If this is your first pregnancy, labor can be very unpredictable. Even if you’ve done this multiple times before, you may still feel nervous as the big day approaches. Knowing what to pack in your labor bag can help you to feel comfortable during your stay and ensure you have everything you need when your little one arrives.
Start by contacting your obstetrician or midwife before packing your bag and get a copy of the labor department’s labor packing and tour guide. What to pack in your labor bag will include things like comfortable clothes, toiletries, nursing supplies, recovery items, baby necessities, even snacks, based on your birthing center and plan.
Depending on where you give birth, there may be some things already available for you at the hospital or birthing center. There may also be a list of items the hospital encourages you NOT to bring. Furthermore, I’ve created a list of items I found extremely helpful during my birthing center stay. Continue reading for an extensive and helpful list of what to pack in your labor bag.
What To Pack In Your Labor Bag?
Besides toiletries, clothes and a wallet, I found pads to be the most important item in my labor bag. So important that I actually FORGOT to pack them and had to send my husband to the store. How ironic right? There’s no telling when your water will break and when it does, you’ll want to have pads already purchased and at hand.
Yes, they give you pads at the hospital, but most likely you’ll need to wear one on the way to the hospital and at home, immediately after your water breaks. If you were instructed to and plan on laboring at home until contractions are 5-6 minutes apart, you may also want to wear a pad until leaking slows down.
There is normally a supply of mesh undergarments and soft pads for use at the birthing center or hospital, but it’s still safe to pack them in your labor bag for easy access at home, on the way to the hospital and during check in.
Also, many people prefer their own pads over the ones they give you at the hospital. While store bought ones were larger, they were also less soft and more uncomfortable in my opinion. I found that Kotex and Stay free brand pads were somewhat comfortable, due to its soft cotton like padding.
Travel sized toiletries
You definitely will want to pack your own toiletries! The hospital and birthing center bathrooms are nothing like hotel bathrooms. You most likely will not find sample body wash, shampoo and toothpaste already stashed.
I recall there only being a body wash dispenser on the shower wall with a bland foam wash, but it definitely wasn’t my first pick. Pack tooth brushes, toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, lotion, lip balm and face wash. I packed towels as well, because the ones given to me were thin and I didn’t know if they were brand new or used and laundered.
I recommend packing your favorite towel and body wash. Mine was a lavender body wash, since lavender is used to promote relaxation, calmness and reduce stress and anxiety. After a long day of laboring, you will feel better being able to enjoy a nice shower with your favorites.
When it comes to hair necessities, I suggest keeping it simple. Styling tools were not in my bag. Though, I did pack a comb, brush, hair ties, a scarf, bonnet, hair clips, and a shower cap. Clips and hair ties are useful for keeping hair out of yours and your newborn’s face. Shower caps and bonnets are for showering, water birth and water pain relief.
The birthing center gave me mesh shower caps when I got into the shower for pain relief, but they were small and non-waterproof. Quite similar to surgical, scrub caps. I did pack my own, but wasn’t thinking to grab it between contractions. Instead, I used it after birth for showering.
Later, if you’re feeling up to it, a comb and brush will be handy for styling your hair into a neat bun or ponytail. Unless, you’re thinking like me and decided to get braids or an easy-maintenance hairstyle before going into labor.
I may have gone just a little over board on clothing, but I wasn’t regretful. Pack more or less clothing depending on how long your stay will be. My stay was 2 nights long. We labored the first day, rested the second day and went home in the morning, of day three. Therefore, I only packed 2 pair of night clothes, 2 labor outfits, and 2 going home choices.
I packed; 2 nursing gowns, 2 robes (one thin, one plush), 1 pair of shorts, 2 pairs of sweat pants, 2 tops, a cotton/long maxi dress, socks, under garments, slippers and a swimsuit.
Slippers were very useful, the entire stay. Undergarments not so much, the mesh ones provide are more convenient, but I did wear a nursing bra home. Swim wear was to be worn in the shower and hot tub. Although I didn’t wear any.
The nursing gowns and robes were most beneficial when it comes to clothing, as well as very loose pants and tops for the travel home. So, those are highly recommended.
Purchase extra chargers and head phones to keep in your to go bag so that you don’t forget them when it’s time to head to the hospital. Bluetooth headsets are great for talking on the phone hands free, so I packed a pair of those along with phone chargers and an iPad and iPad charger so my husband could work from the hospital, if we went into labor on a weekday (which we did).
Birthing centers allow you to eat and have beverages during labor, and hospitals allow you to eat immediately after delivery. I packed granola, Nutri-grain bars, muffins, water, Gatorade, mints and pretzels.
