One of the things I looked forward to when I was pregnant was preparing my hospital bag. It was something I could control, unlike my delivery date, the type of delivery I was going to have, or whether my water would break cinematically at home or at the hospital.
BC Women’s Hospital and other hospitals within Metro Vancouver provide the essential things for your recovery and baby’s well being. If you show up with just your ID and nothing else, you will be fine. Do not panic. But, if you want to feel like you have an ounce of control, and want to ensure some level of comfort and convenience for you, your partner, and your baby, here are some things you can consider bringing, or have ready in your home for someone to deliver.
Every hospital will be a little different in what they provide. The below hospital packing list is based on an experience at BC Women’s Hospital though much of it will be applicable to delivering at other local hospitals.
What to Pack in your Hospital Bag for Birth at BC Women’s Hospital
Packing your Hospital Bag
Women’s Hospital provides the essentials you need to manage your pain, bleeding, and medical needs. Nurses bring pain medicine at scheduled times throughout the day and there are drawers full of pads and absorbent sheets. When we were packing up to leave, it felt a little like leaving a nice hotel, except instead of Le Labo shampoo we were stuffing Huggies diapers and feminine hygiene products into our bags.
It’s important to share that there is no one right list for packing your bag to bring to the hospital as every delivery and how each mom is impacted is different. Some of these items are more relevant for a vaginal birth while others might be helpful if you have planned or unplanned c-section.
Must Haves for Mom
- PJs or a gown that makes it easy for skin to skin with your baby, breastfeeding, and regular checkups. Nurses will come every several hours to press on your tender stomach and check your bleeding. I wore my Frida mom delivery gown the entire time and I highly recommend it.
- A soft nursing bra
- Disposable Frida mom boy shorts or disposable adult diapers depending on how your labour and delivery goes (for when you are no longer provided the mesh underwear from the hospital).
- Upside down Peri bottle. The hospital provides a generic squirt bottle, but trust me, you need the upside down one.
- Anything and everything you need to feel beautiful and like yourself. My room had a bathtub and shower, but aside from a shower chair and medical grade hand soap there’s nothing else. Bring things like toiletries, shampoo, conditioner, hair dryer, hair brush, creams, makeup, etc.
- Donut pillow – this was an absolute must. I had a vaginal birth and couldn’t have sat up in the hospital bed without it. I got this one for $25 but there are many options to choose from.
- Contact lenses and glasses
- Nursing pillow (could also be “For Baby” packing list)
- Lanolin cream for sore or cracked nipples (they will provide some, but it’s nice to have this easily available)
- (Long) phone cable
- Snacks for while in early labour
Some Nice to Haves
- Sitz bath salts or sitz tea
- Compression socks. My feet swelled up enormously and I wish I had my compression socks.
- Ab Wrap. There’s a Vancouver company called Bellies Inc that makes an ab wrap and ab tank designed by pelvic floor physiotherapists. I wish I ordered mine sooner so I could have worn it right away. My insides felt very loose and I felt like my organs were tumbling around every time I turned or shifted.
- Your own pillow
- Breast pump. There’s one you can use at the hospital and they have different size flanges, but if you already bought your own, it’s a good time to start using it while you have support and lactation consultants available if you are choosing to breastfeed.
- Magnesium powder to help with that first poop. Much better than the pills they give you at the hospital.
- A going home outfit
- Your daily vitamins
- Other nice to haves: A large bath towel, a warm blanket or robe, thick toilet paper (the ones at the hospital are nearly transparent)
- A large insulated mug to hold your drinks. The hot water station was far away from my suite and they only had small paper cups.
Packing your Hospital Bag for Partners
The hospital’s priorities are number one: baby; and number two: mom. Partners need to fend for themselves. As for sleep, the hospital provided a small cot that was like a deflated air mattress. My husband said there was no padding between your body and the ground. Every room is a little different, but don’t expect much. There are definitely some things that you can bring to make your supportive partner’s stay a bit more comfortable.
