A Midwife's guide to your hospital bag; what do you really need?

A Midwife's guide to your hospital bag; what do you really need?

Tiny Hearts Education

What you bring to the hospital and what you need while you're there can depend on many factors. Some of those are if you're going to a public or private hospital, with mamas staying in a private hospital often having a longer stay compared to mamas going to a public hospital. Another factor is what type of birth you're planning to have, with discharge times in a public hospital for mamas who have a normal birth and healthy bub ranging from 6 hours after birth up to 2 days if there are other problems like difficulty breastfeeding. Mamas who have a c-section in a public hospital can expect to stay between 2-3 days. It's best to ask your pregnancy care team during your pregnancy what the expected length of stay is so you know what to expect. 

A mamas length of stay also depends on her and bub's health; were there any risk factors or health conditions in pregnancy that might require a longer admission? An example is a mama having gestational diabetes, meaning bub's healthcare team may recommend staying for some time after birth to monitor bub's sugars and make sure they're feeding well before going home. Finioalso depends on how long you want to stay. While extending your stay in a public hospital can be much trickier, having clear communication with your healthcare team about how long you want to stay and why will be the best approach. So, I've broken this blog down into a few parts, based on how long a mama is planning to stay: around 6 hours, 1-3 nights or up to 5 nights which are the most common lengths of stay in hospital after birth, including both public and private hospitals.



Labour bag

I'm starting with the first bag mamas planning a vaginal birth will need- the labour bag. Once packed, this bag should stay in your car, so it's ready to go at any time of day or night. In your labour bag, you should pack everything you need for labour and immediately after birth. These are my suggestions:

  • Heat pack, which is particularly good for early labour or when used in addition to other pain relief.
  • TENs machine [if you're planning to use one].
  • Fake candles or a diffuser that lights up to create mood lighting.
  • Essential oils for diffusing or massaging into mama.
  • Water bottle for keeping hydrated.
  • Birth affirmation cards + a way to hang them up, such as blue-tack, if you're planning to hang them on the wall in the birth suite.
  • Snacks for both mama and her support person.
  • A set of comfy clothes for labour. Many mamas labour in a loose shirt or maternity bra and undies. Pack whatever you think you'll feel most comfortable wearing, but keep in mind you might be hot from working really hard during contractions. 
  • Two pairs of spare undies/ postpartum undies, which also work to catch amniotic fluid before bub is born. Once your waters break/ are broken, you'll most likely continue leaking until bub is born. If you get a big gush, it might soak through your pads, so having spares there can keep you dry and comfortable if needed.
  • Speakers for playing music.
  • Camera. Many mamas choose to use their phone cameras, which is great, but if you choose to bring a digital camera, don't forget to pack it in this bag.
  • Chargers/ cords for phones, speakers, diffusers, cameras etc.
  • Swimmers for partners if they're planning to get in the bath to support a mama in there.
  • A plastic or waterproof bag to put wet or dirty clothes in from labour.
  • Lip balm for hydrating a mama's dry lips when using the gas.
  • Frozen colostrum. This is so you can hand it over to your Midwife as soon as you get to the hospital to pop into their freezer to keep it frozen.
  • A pen + your medicare card. When you get admitted and again after birth, depending on your hospital, you might need to fill out some paperwork and show someone your medicare card, so having a pen can come in handy.
  • Shower bag, which I'll talk about below.
  • Bub's birth bag, which is also below.

Check what your hospital has in their birth suites during your antenatal appointments. You might find they have some of these things already, such as a diffuser and speakers in their birth suites, meaning you'll be able to pack less.


Shower bag

In a separate compartment or in another small bag inside your labour bag, pack everything you need for the first shower after both a vaginal birth or c-section. That way, you, your midwife or support person, can avoid searching through everything in the rest of your bag to find what you need. Instead, it will all be in one place, all ready to go. 

  • Black, stretchy, high wasted undies.
  • Pads or postpartum undies.
  • Toiletries [body wash, toothbrush + paste, hairbrush, deodorant, hairbands etc.]
  • Breastfeeding bra [if breastfeeding].
  • A pair of pyjamas or comfy clothes.
  • Thongs, if you want to wear them in the shower.


Bub's birth bag

Similar to your shower bag, bub's birth bag should be in a separate compartment or a little bag inside your labour bag, so you can quickly grab it after birth [trust me, it will make your life much easier]. This might be all you need for a 6-hour discharge too. Inside it should be:

  • 1 x 00000 singlet.
  • 1 x 00000 onesie.
  • 1 x 0000 singlet.
  • 1 x 0000 onesie.
  • Bub's going home outfit. This one isn't essential, but some families like to choose a special outfit for bub to come home from hospital in.
  • 3 nappies.
  • A packet of wipes.
  • 2 swaddles.
  • Newborn or 0000 size beanie.
  • Socks if bub's onesies are footless.
  • Bottles + a formula tin if planning to formula feed.
  • Birth announcement card [if you're planning to announce bub soon after birth].

