dc fresh 48 newborn photographer | hospital bag essentials

If you’re delivering in a hospital, you may be wondering what you should pack in your hospital bag. As the due date gets closer, it’s easy to stress over the hospital bag. There are so many things to organize and think about! Believe me, I’ve been there three times now. Start gathering your items early. Once I neared 34 weeks, I ordered things I needed and started a clothes pile and a last-minute packing list that I kept on top off my hospital bag. With 2 kids to think about, it can get complicated quickly.

With all of my hospital bag packing experience, I feel like an expert on what you should bring :) Essentials only for me. Pack light, because your stuff will somehow multiply overnight. And the hospital gives you stuff in addition to gifts that the baby may receive.

Image of hospital essentials for your maternity hospital bag by DC fresh 48 newborn photographer Stefanie Harrington

Here’s a complete list of what you should pack in your hospital bag: 

L&D Clothes. I packed comfy maternity leggings, my roomiest maternity t-shirt and a warm cardigan for labor and delivery. I’ve labored in the gowns before, but I get too chilly. Once labor progressed, I took off my leggings and underwear. My cardigan and t-shirt kept me warm and also kept my bum covered. Just before I pushed out the baby, I took off my shirt so that I could do immediate skin to skin.

Slippers and Socks. Hospital rooms are chilly, and your own slippers and socks are much cozier than those hospital socks. I used the hospital socks during labor, because you can swap them easily when they get wet. And they likely will, because you’re in labor. I had fluid leaking the entire time during labor. 

Pajamas and Robe. What you wear after the birth, may depend on how you feel. With my first, I brought clothes and just felt too tired and wrecked to bother for the first day. I felt great and like my normal self after the other two births. I brought a pretty yet comfortable robe and 2 outfits for visiting hours: maternity leggings and a maternity tank top; pretty pajamas. I wore my robe both days. 

Nursing Tank and/or Bra. The nursing tanks are super easy to use for those early days of breastfeeding. You can layer them with your lounge wear, PJs or robe. I wore a tank one day, a bra the other day. I only wear the nursing tanks early on postpartum and had some basic ones at Target. For nursing bras, I get custom fitted once my milk is fully in (if you’re near Friendship Heights, Sylene’s is great). I like nursing bras without underwire, because that can lead to clogged ducts. My most comfortable nursing bra is from Cake

Nursing Pillow. Whichever nursing pillow you pick based on reviews and friends’ recommendations, bring it. Newborns nurse a lot and fall asleep on the breast constantly so it’s helpful to have some support for baby. Otherwise, your arms will get very tired from holding baby at your breast around the clock. I used a Boppy pillow with all 3 of my kids and really liked it. 

Nipple Cream. Not to scare you, but the early days of breastfeeding suck. Your nipples will be crazy raw and painful. Every time. My third time was actually the worst, and nothing healed except applying breast milk and letting that air dry. The hospital will give you some lanolin, but that didn’t help me at all, ever. I used Soothies in the hospital with my second and third, and that helped quite a bit until my milk came in.

Music. Bring a small speaker to connect to your phone for your labor playlist. I still remember dancing in the hospital with my husband during our oldest’s labor. And Ellen’s playlist is still on regular rotation at my house.

TENS Unit. I used a TENS unit to help with natural pain management during my daughter’s birth and wish I’d had it for my other labors, too. It’s really pretty cool and easy to use.

Camera. You just had a baby. That’s kind of a big deal. Chances are you’ll likely want to snap some photos during your hospital stay. Your birth photographer can document siblings and/or grandparents meeting the baby during a Fresh 48 session, but I also documented our hospital departure and car ride home. 

Pillow. I’m particular about my pillow. Bring your own in an easy-to-recognize pillow case. You’ll be so much more comfortable when you’re sleeping… Which is rarely, because you have a newborn to cuddle.

Baby’s Going-Home Outfit. I recommend bringing 2 outfits in different sizes. My boys picked out a gender neutral newborn outfit for the baby and, since she was 9 pounds, none of it fit, not even the hat. I was glad that I had another newborn outfit that ran a bit bigger stashed in my bag. I also bring a blanket for the baby.

Mama’s Going-Home Outfit. The good news is that any of your maternity clothes will fit comfortably again. (Because let’s face it, during those last weeks, nothing fits anymore. Nothing.) I brought yet more maternity leggings and a top to wear home.

Toiletries. The usual: toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, hair ties, deodorant, face and body lotion. I rarely wear make up so I only packed mascara. My hospital had things like shampoo and body wash. I like to pack light, remember? 

Lip Balm. Yes, it’s an essential item. I kept it in my bag’s outside pocket so that I and my birth support could easily get to it.

Small Tote. Tuck a reusable grocery bags into your bag to use for the hospital freebies to take home. For packing, I recommend a weekend bag, which is the perfect size for all of your gear from home.

Birth Plan. You likely have a birth plan. Put it somewhere easily accessible in your bag. 

Toys/Entertainment for Siblings. Depending on how long they stay, your older child may become bored with a sleeping and/or nursing newborn so some favorite books or quiet toys will come in very handy.

Image of a young mother holding her newborn baby in hospital room

Some things that the hospital provides that are well worth using:

Witch Hazel Pads. I’d never heard of these until my first delivery, but these little pads are wonderful if you have a sore bottom. I also bought some Earth’s Mama Bottom Balm to have on hand at home.

Underwear. While the one-size-fits-most hospital mesh underwear is super unsexy, they have plenty of room to accommodate the ice packs and sanitary pads that will be crammed in there to help you heal. By the second day, I like using my own underwear, because they hold the sanitary pads in place better. 

Baby Care. You don’t really need to prepare anything for the baby unless you want to. The hospital provides clothes, hats, blankets, diapers, wipes. I, personally, really enjoyed the hospital gear, because it’s a sweet reminder of those days in the photos. 

Image of newborn baby in hospital bassinet

For my older children, I packed them each a small overnight bag. Their bags were ready to go directly next to my bag:

  1. Clean clothes for 2-3 days
  2. Outfit for hospital visit in ziplock bag
  3. Pajamas
  4. Stuffed animals for sleeping + nightlight and sound machine
  5. Printed kids’ iCal schedule with birthday party, play dates, sports info, etc.
  6. Info sheet with pediatrician number, school contacts and logistics info, emergency contact numbers
  7. Sports equipment for their games

Image of newborn baby in hospital room with dad in background

Happy packing and preparing, Mamas! I can’t wait to meet your newest love.

PS: You may have noticed that I didn’t talk about dad’s clothes… He was on his own to pack and prepare :) :) I had enough going on.

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