Hospital Bag Essentials (Natural Birth)

I packed EVERYTHING in my bags for labor and recovery. I would rather be over-prepared than under-prepared, and I’m very thorough, so I don’t think I missed anything in my planning! HOWEVER, in the end we used about 5% of the things we brought! Seriously.

So I wanted to share what I actually used! We’ll call it the essentials, because I am really glad I had all of these things! I read so many “hospital bag” posts and I felt like none of them were completely comprehensive, so I won’t spare any “obvious” item here.

The reasons we ended up not using most of the things were: 1) We labored at home for as long as possible, and I was already in active labor by the time we got to the hospital. I relied on breathing techniques and counter-pressure to help me cope, and there was no time to use any of the other stuff I had brought. 2) Our hospital was great and supplied plenty of food and postpartum recovery essentials.

I’ll also share the other things I packed, to give you ideas if you want to be Super Prepared like I was. I’ll also list the things I did use at home for labor that were really helpful, and a few things I would have liked to use in the hospital but we didn’t have time for. I’ll also list duplicates of things I used in both labor and recovery, so you know when you’ll need what!


  • Comfy nursing bra
  • Loose, comfy shirt
  • Soft shorts that were comfy/loose around the waist (aka that didn’t hurt when I did squats)
  • Tennis shoes
  • Small square pillow that I took off our porch swing – it ended up being the perfect thing to hug to get me through the car ride and triage
  • Liter water bottle with straw

That’s it!! Oops, hehe! But here are a few other things that I would still deem essential:

  • Protein bars – Whit didn’t want to leave my side to rummage through the bag, so a nurse brought him some crackers, but a protein bar or 2 would have been better
  • Electrolyte drink – I packed some Arbonne electrolyte/hydrating powder sticks that you mix in a water bottle. REALLY wish I had used one or two of these, I think it would have helped supply more energy for me (and Dad! Honestly the nurses probably would’ve appreciated one too…). Gatorade or Pedialyte would work too!
  • Calming, spa-like playlist – I of course spent hours making a calm, jazzy playlist, but in the end one of the nurses put on a Spa-type radio station which was just fine
  • Bathing suit top or extra nursing bra – I didn’t end up using the shower or tub during active labor, but if I had, a dry bra would have been handy to change into afterwards
  • Extra long phone charger – I honestly have no idea if my phone was hooked up to a charger, but since we had our doula on Facetime the whole time, this seems like a must have!


  • Exercise/birthing ball – Great to sit/bounce on during labor to promote dilation as well as to lean and sway on to get through contractions
  • Yoga mat – I tried to layer my yoga mat over the rug every time I did cat/cow (aka pelvic tilts) or squats, to relieve some of the pressure on my joints
  • Liter water bottle
  • Food/snacks – Make sure to eat dinner! Wish I had eaten an extra protein bar before things got more intense. (FYI – keep in mind that anything you eat might come back up, and stay away from anything that might give you acid reflux. That would NOT be fun during labor.)
  • Engaging music – I made no less than four birth playlists, and I didn’t really end up using any of them. Well, sort of. In the moment, I just knew what I wanted to listen to! I threw on a favorite Phish show on Youtube, plus one other (40 minute 😛 ) song. I would recommend knowing some options and having them on hand, but for me I didn’t end up needing a set hours-long playlist.


  • Aromatherapy – If our doula had been in person, she could have set this up for us!
  • Massage oil (mine is lemongrass scented!)
  • Electric massager – we have an awesome massager from Bed Bath & Beyond that we got years ago. I loved it throughout the end of my pregnancy, but didn’t use it during labor
  • Hand-held massage tool (can substitute a tennis ball) to apply pressure to specific spots
  • Scarf – Can use to do the “Rebozo technique”
  • Sound machine / night light


  • Comfy nursing bras
  • Robe
  • Nursing-friendly nightgown
  • Button-front pj top – other than what I mentioned, I didn’t end up wearing any other clothes – too much hassle! Hah. It would’ve been different if we had had non-family visitors.
  • Comfy maternity dress for going home
  • Extra-long charging cable
  • My own pillow – definitely didn’t NEED this, but it was nice to have!
  • Laptop – our room had a tv, but we did end up pulling out our computer to watch a movie of our choosing


  • Always disposable underwear
  • Maxi pads
  • Water squirt bottle
  • Tucks hemorrhoid pads
  • Dermaplast spray
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Swaddle blankets


  • Car seat
  • Swaddle – We didn’t NEED the swaddle, cute gown, or hat, but it was fun to put on him for a couple of hours and take pictures! (I also love the pictures of him in the stuff the hospital provided – just felt classic 🙂 )
  • Gown
  • Hat
  • Going home outfit – all you really need is a onesie to cover up baby while they ride in their car seat, no need to complicate it unless you care a lot about the tradition of it

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