Lots of mamas bring 000 size clothing. In my experience, most newborns fit in a 00000 or 0000. The few bubs I have seen that fit well in a 000 at birth were 4.3kg +. 


6-hour discharge

A low-risk mama who births a full-term, healthy bub vaginally may be able to discharge around 6 hours after birth. This is also assuming the pregnancy, labour, birth, and initial postpartum period had no complications, and bub doesn't require any extra monitoring after birth. It's also important that a mama actually wants to discharge, is confident with breastfeeding/ expressing/ making up formula and knows how to get support if required once at home. A 6-hour discharge is most commonly seen in mamas who have birthed in a low-risk facility, such as a birth centre, but can be facilitated by a normal birth suite too. This is what to pack if you're planning a 6-hour discharge:

  • Your labour bag as above.
  • Your shower bag as above.
  • Bub's birth bag as above.
  • Nipple cream. I know it might seem early, but the sooner you get nipple cream onto sore or damaged nipples, which can happen as early as the first feed if not latched correctly, the better. 
  • An extra set of clothes for mama and her support person.
  • Slippers or comfy shoes to wear around the room until it's time to go home.
  • Spare pads + undies in case of leakage.
  • More snacks for after birth to get you through until it's time to discharge.


1-3 nights

A 1-2 night stay is most common for mamas at a public hospital who had a vaginal birth, while c-section mamas can expect a 2-3 night stay. This is what I'd recommend:

  • Your labour bag as above.
  • Your shower bag as above.
  • Bub's birth bag as above.
  • 4-5 comfy sets of clothes/ pyjamas [this depends if you're comfortable wearing PJs all day or prefer to get changed into PJs at night and clothes in the day]. If you're the latter, bring 2 pairs of PJs and 2-3 sets of comfy day clothes. 
  • A cardigan or jumper, because the hospital seems to get cold overnight, especially if you're walking over to the nursery and back.
  •  Two extra breastfeeding bras.
  • Comfy slippers/ thongs.
  • Nipple cream.
  • Pads or postpartum undies.
  • 5 pairs of high wasted, stretchy black undies.
  • Spare hair ties.


Up to 5 nights.

A 5-night stay is more commonly seen in mamas who have significant health problems after birth or mamas who birth at a private hospital. What you bring will also depend if you've got access to a washing machine and drier or not. So what I'd recommend to pack is:

  • Labour bag as above.
  • Shower bag as above.
  • Bub's birth bag as above.
  • Bub's long stay bag.
  • The list for a 2-3 night stay, plus extra nappies, wipes, pads, undies and comfy clothes. 


Bub's long stay bag

Bub's birth bag, which you'll find above, will be suitable for a 6-hour discharge. But if you're staying for a bit longer, you might need to pack a little more, including:

  • 3 x extra onesies.
  • 3 x extra singlets.
  • A big handful of extra nappies.
  • Extra bottles, if formula feeding.
  • A spare swaddle.


What you don't need to pack

  • Paracetamol + ibuprofen [Panadol and Nurofen]. While you may need pain relief, these are available at the hospital. It's important not to take your own medication in hospital, particularly without communicating it to your Nurse or Midwife. That's because they may come in during the night and offer you some panadol to take, not realising that you'd taken some of your own supply two hours earlier. It's also so they can gauge what pain relief you're needing, how often and if it's effective or not. Keep your own supplies for when you go home, and use the hospital's stock while you're there.
  • Peri ice packs. Again, most hospitals will have ice packs you can put on sore or swollen stitches. Keep your supply for when you go home and use the hospital's stock instead. 
  • Spare syringes or breast pumps for expressing. Like above, your hospital will have these that you can use if you need them. In saying that, if you want to bring in your breast pump to make sure you can use it properly before going home, that's ok too!
  • Makeup + hair straighteners. Midwives don't mind if you have makeup on or not or if your hair is thrown up in a mum-bun or straightened, so don't dress up for us. But in saying that, makeup and straight hair makes some mamas feel more confident, so if you'd prefer to bring it and wear it, that's fine too.
  • Dressy clothes. Similar to the previous point, we don't mind if you wear PJs all day long, so bring whatever is comfortable for you. If that's dressy clothes, then bring them with you, mama.
  • A baby swing, bassinet or newborn playpen. While these are all really good things to have and use at home, they're unnecessary in hospital. You'll be there for such a short time, and hospital rooms are really small and probably won't have room for you to place all these things around, especially if you're in a shared room. 


I'd love to hear what you packed in your hospital bag that came in handy, which isn't mentioned here. Let me know, and share with our Tiny Hearts mamas by commenting on the original post! 

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While Tiny Hearts tries to ensure that the content of this blog is accurate, adequate or complete, it does not represent or warrant its accuracy, adequacy or completeness. Tiny Hearts  is not responsible for any loss suffered as a result of or in relation to the use of its blog content.

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