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I've never felt time crawl slower than this month. We’re looking forward to getting the baby out meeting our daughter sometime in July (unless she picks August).

With the baby on my mind, it's starting to show on Couple Money with topics. While not all posts in July will cover baby expenses, this week will probably be focused on the topic. I'm preparing posts on other topics for the rest of the month.

One of our assignments for our birth and labor class was getting a labor bag ready for our trip to the hospital. Each couple went around the room and shared what they packed. While I think we did a great job, I noticed we were missing some things.

While having an iPad2 for the big event would be fun, we just don't have it in our budget.

Recommended Goodies

If there is one thing I learned quickly is that there are many strong opinions on what parents need to be prepared for their baby's arrival. Everyone has their own advice, which is helpful and at the same time, overwhelming. I'm hoping you can help us with this project.


From what I've gathered, there are some necessary items that you need to have ready in your labor bag.

  • Picture ID
  • Insurance Card
  • Hospital Registration Forms (if you haven't pre-registered)
  • Contacts/Eyeglasses
  • Toiletries
  • List of people to call and their phone numbers, your cell phone and charger
  • Nursing bras, pads, and cream

I was also advised to check with the hospital to see what they provide. sometimes you can pack lighter if your hospital will take care of some of your needs. Since our house isn't terribly far away, if we want something from home rather than the hospital, we'll ask friends to swing by and pick them up.

What would you say is an absolute necessity to include in our birth/labor bag? Do you have any specific recommendations for us?

More Stuff

Everything below is considered nice, but not essential. Some parents swear that you'll need it while others say most of the stuff stayed in the bag.

  • Bathrobe
  • Slippers
  • Pillows from home
  • Camera/Video camera with batteries, charger, and memory card
  • Comfortable clothes
  • Snacks
  • Bathing suit
  • Money for parking
  • Change for vending machines

What did you have to help you with the lull during labor? did you have video for the birth or did pictures suffice? What's a comfortable combo for my husband when he stays overnight at the hospital with the baby and I?

Thoughts on Packing a Labor Bag

This posts is definitely more collaborative than most. I'm eager to hear your birth stories and advice. What did you actually use from the labor bag? What did you wish you included in your bag?

Just how long was it from when you checked in to when you gave birth?

Photo Credit: Stella Dauer

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

18 comments add your comment

  1. Thanks for some of these hints/tips on what to pack! I’ll show this to Mrs. SPF for our October delivery! (except, we’re doing a home birth – but in case we need to go to the hospital for whatever reason, the bag must be packed!)

    • I’m so excited for your family- I hope it goes smoothly. Is this your first time doing a home delivery?

  2. Oh, no way did i have a video. I wound up with a c-section but when I was pushing, the camera was far, far away. My husband did take some before and after pictures (of me and epidural) and pictures of our daughter but labor pictures were off limits. I had a radio that I listened during most of my labor, as well as the company of my husband and parents.

    As far as my hospital bag, I think I used almost everything in it but I’m not quite sure. It was mostly just my pillow, clothes, toiletries, and maybe a book. my time in the hospital is such a blur, but I do remember that I didn’t read one single page in the 3 days i was there. I wasn’t in a room where my husband could spend the night so he would bring snacks and stuff, so would my visitors.

    It took 12 hours from the time I checked in until I delivered. I don’t know how that fares as far as length. It felt like an eternity but I know it really wasn’t.

    • Thanks for sharing your take! While I definitely would like to take a video of our baby once she’s settle in to send to relatives, we’re passing on the video for labor and delivery as well.

  3. I trained to be a midwife (although not practicing now) and attended hundreds of births both at home and in hospital. As well I had two of my own babies at home, with a bag packed to go to hospital if necessary.

    Re: your essentials bag, the only item that seems odd is the “cream” listed along with nursing bras and pads. Most creams are not helpful and can actually create problems. We recommended going without, or if *absolutely necessary*, using a lanolin-based cream such as lansinoh. Usually it’s not needed.

    Re: non-essentials, I’d suggest lots of extra non-perishable food (such as granola bars, juice boxes etc.) rather than $ for vending machines. Most first time parents are in the labour and delivery unit far longer than they expected (mostly because they go in early, but also because of the hours of monitoring after the birth). Vending machines just don’t cut it.

    Re: cash for parking, all of the hospitals I’ve visited in the last few years have credit-card based payment systems. If your hospital accepts cash, great. Again, though, first time parents tend to go in early and this sometimes means multiple trips to and from hospital before you’re finally admitted. So if you’re packing cash, pack a lot of it. 🙂

    I’d use caution with the list of phone numbers. You may want to delegate responsibility for making all of the calls to a friend or family member. Otherwise you may find you’re spending lots of time on the phone (answering as well as calling) when you’d much rather be enjoying time with your new baby.

    Finally, although it won’t fit in your birth bag, I recommend installing your car seat at least a week before your due date, if you’re planning to bring the baby home via car. It isn’t fun trying to install a car seat in a dimly lit hospital garage. If you want to be extra safe, install early and get your local fire or police station to check that it’s installed correctly. Many municipalities have a free program for this.


    • So grateful to get your take on what to pack for the hospital trip! We’re picking up the car seat this week and will get it checked out soon after.

  4. My suggestion, bring that extra pillow – especially if you’re picky about your pillow. My wife did and was glad she did as the pillows at the hospital were horrendous.

    Also, I second the notion of bringing extra non-perishable food with you. You’ll be super pre-occupied while you’re there and you’ll probably end up missing meal time at the cafeteria or forget to call your meal in if you’re not careful. As long as you’ve got some extra food and goodies to eat in your bag you should be fine.

