Towel. Put this on the very top of your bag and sit on it on the way to the hospital. Just in case.
Birth Plan. This was not super critical for me as I used midwives (and a doula) in a very mother-friendly hospital, and their usual M.O. was what I wanted for my birth. Bring enough copies of your birth plan for all your labor-delivery nurses as well as maternity nurses.
Labor aids. My labor aid is my doula, so I don't bring anything to help me get through labor. Other folks might want music CDs/ iPod, mints, snacks (if hospital allows), lotion for massage, exercise ball (check if the hospital has their own), etc. If you are being induced and will be there a while, consider bringing card games, DVDs and a portable DVD player. Maybe your laptop.
Clothes for labor. I'm good with the hospital gown, but you could bring a loose skirt and shirt to wear during labor instead, maybe a sports bra if you are planning on getting in the water. Also consider bringing flip-flops and socks to wear during and after labor.
Baby soap. I don't know if hospitals let you do this, but you could bring your own baby soap to the hospital for the after-birth bath. Or you could call your hospital in advance and ask what soap they use for newborn babies and the soap's list of ingredients. If you aren't comfortable with the hospital's soap and they won't use your soap, other options are to ask that your baby only be washed with water or to ask that your baby not be bathed at all. Either of these last two options will get your baby labeled a "Bio-hazard" and all nurses who handle the baby will have to put on gloves first.
Baby clothes. You need at least one outfit to take the baby home in. If price is no issue, you can always buy something in the hospital store, but if you want only organic fibers on your baby's skin, be sure to bring two or three outfits from home with you.
Receiving blankets. The hospital will give you one of these to use while in the hospital, but if you are picky about what touches your baby's skin, you'll want to have something ready to use as soon as the baby is born. It's also nice to have one to use for the trip home.
Newborn diapers. Even though I cloth diaper, I use disposables diapers and wipes in the hospital and until the merconium stage is over. I didn't take any diapers with me this last time, and was disappointed in the "fresh baby" smell (hello, phthalates) of the disposable diapers the hospital provided me with. I wish I'd taken some Seventh Generation diapers and wipes (or other brand that discloses all ingredients) with me to use instead.
Feminine pads. If you want to use chemical-free "greener" feminine pads after birth, you could bring your own feminine pads. Again, I like Seventh Generation, although personally I'd stick with whatever the hospital offers. If you wanted to be super green, you could bring your own reusable absorbent material. That would be too much for me to handle.
Nursing bra. Shop in a store that has expertise in fitting a pregnant mama. Ask your health provider for advice. Most mama-friendly hospitals will have a store with nursing gear. I'd only buy one or two before having the baby, since it's hard to know exactly what your size will be after you milk comes in. Bring some nursing pads too.
Change of clothes for mama. I would bring some of your smaller maternity clothes to wear home from the hospital.
Change of clothes for papa. If someone will be staying overnight with you, make sure to bring clothes for him or her too!
Overnight toiletries. Whatever you would pack for an overnight trip: toothbrush, toothpaste, contact solution, contact case, glasses, deodorant, soap, shampoo, conditioner. Your after-birth shower will be one of the most important showers of your life. Make sure you have everything you would want for that.
Camera/ Video camera. Bring an extra battery if you've got one. Make sure you know your hospital's and care provider's rules for taking photos or videos during the delivery.
Phone and charger. You will probably want to call or text a few folks from your hospital room after delivery. Or you could just post to Facebook with your smartphone. If you are old school like me, don't forget your list of phone numbers.
Baby name list. Unless you are absolutely sure what name you are going to use, bring your list of names and maybe even a baby name book. Decide on spellings as well. It's very tough to change the spelling or name after handing over that information for the birth certificate -- so be very sure before you do.
Car seat. Research this purchase ahead of time and try to buy a car seat at least a month in advance so you can let it off-gas a bit outside or in your garage before putting your baby in it. Consult safety ratings as well as sources like HealthyStuff.org that look at the materials and chemicals used in products. Many folks choose to buy an infant car seat. For my second and third babies I've chosen to use a convertible car seat that can be used through the preschool years.
I recommend packing your bag in advance with everything you can pack in advance, with a list on top of things to pack at the last minute (toiletries, etc.).
What did you pack in your hospital bag?
- The Best Free, Online Resources for a Safe & Healthy Pregnancy
- Avoiding Toxins in Baby Products
- What Does a Baby Need?
- Favorite Breastfeeding Gear
Photo credit: Bonbon