Discover the only 9 things you really need when prepping to give birth and curate the perfect minimalist hospital bag.
Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links for products and services I recommend. When you make a purchase through an affiliate link, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Read our full disclosure here.
If I could tell expecting mothers one thing, it would be this: you need support, not stuff.
You don’t need fancy outfits, a labor and delivery robe, your own personal breast pump, makeup, a sound machine, or even…underwear. In fact, even the most minimalist hospital bag could probably be left home completely because you really only need one thing: your support person.
Almost everything single thing you need is at the hospital. And, let’s be honest, if it’s not already at the hospital, you probably don’t need it. Trust me, you won’t care what color or pattern your robe is when you realize how, umm, messy your baby is when he comes out!
More so, once your precious little babe is placed on your chest, you won’t actually care what you’re wearing (or not wearing) because your entire world will stop and stand still. Stuff doesn’t make those moments.
That said, if you’d like to pack a few items so you feel more comfortable, without going overboard, read on for our perfectly curated minimalist hospital bag checklist.
Minimalist Hospital Bag Checklist
Here is the checklist that I personally used for both of my births.
I had one cesarean birth, and one vaginal (a VBAC). Despite what other hospital checklists tell you, you don’t need to change it up depending on the type of birth you’re having. And yes, you can pack a super minimalist hospital bag, even for a cesarean. Remember, you’re at a hospital…they’re equipped for you post surgery.
Let’s get started…
Your Hospital Paperwork
Many hospitals will have you pre-register, so when you show up to Labor and Delivery during full blown contractions, you’re not stuck filling out paperwork.
Still, it’s a good idea to pack a folder containing your insurance cards, any hospital paperwork you may need to provide, and a copy of your birth plan. You may have gone through your birth plan already with your doctor, but you could end up with an on-call physician or hospital staff for the majority of your labor. A pre written birth plan can help you advocate for yourself when you’re in a vulnerable situation.
Infant Car Seat
No, this technically will not go in your minimalist hospital bag, but you absolutely will need to bring your baby’s carseat with you to L&D. You cannot leave the hospital without it.
Did I ever tell you about the time we had Rory and left the infant seat at home… He’s not my first baby either! Whoops.
I recommend installing the carseat and base a few weeks prior to your due date and practicing with a doll. Many nurses are also certified car seat technicians and can help you buckle your newborn in safely, and double check your fit.
Aftermarket gear, like head positioners, are safety hazards and you should not include them with your car seat.
We absolutely loved our Chicco KeyFit 30, which you’ll find on our minimalist baby registry, along with a convertible option.
Coming Home Outfit
Between nursing, skin to skin bonding, and the constant medical checks, you’ll likely find your newborn doesn’t need to be dressed to the nines during your hospital stay. The long sleeve shits and swaddles are more convenient than constantly removing onesies.
But, even the most minimalist hospital bag checklists should include a special coming home outfit. I love these adorable hello world onesies, but you can go with anything cozy, soft, meaningful, or easy to put on.
We brought each of our boys home in the same New York Ranger’s pajama set since they were both born during hockey playoffs.
Some hospital will provide binkies but many do not, especially “baby friendly” hospitals, which encourage in room sleeping, nursing, and constant skin-to-skin.
We love the chicco single piece silicone binkies (orthodontic recommended) and the mam newborn binkies.
Nursing Bra and/or Nursing Tank
If you plan to breastfeed, you might find that nursing bras and nursing tanks are worth the space in a minimalist hospital bag. Breastfeeding does take time, patience, and practice, so the accessibility here is quite necessary.
Consider throwing a cardigan in your bag, or wear one to the hospital if you want to cover up a bit, but changes are you’ll quickly except you’re about to live the next few months topless.
Sweatpants / Joggers / Leggings
If you really want to save space and pack minimally, wear something to L&D that you can wear during your stay, as well.
I wore comfy joggers to the hospital when I was in labor, switched into a gown, and jumped back into my joggers postpartum. When you’re feeling up for getting dressed, it will be nice to have your own clothing, but you won’t need more than two pairs total.
A Toiletry Bag
I’ve seen far too many minimalist hospital bag checklists that include an excessive amount of toiletries. You will not be putting makeup on post delivery.
You need the bare minimum to feel human for a few days after baby has arrived! Remember, minimalism with kids is about focusing on support, experiences, and, in this case, bonding with your baby, not stuff.
Here’s what I packed in my minimalist toiletry bag:
- Toothbrush/toothpaste: yes, the hospital will have these if you forget, but who doesn’t prefer their own?
- Glasses/contacts: obviously only if you wear them (I don’t, but hubby does).
- Dry shampoo: you’re sweaty post labor and dry shampoo is great until you go home to shower. // I love this dry shampoo.
- Face and deodorant wipes: also perfect for the interim to feel a bit human. // I love these face wipes and these deodorant wipes.
- Chapstick: I go absolutely nowhere without at least three chapsticks. Not minimalist, I know.
- Hair ties: put that hair up while you’re in labor girl!
Phone / Charger
Let’s be abundantly clear here: you will not be needing your cell phone, tablet, and laptop. You’ll really only need one way to communicate (minimally) with family and friends and a charger.
I cannot tell you how many times I forget to pack a charger. I recommend packing a spare weeks ahead of time. // This extra long micro USB charger is great to reach your hospital bed.
1-2 Outfit Changes for your Partner
If your partner plans to stay overnight during your postpartum period, he may want one or two outfit changes, depending on the length of your stay.
I like to recommend that partners wear sneakers since foot stability is important for helping you mobilize after birth. Trust me, getting out of bed those first few times is rough. I relied on my husband more than I thought I would.
