Getting prepped with what you’ll need can help you feel much more ready to have your baby. Here’s a comprehensive guide…
If you're planning to give birth in a birth centre (midwife-led unit), you’ll still need a hospital bag. Pack it with stuff you, your partner and the baby will need at the midwife-led unit or birth centre, but also if you are transferred to hospital. Your midwife will probably give you an idea of what you need to pack. But here’s the lowdown and the checklist.
Do remember – in what is probably quite a pricey time for you – you don’t need to buy a new bag for labour. You can use any kind of bag you want.
Some women prefer to pack two smaller bags. That means one for labour and one with the stuff you and your baby will need after their birth.
During the Covid pandemic, each maternity unit has carried out a risk assessment. Check with your unit about any rules around partners leaving during or after labour to pick up another bag, in case you need to bring everything in one go (NHS, 2020a).
It’s a good idea to have your bag packed by 37 weeks at the latest. Yet you might find it reassuring to get it done by 32 weeks, just in case.
Packing checklist: labour
Remember to pack the following in your hospital bag for labour:
- birth plan
- maternity notes, if they are not online
- a couple of changes of clothes – something comfortable and cool for moving around in labour, like big T-shirts
- books, iPads, games, music, or magazines – to help you pass the time and relax during labour
- water spray bottle or handheld fan
- lip balm – lips often get super-dry during labour
- money for car parking and/or taxis
- phone and charger (check you have enough storage on your phone)
- healthy snacks and drinks
- extra pillows
- TENS machine if you want one
- birth ball and pump if not provided
- any medications you’re on
- toiletries bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, hair bobbles, soap and shampoo. (NHS, 2018)
Packing checklist: after the birth
Remember to pack the following in your hospital bag for after the birth:
- comfortable and supportive bras, including front-opening nursing bras if you're planning to breastfeed
- breast pads
- maternity pads (two packets)
- an extra five pairs of knickers
- one or two front-opening or loose-fitting nighties or tops if you're planning to breastfeed
- dressing gown and slippers
- loose, comfortable shoes and clothing to go home in
- mobile phone and charger
- some cash – for parking or hospital shop. (NHS, 2018).
Packing checklist: baby
Remember to pack the following in your hospital bag for your baby:
- bodysuits, vests, sleep suits and a hat
- a going home outfit
- scratch mittens
- socks and booties
- lots of nappies for your newborn
- cotton wool or baby wipes suitable for a newborn
- baby blanket
- muslin squares
- snowsuit if it’s cold – choose one you can easily remove before placing your baby in their car seat to make sure the fastenings fit snugly
- car seat if you’re driving home – make sure it’s correctly fitted or if you’re getting a taxi home, that you know how to fit it. (NHS, 2018)
Packing checklist: your partner
Don’t forget your birth partner. They should either whip up a bag for themselves, or you should pack a joint one with their stuff in it too. Either way, make sure they’re familiar with what’s in yours as you’ll probably ask them to pass you various things when the time comes.
In their bag, they should pack:
- a change of clothes and toiletries in case they stay overnight
- face mask (NHS, 2020a)
Important numbers for labour
Wherever you're planning to give birth, make sure all the important numbers are in your phone and written down as back-up too. Include:
- your hospital, midwife or doula's phone number
- your partner or birth partner's phone number
- your hospital reference number, which is on your card or notes.
This page was last reviewed in April 2021.
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 Maternity unit search (NHS, 2020b) to find services, contact details and information.
NHS. (2020a) Supporting pregnant women using maternity services during the coronavirus pandemic: Actions for NHS providers. Available from: https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2020/12/C1243_Supporting-pregnant-women-using-maternity-services-actions-for-providers_150421.pdf [Accessed 1st April 2021].
NHS. (2020b) Find Maternity services services. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/other-services/Maternity%20services/LocationSearch/1802 [Accessed 1st April 2021].
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/ [Last Accessed: 1st April 2021].