What should be in our going into labor bag?
August 28, 2018 12:19 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are expecting our first child this December and I'm already thinking about what we should have prepared to take with us when she goes into labor. She will (hopefully) be giving birth in a modern hospital in an urban area not far from where we live. Thanks for your thoughts!
posted by Fister Roboto to Health & Fitness (37 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Congratulations in advance! The good news is, there is no need to over-think this. If you have the bag with you, you'll be at a hospital fairly nearby. It's not the moon. The hospital or somewhere nearby probably has a store where you can buy things. Or you can send someone to your house to get stuff you forgot. Our kid arrived 3.5 weeks early and we sent someone to our house from the BBQ we were at to fetch hospital bag stuff.

That said, pack stuff that is unique to you and your wife. Clothes that will make the both of you comfortable. Especially for you, remember that hospitals are often kinda cold; I spent most of my hospital time in thrift store scrubs and a flannel shirt. Any massage sort of things she might need. Snacks. Earplugs (our kid sounded like a baby dragon when we were sleeping in the room with her). Bathing suits for the both of you. Aromatherapy if she's into that. Change of clothes for baby to come home in. One of the many baby blankets you've probably been given already. A cell phone charger.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:35 PM on August 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

  • A Clif Bar for you (only to eaten in secret)
  • mints for you (because you'll be close to her face)
  • charging cord for your phones (because the Little One often makes you wait and wait and wait until your phone battery is depleted)
  • space on your phone for pictures
  • and space in your bag to start stealing those awesome white-with-pink-and-blue infant blankets from the get-go.
Good luck! It's amaaaaazing.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:36 PM on August 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

There are many lists out there, but here are some things that may not be as obvious:

Get a backup phone charger (for both of you) and keep it in the bag, then you won't have to remember to grab yours on the way out.

If you have a baby book, you may be able to bring it to have your baby's feet stamped in it.

Snacks for you! The hospital might have a cafeteria, but you may not want to leave her side. You are her support and it's important for you to eat even if she can't.

Light colored Gatorade. I'm not really into Gatorade but I was so happy I brought this.

If you're big water drinkers, bring water bottles so you can fill them during your stay. The hospital cups were really small.

A pen to fill out social security paperwork.
posted by beyond_pink at 12:37 PM on August 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Nthing backup phone charger and cables. Bring the biggest goddamn capacity one you can conscience buying, because finding a wall spot to charge stuff can be hard in a hospital room where a lot of Important Stuff Gets Plugged In.

I'm an inveterate mouthbreather/dry skin person, and while I was in the hospital, I deeeeeeeeeeeeesperately wanted good chapstick and moisturizer. The very kind nurses brought me some, but it wasn't as good as what I had at home.

Small change and bills for the vending machines.

An accordion file for assorted paperwork and pamphlets and what-have-you that gets handed out. There was a shocking amount of paper, even at the very computer-y, very online and tech-savvy major urban hospital where I gave birth.
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:47 PM on August 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

Bring hair ties, your own pillows, reusable water bottle, loooong phone charger, comfy socks, slippers, chapstick and hand lotion (hospital air is super dry), nipple cream, snacks for both of you. My biggest rec in this arena is if her hair has any texture, put it in a braid when she goes into labor, my hair got massively knotted from writhing around in pain for 19 hours (sorry.)
I recommend NOT stocking up on products anticipating a vaginal birth - dermaplast, Depends, fancy peri bottle - all of these things can be bought afterward in the event that she does in fact have a vaginal birth. I never used my yoga ball or my cute labor nightie, my hospital ended up being very traditional and didn’t know why I would want to move around and had me strapped to monitors the whole time.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 12:54 PM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Addendum to wenestvedt's "space in your bag" suggestion: at the last minute, we decided to shove one of those (empty) giant blue Ikea totes into our overnight bag, just in case the hospital was going to send us home with supplies or something. By the time we left the hospital, the Ikea bag was FULL. Diapers and blankets and post-birth supplies for mom and all manner of other stuff. Bring a big, empty bag.
posted by ann_disaster at 12:56 PM on August 28, 2018 [13 favorites]

I'd wish we'd brought more snacks, but ultimately the birth did not go as planned, so we were there way longer than expected. (Four days mom, 10days baby). We also had to transfer hospitals so that made things a little wierd.

But there was time to go home and pick up stuff. Everything the baby needed (aside from going home outfit) was provided, including pump parts, and a pump to use. The hospital gift shop worked just fine with some food delivery thrown in.

