You might give birth on your due date but don't bet on this! Packing your bag a few weeks early will mean you have everything you want with you when you go into labour. You'll also need to pack some items for your baby.
As well as packing for the hospital, you'll also need to have a few things ready and waiting, such as a car seat to bring your baby home and essentials for the early days. It’s a good idea to have everything ready by 37 weeks.
Watch our 'Get packing' film to find out where to start:
What to pack for labour and birth
You may prefer to have two separate bags: one for labour and one for you and your baby after you've given birth. You could pack both into a suitcase with wheels so you can pull it easily.
Although some women and their babies can go home very quickly after the birth, pack for at least a couple of days, just in case – especially if the planned place of birth is not easy to get to from home.
Your bag for labour
- Your antenatal notes – it's important to have these with you when you go into hospital. Keep them with you wherever you go.
- 1 or 2 comfortable nightdresses or big t-shirts that are cool and loose (labour rooms are warm)
- Drinks and snacks – labour can take a long time so it’s a good idea to pack drinks and snacks for you and your birth partner
- Something to read, watch or listen to, or a game to play – you may find distractions helpful in the early stages of labour
- A face cloth or flannel and water in a spray bottle to help keep you cool and fresh
- Lip balm to stop your lips getting dry
- Hair bobbles or a headband to keep long hair out of the way
- A pillow from home (with pillowcases) if you would find this comforting
- Change for the taxi or car park
- Your mobile phone and/or a camera
- Any chargers you might need (phone, camera)
- Toothbrush, toothpaste and other toiletry items, including shower gel and shampoo
- A TENS machine if you want to use one – find out more about pain relief in labour
- Any medications you’re taking
- Change of clothes
Your birth partner might want to bring a spare underwear and toothbrush as well. If the labour is long, they may end up staying with you over night.
“With both my pregnancies I packed a nappy, hat and vest in a zip seal bag at the top of my bag so my birth partner could find them quickly.”
Your bag for after the birth
- A couple of front-opening nightdresses or loose shirts so you can breastfeed (if you choose to) and snuggle your baby skin-to-skin
- Sterile bottles, teats and formula – if you’re bottle-feeding
- Light dressing gown and slippers
- A couple of packets of super-absorbent sanitary or maternity pads
- 5 or 6 pairs of knickers – you may also want to bring some disposable ones
- Extra-absorbent sanitary towels for the bleeding you'll have after the birth, called lochia (you won't be able to use tampons)
- 2 or 3 nursing or ordinary bras – bear in mind that your breasts will be much larger than usual
- Breast pads to soak up leaking breast milk – you may need these even if you don't plan to breastfeed
- If you are going to breastfeed, you may want to take a nipple cream – these can help to heal any sore or cracked nipples that may occur in the early days of breastfeeding
- Clothes to come home in – you'll still have a bit of a bump so pack loose comfortable clothes
- Up to 5 sleepsuits and vests or baby grows
- A pack of newborn nappies
- Cotton wool
- A baby blanket or shawl
- Clothes for your baby to come home in, including a hat, scratch mittens and socks
The hospital will probably have basic items for the baby, such as towels and blankets. The lists above should cover everything, but ask your midwife if they also provide a specific list for your hospital or birth centre.