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What to Pack in Your Birth Bag

Your due date is coming up quick. You've watched all the videos (or like me, have chosen to remain blissfully ignorant). The nursery is painted, crib assembled. You have an idea of how what you want and what you don't want when it comes to birth. And now you're sitting there. Waiting, not so patiently, for the arrival of your baby. You want to do something. ANYTHING. To make yourself feel more prepared. So you start strategically placing items in your "go bag," but it feels overwhelming. You don't want to forget anything important!

When to Pack Your Birth Bag

While it's unlikely that you'll deliver super early, I still recommend having your bag packed between 36 and 37 weeks. That way you'll be ready to go if something crazy goes down. And you can take time to focus on just being and enjoying those final few weeks. Doing things like going out to dinner with your partner a couple more times before you add a member to your family.

What to Pack in Your Birth Bag

It can be overwhelming to not know where to start! Here are some things to consider when packing your birth bag:

01. Infant Car Seat

While this technically isn't a birth bag item, it's the most important item! You'll need it to be able to take your baby home from the hospital or birth center. While installing it isn't too complicated, you'll want to know how to install it ahead of time. Take some time to look over the manual and if your car seat has a base, secure that base in the back middle seat of whatever car you'll be taking to the hospital and pop the car seat in. If your car seat doesn't have a base, read the manual and secure the seat using the anchors and seat belt.

02. Phone Charger

You likely have more than one, so have your spare phone charger packed ahead of time.

03. Comfortable Clothing to Sleep In

There's a chance you'll be caught off guard or in the middle of something when it's time to head to the hospital, so don't rely on the clothes you'll be wearing. The hospital will have gowns, but you'll likely be much more comfortable slipping into an oversized sweater or large t-shirt and loose leggings after your post-birth bath.

Pro Tip: Bring a pair of thick wool socks! I don't know about you, but I get cold easily and hospitals and be quite chilly. I even labored wearing nothing but my wool socks. Seriously, when I could finally speak again my first words were: "Which one of you took off one of my socks?"

Pro Tip: Pack some maternity leggings. You won't regret it. You don't want anything pressing on your belly too hard right away. Especially true if you're having a c-section.

04. Comfortable Clothing to Wear Home

If you're practical and a minimalist like me then this could be the same clothes as your sleeping clothes. You're literally using them to sit in the back seat of your car while you stare at your new baby and force your husband to drive 10 miles below the speed limit. They don't need to be fancy clothes. But they do need to fit.

05. Postpartum Panties or Undies a Size or Two Up

The hospital will have mesh panties you can wear, but it'll help you feel like a person again to put your own clothes on. Get some large underwear or order postpartum ones like these. Your regular underwear won't be able to accommodate the monster pad, and you won't want anything too snug. If you have a c-section you won't want anything low cut.

06. A Nursing Bra (if You Don't Want to Let it all Hang Out)

I used to be afraid of what it would be like to be naked in front of so many people, but after giving birth being topless felt about as natural as drinking a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Even so, once I was able to bathe it was nice to be dressed again.

Pro Tip: Pack a nursing bra that doesn't have the underwire. I really loved all of H&M's nursing clothes, though they seem to be phasing a lot of things out and don't sell maternity items at all their locations. Target has some comfortable nursing bras and nursing tank tops.

07. A Going Home Outfit for Baby

Your baby likely won't wear clothes for a least the first day, if not the entire time, while you're at the birthing center or hospital. He/she will most likely have a lot of skin-to-skin time and be wrapped in a sleep sack provided by the hospital. But your baby will need something to wear home. This can be something cute or something practical. My son wore a gray onesie home and the cutest infant jacket. My daughter wore a dress and cardigan home. She never wore the cardigan again, but it was adorable and special to us.

08. Hair Ties!!!

Or clips or scrunchies or whatever you find to be most comfortable. There's a good chance one of your nurses or your doula will have something you can use. But having your own basic personal items goes a long way in the realm of comfort and feeling prepared. And chances are, you'll want your hair out of your face during labor.

