The Hospital Packing List Your Sister-in-Law Sends You

I’m so excited for you!!!!! I threw this list together so you can get you started on your spreadsheet. I’m sure everything is intuitive but LMK if you have any questions.

Birth plan. Don’t forget this! We spent a ton of time on ours, really trying to plan a birth experience that reflects our values and personalities. So print out your birth plan, make extra copies and laminate to make it easier for those nurses (they work so hard!). Don’t forget that having a baby is your experience, and truly beautiful, so it should all go as you want. Your doctors work for you, so don’t let them tell you how to have a baby!!

Music. It’s important to set the mood, so you’ll want to spend some time creating a labor/birth playlist. I listened to a lot of calming, melodic stuff when I was in early labor (think acoustic guitars and simple strings, woodwinds), then some more driving electronica for when I was focusing on dilating, and then some serious pump-up music for push time. Baby Walter emerged to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and I’m totally serious. Greg wanted to take a different approach and go with thematic podcasts so the baby would start absorbing language right away, but I felt we’d done enough of that during my pregnancy, and fortunately I ultimately won!

SLR Camera. I bought a new one for this – I did tons of research and I’m happy to send you that spreadsheet if you want. But basically bring your highest quality camera so you and your hubby can capture every second! Also don’t forget extra camera memory cards, chargers and a few specialized lenses.

Cute robes. You’ll want one for when you’re walking the maternity ward halls in early labor (maybe a little more dressy?), and another for active labor that’s a little more sporty and breathable. And then you’ll want one a fresh one for right after the baby is born, something in the “special” category that makes you look as beautiful as you’ll be feeling. I also packed a few extra for the days post-birth (including one monogrammed with baby Walter’s initials and mine — got that idea from Reese Witherspoon — and a couple others that matched some outfits I’d packed for him.

Outfits. You also need a couple outfits so you have options when it’s time to go home. Go for super-soft and comfortable — think  caftans, cashmere, etc.

Tennis and yoga balls. You’ll want to be very active during labor, so make sure you pack the right gear. Tennis balls (for back massage) and yoga balls (for bouncing through contractions) are no-brainers, but get creative! Honestly the endorphins that kick in during labor are incredible (think your most intense spin class times five), and involving your husband as a workout buddy is pretty romantic ☺ Greg thinks he might have missed his calling as a fitness trainer because he found the birth-coaching experience so empowering!

Toiletries. Don’t say I didn’t warn you: the bathroom counter space isn’t ideal. So just bring just the basics like toothpaste/toothbrush, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, razor, body lotion (maybe unscented??), face wash, Clarisonic, face cream, eye cream, blow-dry serum, round brush, blow dryer and hair-straightener (one of your travel ones should do). Oh and dry-shampoo. And makeup, but not a lot, just an eyelash curler, mascara, foundation, powder, eyeshadow, eyeliner, shimmer powder, etc. Oh and lip balm and hand cream. And cuticle oil.

Media – There’s some downtime, and I loved having a chance to catch up on back issues of Mother Jones and Allure, and I even got a head start on next month’s book club reading. This is also a good time to binge-watch shows you’ve been meaning to check out. We made it through a whole season of Breaking Bad — remind me never to move to New Mexico!

iPhone. Duh, but especially for FaceTiming relatives. We worked our way systematically through our in-law lists and made sure to take a bunch of screenshots that we can frame as Christmas gifts. It felt awesome to be capturing precious memories and at the same time moving through our holiday to-do list.

Note-cards. These early days are the perfect time to catch up on thank-you notes for all the cute baby gifts you’ve received.

Breastfeeding stuff. Your baby will start nursing almost immediately (hopefully you’ve been practicing!) so bring a nursing pillow, nipple shields, nipple cream and nursing pads to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible when the little angel latches on right after birth. Bring a lot of storage bags to capture over-production – that’s liquid gold! Actually I also have a breastfeeding spreadsheet I can send you, which includes my breastfeeding log. I think you’ll get a lot out of it.

Baby clothes! Pack a few of your favorite outfits from the layette because it’s fun to dress baby up. The nurses might grumble about this — they usually assume newborns prefer the cozy swaddle, but trust your gut. I absolutely think Walter appreciated the fresh organic cotton. Plus the onesies and blankets the hospital provides are neither cute nor flattering, trust me.

Bedding from home. Don’t let the hospital bedding (thread count of like 8) ruin your birth experience. I didn’t bring my nicest sheets, but I did pack up a couple sets plus a comforter/comforter cover that made me feel at home. Yes this stuff is kind of bulky to pack, but it’s worth it, and I know my nurses were happy to remake my bed with these nicer fabrics, especially when they saw how happy it made ME.

OK that’s it for now. I know this is bare-bones but I’ll keep thinking and will no doubt come up with more. Happy packing!!!



Alice Leiter is a recovering lawyer living in Washington, D.C. with her husband and four children. Her hobbies include making fun of her family on Instagram, watching Bravo, and worrying that people are mad at her. She hates when grown women call her “Mama.” Reach her at alice@aliceleiter.com.