It’s tiiiiiime! Baby is coming—it’s inevitable now. But before you jump in the car and head for the hospital, do you have these essentials in your maternity bag?
Don’t leave the house without these 53 items. In fact, pack them weeks before your due date—at around 34 weeks, just in case!—and have them ready near your front door or maybe even in the trunk of your car so you can leave for the hospital stress-free (I mean, you know, almost).
Make yourself coffee your favorite way, and enjoy this list of maternity bag essentials! Grab a free printable checklist at the end of the article.
You will need something to wear eventually besides your hospital gown—and if there ever was a time to not go glam, it’s now.
Joggers, leggings, etc. Anything that’ll fit you when you’re pregnant, at this point! It will likely be too hot for pants in the maternity ward, but in case you go outside, you might want to put on some pants…
Bring 2 nursing nightdresses if you can. If one gets dirty (let’s say you leak milk on it, or your baby spits up all over you), you’ll be glad you have a spare. I found a nightdress was perfect because it felt good not to have a waistband after having given birth.
Maybe you don’t plan on nursing, or maybe you just want to have some normal clothes on for when people visit. You can stay comfy but still look like a normal person in your large tshirts.
Comfy tshirt dress
I came to the hospital in a tshirt dress and I labored in it for nigh ten hours before getting changed into my hospital gown. I gotta say, it was practical, AND I looked pretty cute!
Robe or dressing gown
Another alternative to a nursing nightdress when you want to feel comfy, but also like you’ve just checked in to a luxury hotel (ha!). I found a great kimono dress from Esprit which felt like a comfy nightdress but looked like a fancy day dress. Score!
Don’t walk around the hospital in your bare feet if you can help it! Buy yourself a pair of cheap slippers just for the hospital that you can throw out after your stay.
Your boobs will need support, especially after your milk drops. Visitors will also probably appreciate that you are wearing a bra.
All the “fun” stuff of labor and postpartum madness…
If you’ve never heard of this, it’s genius. It’s basically paper panties. You still need to wear a maxi pad with them, but you can just throw them out when they get soiled instead of ruining your expensive silk ones. Also they should fit very loosely for maximum comfort.
The mattress-sized ones—or not! You will lose a lot of blood after you give birth, of course. You might need the biggest industrial ones you can find, which would be handy at night. For daytime, just the regular pads should be fine. It always feels nicer to switch them out more often rather than sitting on a pile of your own blood for longer.
If you plan on nursing, plan on bringing a lot of breast pads! The disposable kind is the best for the hospital because they absorb more and you won’t have the hassle of stocking them somewhere, then washing them, etc.
Washcloths & bath towel
Once in a while, your baby will sleep for more than 12 minutes, and you’ll have the choice between napping, eating, or showering! For those times when you do want to shower, a bath towel and washcloths would be nice.
Water facial mist
I wasn’t sure what this was called in English. Can someone correct me if I’m wrong? It’s the water in a spray can! You know, like Evian thermal water facial mist. Great for labor.
If you’ve been taking care of the skin on your belly throughout your pregnancy with a special cream or oil, DON’T STOP once baby arrives! Your skin needs to shrink back down again, and this process can cause stretch marks, too! So keep going. You might not get around to doing this at the hospital, but you definitely won’t if you don’t bring it!
Fuel your labor and your nursing! Actually, you probably won’t be able to eat anything once you enter the hospital in labor. But you will be hungry after the birth, and hospital food will just not suffice!
Like Gatorade, okay? Not Red Bull. Replenish those electrolytes!
High-protein, high-fiber energy bars, often with fruit and granola, will help with the insane hunger pangs when you nurse.
There will come a time when you want something slightly sweet but not too heavy. Enter the fruit compote (yeah, okay, you can call it applesauce).
Another great snack for energy after you’ve just pushed a watermelon out a straw, or when you’re nursing and you only have one hand free.
Give yourself a little treat—you absolutely deserve it! The reason I packed hard candy was that I heard it was the only thing the nurses would let me eat during labor, and that turned out to be true. Get a little hit of sugar when you feel you can’t go on!
If salt is more your thing, pack a little savory treat for yourself. My weakness is chips (crisps), but I do like pretzels as a healthier alternative when I am craving salt.
Aren’t you glad you don’t have to bring a bulky camcorder these days?
Cell phone & charger
Whatever you do, don’t forget your phone! Make sure there is plenty of room on your hard drive or in your cloud to take 1590 photos of your newborn. And remember your charger! Bring the longest cord you have because you never know where the free sockets will be in your hospital room.
Tablet & charger
My tablet saved me in hospital. I downloaded a bunch of funny, feel-good TV shows and movies when I needed some Me Time. You will also enjoy the larger screen of your tablet to place those last-minute panic orders of groceries and baby equipment to be delivered to your house by the time you get discharged.
For those times when you want to watch a show or listen to a podcast, to drown out the laboring woman down the hall. (True story, this happened to me in the dead of night when C was sleeping soundly but I couldn’t because the guttural sounds from down the hall put a chill in my spine.)
