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What to Pack in Your Hospital Maternity Bag for Labor – Essential Checklist

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I did what any responsible parent would do: I began a Pinterest board for nursery decor and baby outfits. I checked sites like Pottery Barn Kids and Crew Cuts for new sales and the latest merchandise (trying my best to save money on a tight budget).

I was one of the millions of new moms that let the excitement of a new baby get the best of them. Luckily, I saved the receipts and ended up returning more than half of what I purchased.

A mistake that many new moms like myself make is not anticipating the tremendous amount of money it takes to raise a child. According to the USDA, it costs a middle-income couple about $245,000 to raise a child through the age of 18. A high-income family spends about $455,000.

It’s important to educate other moms on what they can do to save money raising a child while making sure they still have the basic needs met for their children. Learning what is necessary to have on hand is essential. One of the first things a mom will need is the infamous “hospital bag.”

A hospital bag is exactly what it sounds like: a bag that you bring with you to the hospital when you go into labor. Most articles covering the topic are far too comprehensive. I personally didn’t need over half of the most commonly listed items. Below is a list of the absolute necessities.

Essential Things to Pack

1. Diaper bag

A diaper bag, which doubles as the “hospital bag” during labor, gets stained and dirty from everyday wear.  I recommend choosing one that is inexpensive so there will be no buyer’s remorse.  For me, it was important that it was both chic and functional, so I got myself the Skip Hop Chelsea Bag.

2. Nipple pads

Nipple pads are a necessity because as soon as you breastfeed, you begin lactating at all times of the day. A disposable nipple pad like the one from Lansinoh will prevent your clothing from getting wet and keeps your nipple sanitary for your newborn.

3. Nipple cream

Breastfeeding is a beautiful moment where mother and child can bond. However, it can be a very painful experience as well. The baby tends to use the nipple as a pacifier as they feed, causing cracks, soreness, and bleeding. I applied Lansinoh nipple cream after every feeding or when needed. It was a life saver. The best part is that it is safe for both mother and baby.

4. Infant outfit

Your newborn will need an outfit to go home in. Depending on the weather, you may need several layers. But, I’ve found that the best outfits for a newborn are footed onesies (so you don’t need to buy additional socks) that have zippers or snap button closures. This allows you to swiftly dress your delicate newborn in as few steps as possible. One of my favorite brands is Burt’s Bees because they offer organic clothing at affordable prices.

5. An outfit for you

When you’re ready to be released from the hospital, you will want to wear something comfortable. I recommend a pair of sweatpants (no jeans as it can irritate C-section wounds), a loose t-shirt, and a zippered hoodie or oversized cardigan. In case the baby needs to be fed while you’re on your way to the car, this outfit can easily allow you to feed the baby covertly.

Baby Clothing Accessories

What You Should Leave at Home

Like many people, I tend to overpack whenever I take an overnight trip. For a Caribbean vacation, I always pack a different bathing suit, daytime outfit, and nighttime outfit with matching shoes and accessories for each day I’m there only to find that I will wear the same two outfits on repeat. That same mindset carried over when packing for my hospital bag.

Here are the things I packed that I had no need for:

1. Multiple outfits for mommy

Being that this was my first child, the reality of labor and post-labor was only a glamorized imagery of the miracle of birth in daily matching baby and mommy outfits, with no pain or blood in sight. How naive. I had no idea I would have an IV in me the entire 8 days (8 days because I ended up having post labor preeclampsia and needed to be sedated with magnesium in case I went into cardiac arrest) nor that I would be bleeding for 6 weeks from giving birth and therefore had to wear what resembled an adult diaper during the entire time.

I foolishly purchased my own cute hospital gown because I didn’t think the one provided by the hospital was photo worthy. Needless to say, due to lack of sleep, puffiness, pain, and pure exhaustion, I didn’t even remember I had packed my own gown nor even felt like taking so many photos of myself. No one seems to talk about the reality of what goes on during and post-labor. I wish someone would have. That way, I could have been physically prepared, not to mention mentally and emotionally ready for the unexpected reality of child birth.

2. Multiple outfits and accessories for baby

I packed a pacifier, a receiving blanket, swaddles, hats, socks, and diapers for my newborn as suggested by a few blogs I’ve read. To begin, your newborn will be swaddled most of the time during the first few days of birth. When they are not, they will be having “skin to skin” time with mommy. This is when the naked baby is held on mommy’s bare chest to promote bonding.

Packing a pacifier was useless as babies don’t typically use pacifiers that early on in life. Also, my son never ended up liking it, so the purchase was completely unnecessary for me. The hospital provided me with a blanket, swaddle, hat, socks, and diapers for my son during his stay as well as extras to take home. In fact, they gave me so many diapers, formula, and other necessities to take home that I wished my hospital bag was less full so I had room to take more free things home.

Final Word

A big lesson I learned during the first few months of my son’s life was that it is better to wait to purchase items as they are needed. A maternal instinct that pregnant women have is to begin nesting during their final trimester as we anticipate all the needs of our babies. However, you will soon learn that you won’t need half of what you’ve purchased. You may find it difficult to return or exchange items since you are now too busy with a newborn to run errands.

The items on this list provide a clear insight into what you should bring and what you shouldn’t waste your time or money on. Every dollar saved is another dollar that could be put in your child’s college fund. Fortunately, I’m already learning about the most efficient ways to use 529 college savings plans.

Are you preparing a hospital bag for yourself? Have you already done so? What are the lessons you’ve learned?

Yoojin Lee
Yoojin Lee graduated from NYU with a background in business and worked in the fashion industry for almost a decade before becoming a mom to son, Theodore. Instead of labeling herself as a "stay at home mom," she utilizes her education, experience, and skill sets to learn how to be a resourceful mother and wife while striving to pave a career for herself as well.

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