I would have brought cards with all the demographic information looking back. Between the three hospitals (the one we gave birth at, the one we were transfered to and the one the specialist billed from) somewhere everything got mangled (babys name, address, insurance info basically ALL of it, and I wish I had been able to give people something. (I did give my ID but for the baby... Sigh)

It did get sorted, but changing hospital records isn't what you want to do when your child is 8 weeks old.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:13 PM on August 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

nthing the extra bag for hospital swag.

Earplugs. The hospital was NOISY AS HECK at all hours of the night and I had a really hard time getting any sleep after I was done with the giving birth part.
posted by missrachael at 1:14 PM on August 28, 2018


A few things to think about:
* First labors can take a long time; for our first we were in the labor room for three days. You may need toiletries, soap, shampoo (for you and eventually for her!). Suggestions to bring warm clothing like a sweat shirt are good, the hospital was cold and you may have to sleep on a chair or sofa.

* My wife was super concerned that she would be hungry during labor but didn't care once it was happening. Once it was over there, she became RAVENOUSLY HUNGRY. You might have a few of her favorite snacks. I brought a lot of snack bars and crammed them into my gaping maw when her back was turned.

* Alcohol free mouthwash in case you're helping with breathing exercises.

* Phone charging cables and space on the phone are a good idea. If your wife likes a white noise machine, we brought ours.

* Comfortable shoes/slippers in case you end up walking around the hospital trying to make it happen.

* We have had children at two different hospitals, and one was much freer with the handouts (take diapers, swaddles, pacifiers, etc.) than the other (don't take anything that's cloth). One had much better food than the other. Everybody told us to take the rubber bulby things at both hospitals though; they say they are way better than the ones you can buy in a store.

* Make sure you have an infant carseat, and an outfit to go with aforementioned carseat. (One hospital gave us some baby clothes and a swaddle, one didn't). We could not swaddle with a piece of cloth the way the nurses did, so we cheated and bought velcro swaddles/HALO Sleepsacks.

* Oh, and seeing somebody's comment above: Eyemask/earplugs/headphones -- in one hospital they put the baby in the room the whole time and they would come in every few hours to do tests/check on either the baby or the mother. In the other hospital you could ask them to take the baby to the nursery for sweet sweet recovery.
posted by Comrade_robot at 1:20 PM on August 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sometime in the first hour after I delivered, my doula handed me one of those little baby food bags of applesauce. I hadn't even realized I was hungry, but this was perfect.

The only non-obvious thing I wish we'd brought (and which I hadn't seen suggested on the many "hospital bag lists" we looked at while packing) were baby fingernail clippers. Our baby arrived with super-sharp nails, and I got scratched up a bit while nursing and cuddling in the hospital.
posted by figgy_finicky at 1:21 PM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

The one thing I really remember wanting that isn't super obvious is a pair of soft, cushioned slippers. My wife and I brought our normal slippers from home, which are nice. But hospital floors are industrial tile over concrete. They get really hard, really fast, and you especially will be on your feet a lot more than you think. I ended up leaving my sneakers on for a lot of the time because my slippers just didn't have the requisite level of cushion. There's a reason why so many hospital employees wear Crocs.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:36 PM on August 28, 2018

I came down with a cold while still in the hospital and wished I'd had some lozenges. A nurse gave me some of her own.

Seconding that babies have sharp nails right off the bat, although I preferred the baby nail file.

I would recommend bringing a couple sizes of clothes for the baby that do not need to be pulled over their head. While in the hospital, neither I nor my son wore any clothes. Don't bother trying to buy nursing bras that fit well ahead of time but bring a couple nursing tanks.
posted by carolr at 1:41 PM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Bring a couple of outfits for the baby. Nothing fancy, but a simple one-piece type garment. Unless you want to fancy things up. Then you will probably discover the new truth that new babies go through a lot of clothes in a day.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 1:47 PM on August 28, 2018


2 extension cords- the outlets are often placed too far for your phone chargers (and you and wife will likely convalesce on opposite sides of the room)

Music device with a few well chosen playlists- something fun for early labour, relaxing for mid labour, sweet for when the baby comes

Eye mask and earplugs to zone out and relax in early / mid labour

Comfy pillow in a nice case and a pretty, cozy blanket (they'll be immortalized in photos)

LOTS of phone space (and hard drive space while you're at it) to make space for a zillion photos and videos over the next couple of months when you're too tired to think about that

Yummy drinks- probiotic juice and non technicolour Gatorade, perhaps

A lidded cup with a long *bendy* straw. Fill with water and you can just poke her lip with it while she's in labour. Yes she wants water, so don't ask, the answer should always be yes. So just gently touch her lip with the straw every 10 mins or so.

