Hospital bag checklist - Which? (2024)

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From newborn necessities to labour essentials, our hospital bag checklistreveals what to have with you, wherever and however you're giving birth

Hospital bag checklist - Which? (1)

Martha RobertsSenior content writer

Hospital bag checklist - Which? (2)

In this article

  • When to pack your hospital bag
  • What to pack in your hospital bag
  • C-section hospital bag
  • Useful extras to pack in your hospital bag
  • Download our hospital bag checklist
  • Where to buy hospital bag essentials

For both mum-to-be and birth partner, there are a surprising number of things to keep track of when labour starts. But there are ways you can prepare in advance, so the arrival of your baby can go as smoothly as possible.

Here we go through the top things to put in your hospital bag – whether you’re planning for a vagin*l birth or a C-section – as well as how to prepare for the journey to the hospital or birth centre on the big day.

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When to pack your hospital bag

The NHS recommends getting it ready at least three weeks before your due date, but it's never too soon to pack your hospital bag – the last thing you want when labour kicks in is to be searching for things you bought months ago and put 'somewhere safe'.

Each year around one in 13 UK babies (approximately 60,000) are born before 37 weeks, so having your bag ready will mean you don't have to panic if your little one comes early.

You may want to get your bag ready sooner than this if you're expecting multiples (from around the third trimester/around 27 weeks) or have been told by your medical team that you may give birth even earlier, such as if you've got pre-eclampsia.

It's a really good idea for your birth partner to get their hospital bag ready too, as the due date draws closer.

Find out the mostpopular baby essentials. Plus, we reveal which baby products are rated most – and least – useful by parents.

What to pack in your hospital bag

Our advice is to pack two bags – one for you and one for your baby – to make things easier to find.

Hospital bag for mum

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  • Comfortable clothing.Think clothes that aren't going to restrict you. Perhaps a nightie/nightshirt or T-shirt to give birth in and a couple of others for after the birth – front-opening if you plan to breastfeed. Socks are also a good idea as your feet can get cold during labour. Take a lightweight dressing gown and extra clothing in case you end up staying in hospital, as well as flip-flops or sliders for ease of use – especially after a C-section. A comfortable outfit that will accommodate your baby belly (which won't go down right away) to go home in should also be on the list.
  • Large knickers.Following the birth, big, stretchy cotton or disposable pants with a high waistband for comfort, especially if you've had stitches or are feeling tender. They'll also help to hold bulky maternity sanitary pads in place.
  • Maternity sanitary pads.These are designed for blood leaks that tend to happen in the first few days after the birth. The NHS suggests two packs of maternity or super-absorbent sanitary pads.
  • Supportive bras.Your maternity bras should continue to give you support post-birth as long as they're still comfortable, or you could switch to breastfeeding bras with dropdown cups instead. Pack two or three to take to hospital.
  • Breast pads.Post-birth, the 'let-down reflex', when you hear your baby crying or it's close to feeding time, will cause your breasts to leak milk in between feeds – even if you're not breastfeeding. Also known as maternity breast pads or nursing pads, they are available as disposable or reusable varieties. It's worth taking plenty with you to help keep the area as dry as possible to avoid irritation or infections.
  • Washbag and toiletries. Pack the usuals: toothbrush, toothpaste, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, contact lens solutions and containers if needed, plus lip balm and nipple cream if you're breastfeeding.
  • Maternity medical notes and your birth plan. Your notes are where all the information about your pregnancy and medical history is recorded, so it’s important to keep them with you. This is especially important if you’re away from your usual place of care when you go into labour. Your birth plan is a written record that can help your care team to know what you'd like to happen when you're having your baby, as well as assisting your birth partner if they need to advocate for you.
  • Towels and flannels. Take towels for both you and baby – you can’t always guarantee you’ll be given one in hospital, and even if you are they're likely to be on the small side. A couple of flannels might be useful, too, for cooling you down during labour or for bathing after the birth.
  • TENS machine and other birth aids.You may want to use a birth ball, TENS machine, massage oil or other aids designed to increase your comfort or reduce pain during labour and birth. Don't forget replacement electrode pads and any spare batteries you might need.
  • Mobile phone and charger. A smartphone for making calls, sending texts and updating social media can also be used for listening to birth playlists and hypnobirthing sessions during labour. Don't forget the charger and a portable charging bank, too, in case you don’t have access to a power socket.