09. Toiletree Essentials

Travel size shampoo & conditioner, deodorant, hairbrush, toothbrush & toothpaste. It's less about you truly needing these items and more about what will make you feel like a human again after giving birth. A lot of hospitals will have some items for you to use if you need them, but it'll probably feel nice to use the shampoo you're used to during your first post-birth shower or bath.

Pro Tip: Pack some lip balm! It might seem a little random, but sometimes the hospital ventilation systems can dry out your skin.

10. A Journal

I highly recommend bringing a journal, even if you're not much of a writer. Trust me, even if you manage to jot down a few simple thoughts after the birth of your baby, your future self will thank you. Those moments are so, so blurry.

Pro Tip: If you like to journal, get your nurse to stamp your baby's footprints onto a page as well as onto their standard card stock paper. I did this with both my kids, and I LOVE that I have doodles and notes about their births next to footprints.

11. Snacks & Drinks

Bring a few granola bars, maybe some crackers, nuts, popcorn, sparkling waters or other favorite drinks.

Make Sure Dad Has His Bag Packed Too...

Don't do this for him. I repeat, DO NOT do this for him. But gently encourage him to pack a backpack with at least a toothbrush, some deodorant, and a change of clothes.

Make A Last Minute Packing List on a Notebook Page

Some things you won't be able to pack until the last minute, like your wallet and your phone. I recommend having your bag completely packed except these items. But whatever you can't pack ahead of time, write down on a piece of paper and set it on top of your bag. Trust me, you won't be able to think clearly once you're in "baby's about to arrive" mode. Those maternal instincts won't give a crap if you forget your phone. Or if you forget to wear pants.

Use a notebook to make a Last Minute Packing List. (Post-it notes and small pieces of paper get lost too easily.) Once your birth bag is packed with the items above, set this notebook on top of it.

  • Phone

  • Wallet (driver's license, insurance cards, credit cards)

  • Any medications you're taking

  • Write on this list anyone you need to call ASAP when you're in labor, like Grandma who will be taking care of your older child or your birth photographer

Pro Tip: Most hospitals will let you pre-register your information so you don't have to worry about it during your stay (that makes it sound like a tropical's not). I was terrified they'd make me hand over everything upon arrival and I'd have to sign a bunch of stuff and then melt onto the floor as they as scanned everything in. But there was actually a form I could fill out online beforehand. Often times hospital pre-registration forms also give you the chance to mention your birth preferences.

Side Note: For a not-so-complicated vaginal birth, most people stay in the hospital two days. But if you have a c-section you'll likely be in the hospital 3-4 days. Also keep this in mind when packing your birth bag.

Optional Items

Items I'd consider to be optional are: Headphones, a bluetooth speaker, a nicer camera with charged batteries, vitamins, and a copy of your birth plan if you have one.

What NOT to Pack in Your Birth Bag

I was a somewhat neurotic first-time mom. (I packed prenatal vitamins in my hospital bag like my baby's life depended on them.) Based on my experience giving birth in hospitals, there are a few items I wouldn't bother packing:

01. A Season of The Office

Go ahead. Laugh. But I kid you not, I packed an entire season of The Office in my birth bag for baby no. 1. I had all these friends at the time who were telling me these stories of 36 hour labors and how it would take. For. Eh. Ver. So I had it in my head that I'd have all this pain-free time to kill. (Instead, I arrived at the hospital with five full-blown, yep-definitely-in-labor hours to spare and then totally missed the epidural window.)

On the off chance that you get an epidural and sit there for hours and hours on end virtually pain-free, you will be occupied. You'll either sleep to prepare for the main event. Or talk with your pattern. Or call someone. I personally don't think it's a good idea to distract yourself from what's about to happen.

02. A Butt Load of Snacks & Drinks

Bring a couple snacks and maybe your favorite beverage to enjoy afterwards. I brought granola bars and a kombucha. You're not packing for a weekend up at the lake.

