Seasoned parents will tell you you’ll never really be ready to bring home your baby. But with an impending due date and loads of advice from well-meaning friends and relatives, you’re likely to feel overwhelmed — and you need a plan.
You need to know what basics you’ll need for the hospital and beyond. Being prepared with a nursery set up at home and a hospital bag full of essentials long before your baby comes will give you time afterward to do what you really want to do: snuggle your baby.
What do you need to pack in your hospital bag?
A hospital stay after your baby is born is typically just a few days. You won’t need to bring the whole baby nursery, but you also don’t want to be caught without something important. These few basics will get you started with your hospital bag packing.
- Comfortable clothing for you (think yoga pants, pajamas, nursing tanks, and a robe). This isn’t the time to dress up, but it might be nice to have comfortable clothing so you can get out of that hospital gown. If you have a partner coming with you to the hospital, pack them an extra change of clothing too.
- You’ll want flip-flops, slippers, and/or big fluffy socks. Your feet post-delivery may still be too swollen for shoes.
- A going-home outfit for you. Remember, it’s not likely you’ll be fitting into your pre-pregnancy clothes. Opt for something like maternity leggings and a flowing blouse.
- Clothing for baby. Most hospitals provide simple sleeping gowns for your baby to wear while you’re there. However, you’ll want at least one outfit to take your baby home in. It’s also a good idea to bring more than one size of clothing, because it can be hard to know what size your baby will fit into when it’s time to go home.
- Recording your little one’s big day requires the right tools. Pack a camera (with extra batteries), cell phone and charger, and a baby book (nurses will often do footprints right in your book if you ask).
- Bring a stretchy hairband to hold your hair during labor. When you’re done giving birth, your basic toiletries can make you feel alive again. Chapstick, a brush, dry shampoo, makeup, and your normal daily essentials will help you feel ready to meet visitors who want to see you and your baby.
- Entertainment and comfort items like a pillow from home (and one for your partner). An e-reader, MP3 player, or DVDs will give you something to do during your stay.
- Nursing supplies like lanolin, a nursing bra, a nursing pillow, and breast pads can help you get started breastfeeding easily in the hospital.
- Snacks for you and your partner (in case you get sick of hospital food).
- Important documents like hospital registration forms, insurance forms, a picture ID, and a birth plan.
- Baby supplies and sanitary items. Check with your hospital to see what baby supplies and sanitary items they provide. Some hospitals provide everything you’ll need for the stay (diapers, pacifiers, large sanitary pads), and others don’t.
- You won’t be able to take home your infant unless you have a car seat. Make room in your budget to buy new instead of used. Car seat regulations change frequently, and it’s difficult to know if a used car seat has been in an accident (which can compromise its safety).
What will you need when you bring your baby home?
If you think getting ready to go to the hospital is overwhelming, getting ready to bring your baby home is even more so. Getting a nursery (or similar space) set up for baby will make a smooth transition when you return from the hospital. It’s easy to go overboard with baby supplies. Here’s what will get you ready to bring baby home.
- Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby, you’ll need feeding supplies. Bottles, formula, burp cloths, a breast pump, and a bottle brushes are all feeding supplies you may need. You’ll also need a high chair when your baby starts eating solids (6+ months).
- A onesie is a t-shirt that pulls over and snaps at the bottom. Most babies live in onesies. Some babies can go through as many as two to four a day, so make sure you have a few on hand — more if you want to do laundry less often.
- Newborns lose body heat out of their feet, hands, and heads. Socks and a baby beanie or cap will keep your baby warm. Baby mittens keep in warmth and keep your baby from scratching themselves.
- Sleepers and pajamas. A newborn often spends a lot of time in sleepers or pajamas (wouldn’t you if you could?). Having several sleepers or pajama sets will get you set up. A sleepsack is also a great way to keep your baby warm at night. One or two sleepsacks should be enough to last for the first month or two.
- Diapers, wipes, a diaper bag, and diaper cream are essential in caring for a newborn. When you first get home, you’ll only need a couple of packages of diapers (if you’re using disposable diapers). Diapers do go on sale, so stocking up during your pregnancy is a great idea.
- You’ll need some baby-specific toiletries. Baby nail clippers, lotion, shampoo, and a comb will all help you keep your newborn looking (and smelling) sweet.
- Once your baby’s umbilical cord has fallen off, they’re ready to begin bathing regularly. A plastic baby bathtub is easy to sit on your sink or in your regular tub at bath time.
- A digital thermometer, infant’s acetaminophen (with a syringe dropper), and a bulb nasal aspirator can all help you stave off long nights during your little one’s first cold. Always discuss medications your baby needs with your doctor before using medication.
- Your baby will need somewhere to sleep. In the first few weeks, a bassinet will work to keep your baby close at night. As your child gets older, you’ll need a crib and mattress, crib sheets, and blankets.
- A baby carrier will allow you to hold your baby close while you walk, fold laundry, or visit the store. Choose a carrier that can be easily cleaned.
- You’ll want a stroller to carry your baby at the store or on walks. Strollers can range in price from very expensive to very inexpensive. Do your homework before buying to make sure you find a stroller that both fits your budget and your lifestyle.
- Extra accessories like a baby swing, bouncy seat, and toys will help you during fussy times and provide entertainment for your baby.
A new baby means a lot of gear. Your baby will need to sleep, eat, play, and live. Knowing what you need for the hospital and beyond will help you get ready to bring home your bundle of joy so you can focus on the more important things post-delivery.