There’s nothing like a pregnancy to make you think you need to buy ALL THE STUFF. I remember standing in Mothercare before my son was born, staring at the rows and rows of ‘essential newborn items’, totally confused. What on earth was the difference between a sleepsuit and a bodysuit? Do you need long or short sleeved, or both? How are you meant to know these things? I felt like I was missing some intuitive baby-equipment hormone! Anyway, perhaps that’s another blog post - on what you really do need – but for now, my thoughts are very much on my labour bag. And in the same way, it can feel quite overwhelming knowing what you need to pack.
The advice is, that from about 36 weeks you ideally want a bag packed for your birth, as you’re approaching full term and baby could put in an appearance any time in the next 6-ish weeks. When I was shopping/packing for my hospital bag with my first baby, there seemed to be lists and lists online about what you should pack for the big day, but they were all different! But having gone through a birth myself, and then taught many mamas-to-be, I’ve racked up quite a lengthy list of useful items that I wanted to share. This combines lots of the lists I’ve found online, personal experience and advice from others – so I hope you find it useful when packing your own. I’m calling it the Labour Bag, because this goes for all types of births; hospital, midwife-led centre and home.
For Mum; birthing Goddess and needer of the most stuff!
For Birth: The Essentials
- Maternity notes
- Birth plan
- Nightdress/pyjamas/comfy clothing
- Slippers or flip-flops
- Comfy socks
- Your own pillow for comfort (in a coloured/non-white pillowcase so you don’t lose it!)
- Snacks – bananas, cereal/protein bars, glucose tablets, energy gels, even fruit baby pouches - then extra snacks for after birth (you’ll be starving!)
- Bottle of water (this can be re-filled at hospital if you're there)
- Coconut Water (if you don’t like it plain, the one with added pineapple is really nice – really good for rehydration)
- Isotonic drinks, like still Lucozade sports drinks
- Bendy drinking straws – an absolute must, and amazing for drinking in any position. Make sure your birth partner offers water after every contraction/surge – and then makes you go to the toilet once an hour (a full bladder can get in the way of baby)
- Lip balm
- Hair ties/bands
- TENS machine if you’re using one
- Flannel or water spray
- Phone (with charger)
- Mood-setters – like LED tea lights and battery operated fairy lights
- Hypnobirthing affirmations that you’ve used throughout pregnancy
- Photos of things that make you happy (your other children, your happy place)
- Tissues or wet wipes
In addition, I’d highly recommend the following (but aren’t essential):
Protein shakes, for while you're at home, or if you're planning a home birth (I’ve bought some plant protein powder (tropical flavour) from Holland & Barrett, and plan to get my husband to blitz it up with almond milk or coconut water and a banana. These are great for getting nutrients and energy into you without you having to eat anything. The vast majority of women in labour don’t want to eat (your body is pretty busy with something else!) so these can be a life-saver for energy stores)
Soft bra/bikini top for the pool, if you want. You probably won’t want it when the time comes but pack it in case you do
Sunglasses or Eye Mask - to shield out any bright lights so you can remain in your birth bubble
- Essential oil of lavender (or rose, chamomile or clary sage). You can add this to a tissue or flannel to inhale during labour
- Scent diffuser, for use at home – and check with your hospital if they have one/let you bring one
- 5 flower remedy (very similar to rescue remedy) – you can put this into drinking water if you like
- Arnica tablets – to help with internal bruising (for just-before, during and after birth).
- Birth ball (although most hospitals/birth centres will have them so check first)
- Massage lotion if you want to be massaged in labour
- iPad/tablet (with charger) / magazines to pass the time if you need it
For after the Birth:
- 2 or 3 nursing bras
- Breast pads (I can recommend Lansinoh ones for brilliant absorbency from, Boots or Kiddicare.com. There are also some great washable brands out there.)
- Nipple cream (use after every feed whether you need it or not!)
- Maternity pads (2 packs, although if you’re in hospital they will provide you a few boat-like pads for the first couple of hours)
- Front-opening nightshirt or PJs – or nursing top/vest for the top
- Toiletries (make up wipes make it easier; toothbrush and paste, deodorant, moisturiser, mini shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. I've used see-through wash bags from Boots - a 3 pack for £9)
- Towels (for a shower and hair wash afterwards)
- Plenty of big cotton pants
- Clothes to go home in (comfy maternity clothes, you’ll still have a bump)
- List of important numbers in case phone’s run out of charge / you can’t charge phone
- Plastic bags – to put any dirty clothes in
- Make-up if you want!
For Birth Partner:
- Phone and charger
- Camera – fully charged!
- Music/playlist on iPod/phone – including Hypnobirthing tracks if using them
- Speaker (wireless, if you’re not playing through the phone)
- Toiletries for them
- Swimwear if they are getting in the pool too!
- Snacks for them – so they don’t have to disappear off for food!
- Water/drinks for them
- Change of clothes/underwear
- Loose change if you need it for the car park at your hospital – or for vending machines
- Contraction timing app if using one
For Baby (see – they need the least!):
- Nappies (allow 10-12 per day)
- Wipes (Water Wipes are great as they’re much easier than water and cotton wool and really natural – from Boots/supermarkets or Amazon)
- Nappy sacks
- Muslins (these will soon feature in every room of your house!)
- 3 sleepsuits (these can be with feet attached or not depending on time of year)
- 3 vests/body suits (short sleeved for summer/long for winter)
- Pair of socks or booties
- A going home outfit if you’re not birthing at home
- Baby blanket or shawl
- Cotton hat
- Snowsuit/jacket if it’s cold/winter
- Car seat
Some people like to pack three separate bags; for mum, birth partner and baby. Some take a small suitcase and combine all three. Whichever way you do it, make sure you and your birth partner pack the bag together, going through what everything is - and where everything is - for easy access later on! And make sure the bag is easy enough to open and access all your items.
If you’re planning a home birth then do still have your labour bag at-the-ready in case of any transfer. Transfers to hospital are not just for emergencies; they can happen for a few different reasons, but it’s worth having a bag packed to save worrying/faffing around! Even if you stay at home the whole time, at least all your essential items will be in one place instead of spread throughout the house!
Are there any other items you found invaluable during your birth?
So, go forth and pack!