Cozy hoodie for labour and another for the next day after the first gets all sweaty and gross.

Nice essential oil & diffuser for scenting the room

Poo-Pourri- labour means pooping with nurses and family in the room.

A couple strings of white christmas lights to make the room ambient and pleasant during labour and the first night with the newborn.

Extra clothing in case you stay an extra night or two. Comfy stuff that's easy to breastfeed in for her, or open for skin-to-skin chest cuddles for him. A cowboy shirt with snaps is good for this, as it opens fast.

One of those big grocery store trays with cubes of pineapple and melon, and a million toothpicks, in an icy cooler. Labour is long thirsty work; chunks of cold sweet fresh juicy fruit will be welcome.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:54 PM on August 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Watch the YouTube video for your carseat BEFORE going. It's unnerving to be checking out of the hospital with a crying two day old and having to figure it out in the moment.
posted by kdar at 2:05 PM on August 28, 2018

Olive oil - wipe the baby’s bum with olive oil right away, that first poop is like TAR.

Formula and bottles - so you can top up the baby until her milk comes in.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:32 PM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Shampoo and conditioner. None in the in-room shower and I was too frazzled to deal with acquiring some.
posted by pintapicasso at 2:41 PM on August 28, 2018

When I had a baby, I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything, so check first before you bring that stuff. Maybe because of the epidural, I dunno. Have something ready for after the delivery for sure!

I was SO BORED during labor. This was right before iPads and whatnot. So I would make sure to have something mindless ready to watch.
posted by lyssabee at 3:22 PM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

The things I needed at the hospital:
* slippers with non-slip soles
* a robe
* chapstick
* eyedrops
* lotion
posted by belladonna at 3:31 PM on August 28, 2018

Now that I’m thinking about it, it’s almost the same as packing a gym bag. Small set of everything you need to shower, one fresh outfit, flip flops, and hair ties/headband. Plus some Gatorade and a light snack. You also need the infant car seat, and phone charger, like everyone said.

Honestly I wish I brought just this— I brought several changes of clothes and PJs and never wore them. Personally I was like dead tired, leaking blood from multiple places (sorry, but it’s true)... I was happy to wear two hospital gowns (so your butt’s covered) and just have them be the hospital’s problem whenever I wanted to change. And I don’t think I even would have been able to pull a shirt/nightgown over my head at first. There are also so many unknowns about your postpartum experience.... like how quickly will your belly go down, will you have a csection and/or tearing, will you already be engorged with milk so every top hurts your boobs... all those would necessitate different PJs but all of them work ok in a hospital gown! Obviously your preferences may vary but I took a breastfeeding class before leaving with like five other postpartum women, and only one wore her own clothes. So it’s not JUST me.
posted by sometamegazelle at 3:31 PM on August 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

Dental floss, toothbrush, toothpaste.
posted by ewok_academy at 3:32 PM on August 28, 2018

Dry shampoo?
posted by shiny blue object at 3:34 PM on August 28, 2018

A checklist of how your wife & you want things to go, to the extent that they're within anyone's control. Google "birth plan" and you'll find lots of checklists of things to think through together before you go to the hospital (hopefully)--the list on The Bump is good. When you're caught up in the moment it can be hard to remember the bits of research you've done & decisions you've made about the dozens of processes available or routine at hospitals--some of which you may not care about one way or the other but some of which you may feel quite strongly about. What positions she wants to be in & doesn't want to be in during labor; whether you have feelings about who cuts the umbilical cord; fetal monitoring, pain management, acupressure, whether they'll give formula, etc., etc. I found it super helpful to have it written down ahead of time in one place.

Also high on the list in my own bag was Penny Simkin's The Birth Partner, a book I can't recommend highly enough. (It has its own birth plan checklist too.)

Good luck with all!
posted by miles per flower at 4:23 PM on August 28, 2018

It pissed me off with my first birthing experience that I had to wait for ibuprofen and for (sorry) hemroid medication for hours when I knew for a fact that my doctor had already ordered them in my chart. For my second birth I just took my own in my bag and took them as needed (this was after the birth, obvs).

I needed a charger and headphones, basic toiletries, flip flops, something to wear home, and something for the baby to wear home. My hubby took the iPad, headphones, and an eye mask for when he wanted to doze.

The 2nd time I took baby nail clippers and you better believe they got used. Nothing like getting stabbed by baby dagger nails when you're trying to nurse.