Any non-perishable, easy to stomach snacks you enjoy will come in handy. You could even meal prep the week of your due date to have containers of fruits and vegetables, ready to grab out of the fridge when you get home.
Packing snacks are handy if you go into labor while the cafe is closed. You’ll also want to stay nourished and hydrated if you’re opting out of pain relief and IV fluids.
Anything else that will help you labor before, during and after birth are considered to be comfort items. Some people like to pack; throw blankets and pillows, nursing pillows for breastfeeding, music, books, birthing balls etc.
For me it was calming essential oils for aromatherapy, massage lotion, and a tennis ball for muscle pain relief. I also called ahead to be sure they had a birthing ball available for use.
The birthing ball was EXTREMELY useful!
Everything else, I actually didn’t use. Labor progressed rather quickly and I didn’t have time to worry about what was in my labor bag. Although, I will be packing those items again in the future, next time around…Just to be safe!
A small wallet purse
The last item I recommend adding to your labor bag is a small wallet purse. That way when it’s time to go to the hospital or birthing center, you only need to transfer your keys, phone, ID, insurance card and money. Once contractions start, you most likely, will not want to hold a large handbag in your lap or on your shoulder. Especially if you carry large purses like myself.
Be sure to install your baby’s car seat base and read the manual beforehand. You’ll be required to have the carseat (detached from the base), in your delivery room before leaving the hospital. Your nurse will either help or watch you place your baby inside the car seat, to ensure your little one is safe and assist, if needed.
Breast Pump (optional, not a recommendation, ask your doctor)
Breast pumps can be used to onset contractions if they don’t begin before or shortly after your water breaks, to help with milk supply, or in some cases for convenience. If you opt to pack a breast pump, be sure to also pack the appropriate accessories and supplies; such as extra pump bottles, valves and membranes, extra tubing, nursing pads and storage containers.
Some hospitals encourage the use of a breast pump after giving birth, although myself and many midwives, doulas, and birthing centers will recommend skin to skin breastfeeding on the nipple and prolonging a breast pump until milk supply is mature and has fully come in after colostrum. That could take on average 2-5 days.
You Can Never Be Too Prepared!
While the hospital nurse may suggest not to ”over pack” your labor and delivery bag, I say there’s no such thing! Bringing a life into the world is a pretty big deal, so making sure you have everything you want and need, when the day arrives, is just as important
This guide, is to help you get started. Tailor your labor bag to fit your needs, pack as little or as much as you’d prefer. As long as you have someone to help you carry everything, it’s better to be over prepared, than unprepared.
Below is a list of other items to pack in your labor bag that I may or may not have already mentioned, but are a quick reference worth considering!
30 Items To Pack In Your Labor Bag
- • Snacks/drink for labor partner
- • Change of clothes for both you and your labor partner
- • Nursing bras (1-3, depending on how long you plan to stay at the hospital).
- • Nipple Cream
- • Lip balm
- • Hair ties
- • Hand sanitizer
- • Camera and extra batteries
- • Towel and face cloth
- • Battery operated fan
- • Reading material, like a book or magazine
- • Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant)
- • Non-skid socks or slippers for the hospital floor
- • Extra phone charger with cords/adapter
- • Birth plan
- • Music/playlist for labor
- • Nursing pillow (optional)
- • Homeopathic remedies, such as Arnica Gel or Rescue Remedy Spray
- • Emergency contact information
- • Baby hat and blanket, if you’re planning to stay overnight.
- • Change of clothes for the baby
- • Diapers, wipes and 1-2 swaddles or receiving blankets (for newborn pictures).
- • Nursing pads
- • Slipper socks for mom to wear home.
- • Insurance cards and other necessary documents/forms.
- • Light snacks/water bottle for after delivery.
- • Small wallet/purse for hospital stay.
- • Car seat installed ahead of time!
- • Breast pump (optional, not a recommendation, ask your doctor).
- • Comfort items, such as a stuffed animal or other item that may remind you of home.
Having all of the above can help make your labor and delivery more enjoyable and stress-free, so take some time to get everything together that you think you’ll need.
When it comes to labor and delivery, the best way to be prepared is by having a plan. By packing all of the items listed above in your labor bag, you can try to help things go as smoothly as possible for you and your baby. The most important take away is to always remember to read the manual for your car seat base before installing it, speak with your doctor about the use of a breast pump, and contact your insurance provider to make sure you are covered for any overnight stays.
Congratulations and Good luck on this incredible journey!
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