Peace of mind goes a long way when you’re having a baby. Getting things organized beforehand (lasagna in the freezer, burp cloths washed and folded) can help calm any jitters you might have about such an exciting, life-changing event. 

Another thing to add to your to-do's? A hospital bag packed with everything you’ll need when it's time to have your baby. Experts recommend getting your hospital bag together at least a few weeks ahead of your due date if possible. 

“You’ll feel better able to welcome your baby knowing you’re prepared with clothes, swaddling blankets and diapers, and that the car seat is ready to go,” says Dr. Kyle Monk, a board-certified pediatrician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and a member of the What to Expect Medical Review Board.

As for what to pack? Our helpful hospital bag checklist can be your guide.

Hospital bag checklist for mom

Keep in mind that the hospital will likely provide you with some freebies like disposable mesh underwear, socks with a grip bottom, a gown to wear during and after labor, extra thick sanitary pads, and a few basic toiletries (soap, a toothbrush). Still, you might prefer your own versions of these items or some extras, just in case.

“It’s nice to pack your own toiletries and any other items that may make your labor, delivery and postpartum time more comfortable,” notes Dr. Jennifer Butt, an OB/GYN at Upper East Side OB/GYN in New York City and a member of the What to Expect Medical Review Board.

Here's a breakdown of the essentials you'll need, plus some other nice-to-haves you might want to bring to make your stay at the hospital or birthing center more comfortable.

Hospital bag essentials

  • Drivers’ license or other identification card
  • Insurance card and any hospital paperwork you've filled out
  • Your birth plan, if you have one (bring multiple copies to give to your practitioner and various nurses)
  • Your phone and a charger
  • An outfit for your baby to wear home
  • Clothing for you to wear home (think: baggy, soft and comfortable)
  • Small tote for extra hospital supplies and any gifts you might receive
  • Infant car seat (It should be sized for a typical newborn’s weight — and also installed correctly. A few weeks before you’re due, install yours and get it inspected by a certified technician, which you can find through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.)[1]

Here’s a longer list of things you might want to bring but don't have to:

Personal items

  • Hair ties, clips or a headband to keep your hair out of your face when you're in labor (and beyond)
  • Your own toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Your own brush and comb
  • Glasses and/or contacts and saline solution if applicable
  • Lotion, lip balm, deodorant
  • Extra-absorbent maxi pads (the hospital will provide them, but you might want to use your favorite brand instead)
  • Shampoo, conditioner, face wash, soap, shower gel, makeup and whatever else will make you feel refreshed
  • Massage oils or lotion for labor if you want to bring them with you



  • Snacks to eat during labor (your own snacks will be limited and must be approved by your practitioner; your partner should pack sandwiches and healthy snacks so they don't have to leave your side to find something to eat)
  • Light bites for after delivery ( crackers, granola, carrot sticks, apples) — don't count on the hospital or birthing center to provide them in the middle of the night 
  • Music or headphones that plug into your phone
  • Diversions for a long labor, such as a juicy novel, crossword puzzles, magazines, a deck of cards, laptop or handheld electronic games
  • A baby care book, like What to Expect the First Year (if you have room to pack it and think you'll have a chance to look at it)
  • A baby keepsake book so you can pen some first thoughts and memories

Miscellaneous items

  • Your favorite pillow or lightweight blanket to snuggle with
  • Your cord blood banking kit, if you're banking your baby's cord blood (if you decide you want to do this at the last minute, you can have the company overnight you a kit or ask the hospital if there are kits available for you to use)
  • Your "who to call" list so you can share or text the good news

Hospital bag checklist for baby

Your baby won’t need much more than something to wear home and a car seat, but here are a few other items to consider, depending on the weather and the size of your hospital bag:

  • Going-home outfit, including socks or booties
  • A receiving blanket and a couple of burp cloths
  • Weather-appropriate clothes: a sweater and knit cap if it’s cold out, or a hat with a little brim if it's sunny and warm
  • Baby lotion, diaper cream, and a diaper or two (though the hospital will provide plenty)

Hospital bag checklist for partners and coaches

Labor can be long — and there will be times when your partner or coach doesn't have much to do. Here’s what might come in handy:

Personal items

  • Phone and a charger
  • Gum, mints, lip balm
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, other toiletries, spare contact lenses, glasses
  • A travel pillow or bed pillow and a blanket for naps or an overnight stay


  • Sweatshirt or jacket for quick runs to the drugstore or deli
  • A change of underwear and fresh shirt in case labor goes on — and on
  • Pajamas or sweats in case of an overnight stay


  • Snacks — and more snacks, especially ones that keep well (pretzels, trail mix, granola bars)
  • Small bills or change for vending machines and the hospital cafeteria
  • Reusable water bottle or another beverage (juice, Gatorade)
  • A camera and/or video camera, if you have one and want to capture early memories
  • Diversions like a paperback book, newspaper, magazines or Sudoku

Is there anything you shouldn’t bring with you to the hospital?

You can certainly overdo it when it comes to packing your hospital bag. Here’s what not to bring to the hospital when you’re ready to deliver:

  • Too much clothing for you or the baby. Choose one outfit each and leave the rest at home.
  • Valuables. Don’t bring diamond earrings, the priceless watch your dad gave you, or anything you’d be sad to lose. Hospitals aren’t hot beds of crime, but better safe than sorry.
  • A bunch of cash (rely on your partner, coach or relatives with you in the hospital to pay for food, drinks and snacks).
  • Lots of diapers, since the hospital will provide enough for the time you’re there.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends leaving your hospital bag near the front door or in your car trunk once you've gotten it packed. And don’t forget Fluffy! Arrange for a pal to pop in and check that your cat has water and food or for someone to feed and walk your pup.