Towards the end of my pregnancy I kept wanting to pack my bag for the hospital, but every time I got started, I realized that I would still need to use a lot of the items I planned to pack up until the baby was born. I'm not one to spend money where it's unnecessary so I wasn't about to go by a slew of repeat items just so I could start packing, and honestly once I was in the throes of my hospital stay, I only actually used a handful of the 57 million things all the books and blogs told me I HAD to pack.  

If I had known how little I needed earlier on, it would have saved me a whole lot of wasted time and hormone-fueled anxiety. So in the hope of making it a bit easier on you, here's my minimalist version of the hospital labor bag and a note on what you can probably leave at home:

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For mom:

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Body/face wash
  • Lotion
  • Deodorant
  • Lip balm
  • A favorite pillow (hospitals provide these, but they are flat and uncomfortable)
  • Bath towel (again, hospitals have these, but they are tiny and scratchy)
  • Hair ties/band
  • Brush/comb/hair products
  • Two nursing tanks or comfortable cotton t-shirts if you're not nursing
  • Soft cotton robe
  • One or two pair of stretchy cotton pants/shorts
  • Slippers
  • Glasses/contact lenses and solution
  • An outfit to wear home (if you're not comfortable in the above loungewear)

For baby:

  • Breastfeeding pillow
  • Car seat
  • Baby blanket
  • Going-home outfit
Other Essentials:

  • Insurance cards
  • Identification
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Camera, memory card and charger
Notes on what I'm not including: 

Though you should check with your health care provider to be sure, most hospitals will provide you with sanitary napkins, disposable underwear, nipple cream and supplies to aid the healing process. You need all of these things, but I highly suggest using what the hospital gives you as opposed to buying them on your own. They are utilitarian, but post-delivery exactly what you'll need.
 
As for the baby, the hospital will outfit him or her with cotton t-shirts, hats, swaddle blankets and diapers, most of which you'll be encouraged to bring home with you. If you are breastfeeding and need to pump, the hospital will most likely have one available for you, and if formula-feeding the hospital will provide that as well. 

I don't suggest bringing an MP3 player, laptop or tablet, particularly if you have a smart phone. You can update Facebook, share pictures, listen to music, watch movies and read books, magazines and newspapers from your phone and save yourself the hassle of packing and looking after extra devices.

Also, I haven't included anything for dad--he can fend for himself!

Image via Thinkstock

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About the author

Shayne Rodriguez Thompson is a full-time wife, full-time mom, and freelance journalist trying to balance it all and looking forward to exploring the world with her son and husband. In her rare spare moments, she's a pop culture junkie and kitchen devotee who makes a mean cupcake!

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