Best pregnancy pillows: find out which ones our panel of mums-to-be rated highly for support and firmness

Hospital bag for baby

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  • Car seat. Not exactly one to squeeze into the hospital bag but vital to remember when you head out, as you won't be able to leave the hospital in a car without one. Our advice on how to fit a baby or child car seat will give you extra peace of mind, too.
  • Clothing and accessories.Newborns can get through a fair few outfits, so calculate for around five or six sleepsuits, bodysuits and vests per day – and don't forget an outfit for going home in. Other useful items include hats, mittens and socks.
  • Newborn nappies. Unless your baby is in special care, you’re unlikely to get more than one or two nappies from the hospital, so make sure you’re well supplied.
  • Cotton wool or baby wipes.Newborn skin is so delicate that it should ideally be cleaned with just water and cotton wool or a cloth. If you choose to use baby wipes, they should be fragrance-free and alcohol-free – and preferably ones that aren't bad for the environment.
  • Muslin squares or bibs.Muslins have a multitude of uses, such as swaddling your newborn, wiping up excess milk or spit around their mouths or protecting your clothing when you're winding them.
  • Shawl or blanket. Although you're likely to be provided with a blanket for your little one, you might want your own for skin-to-skin contact and to put on them when you're taking them home. Choose one that's thin and close-knitted rather than one with a loose knit, to prevent your baby's toes and fingers from getting caught.

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C-section hospital bag

If you know that you’ll be having an elective C-section, you can plan your hospital bag to make you as comfortable as possible during and after the birth. As well as many of the things found in the list of most popular hospital bag items, there are others that are specific to having a C-section, including the following:

  • Music to play during the procedure.Studies show that it can help to reduce stress levels.
  • Blanket or shawl.You might feel quite cold if you have an epidural, so it's good to have something to wrap around or drape over yourself.
  • Drinks and snacks. You won’t be allowed to eat before the procedure, so you may be hungry afterwards.
  • Big, high-waisted knickers. This will ensure that any elastic won't rub on your C-section wound, causing discomfort and potentially preventing it from healing.
  • Dried fruit.The painkillers you're given might cause constipation, so eating dried fruit following the birth can help to prevent this.
  • A flannel or wipes.You have to wait at least 24 hours after survey to shower, and when you do it may be a little tricky, so take something to help keep you fresh and clean in between these times.

Useful extras to pack in your hospital bag

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  • Hair clips or hair bands.They’re small enough to forget, but during a hot labour or a water birth they're handy for keeping your hair off your face. Pack a hairbrush, too.
  • A water spray or fan. To cool you down during labour – hospitals can be very warm.
  • A water bottle with a sports lid.This type of lid will make it easier to sip from the bottle if you're lying down. See our round-up of the best reusable water bottles to find the perfect one for you.
  • Drinks and snacks for energy.Think cereal bars, boiled sweets/dextrose tablets, dried fruit, sandwiches, vegetable sticks (eg carrots) and crackers or rice cakes. The Royal College of Midwives says women can eat and drink as they wish if they're unlikely to need the care of a doctor. If you're having a general or local anaesthetic, such as when you're having a C-section, talk to your medical team about what you can eat and when.
  • Ear plugs/noise-cancelling headphones and an eye mask.Ear plugs are especially important if you’re staying overnight, as maternity wards can be bright and noisy, with people coming and going, as well as other people's crying babies. Headphones could also be useful if you want to listen to music or hypnobirthing sessions on your phone. Find out which headphones will best suit your needs in our pick of the best headphones.
  • Magazines, books or downloads on your phone or a tablet. These may be especially useful during early labour, if you need to pass time or for after the birth if you're staying in overnight.
  • Your own pillow.Hospital or birth centre pillows are functional but not necessarily comfortable. Your own pillow will help you to create a little bit of home from home. A breastfeeding pillow might be useful, too.
  • Toilet roll. You may be a little tender after giving birth, so the last thing you need is having to use utilitarian loo roll. Take your own.
  • Plastic bag for dirty washing.Nappy sacks could be useful for getting rid of wipes, maternity pads and nappies, too.
  • Cash. If you don't have it, you can guarantee you'll need some loose change for grabbing a drink or snack from a vending machine.

