pregnant woman packing hospital bagPreparing for labor? Don’t forget to pack your hospital bag! Packing for labor and delivery is a lot like packing to go on a big trip to a place you’ve never been before: you don’t really know what you need until you get there. Still, with a little help from some been-there, done-that parents, you’ll at least get the basics into your bag (and only have to send your husband home for supplies once or twice during your hospital stay).

  • The boring stuff: Your insurance cards, your checkbook and your hospital paperwork. Trust us, you don’t want to be digging in your purse for that missing insurance card between contractions.
  • Your birth plan: If you wrote up one when you were preparing for labor, don’t forget to print it and bring it along!
  • Lip balm (and lots of it): Ice chips may be hydrating but they’ll do nothing to soothe those dry lips.
  • Massage oil or lotion: Your birthing partner needs to have something to do, right? (And psst, when you’re preparing for labor, see if you can get him to practice his labor massage techniques!)
  • Reading material: Sure, bring Pride and Prejudice if you want, but we recommend something a bit easier on the brain (and eyes), like the latest Cosmopolitan or US Weekly.
  • Music: Bring some variety so if Norah Jones starts to grate on you, you can pop in your favorite Madonna song and sing along. Even better, when you’re preparing for labor, create a few playlists for you MP3 player to cover potential moods during your stay—empowering tunes for early labor (i.e., “’cause I’m a woman! W-O-M-A-N!”), soothing songs for heavy labor and love songs for after the baby arrives (maybe Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t she lovely?”).
  • Comfy sleepwear: The hospital will provide a gown for you during labor, but you might want to change out of that revealing, open-backed treasure before your father-in-law comes to see the baby. Pack roomy, soft things like a robe, some pajama pants or a favorite t-shirt.
  • A nursing bra and/or a sleeping bra: If you’re planning to nurse (or sleep). Buy just one before the baby because you’re breasts are going to change—yet again (and again and again).
  • Eight pairs of underwear: The hospital will provide you with a lovely netted pair, but you might be more comfortable in your own cotton favorites. Save those Victoria’s Secret silkies for later, though, as there is a good chance that any underwear that you wear in the hospital will get ruined.
  • Electronics: Your cell phone, your iPod®, your camera, your video camera and all of your battery charging cords.
  • Two to four comfy outfits: You’ll probably be at the hospital for a few days so there’s no use lounging around in three-day old pajamas. Go with stretchy, soft sweats and tees. And remember, you’re not going to pop out the baby and be back down to your old svelte size that day. So bring stuff that’d fit you at 5 months pregnant, because that’s about how big you’ll be (sorry!).
  • Snacks: After labor, you’ll surely be hungry and the hospital cafeteria food may not be palatable. Throw in a few granola bars and pretzels to stave off your hunger until you can send your partner to the store for some Ben & Jerry’s.
  • Basic toiletries: After labor, your nurses will probably let you get up and freshen up (and maybe even take a shower). Avoid using the hospital’s shampoo-soap-toothpaste-in-one and bring your own toiletries.
  • Your address book: So you know who to call to spread the good news. When you’re preparing for labor, make sure to update all of your addys and phone numbers!
  • Swaddling blanket: The blue and pink striped hospital blankets are fine, but it’s a safe bet you’ll be dying to use one of your own.
  • Small stuffed animal: Put it in the baby’s bassinet. Then, when visitors are searching the nursery for your newborn, you can be more descriptive than, “the really cute one!”
  • Colace: Or some other stool softener—because that first post-baby poop can be like giving birth all over again and the reward isn’t nearly as cute. Ask your OB/GYN first to make sure it’s OK.
  • Nursing pads: They stop your boobs from leaking all over your shirt (not a good look!).
  • Nipple Cream: If you’re planning to breastfeed, a lanolin breast cream will help prep your nipples for their new permanent accessory—your hungry baby.
  • Side-snap baby clothes: These protect the belly-button stump (ick!). The hospital will provide you with some but you may need more.
  • Journal: While it’s fresh in your mind (and, let’s face it, ‘down there’), write down your birth story. You know … the pain, the laughter, the pain, the joy, the pain …
  • Flip-flops: Unless you want to touch the hospital shower’s floor …
  • A carseat: The hospital won’t let you leave without an approved and installed car seat, so avoid a last-minute trip to Babies “R” Us (or an extended stay at the health-center Hilton) and bring your infant seat to with you.
  • A going home outfit for baby: Baby will want to be as comfy as you, so skip the starched-cotton picture outfit in favor of something softer.
  • An eye mask and earplugs: Take advantage of those first, sleepy newborn days and catch up on your rest (cause we all know you didn’t get any during those last few weeks of pregnancy). An eye mask will block out light when the nurses scurry in and out of your room to check on you and earplugs will keep you from hearing those other crying babies.