    Also highly recommend delegating the task of calling people to announce the birth. You’re probably going to be tired (both of you) and you’re not gonnna want to make a bunch of calls beyond some of the closest relatives. Make a list and give it to your parents or someone else to call.

    • Great ideas Pete! My husband would especially love to delegate the family phones calls 🙂 I may stop by Game Stop to see if they have an used DS games we might enjoy just in case we have some time.

  5. What you need to pack may well depend on what type of labor you experience and/or the pain management options you choose.

    With my 1st, I opted for “natural” child birth (mostly because we didn’t have insurance or money for medication). I went into labor at 5am and gave birth at 10:17pm. That was the longest day of my life! I was in hard labor for most of that time with contractions every 2 minutes. There was NO time for amusements or “whiling away” the hours until delivery. (A lot of breath counting and cursing went on). Afterward, I was so exhausted I wanted to do nothing but sleep. The baby was jaundiced so had to do the bili lights. We spent 3 looong days in the noisy hospital (they were remodeling the OB wing) with little or no sleep. My husband started a new job the day my daughter was born so he could only visit for a few hours each evening. All my friends talked about how wonderful and fulfilling childbirth was, but for me it was s0 horrible I didn’t even want to think about getting pregnant for 4 years.

    With #2, I opted for lots of drugs right away because I had no intention of going through that unbelievable pain again. By some random quirk of fate, all the delivery rooms were full when I went in to the hospital after my water broke at noon. I had to wait around until 1 am before they could put me in a delivery room and induce me. Fortunately, this gave me lots of time to have an epidural done. But I was also sitting around with no pain to manage and nothing to do. Having something to amuse me would have been beneficial. My family was able to visit during the day to pass the time, but after visiting hours, it was just me and the hubby twiddling thumbs. I ended up sleeping through most of the hard labor and woke up at 6am ready to deliver. 1 night in the hospital and I was on my way home with my precious cargo. Much better experience!

    So I guess the point of this long post is that you have no idea what to expect. Each delivery has so many unknowns and possible variations that you can’t begin to know what to expect. Everyone’s childbirth story is different for each child. So my advice is plan for the worst and hope for the best. I think it is better to be over prepared and not have something than to want something you don’t have. But that is just the planner in me 🙂

    Something that you might want to include is lip balm/chapstick as your lips will be very dry from all the breathing, oxygen, and dry hospital air. Also, although you might be busy, there are times when Mr. CM might need something to do while you are sleeping or whatever (book/magazine/iPod/Gameboy?).

    Good luck and I hope you are one of the lucky ones who are in and out in no time with no horror stories to share!

  6. An exercise ball. It’s great during labor to sit and rock, or kneel in front of, arms over it, rocking back and forth. Also, your own pillow in a brightly colored pillowcase. The hospital pillows were awful.

    The comfortable clothes should be loose fitting, like would fit at about 4-5 months pregnant, and shouldn’t come across your lower belly in case of C-section. I had nursing pajamas in the hospital and those were just perfect.

    Your hospital will likely give you samples of nipple cream, so I wouldn’t bring that.

    Definitely bring snacks and Gatorade, but NOT red. You might throw up (I did) and red will freak you out.

    If you’re attempting to have a natural (drug free) delivery, make a friendly sign that you can post on the door that says something like “We’re trying to have a drug free delivery. Please don’t offer pain medication. If we want pain medication, we will ask.” Our nurses were pushy with the drugs and it helped the second time around to not be asked at every check whether I was “ready for my epidural.”

    If you have time, I’d highly recommend reading Ida Mae Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth before you go in, at least the first chunk of the book, which is all POSITIVE birth stories. I was so freaked out about birth before my first was born and no one ever tells you that it can be a positive experience. Reading stories that weren’t fearful and scaremongering really, really helped me to get into a positive headspace. I won’t lie, it’s called labor for a reason and it was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, but it was also the strongest I’ve ever felt and the most empowered in my own body. I was in labor for 2 days with my son and while pushing, I told my husband that I changed my mind and wanted to go home, but the instant I held my son, it was SO worth it and I thought, “I would do that again for this.” Amazing what those hormones do for you!

    Good luck! It’s an incredible experience!

  7. Thanks for the great list – I’ll keep it in mind when the time comes. I’ve never had a child, so I cant offer long stories or tips, but all of the comments have been helpful.

  8. I can’t remember what my wife packed but I do know that I was able to get stuff at home and bring it back. It seems like so long ago (the youngest is 11). It goes by quickly, that’s for sure.

  9. My son is 18, so it’s been awhile, but if I remember right pretty much everything I put in my labor bag stayed unused, with the exception of the insurance card, some toiletries, and going-home clothes for both me and my son. Oh, I did bring a book, which got used while I was waiting for them to decide whether or not to induce. Basically I went to the hospital at about 10pm because my water broke, and hung out for a couple of hours reading a book. Then they induced and about 4 hours later my son was born.

  10. We just had our second four weeks ago!

    We brought our own pillows and also flip-flops for the shower because even though they clean them, there were other people recently there and who knows what they had and might have left behind.

    Bring snacks for the daddy because the hospital won’t provide anything in most cases.

    One thing the hospital let us do was put our daughter’s ink footprint on the t-shirt I was wearing, which was really cool, so it was a good thing I had a shirt I was willing to part with, so you might want to see about something like that as well.

    Good luck!

  11. When my boyfriend and I stayed the night at the hospital I was grateful to have had extra pillows with us that we put in between the beds since there was a gap. Also, comfortable pj’s were my saving grace. I was in the hospital in a city 45 minutes away from home so it was nice to have comfort.