What To Bring To The Hospital for Labor


Hey Mamas!

After years as an L&D nurse and doula working in various hospital settings, and having the pleasure of serving many wise mamas during their hospital births, I have compiled a handy list to help y’all.

NOTE: This list is specifically for first-time mamas or mamas desiring their first VBAC. Second-baby labors tend to be a bit faster, sometimes the only goal is to get the car out of the fire lane before the baby comes out!


For a first baby (or first VBAC) the best approach is to anticipate a loooooong haul. While many women will give birth in 12-18 hours after the start of active labor (which is 6 cm dilated these days) some of us have labors that will last a couple of days. When we are well-stocked and well-prepared its easier to roll with the ups and downs of the labor process.

What to bring: LABOR


The Peanut Ball {Image by Beloved Birth Doula}


  • Your own clothes: Stretchy, sports or nursing bra and a stretchy long skirt work great. They will probably get messy or stained during birth, keep that in mind.
  • Your own drinks. You’ll need electrolytes, especially if you decline IV access or only have a saline-lock. I recommend coconut water, fruit nectars mixed with sparkling water, labor-aide, runner’s GU, and something salty (pretzels or crackers, plain broth, or Gatorade.)
  • Rice Sock: DIY Instructions here.
  • Hair bands and hair ties: a stretchy headband that’s not too tight, and soft scrunchies are good.
  • Lip Balm: All that rhythmic breathing will chap your lips.
  • Rescue Remedy Gum
  • Your own toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Massage oil or lotion: Organic with few ingredients / no strong smells (chemical smells during labor will make you want to yarf.) Plain liquid coconut oil is good … you can use that for baby’s bottom as well, or for cooking 😉
  • Peppermint essential oil: for nausea
  • Essential: A Peanut Ball if your hospital doesn’t have one (ask on the tour.)
  • Essential: A Birth Ball (Exercise Ball) if your hospital doesn’t have one.
  • Music (your birth mix) or Hypno-babies audio and a way to listen to it. Some hospitals have built-in speakers, but even if they do, they might not be working, so plan on bringing little speakers (for example, if your phone speakers annoy you.)
  • YOUR OWN PILLOWS (at least two.)
  • Tennis ball for lower back massage
  • Birth Plan – three copies. **Especially if you are planning on intermittent monitoring, not being offered pain medications in labor, delayed cord clamping or continuous skin-to-skin with baby for the first hour.


{Image via Birth Boot Camp}

THE FULL PACKAGE (for those mamas who were former Girl Scouts)


  • LED candles
  • Essential oils and diffuser for relaxation and calm in labor (lavender, clary sage, frankincense, peppermint & ylang ylang)
  • Massage tools: Roller Ball Massager or Palm Urchin
  • Flip-flops (summer), Slippers or wool socks (winter): make sure these are one size bigger than what you usually wear.
  • A super posh labor gown by Pretty Pushers or from Etsy
  • A soft, cozy bathrobe for labor chills / getting in-and-out of the shower or bath
  • Snacks for dad and doula so they don’t have to leave your side. One daddy I know brought a whole cooler with sandwiches, veggies, chips and guacamole, yogurt and more. Nothing stinky, please (NO TO TUNA SALAD!!!) I recommend nuts, cheese, crackers, and something sweet. Also consider bringing those instant Starbucks coffee packets … all hospitals have hot water to make tea.
  • A Birth Pool: many hospitals won’t “let” you birth in water but you can use it to labor! (They may not advertise that info on the birth tour … you should ask anyway.) Hospital bath tubs are tiny and cramped, and since you can’t submerge your whole belly the pain relief is not the same as a birth pool. There are many companies / doulas that rent birth pools and can give advice on hardware and connections.
  • Treats for the nurses … we love cookies, chocolate, and anything salty and sweet!
  • Phone number for Emergency Acupuncture or Chiropractic Care: Many chiropractors / acupuncturists that specialize in treatment of pregnant women will come to the hospital to perform adjustments / treatments. Especially for a VBAC mom with a history of “failure to progress” I would consider having a chiropractor “on-call” if at all possible.

NOTE: Ask your doula ahead of time what she will bring … she may have most of this stuff already.

WHAT NOT TO BRING into your Labor & Birth Room


I love your “system” … but that thing isn’t going to fit in the elevator

  • Your Baby’s Car Seat. You won’t need this until your discharge day! Save room for all your snacks.
  • Washcloths, towels and plain linens … the hospital has those.
  • Anything precious to you that would break your heart if it became blood-stained … especially fabric.
  • Your baby’s clothing — you won’t need these until your discharge day. You can dress baby after her first bath but better yet … leave her skin-to-skin!
  • A gigantic suitcase without rollers or military-combat-sized duffel bag that will probably give your husband a hernia.
  • Postpartum Pads, ice packs, peri-bottle or stretchy underwear … The hospital has those, they are perfectly functional (though not organic), you won’t have laundry to do, and pads are expensive … save your $$$.



  • FOOD: Welcome to postpartum …. where you will be so hungry you will want to eat your hand. Hospital food is not good! Make arrangements for a team of people who are ready and willing to go and bring you delicious, fat-laden take-out food and snacks on a regular basis. Collect local menus from take-out in your area ahead of time. Note: This is a perfect task for mothers and mothers-in-law.
  • Organic diapers for your babe: all hospitals offer standard-issue Huggies. You can use cloth diapers too, but remember that meconium poop is sticky and yuck, and freshly postpartum you will not want to do any laundry. Our family used disposables for two weeks, then switched to cloth.
  • A nightgown or jammies in a dark color.
  • Stuff for baby’s skin and butt … I prefer organic and non-toxic. I love Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Bottom Balm or Weleda Calendula Baby Cream. Put it on your registry! If you are on a budget then coconut oil will work great too.
  • Postpartum Perineal Herbs for your sitz bath. I love the WishGarden blend (I used it myself), but you can also make your own.
  • Nipple Cream: EMAB Nipple Balm or make-your-own.
  • Comfy, supportive nursing bras and nursing pads … for when visitors come. The rest of the time you’ll most likely be completely or nearly topless (which I highly recommend. Naked helps nipples breathe — which prevents mastitis — and facilitates easy skin-to-skin with your babe!)
  • A gigantic water bottle (1 liter or bigger) that someone will keep constantly filled for you. Breastfeeding + stale hospital air will leave you parched!

There you go! Comment below with your hospital must-haves …. and happy birthing!

One thought on “What To Bring To The Hospital for Labor

  1. What a fabulous list! I suggest bringing your own bath products so you will feel like “you” after your first real, awesome post partum shower 🙂

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