At 34 weeks pregnant, I tackled one of the most important milestones of the third trimester: packing your hospital bag. As a first-time mom and someone who has been teased for over-preparedness pretty much all my life, honing down my packing list was overwhelming to say the least. Mommy-baby matching PJ/swaddle sets, feminine supplies for care down there (spoiler: the hospital will give you everything you’ll need!), makeup for hospital room photos (because who doesn’t want their photo taken after birthing a child?!) — the list goes on. Turns out, there are some things I absolutely needed and a couple things I wish I had had. If I were to do it all over again, here are the essentials I wouldn’t leave home without: 

  1. A Comfortable Nightgown. Aside from my hospital gown, I wore this blue polka-dot nightgown for the majority of my hospital stay. Here I thought I’d be in the mood to change into a different outfit everyday – yeah right! It was all I could do to change into my joggers to go home. While I had packed three different sets of PJs and loungewear, I found my nightgown to be more practical than pants for the frequent abdominal and vaginal exams that followed delivery. (And c-section mamas, you won’t have to worry about any elastic waistbands.) Size up for added comfort and consider darker colors to avoid staining. 
  2. Three Sets of Onesies for Baby. It took about 3 seconds for Nolan to “tinkle” on the first outfit we dressed him in. His timing was perfect too, as the hospital’s newborn photographer had just walked into our room. We (as in Evan) frantically changed him into our one and only backup option, which did not have mittens on the sleeves. Our little guy had quite the set of nails when he was born, and while we did bring an emory board, we hadn’t had time to give him a proper baby manicure prior to this photo session. Go figure, Nolan’s hands were like magnets to his cheeks and he managed to scratch himself good just in time for his close-ups. The lesson: while all those precious doll clothes are tempting, leave them at home in favor of the ever-practical and oh-so-adorable front-snap onesie. (The front snap – or zip or magnetic – closure ensures it isn’t too tight across your baby’s healing belly button.) Bring a few, and make sure they have mittens built in to preserve your baby’s flawless skin from scratches. I love these organic cotton onesies from Burt’s Bees. Consider packing both newborn and 0-3 month sizes to be sure you’ll have the right fit for your little one. 
  3. A Swaddle Blanket and Hat. If your hospital is like mine, then you’ll have a newborn photographer show up the day after delivery to take professional photos in your hospital room. This admittedly was not the first thing I was in the mood to do after 20 hours of labor and postpartum complications. That said, I felt like I’d be a bad mom to turn down my first opportunity to document my kid, so I rolled with it. To really get the full effect of these mommy and me photos, I had a matching swaddle blanket and hat for Nolan to wear. While I was excited to find my polka dot ensemble, let’s just say I think there is a huge market opportunity for companies to offer cuter matching options for boy moms – just saying! 
  4. Machine Washable Slippers. While you’ll likely be spending the majority of your time in a hospital bed, you’ll want something on your feet to walk around your hospital room, bathroom and perhaps even the hospital halls if you’re mobile while laboring. I opted for this cozy pair of white slippers that have non-slip soles and are machine washable. I threw them in the wash when we got home from the hospital to avoid tracking in any unwanted germs from the hospital floor.  
  5. A Warm Robe. Maybe it was just the sterile vibe of the hospital, but it felt about 10 degrees colder than we keep our home. Enter: my favorite fleece-lined robe. I have it in two colors and rotate them whenever one is in the wash.     
  6. An Extra Long Phone Charger. I personally wasn’t on my phone much while in the hospital (and not at all during the labor process), but you’ll inevitably need a charge at some point over the typical 3-day stay. Opt for an extra long phone charger that extends from those hard-to-find outlets to your hospital bed so you can power up and catch up with loved ones at the same time. 
  7. Essential Oils. I’m a big fan of lavender scents, especially at bedtime when I’m looking to wind down. To help find my inner zen, I brought along my lavender neck pillow and wore it from the time I was admitted. Did it take the pain of my contractions away? Heck no, but it did give me an ounce more comfort and I was willing to take all the help I could get. 
  8. A Soft Blanket. I had planned to bring a fleece blanket, but in an effort to par down our belongings, I ditched it at the last minute. I regret it. The hospital blankets were fine, but let’s just say they don’t use much fabric softener 🙂 
  9. An Eye Mask. For as much as the nurses tell you to try and get some rest, the hospital ironically is not very conducive to shut eye. Between the constant beeps and light from any number of the monitors and screens throughout the room, you’ll be hard-pressed to sleep much if you’re sensitive to light or sound. I can tune out repetitive noise pretty easily, but lights are another story. I ended up using my lavender neck pillow (see #7) to cover my eyes, but wish I had had a true eye mask to snag a precious few hours of sleep before the baby arrived.   
