Hello there!

    At the time my Sophie came around our son was 14 mths old. A friend of mine had insisted that she have him over for a night. We were apprehensive. Our son was always with us, but in the end we took her up on it. My husband stayed with me (over night) while the baby came and then went back in the morning to pick up my son. I was sort of happy for the mini vacation. My husband and son stayed home the next few nights and I didn’t like this idea at first but again, i was happy to have the very first (and) few precious moments with my newborn daughter. I wanted her to myself without all the distractions…..that mini vacay was nice too.

    I would say don’t forget to bring the breast feeding pillow. I used the My Brest Friend one which was a huge lifesaver. I would second the socks. I also had a lavender plug in air freshener and a silly, no need to think mag, like People……just to pass the time.

    OH RIGHT and if you have a birth record book, bring that for the footprints or an extra sheet of paper for them to print it on so that you can eventually paste it in there……

    February 26th, 2008 at 1:17 pm

  24. kelli says:

    Bring a pen. I had a bunch of things that I needed to write down (lists of this and that, people who visited, quick notes of thanks, notations for how many wet diapers, etc.) and no pen.

    In fact, maybe a box of pens for the nurse’s station…

    I also had a ring that I transferred from hand to hand to mark the breastfeeding “start” side. It was something that I really found helpful.

    February 26th, 2008 at 5:46 pm

  25. RobMonroe says:

    Hope I’m not too late, but what helped my wife was jokes. (okay, it mostly worked to relieve tension between contractions)

    Here are the ones I shared with her during labor:
    She says in retrospect that it was fun to have them around, though I was warned by co-workers in advance that I would be a dead man!

    We also brought fresh fruit for ourselves and for the hospital staff. They get so much junk food in apreciation that they really liked our “gift” of fruit.

    February 27th, 2008 at 7:56 am

  26. Kelly says:

    We took our baby book and had all our visitors and our nurses sign it at the hospital. I would also take a size or two larger black cotton underwear. We also zeroed in on the little kitchen that our hospital had and used their stock of fruit juices, popsicles and jello and pudding. If they don’t have that, ask if there is a fridge and have someone bring the food mama wants for post-birth meal and stash it.

    February 27th, 2008 at 10:15 am

  27. Darby says:

    Well, in my bag that is currently packed and sitting on the kitchen floor, ready to be whisked up and into the car at any moment, there are a few other items you may want to consider:

    -extra batteries or chargers for cell phones, cameras, laptop, etc.
    -ipod and headphones
    -gatorade (I need to keep hydrated and plain water or cranberry juice provided by the hospital just doesn’t cut it. After all, I always drank gatorade when playing a strenuous sport, why wouldn’t I for labor?)
    -bath robe
    -nursing pads
    -chocolate (to reward myself when the nurses aren’t looking. Not sure if I’ll actually want to eat it, but it seemed like a good idea when I packed it.)
    -junk magazines and crossword puzzle book
    -my Hypnobirthing book

    By the way, have you or your wife checked out

    February 28th, 2008 at 8:30 am

  28. MetaMommy says:

    Because I had a C-Section, I was only allowed to eat ice chips the first day. And the nicely redone maternity wing in the hospital had no cafeteria. The closest cafeteria was a block away, and had hours as bad as yours. So be sure to bring food for yourself. Sandwich? Peanut butter & jelly? Another trick a nurse showed us was that when I ordered food for the day (selections made all at once the day before), I could sneak in a bunch of extra food to let my husband nibble. For example, breakfast could be pancakes, eggs, toast, coffee, juice, fruit.

    Personally, we got no use out of our DVDs, but I could have used a nursing pillow. As for pillows from home, I took one and never even looked at it.

    Laptop came in handy. Set up the email beforehand (e.g., recipients), upload the photos once ready, add fun details, and send. My husband, a self-professed geek, couldn’t wait to get the email out.

    If applicable, glasses. If you or your wife uses contacts, your eyes are going to be far too tired to use them while you’re there.

    I was really happy we took the birth plan and gave it to the nurse because they had a list of things that concerned us that in the stress of things, we forgot. For example, “We would like MetaDaddy to remain with MetaMommy at all times, unless the baby has to be removed from her presence. In that case, MetaDaddy would like to remain with the baby.”

    February 28th, 2008 at 10:40 am

  29. Amber says:

    I know its been said but the things we didn’t bring that we needed the most were comfy pillows. My husband wound up sleeping on my nursing pillow or either one of those thin plastic covered hospital pillows. He also forgot shampoo so his mom had to bring in some. Also glasses if your wife wears contacts..

    February 28th, 2008 at 7:53 pm

  30. Amy says:

    - Chapstick
    - My own pillow – it didn’t get dirty
    - Several pairs of socks – I got two pairs wet in the labor process!
    - Baby book – for footprints and visitor list
    - Little notepad for gifts, visitors list
    - Good music CDS – I brought all relaxation noes, but in the moment, I wanted Mandisa! and so other good upbeat stuff to cheer me on -go figure!

    February 29th, 2008 at 11:59 am

  31. Carol says:

    Blanket for going home —
    Chocolate/candy for the nurses station —
    and a gift from “thing 2 (baby)” to give t “thing 1 (Little Miss).” My daughter gave her big brother a Finding Nemo DVD.

    March 3rd, 2008 at 12:17 pm

  32. Kerstin says:

    So, was she able to express the milk before having the baby? Or was she still breastfeeding your daughter? Forgive me if you’ve gone over this elsewhere–I’m new to your site!

    March 30th, 2008 at 8:35 am

  33. AJ says:

    Our daughter was breastfed until almost her second birthday.

    My wife expressed the milk this time around with her fingers. She says it’s more effective than a pump before birth because you don’t have much milk and can achieve a deeper compression. Also, a pump stimulates your nipples which you don’t want to do unless you’re trying to bring on labor.

    March 30th, 2008 at 9:26 am

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