Fun Fact: A "butt" is an actual unit of measurement. While obsolete, the definition goes as follows: A regional English measure of capacity of a heavy cart (a butt), containing 6 seams, or 48 bushels, equivalent to 384 gallons. You're welcome.

Getting ready to change baby's diaper and outfit after his very first bath

03. Diapers & Wipes

Hospitals will provide all the diapers you'll need while you're there, so don't pack them. If you're planning to deliver at a birthing center, this might be different, so check with your midwife first.

04. Loads of Your Cutest Baby Clothes

You won't be concerned with changing your baby's outfit and drooling over her cuteness after you've just given birth. You'll be in survival mode. So leave the cute clothes at home, except for maybe your baby's going home outfit.

05. Regular, Pre-Baby Clothes for Yourself

Sorry to say, but that stuff won't fit for a while my friend. And it definitely won't be comfortable. You'll still have a bit of a baby bump while you're at the hospital, so stick with bringing larger clothing items or maternity clothes.

06. Books & Magazines

Get this, the What to Expect recommendation article on this topic tells you to bring their book to the hospital. Hmmm...conflict of interest? Convenient for them if you buy their book, not so fitting for you. The day of your baby's birth is NOT the time to get stressed out about all the things you don't know/need to know/are unsure of.

(PSA: I don't consulting the What to Expect website for your packing list. Their list has a lot of unnecessary things IMO. For example, being in the hospital is NOT the time to think about thank you cards either. The hospital will have burp clothes. And I'm so sorry, but I have to bring this up: They also recommend bringing "a hat with a little brim in case it’s sunny." Noooo way. Don't bring it.)

Anyways, other sites will tell you to bring a juicy novel to divulge in as you'll be staying at a hotel, overflowing with free-time, and drenched in worry-free sunshine. While in labor, you likely won't be able to or want to read, even if you're riding that epidural hard. You'll be so wrapped up in how crazy it is that you're about to give birth. Or you'll be so wrapped up in a blanket, sleeping. Or you'll just be trying to take your next breath.

07. Makeup

I get that this is a personal preference thing, but I see no value in bringing makeup to the hospital with you. Even if you're having Fresh 48 photos done, it doesn't make sense to me. Why waste time when you could be sleeping or looking at your baby? And why have photos that don't accurately represent your baby's birth?

What to Bring Home With You

Say whaaaat? Yep, you heard me right. We're not done yet. And I bet your mind just exploded because you haven't thought much past your baby's birth yet, but there are a few items you might want to take home that are worth noting, so leave some room in your birth bag.

  • Diapers. Trust me, the hospital staff expects you to stash extra diapers in your bag. It's more than fine.

  • While you're at it, grab a few monster pads to take with you.

  • And if your hospital offers witch hazel pads, grab some of those too.

  • If you deliver vaginally, take your perineal cleansing bottle (translation: squirt bottle to clean your lady parts) home with you. You'll likely need it for around a week after your baby is born.

  • Don't forget to grab your water bottle the hospital gave you. It's like a freaking trophy for crying out loud. Or at least at the very least a participation award.

  • Sentimental goodies: Baby's footprints paper. Hospital bands and name tags for your scrapbook if you're the sentimental type.

  • Any gifts that family + friends dropped off.

  • The hospital staff will likely give you a folder with people to contact for lactation advice and postpartum support. They might have something in there about your baby's birth certificate and how to apply for a social security number. Don't forget to take that folder home.

Whelp, I hope my Type A crazy side blessed you and this list makes it so you don't have to think so hard. Now get packing so you can eat some spicy food (you never know, it might help) and put your feet up. :)


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Located in Minneapolis, Kara Joy Photography is a lifestyle & documentary photographer who specializes in newborn & family photography. She's known for capturing raw emotion & authentic expressions through a laid-back approach. Her unforced images have a glaze that is natural yet polished. The cherry on top? A quick turnaround time.

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