And Just for Fun…Here’s What You Don’t Have to Include in Your Minimalist Hospital Bag:
The list above is literally everything I packed for my births and it’s what I’d pack again if I were to have a third baby. Which I’m not.
Below is a quick list of items I do not consider a necessary part of any but especially a minimalist hospital bag. A few may have been on your radar, so I’ll explaining why I think they’re not worth the space:
- Underwear: yes, I’m recommending that you don’t pack underwear. In a nutshell, you will bleed A METRIC TON after birth and will, undoubtedly, use the hospital underwear with no less than 4 pads per change.
- Diapers and wipes: some families cloth diaper from birth, in that case you may want to bring a few (we waited until we were home). The hospital will provide you diapers and wipes, regardless.
- Breast pump, cream, pads, etc: if you plan to or need to pump, the hospital grade pump is best anyway. For pads, nipple shields, lanolin etc, the nursing staff can assist you.
- Bottles: if you don’t want to or cannot breastfeed, you’ll be in good hands at the hospital.
- More baby clothes: the hospital provides swaddles and long sleeve shirts since it’s easier for frequent medical checks. Plus, the skin to skin cuddles are so good for baby (and mama!). We never felt it necessary to pack anything more than a coming home outfit.
- Swaddles: haven’t you seen the blue and punk hospital ones…literally every baby since 1875 has them. Why would you want to miss out.
- Peri bottle: again, the hospital will give it to you
- Essential oils: -I get why people want them, but I’m sorry, no oil can alleviate the pain of a contraction. An epidural can, or you can decide to labor through, but your lavender oil isn’t going to make a difference.
- A fancy birth robe: babies are messy, you’ll be messy…why do you want a new robe just to ruin it when the gorgeous hospital gowns can suffice?
- Sound machine – for what, to drown out your labor pains?
What will you be including in your minimalist hospital bag? Any must haves we’re forgetting?
I packed an absolutely ruthlessly minimalist hospital bag for both births, because I truly didn’t want to worry about stuff. Give me all the skin to skin baby cuddles, the newborn smell, and those sweet baby coos. Stuff doesn’t make those moments any better…or easier. So why bother?
I’ve also seen some pretty ridiculous things on non minimalist hospital bag checklists. A sound machine…I think some of these bloggers haven’t actually had children. What’s the silliest thing you’ve been told to pack?
Thank you for this! As a first time mom to be I have been shocked at the amount of things people tell you to bring. I would literally have to bring 3 suitcases for some lists haha. This is a great list and makes me feel good about my one bag for the family to be when the day arrives. Thanks again!
The only other things that I would add to the list for personal comfort and a little piece of home would be my own pillow and blanket. Hospitals are notoriously cold and with an epidural, you normally get the shivers and having your own blanket helps. I’ve had 2 babies and I’m currently pregnant with number 3 and those two things are non-negotiable for me. Forget half the stuff I need as long as I have those 2 things, I’ll be okay!
I definitely don’t agree with not bringing your own swaddles. The nursing staff with my first baby swaddled my kid unsafely with arms pinned to the side. Babies should be swaddled with hands over heart. Plus, the blanket swaddles come undone all night long and baby wakes up and cries. I didn’t know how to wrap well. Had to keep bothering the nurses. I always bring woombie swaddles with me. No wrapping required. They stay on. Safest swaddle on the market. http://www.woombie.com
And I also don’t agree with not bringing essential oils. I’m pretty sure you don’t use essential oils because you would never say this. They do in fact work and make a huge difference. I use Young Living oils and all have no fragrance. Seed to seal formula. Anyway the oils react with our brain to help in so many ways. My kid uses peace and calming daily and his behavior hyper issues went away. I’ll be using peace and calming during labor and Valor which is for bravery. I’m terrified of the dentist but since using Valor I go and have no issues. So yes, it works. I’ll also use Thieves for immune support.
Otherwise pretty decent article. Thanks!
Hi Tasha, thanks for the comment. You listed that woombie is your website? Is this a company you work for? Or just a product you love?
Personally I had no issue with the hospital swaddles, and as a minimalist, a different swaddle was not necessary.
I actually do use essential oils. But again, I don’t feel that some magical combination of oils makes labor any less painful. It’s not something I’d consider necessary if you’re looking to pack minimally. Of course you don’t need to pac minimally…but then maybe this isn’t the list for you =)
I would add 2 bath towels to the list for you and your support person. The hospital towels I have seen in 2 different hospitals are undoubtedly clean, but often shrunk and not that soft. They also just gave me a safe unscented bar of soap which wasn’t real luxurious, but regardless that first shower is glorious.
I second the need to hydrate with chapstick, your favorite lotion, and keeping your water bottle in your hospital bed for ease of access. This is especially true if you are breastfeeding. If your chapstick, lotion, deodorant, or shampoo smell like your essential oils even less to pack!
My husband and I are also impartial to our pillows, but this is more personal preference than anything else.
Electrolyte drink mix is a lifesaver when you’re stuck in the hospital and don’t want canned apple juice! We love LMNT salt packets in orange. I have a handful in my hospital bag for baby #2!
I love this list! I am about to have my 6th baby. I feel like I shouldn’t be looking up these lists anymore but it is still a little hard to remember. One thing I know for sure. When I look at every other list on the internet I feel like these people are all mostly trying to sell things. I have gone to the hospital before with nothing a few times. The truth is my husband will be back and forth taking care of our other kids and he can bring stuff back but the things you listed really are the things you need if you want to make it simpler 🙂 good luck and lots of love to everyone about to give birth! It will be beautiful even if you forget the bag completely and don’t have matching robes ❤️
This list was perfect! I’m having baby #4 soon and didn’t want to forget anything I normally bring or actually use. We have very similar logic and this list is the best actually minimalist list I’ve found!