Hospital bag

Snuggly PJs, babygrows and a whole buffet of snacks. Here’s what you should think about adding to your bag when you go into labour…

If you’re feeling totally clueless about what you need to pack in your bag for labour, try not to worry.

Your midwife can steer you in the right direction. The Which? Birth Choice guide can let you know what will already be available at the hospital you’ll be giving birth in.

You might also be able to book a tour of the hospital where you’ll be having your baby. That way you can ask more about what you need to bring from home and what’s available at the hospital.

Here are your other questions answered on all things hospital kit related…

When should I pack my hospital bag for birth?

You can start packing whenever you want to. But it’s a good idea to have your bag ready at least two weeks ahead of your due date (NHS, 2018).  

What type of hospital bag do I need?

You can use whichever of your bags that’ll do the job. You definitely don’t have to spend money on a special bag to take into hospital. Why not save the cash for an extra cute babygrow or three instead.

Packing two bags might also work for you – one for during labour and one for afterwards. Or you could go for a small suitcase; it might sound crazy but the stuff you will need adds up. And, after all, you are packing for a possible overnight stay (for at least two people…).

When your bag is packed, leave it by the front door so you don’t forget it. Then let your birth partner or whoever is driving you to the hospital know where it is and what’s in it. That way they can be ready to help as soon as you need them to.

What essentials shall I pack in my hospital bag for labour?

Here’s a starting point for what you’ll need in labour:

  • Maternity notes.
  • Birth plan, if you’ve made one.
  • A comfy, loose outfit for labour that you can move around in and that won’t make you too hot. A cosy nighty or a big t-shirt is perfect.
  • Chill-out kit including books, magazines, music or podcasts (more for the early stages…).
  • A fan or water spray to cool you down.
  • A phone and charger – with good storage.
  • Healthy snacks and drinks.
  • Your own pillow, possibly a giant pregnancy one.
  • A TENS machine and batteries if you want to use one and if your hospital doesn’t provide one.
  • Any medication you’re taking.
  • Your wash bag with your toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, soap, hair ties and other toiletries (NHS, 2018).
  • Aromatherapy oils, especially if you have been using them during pregnancy, e.g. for hypnobirthing.

You might also want to bring your birth ball but check on your tour or with your midwife whether the hospital has its own.  

What essentials shall I pack in my hospital bag for after the birth?

Once labour’s done and dusted and you’re chilling out with your new arrival, you’ll need a whole host of other things.

Bring these in your bag:

  • large sanitary or maternity pads
  • large comfy knickers (or disposable ones)
  • towels
  • dressing gown
  • slippers or flip-flops
  • comfy, maternity-sized outfit to wear home
  • cash – you might need it for parking or to grab a magazine or emergency chocolate bar
  • iPad or tablet.

And if you’re planning to breastfeed, add:

  • nursing bras
  • breast pads
  • front-opening nighties or pyjama tops.

What should I pack in my hospital bag for my new baby?

Yep, it’s not just you you’re packing for. For the baby, add in:

  • bodysuits or vests
  • sleep suits (including one you want them to go home in)
  • a hat
  • scratch mittens
  • socks or booties
  • nappies
  • cotton wool balls or newborn-friendly wipes
  • blankets
  • muslin squares
  • a snowsuit if it’s cold.

You’ll also need to make sure you have a car seat that’s correctly fitted. If you’re getting a taxi home, check you know how to fit the car seat  yourself (NHS, 2018).

What shall my birth partner pack in their hospital bag?

Your birth partner may be at hospital with you for a long time, and even overnight, so they will definitely need to have a bag packed too.

They should think about packing:

  • snacks
  • cash
  • a change of clothes
  • a wash bag
  • a camping mattress if there is room for them to stay over
  • a book or something to distract the mum to be if you’re relaxing in the early stages.

Important numbers

Wherever you're planning to give birth, keep a list of important numbers in your purse or in your phone. You’ll need to include:

  • the hospital, midwife or doula's phone number
  • your partner or birth partner's phone number
  • your hospital reference number (on your card or notes).

This page was last reviewed in September 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

The Which? Birth Choice regional guide to labour wards and birth centres provides information about services in your area, including what equipment is already provided.

NHS choices. (2018) Pack your bag for labour; what you’ll need for labour and birth. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pack-your-bag-for-birth/ [Accessed 1st September 2018].

Symon AG, Dugard P, Butchart M, Carr V, Paul J. (2011) Care and environment in midwife-led and obstetric-led units: a comparison of mothers' and birth partners' perceptions. Available from: https://www.midwiferyjournal.com/article/S0266-6138(10)00153-1/fulltext. Midwifery. 27(6):880-886. [Accessed 1st September 2018].

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