Nice to Haves
- A blanket or sleeping bag
- A pillow
- A pad for sleeping on
- Charging cable
- Bath towel
- A camera (and charger) to capture photos of baby
- Any snacks for during labour (as nearby shops may be closed).
- For after delivery; partners are not supposed to order from the menu provided at BC Women’s Hospital, but they can get food delivery from Uber Eats / Doordash or get food from coffee shops.
What to pack for baby
The hospital has almost everything you’ll need for your baby. They provide initial diapers, a bassinet, and green blankets that will always remind me of our baby’s birth. They provide a dry cotton wipe that we loved so much that we special ordered more from our pharmacy. If you are uncomfortable with breastfeeding, they have syringes for feeding, single use Enfamil nipples, access to lactation consultants, access to donor milk, and breast pumps. There are lots of gadgets and supplies in the room and you can always ask for additional things. The hospital provided us with a comb and some baby shampoo so we could wash our baby’s hair on the third day. She looked like a different person afterwards!
- A going home outfit This will be so fun to choose. We only needed one outfit because she was swaddled naked in her diaper until we left. We were also such newbies that we couldn’t have managed putting outfits on and off. I brought several outfits because I couldn’t decide. Tip: Bring newborn size and 0-3 months as babies may be anywhere from premature size to larger! A onesie with a zipper is easiest for quick changes.
- Extra diapers for baby
- A car seat. You won’t be allowed to leave without a car seat.
- A minimum of three swaddles that will be rolled up to be used as padding around the carseat.
Nice to Haves
- A going home hat or beanie to help with temperature control
- A nail file. A lot of babies are born with long and sharp nails. I had the Fridababy Baby Grooming Kit which comes with an easy to use nail file and a great hairbrush.
- Pacifiers. We tried different types of pacifiers and the only ones our baby liked was the Wubbanub one with the stuffed animal dangling off it. Nurses at the hospital will likely discourage pacifier use, and every new shift there will be a new nurse who might give you conflicting advice, so this is to your discretion.
- Anti-colic bottles for bottle feeding if you choose to do this. We tried Dr. Brown’s bottles and our daughter stopped having gas and slept much better.
What about packing food
This is specific to BC Women’s Hospital and what a treat. When I was in labor someone brought me a menu. It was more than one page and had multiple sections. There was western food, Indian food, Chinese food, and breakfast food. And no prices! All I had to do was call a number and give them my name and my order. There didn’t seem to be a limit to what I could order. The only rule was that the food had to be for the birthing mother only, not for partners. You can order up to three times a day. I couldn’t believe they had plain congee on the menu and I ate multiple bowls of it during my time there.
Because labour and birth can be unpredictable your hospital bag may not be ready on time or have all the right things! Births take place in many ways not limited to planned and unplanned c-sections or emergency deliveries involving forceps or vacuums. Sometimes hospital stays are longer than planned too. Having someone with access to your home who can drop things off for you at the hospital that are most applicable for your experience means you can adapt as needed. It could be a family member or a postpartum doula.
Finally, something to keep in mind is to make the most of the services they offer at the hospital. When you’re in the hospital, doctors, pediatricians, midwives, and nurses will come to you. There are resources for many things including lactation consultants and donor breast milk.
In closing, everyone’s experience and length of stay at the hospital will be different. Your basic needs and your baby’s needs will be taken care of no matter what you are able to pack in your hospital bag. BC Women’s Hospital and other local hospitals are world class facilities that offer great support. Wishing you the best experience!
Jenny Liu is a project manager, professional photographer, and blogger at www.stuff-i-love.com. She lives in Vancouver with her husband and baby girl. Her interests include having one-on-one conversations, trying new skincare treatments around Vancouver, going to fitness classes, and most of all, reading and writing. She has a degree in mechanical engineering and is part of the 2022 Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University.