Updated: May 18
As you prepare for the arrival of your little one, it's essential to have everything you need packed and ready to go for your place of birth. Whether planning a hospital birth, birth center birth, or home birth, you’ll want to have the essentials packed and ready to go. Packing a hospital bag/ transfer bag can seem overwhelming, especially when you have a lot on your mind as you prepare for labor and the arrival of your newest family member. But don't worry; we've got you covered. Here's a list of items to consider packing in your hospital bag for a natural birth experience.
During labor, comfort is key. Pack comfortable clothing that is easy to move in and won't mind getting dirty. It’s proven that wearing a hospital gown has negative phycological effects, so I recommend wearing your own clothes or purchasing a birthing gown online. There are many great options for comfortable birthing gowns with snaps up the back and along the shoulders that are more comfortable than a hospital gown. The key is wearing things that are easy to get in and out of and easy access for nursing. Some great clothing options include loose-fitting tops and a robe or cardigan to keep you warm.
If you have a birth plan, bring three copies with you to your birth location. A birth plan will help your care team understand your preferences and help you have the birth experience you desire. There can be nurse or doctor shift changes during labor, so having extra copies to share is very helpful. I highly recommend creating a birth plan and discussing your preferences before you go into labor. A birth plan is a communication tool between you and your medical provider. An effective birth plan lies in how it's implemented, not the sheet of paper. You can find out more details about creating birth plans here and grab a free template here.
Snacks and Drinks
During labor, it's essential to stay hydrated and fueled. Pack snacks and drinks that are easy to eat and provide energy. Some great options include fruit, granola bars, trail mix, honey, and drinks with electrolytes like coconut water. Some hospitals discourage eating during labor, contrary to the most recent evidence. Eating during labor is a question of bodily autonomy and should not be decided by you or hospital policy. You can find more information about eating during labor, great snacks for labor, and how to advocate for your right to eat throughout labor here.
Consider packing items that will help you stay comfortable during labor. This may include a pillow, a heating pad, essential oils, and a comb for counter pressure or other tools to help you relax. Check out this free guide to natural comfort measures for labor.
Don't forget to pack items that will help support you during and after labor. This may include a birth ball, peanut ball, a nursing pillow, and nipple cream. Although your birth location may say they have birthing and peanut balls, accessing them can often be challenging. Make sure to bring your own or see if your doula will bring them to the birth. Having a large water bottle with a large straw can also be helpful. Drinking from a straw helps relax your jaw and makes it easier to drink from different positions.
Music or Audio
Bringing your favorite music or audio can help create a calming environment during labor. Consider packing a portable speaker, headphones, or a meditation app to help you stay focused and relaxed.
Items to Create an Ideal Birth Environment
Our environment plays a large role in our overall birth experience. There are a lot of things you can bring with you to set the tone and make your environment as calm and relaxing as possible. These include electric tea nights or twinkle lights, a diffuser or essential oils, and pillows or blankets that remind you of your home to set a calming mood. Check out more about the birth environment by reading Claiming your birth space- Optimizing your birth environment for a calm labor.
Pack toiletries to help you feel fresh and clean during your hospital stay. This may include toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, face wipes, and lip balm (trust me, the lip balm is key). Remember both you and your support person will need to pack toiletries. Most common items forgotten: toothbrushes and lip balm!
Clothes and Items for Baby
Pack clothes for your baby to wear after birth, including a onesie, socks, and a hat. Make sure also to pack a blanket to keep your baby warm. And of course, make sure you bring a car seat.
If you plan on breastfeeding or chestfeeding your baby, it's important to come prepared. Bringing your pump, nursing bras, nursing pads, nipple cream, and some storage bags for expressed milk can be very helpful. Your pump can be used during labor for nipple stimulation, a natural induction method, and a technique to help labor progress. Also, if your baby needs to go to the NICU, you can hand express and learn to express using your pump. Most hospitals and birth centers will have a medical-grade pump on hand, but it's great to get support from lactation support staff on how to use your pump, get the right flange size, and feel comfortable using it before leaving your birth location.
Hospital Bag Checklist (the essentials):
Remember, this list is just a starting point. Think about what will make you feel most comfortable and calm during your hospital or birth center stay. Pack whatever items you need to help create the birth experience you desire. And most importantly, trust in yourself and your body's ability to give birth. You've got this!
Your own toiletries (plus those for your partner)
Slippers or no skid socks
Glasses (contacts can be tricky if you need to look for your solution etc.)
Nursing Bra (2)
Clothes you plan to birth in
Bathrobe or comfy clothes for post labor
Maxi pads, Underwear, and diapers
Going home clothes for you and baby
Warm blankets for baby's ride home
Photo ID, insurance info, birth plan (3 copies)
Small Cooler (if keeping your placenta)
Headband, hair wrap, or ponytail holder
Pillow from home
Cozy sweater or fleece
a free gift for you!
Begin making your customized birth plan today with this visual birth plan template
Meet the Author
Clara O'Rourke (she hers),
Holistic Doula & Childbirth Educator.
I am a researcher turned total birth nerd with a passion for supporting people's birth in their full power! I guide people through their pregnancy, labor, and postpartum journey by helping them overcome fear or anxiety about birth, providing evidence-based information so they can make informed decisions, and making sure they have everything they need to birth with confidence. Birth is sacred and it should be treated that way. I am committed to providing support for birth and beyond, regardless of a person's background, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or relationship status. También ofrezco mis servicios en español. I wish you and your growing family the brightest of beginnings!