  10. Convenient, Healthy One-Handed Snacks. I was able to order three meals a day, but the food didn’t always arrive when I was able to eat. Between a hungry newborn whose appetite took precedence and the parade of hospital staff checking on any number of things in our room, it was tough to enjoy a two-handed meal. Luckily we had packed a number of convenient snacks like my all-time favorite Larabars (peanut butter and blueberry are my two favorite flavors) to munch on when I needed extra fuel.  
  11. A Water Bottle with a Straw. I don’t think I’ve ever been as thirsty as I was in the 48 hours postpartum. The hospital provided me with a large plastic mug and straw for ice water, but I do wish I had used my Contigo insulated water bottle that’s become a daily staple since I got home from the hospital. Breastfeeding mamas, did you know that nursing causes you to release a hormone that triggers thirst? Keeping a water bottle within reach while breastfeeding helps keep you hydrated while you nourish your little one.
  12. A Journal. I packed my pregnancy journal and admittedly didn’t have the energy to write much in the “delivery notes” section until days after I had arrived home from the hospital. But I wish I had. Looking back, there is nothing like documenting your emotions (and you will feel many!) in real time. Even a week’s worth of sleep deprivation made it harder for me to recall the exact feelings I had experienced after meeting Nolan for the first time and witnessing a series of many firsts in the confines of our hospital room. If you can, jot down even one phrase or sentence a day to chronicle those raw emotions forever.
  13. A Polaroid Camera. Here’s another thing I ditched at the last minute and wish I had packed. While our cell phones have largely replaced the need for separate cameras, there’s something about the old school nature of a polaroid camera to capture real, unedited moments better than its digital counterpart. While the hospital photographer was a nice touch, part of me wishes we had snagged a few more photos with an analogue, unposed feel.
  14. A Parred Down Cosmetics Bag. Simple is the name of the game here. If you’re looking to freshen up for photos and/or visitors, skip the full-coverage foundation, bronzer, highlighter and blush in favor of a light BB or CC cream, concealer, mascara and lip balm. (My personal faves are: SUPERGOOP! Daily Correct CC cream, IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Concealer, Benefit Cosmetics BADgal BANG! Volumizing Mascara, and Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment in Rosé.) I also brought along a pack of my trusty Neutrogena face wipes so I didn’t have to worry about washing my face if I was too tired. 
  15. Going Home Outfits for You & Baby. I’ll never forget being told we were discharged to go home. Part of me felt that it was all-too-soon to be releasing us to the real world, while another part of me could. not. wait. to get home. A crucial step in heading for that exit door is dressing the part, for both you and baby. Think head-to-toe here, especially if it’s chilly out. I opted for comfy drawstring joggers, a cowl neck sweater and my tried and true Nike Frees. (Stick with lace-ups as you may experience swelling in your feet for a couple weeks postpartum.) For Nolan, we had planned to dress him in an adorable white kimono outfit that he tactfully stained, so our back-up footed Magnetic Me onesie did the trick. We also swapped out his hospital hat for a warmer white fleece hat. Given the strict rules around dressing your baby for a car seat, no need to layer them in winter jackets or buntings. We did have an adorable blue bunting on deck for Nolan’s going home ensemble, but the nurses never would have let us past our hospital room door if we had dressed him in it.
  16. A Receiving Blanket. In the absence of a cute bunting, we had an extra warm receiving blanket personalized for Nolan and wrapped it around his precious little body for extra insulation in his car seat. Little did we know that we’d call this the “magic blanket,” as it still makes Nolan fall asleep the moment we swaddle him in it. 
  17. A Car Seat and Car Seat Cover. Last but certainly not least, be sure you have a car seat properly installed in the backseat of the car you plan to leave the hospital in. If you’re unsure how to install the car seat or would like a certified professional to double check your handy work, head to your local fire department where someone can likely help. We went with the UPPAbaby Mesa car seat that fits into our UPPAbaby Vista stroller system without an adapter. Keep the newborn insert in place until you know just how big your little one is (the UPPAbaby newborn insert is recommended for babies 4-8 lbs, although we used it for Nolan and he was over 9 lbs). While the hospital will likely allow you to pull right up to the entrance so you don’t have to bear the elements with your newborn, it doesn’t hurt to have an extra barrier of protection by using a car seat cover. Since it was the heart of winter when Nolan arrived, we opted for this blanket-style car seat cover to keep him toasty warm. 

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