I had a robe the first time but it got stained.
I didn't bother with it the second time, I preferred to let the hospital gown get stained.

I left my wedding ring and any valuables except my phone at home.
posted by vignettist at 4:48 PM on August 28, 2018

Any medications that you, the non birthing partner, might want, both prescription and OTC - my spouse had a sinus infection , and there wasn’t a good time to run out and pick anything up for it.
posted by songs about trains at 5:09 PM on August 28, 2018

Everyone has covered the essentials, so... piccolo bottle of champagne.
posted by Jubey at 5:20 PM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: L&D nurse reporting from the front that fewer than 20% of all carefully curated, "essential" hospital bags are ever glanced at twice, let alone opened. Mostly they just take up space and make walking around in the room something of a slalom course.

If your wife has a strong personal preference for her own clothing, sure, bring some, but otherwise, why bring home a load of dirty laundry along with your newborn? The hospital will provide gowns, mesh undies, pads, towels, and slipper-socks with tread for her, and lots of baby blankets, onesies, and diapers for the baby, none of which will be your problem when (not if) they get bloody and/or covered in meconium.

Also there's a lot of good evidence that lots of sustained skin-to-skin contact can help baby's transition to extrauterine life by maintaining normal body temperature and blood sugar levels, regulating sleep, and establishing breastfeeding (if that's what your wife chooses to do), so there's really no need to dress your newborn in anything but a diaper. S/he can hang out on you or your wife's bare chest and both of you can cover up with a blanket. If that doesn't appeal, baby can be wrapped in a hospital-provided blanket or two. Other clothing is really just for decoration.

The hospital will also provide basic toiletries like a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, lotion, and baby shampoo. (As above, if you or your wife have a strong personal preference for particular brands of those things, by all means bring your own, but it's not necessary.) Odds are 50/50 for earplugs and mouthwash.

I have never worked at a hospital that provides deodorant or lip balm; I wish knew why. If you are a person with great capacity for body odor (as I am, no judgment implied or intended!), do bring some deodorant, and if either of you frequently has chapped lips, definitely bring the balm.

Note that, at least in the US, anything needing to be plugged in aside from standard chargers for personal electronic devices will be ix-nayed as a safety hazard. Hospital staff aren't even allowed to have a toaster in the break room due to the quote-unquote fire hazard it presents (seriously, in every hospital in which I've worked, this has been a thing), so best leave your Christmas lights at home. Anything that requires a flame of any kind for obvious reasons shouldn't be in a room with an oxygen source and will absolutely not be allowed in a hospital for the safety of everyone nearby.

So that boils down to: deodorant, lip balm, +/- mouthwash and earplugs if those are your jam, personal electronic devices/chargers, clothes for you, and clothes for mom and baby to wear home. There is a strong possibility that anything else will be useless, unnecessary, in the way, or some combination of all three.
posted by jesourie at 5:26 PM on August 28, 2018 [13 favorites]

Not much! I was proud to bring a smaller bag as a laboring mother than some later visitors!😁

The *not much* list: a real book...Midnight's Children was topical and thus memorable, phone + charger, hair ties, soft slip ons, soft robe, nursing tank tops, an extra empty bag, go home outfits for me + baby.

posted by this-apoptosis at 6:36 PM on August 28, 2018

I can’t believe no one has mentioned this yet. The hospital pads and mesh underwear are archaic and horrifically uncomfortable. Bring a pack of overnight, extra long pads with wings and you’ll be the envy of everyone on the floor. Everyone says to use the free ones from the hospital but they were just lumpy bags of paper pulp. Use something with a dry lock top layer and one of those lovely absorbent strips down the middle. And pack some nice stretchy black underwear to go with it. The mesh underwear are little more that stretchy gauze, and I felt so much more human wearing real people clothing.

But those spray rinse bottles are key! Make sure to bring one home from the hospital!
posted by defreckled at 6:52 PM on August 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

You need to think in terms of two bags, one for labor and one for after. The labor process is such that you'll kind of want to start fresh once your beautiful baby is here.

For labor, you'll want some snacks, a phone cord, a camera (with charger), and maybe a playlist on your phone. I brought a million other things but didn't use them. You may want layers or a change of clothes for yourself, and you may want some breath mints or toothbrush / toothpaste, or so they say. The doula said that some people want like, posters of inspirational photos or an LED "candle" or aromatherapy pillow or something else to help them stay in a focused but positive zone. The nurse did bring out one of those candles, and I have to say I did like it, but I probably wouldn't bother to bring one myself.

