Some of you may just be finding out you are pregnant while some of you may be hands deep in your hospital bag at 40 weeks! This blog can help you wherever you are in your journey.
Finding out you are pregnant is such an exciting time. I will never forget the moment I first looked at my positive test. I was home alone and just for a short while it was this special secret that only I knew.
The weeks may seem to drag on at first for some people, especially if you are experiencing morning sickness or even hyperemesis gravidarum (a condition where your nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is at a severe level).
Before you know it, you will be going to your 20 week anatomy scan and seeing different parts of your baby on the ultrasound screen. It can feel like a new level of joy watching the black and white screen and seeing what is inside you come to life.
As you pass your 30 week mark, things get real! You might decide to take a prenatal or childbirth class. You might even splurge on a babymoon, which you deserve to do. Eventually, you should think about packing your hospital bag.
When should I pack my hospital bag?
I recommend packing your hospital bag between 34-36 weeks. At that point I hope you are not going into labor since it would be considered preterm! But, I think packing your hospital bag can be part of the nesting process. People really focus on painting and decorating a nursery room as part of nesting, however, most infants will sleep in the same room as their parents for at least 3-6 months and the nursery just becomes a storage room.
Can you pack your hospital bag too early? Yes! Your body will continue to change beyond 32 weeks. You want to make sure you are packing things that fit and that cater to your tastes and cravings. Things that may have brought you comfort early on in pregnancy may now disgust you (I’m looking at you ginger candies).
Remember, packing your hospital bag doesn’t mean it needs to take up space in your trunk! So when do you actually need to put your hospital bag in your car?
I recommend putting your hospital bag in your car trunk by 37 or 38 weeks. Births that occur after 37 weeks are considered term births. I also recommend going to have your car seat installed around this time. Unfortunately, installing and using car seats are not easy skills. You might think a car seat is straightforward, but shockingly most car seats are installed and/or used incorrectly. You can find a local car seat installation clinic in your area at this link and CPSTs (child passenger safety technicians) can instruct you on using your chosen model properly.
Another time to consider putting your hospital bag in your car is when you start to have weekly appointments with your OB or midwife. This typically happens around 36 weeks for low risk pregnancies. At one of those appointments, your provider may see a reason to admit you to the hospital. If they do, having your bag in your car will make that moment so much less stressful.
What type of bag should I use for my hospital bag?
Most commonly, people use suitcases or duffel bags for hospital bags. A travel size suitcase each for the birthing person and their partner or support person may be enough. However, I do recommend a bigger bag in the following situations:
- Planned induction
- Preterm labor
- Planned cesarean section
- Premature rupture of membranes
- Expected NICU admission for baby
Why do I recommend a bigger bag? Because all of these situations may require longer hospital stays. A vaginal birth with no complications for the birthing person or newborn usually has the shortest hospital stay.
Could you bring a full size suitcase or even two? Sure! But remember, there often is not storage in the hospital room for your suitcase. In fact, some hospitals still have shared rooms in their postpartum units which means space could be less than you imagine. So although you may want to bring everything from your home, try to pack somewhat lightly.
What Should Be in Everyone’s Hospital Bag
As a registered nurse and a mom, I have compiled a list of forgotten or less-considered items for your hospital bag. However, I wanted to cover some essentials first:
For the birthing person:
- 1-3 outfits to labor in that you don’t mind getting wet/soiled
- Nursing/pumping bras if planning for those activities
- A comfortable going home outfit (maternity clothes will still probably fit best)
- Shoes a size bigger/loose/sandals (I’ll never forget when I almost walked out of the hospital barefoot because my sandals did not fit my swollen feet!)
- Personal water bottle (hospitals often provide jugs but sometimes this can be a source of comfort)
- Several underwear options
- Basic toiletries for self care (the hospital or birth center typically provides products for postpartum healing)
- 2 going home outfits (because they will pee or poop on the first one)
- Pacifier if you choose (current recommendation is to hold off for 2-4 weeks if you plan to exclusively breastfeed)
- Preferred formula and/or bottles if choosing to feed this way
For the support person:
- Comfortable clothes for a variety of temperatures
- Sandals/shoes to wear around the hospital
- Phone charger
The Things No One Tells You to Pack in Your Hospital Bag
Finally, here is my list of things that I either wish I had packed or always remind my clients to pack! I receive so much feedback from friends and community members on what really helped them or what they regretted leaving behind. I hope you find this useful!
- Various hair accessories – scrunchies, headbands, claw clips, bobby pins, and a brush
- Essential oils – many birth rooms these days have essential oil diffusers. The one I used during my birth is Fighting Five. This scent brought me so much comfort and made me feel refreshed despite being extremely exhausted
- Ear plugs/headphones – these would be most useful when trying to rest during labor. I do not recommend using these after baby is born because you want to respond to them if they are crying or making an unusual noise
- Eye mask (can make a huge difference in sleep quality if laboring for several days)
- Portable white noise machine and/or speaker – I hear from clients very often that they made a birth playlist but ended up having to play it on their phone which made it less helpful. If you bring a portable speaker, you can jam out to your birth playlist and also use it to play white noise to facilitate rest. A lot of people get white noise machines on their baby registries so might as well make use of it before baby comes!
- Blankets and pillows – hospitals often provide these items but I always compare this to putting lipstick on a frog – the chairs and beds might be extremely uncomfortable so you might as well try to put something pretty on them to make them more appealing
- Water flavor enhancers (the birthing person needs to stay hydrated and this might help)
- Pump flanges and preferred pump – hospitals typically have a pump but only certain size flanges and if you know you’d like to pump initially it’s better to have the appropriate parts
- Comfort foods/snacks
- Multiple chargers (somehow my partner and I only brought one phone charger and let’s just say one of us had a dead phone most of the time)
- Toiletries – hospitals may have some generic soaps and shampoos but your skin will be dry and a nice smelling body wash while you are laboring might relax you
- Small container of coconut oil – you can use this on baby’s bum to help the sticky poops come off cleaner and also use it on nipples sore from early breastfeeding
- Laundry/wet bag – this was one of the best things we brought because many of my clothes were wet from laboring in the tub and also with different bodily fluids
My last piece of advice for your hospital bag
Write a list of what you’re packing as you pack your bag. This goes for you and your partner. Stick that list in the bag.
Inevitably, when you are searching for something while you are in the hospital, you’ll wonder, “Did I even pack that?” If you have a written list, you can confirm that you did indeed pack it and what bag it’s in.
Looking for more information to help you prepare during pregnancy?
Check out my prenatal services, which can be completely customized to your pregnancy and your family wishes. Don’t forget, my services can be in person if you live in New Jersey or Pennsylvania and can also be done virtually.
I also have a super exciting offering for my community.
Prenatal appointments can be exciting but also can be full of medical jargon. A lot of my clients and friends text me asking, “what does this mean?” so I decided to take some of the terms you might hear and put them together in a guide.
Download my FREE, Pregnancy Red Flag Terms guide here!