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Download our hospital bag checklist

Click to download our free PDF checklist so you can tick off everything you'll need for your hospital bag - and your baby's bag, too.

Hospital bag checklist

pdf (2.4 MB)

There is a file available for download. (pdf — 2.4 MB). This file is available for download at .

Need a new pillow for your hospital bag? We've rated pillows in our best pillow brands guide to find out which came out on top.

Where to buy hospital bag essentials

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You'll be able to pick up some of the basics such as nappies, toilet rolls and snacks when you do your supermarket shop.

Other essentials might be easier to order online, such as bulky items like pillows, or for if you find a good deal, for example with headphones.

Some retailers such as John Lewis also offer virtual or in-store advice sessions with one of their experts to help you work out what you might need to buy.

We've listed some of the most searched-for retailers for hospital bag items, along with the stock you might find at each. Don't forget to have ourhospital bag checklist with you so you can tick off items as you browse in store or search online.

  • Asda sells plenty of hospital bag and maternity essentials, such as nappies, wipes and nipple cream. George at Asda stocks feeding pillows, maternity bras and other lingerie.
  • M&S stocks hospital bag staples including nursing bras, maternity knickers and front-opening nightware, plus extras you might like to take with you such as a nursing pillow.
  • Tescohas a few items you'll need for your hospital bag, including breast pads and nipple cream, plus disposable maternity briefs.
  • Boots stocks hospital bag essentials for mum-to-be, including disposable underwear, washable and disposable breast pads, nipple balm and feeding pillows, as well as for baby, including shawls, wipes, muslin cloths and clothing.
  • John Lewis has a wide range of hospital bag items, including packs of baby sleepsuits, bodysuits and muslin squares, as well as maxi cotton maternity briefs and flip-flops. Other essentials you could get from here include headphones, mobile phones and power banks. If you're after a car seat for your baby, some John Lewis stores offer a car fitting demonstration.
  • Argos sells a wide range of hospital bag staples including TENS machines, packs of muslin squares, nursing bras and feeding pillows.

Best baby or child car seats– our tough Which? tests help you to make the best decision.

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Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an expert and enthusiast, I have access to a vast amount of information and can provide insights on various topics. While I have personal experiences or opinions, I can provide factual information and answer questions based on available sources.

Regarding the concepts mentioned in this article, here is some information related to each concept:

  1. Hospital Bag Checklist:

    • The article discusses the importance of packing a hospital bag in advance for expectant parents.
    • It suggests packing two separate bags, one for the mother and one for the baby, to make it easier to find items.
    • The article provides a list of essential items to pack in the hospital bag for both the mother and the baby.
    • It also mentions specific items to include in a hospital bag for a C-section birth.
  2. When to Pack Your Hospital Bag:

    • The article suggests getting the hospital bag ready at least three weeks before the due date, as recommended by the NHS.
    • It mentions that it's never too soon to pack the bag to avoid last-minute panic.
    • If expecting multiples or if there are medical indications for an early birth, it may be advisable to pack the bag earlier.
  3. What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag:

    • The article provides a list of items to pack in the hospital bag for the mother, including comfortable clothing, large knickers, maternity sanitary pads, supportive bras, breast pads, toiletries, towels, and flannels.
    • It also suggests packing items such as a TENS machine, mobile phone, charger, and a car seat for the baby.
    • For a C-section birth, additional items like music, a blanket or shawl, drinks and snacks, and a flannel or wipes are recommended.
  4. Useful Extras to Pack in Your Hospital Bag:

    • The article suggests packing hair clips or hair bands, a water spray or fan, a water bottle with a sports lid, drinks and snacks for energy, ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones, an eye mask, magazines or books, your own pillow, toilet roll, a plastic bag for dirty washing, and cash.
  5. Where to Buy Hospital Bag Essentials:

    • The article mentions several retailers where hospital bag essentials can be purchased, including Asda, M&S, Tesco, Boots, John Lewis, Argos, and others.
    • It suggests that some items can be easily picked up during a supermarket shop, while others may be more convenient to order online.

Please note that the information provided above is a summary of the concepts discussed in this article. For more detailed information, it is recommended to refer to the original article.

Hospital bag checklist - Which? (2024)
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