For afterwards, again, snacks. You want to be able to sleep through meals and eat at 2 am. Also after birth, a lot of people feel famished and want, like, their favorite Chinese takeout. (This didn't happen to me but did to two friends.)

Then, you want stuff to live in the hospital for two to three days. In particular, your wife may not want to wear just their robe, at least not up top. You want something that opens in the front. I think i lived in my nursing bra and a hoodie. If you decide to try to bring comfy pajamas, the keys are - no tight pants so not leggings or similar (post birth, there is some waddling around in Depends with a big ice pack inside), no narrow waist bands that could line up with a C-section incision, and nothing that she couldn't bleed on. So like maybe a tank top and a comfy robe or cardigan that opens in the front to nurse in (assuming she will be doing this).

Toiletries and flip flops for the shower.

Long phone cords. A way to announce the birth (e.g., are you going to send out an email before you get back home? Bring a laptop and pre-address it)

Outfits to go home in, for mom and baby. The car seat should already be installed (or you should know how to install it in a taxi if you don't drive).

That's about it!
posted by slidell at 5:09 AM on August 29, 2018

For both my labors, I couldn't tolerate anything around my waist or any restrictive clothes - I spent most of my time in the delivery room walking around naked. I would've appreciated a soft, lightweight robe like a happi. (Which I had at home, and hadn't thought to bring, either time.)

I wanted music. The first time, I brought a tape player, and had to argue with the staff to get access to plug it in; they considered this a nuisance--these days, I'd go with "phone and extra charger." I wanted non-vocal, mellow-ish music; I liked Deep Breakfast and some Celtic music album that I've long forgotten the name of.

Non-physical: Be read to argue with the staff for her comfort. Don't go along with anything because "it's the standard procedure." Her feeling comfortable and safe is the best way to avoid trauma during a normal birth; the biggest problem is, before she's been through labor, she has very little idea what will feel okay vs what will feel invasive and stressful. Touch, no-touch; sounds, quiet-sounds, no-sounds; smiling nurses who talk to her vs nurses who leave her alone as much as possible... prepare for her preferences shifting as she tries to figure out what bothers her least.

Whatever her normal comfort items are, bring some of those. Don't expect all of them to be needed; don't be surprised if none of them are. Sometimes just knowing that a stuffed owl is available to squeeze if you want it is enough.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:39 AM on August 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I wish I'd brought more healthy food. I remember when things had finally settled down---newborn asleep, mom exhausted and wanting to rest, and me the father, realizing I had somehow missed lunch and dinner in the excitement and was starving. It was only midnight, but I discovered my only options were the hospital vending machine and Domino's pizza.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:46 AM on August 29, 2018

Response by poster: I want to thank all of you for such helpful advice and your well-wishes!
posted by Fister Roboto at 9:43 AM on August 29, 2018

Any over the counter meds that you're on. I had terrible heartburn towards the end of pregnancy that didn't relieve itself immediately with delivery. I had to ask the nurse for some tums or omeprazole or something and she woke me up at 4am to give it to me. No thanks.

Bring a nice pillow for after labor -- or cover it in something waterproof for labor. We brought my nice memory foam pillow and narrowly avoided breaking my water all over it.

Baby outfit that is NOT a onesie -- should be a two piece so the umbilical stump is exposed to air for healing (and possibly baby's comfort).

Good luck! <3
posted by emkelley at 1:15 PM on August 29, 2018

Chiming in to say we'd had Bradley Birthing classes, and the car had the cassette player (hey the first kid is now 25), the pillows we might need during labor, and massage tools for any possible back pain, as well as my bag that contained pretty much everything suggested above. And we needed none of it. Labor started at three minutes apart, we made it to the hospital two hours into it at 8 cm dilated, and less than two hours at the hospital before his arrival. So all the preplanning is basically hedging your bets, lol.

Congratulations! Enjoy this wild ride!
posted by annieb at 6:11 PM on August 29, 2018

Bring a box of assorted chocolates for the nurses station and midwives.
posted by dinoworx at 5:24 AM on August 30, 2018

I packed a careful bag with many of the things people suggested. We never even opened it. It was not the worst thing to focus on for getting ready for the birth (I'm a worrier) but it also didn't really matter. What we actually used was the infant car seat and the friend willing to leave at any point in the birth to fetch what people actually wanted (mostly food for my spouse and stepmom, but I also had a wicked craving for grape juice, something I hadn't drunk in years). So if you have people in your life who are close enough to ask to be a gopher, but not so close that they can't stand to miss a moment, ask for the help. (They can help install that car seat too.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 11:16 PM on September 2, 2018

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