—Maternity bag essentials for baby—
Babies have trouble keeping their body temperature up when they are born. They were inside you for 9 months, baking at a comfortable 98.6°F/37°C. Now they’re out in the cold world. Keep yours warm and toasty! C was born in a heat wave and she still needed to wear 8 layers to keep her warm in hospital.
The best kind cross over the chest and snap in place—avoids you having to pull anything over your baby’s head, because newborns are less than cooperative.
The warmer, the better. Choose a wool knit or similar.
Teeny tiny socks
You can put the tiniest socks on the planet—get this—on the outside. So, put the onesie, then the footy pajamas, and THEN the socks.
Pajamas are different than onesies. They’ve got arms. They’ve got legs. They are warm for baby, and easy for mama to get on and off for diaper changes.
So your baby doesn’t lose heat through his head. Every newborn needs a little cap!
The hospital will probably provide bedding such as a swaddle for your baby, but if you have a baby sleeping bag, it will be a lot easier. (Don’t bring blankets, which are iffy because of a higher risk of SIDS.)
I mention the lovey because it feels so sweet to present a gift to your baby. But don’t make the mistake of thinking your baby will either notice or care! It’s more for you than for him. (Again, do not let your baby sleep with a lovey in his bassinet because of a higher risk of SIDS.)
In case of spit-up. C had a terrible reflux problem for the first six months, and I was constantly changing bibs.
—Maternity bag essentials for papa—
C’s papa wasn’t terribly interested in packing anything for the hospital, so I took the liberty of packing the following for him.
Change of clothes
Might feel nice to have a change of clothes in the event that Papa needs to stay at the hospital with you overnight. Or in case baby spits up!
Cell phone & charger
Just like Mama, Papa will also need to bring his cell phone with plenty of room for photos. He’ll likely be fielding the first calls, too.
Tablet & charger
You get to bring one—why not Papa, too?
Camera & charger
In case your camera lives outside of your phone.
Could come in handy for watching shows on his tablet or taking phone calls.
His usual toiletries
Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap—and that’s about it. Amiright, ladies? Alright, maybe some deodorant.
Baby car seat
Many weeks before your due date, you should purchase and set up a baby car seat. Do not neglect this step. The one I had purchased could not be installed in my car, and I needed to buy an adapter.
Eliminate this stress, and don’t do it at the last minute! Then, if the car seat doesn’t stay installed, make sure Papa re-installs it before he comes to pick you up when you get discharged.
Not sure if Papa needs this in the US, but in France, they require papas to bring their vaccination records. If anything is out-of-date, they vaccinate you right there. Gotta prevent that whooping cough.
More fun stuff… but you don’t want to think about this when your baby is pushing down on your cervix, so get it together well before!
Blood type information
Good to know in case you need a transfusion (I would hope not, but it does happen). In France, it wasn’t enough for me to just know my blood type; it had to be tested before and the results had to be brought to the hospital with me.
Health insurance cards
Everyone has one, usually two, health insurance cards in France. Not sure how it works in the US, but you definitely need all your health insurance info.
Anything relevant to your pregnancy that your doctors might want to refer to.
Blood test result
In France, I had a blood test at least once a month for toxoplasmosis. I am sure there were many others (like for blood type, for example), but it’s a good idea to have them on you.
I also had one ultrasound per month, so I brought those with me, as well.
Of course, your vaccinations should be up-to-date, and your hospital might require them.
France only: livret de famille
If you have one, bring it! This is the booklet where marriages, divorces, births, and deaths are recorded for your family. Only the most important dichotomies.
—Other maternity bag essentials—
Random things I found helpful.
Your usual toiletries
Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo. I even brought minimal makeup for when folks came to visit and I wanted to look—well, not like death warmed up.
Pen & paper
Came in handy more than once. I took notes if I needed to remember something, like all the paperwork I would be expected to file following the birth.
Bag for gifts
Yes, some gifts will come in bags. But others will come in packages or boxes. Bring a big collapsible bag and put everything inside instead of having a bunch of little ones strewn about your hospital room.
Mesh laundry bag
Keep all the dirty clothes in one place, away from the clean ones. Bring two if you have them. That way, Papa can take one home for washing, and you still have a spare.
Chux pad & towel
A Chux pad is a disposable absorbent pad. If you are taking a car to the hospital, you might not want to break your waters all over your seat. Lay down a Chux pad and sit on a bath towel. You’ll thank me.
FOR YOUR BABY, not you! You’ll need to monitor his temperature, and for newborns, the most accurate way is through the bum…
Diapers & wet wipes
My hospital provided these, but I suspect it won’t be the case for all. Get yourself some newborn-sized diapers and something to wipe with.
These come in so handy for spit-up but also for a little nursing privacy.
… and that’s about it!
Woo! That was a huge list! Mind you, this is from the perspective of someone who spent a week in hospital. In the US you might only get 24-48 hours. But I am a planner and organizer at heart, and I like to be prepared!
Don’t forget to grab my free printable checklist of all these maternity bag essentials!
Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !
Save this post, and come back to it later! Just pin the below image for easy reference.