One of the major questions us doulas get asked is what to pack in your hospital bag when you have a baby. The majority of birthing families are searching for hospital bag lists on the internet or getting them from their local hospital and do you know what we have realized?

Most hospital bag packing lists given to our clients by hospitals or health care providers are either out of date or WAY too long, and the ones on the internet are primarily US based and don’t reflect the Canadian experience.

I mean, who uses calling cards and address books anymore, and how long are you actually planning to stay at the hospital?! As birth doulas who work in both busy urban GTA hospitals like Mount Sinai and Sunnybrook in Toronto, in suburban hospitals like Credit Valley and Oakville Trafalgar, and small community level 1 hospitals like Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville (and over 20 more GTA hospitals) we know exactly what to expect at those hospitals, what to pack and when your bag should be packed and ready to go!

These combined years of experience as birth doulas in the Greater Toronto area have guided us on how to trim down that list to the essentials and weed out the unneeded items so that families (partners really) aren’t lugging 18 suitcases into an 8×8 room!

There are three important things to keep in mind when you are packing for the hospital:

1. You will need a hospital bag even if you are planning a home birth​ and be sure to have it packed by 36 weeks (in case of late preterm labour).

​2. Have your partner help you pack the bag so that they know where everything is. This will save you from fights in the middle of a contraction: “NO, my lip balm is on the other inside, right side pocket! Ugh, just gimme the bag!”

3. You do not need to pack much. A healthy vaginal birth with midwives requires you to stay in the hospital for only 4-6 hours, a healthy vaginal birth with an OB is ~24 hours, and a cesarean birth ~48 hours. If for whatever reason you or baby need to stay longer, your partner, a family member or friend will have time to pick you up more items if needed.

So what do we as doulas recommend that you pack for your hospital birth?

FOR MOM / BIRTHING PERSON:

  • Essential Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush/comb, hair elastics, deodorant, etc
  • Lip balm, Gum, candies (hospital air is dry!)
  • Glasses, contact lens/case, solution
  • 1 Pack of unscented adult diapers (these are so much better than pads and panties)
  • Flip-flops and/or padded non-slip socks
  • Towel or housecoat for hydrotherapy (shower or tub)
  • Comfy clothing to labour in (Most hospitals only require you to wear the gown if you are getting an epidural and/or having a caesarean birth)
  • Comfy clothing to wear home
  • 1-2 Pillows (There are never enough pillows at the hospital)
  • Nursing Bra if planning to breastfeed
  • Cell phone, charger, earbuds (playlist of music)
  • Eye mask and earplugs
  • Health card and Insurance card
  • Drinks & Snacks (More hospitals are now allowing food & drink in labour.  Check out the evidence here: https://evidencebasedbirth.com/evidence-eating-drinking-labor/​​)
Don’t forget to bring your Yoga Ball with you to the hospital!

EXTRAS:

  • Birth Ball (yoga/exercise ball)
  • Battery operated candles
  • Bluetooth speaker for music
  • Unscented Massage oil
    (coconut or olive oil)
  • Camera and charger

FOR PARTNERS:

  • Comfy clothing
  • Change for vending machine
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Pillow
  • Drinks & Snacks
  • Toiletry essentials (tooth brush, tooth paste, deodorant)
  • Breath mints / gum

FOR BABY:

  • 6 Newborn diapers (and a few size 1 diapers)
  • Wipes
  • Oil (olive or coconut – works better than diaper cream for baby’s first poops)
  • Diaper shirts (“onesies”) and sleepers (2-3 newborns and size 1)
  • 2-3 Swaddling blankets (hospital has them as well)
  • 2 different sized hats
  • Bottles of  “Ready to Feed” Formula if formula feeding
  • Going home outfit (nothing bulky in car seats)
  • Canadian Car seat 

What You DON’T  Need to Pack:

  • Shampoo and conditioner – most people end up showering when they get home
  • Kleenex – hospital has this
  • Washcloths – hospital has them
  • Breastfeeding pillow – these are big and are often used improperly causing sore nipples and are unnecessary for early days of breastfeeding success (we talk more about them in our Breastfeeding Basics Prenatal Class)
  • Nipple cream – you can use your own colostrum (first milk) for the first few days
  • Breast pads – colostrum is thick and doesn’t leak much in the first few days
  • Breast pump – hand expression has been shown to be more effective to remove colostrum in the first 24-48 hours than pumping. Most women will not need to bring a pump to the hospital. Some hospitals provide a hospital grade, high quality pump for a small rental fee if necessary. For more information on breastfeeding, pumping, and supplementing see our upcoming Breastfeeding Basics Prenatal class schedule.

So what are you waiting for? Get packing! And don’t forget to download our free packing list!


Sarah Baker is a the co-owner of Lifetime of Love Doula Services and has been supporting families for almost a decade as a birth doula, postpartum & infant care doula and childbirth educator.  She is mom to three boys, twins and a singleton.

Carol Anne is the co-owner of Lifetime of Love Doula Services, is a grand-daughter, daughter, niece, aunt, godmother and wife.  She is also called “mama” by two incredible, energetic and inquisitive boys.  It was during her first pregnancy that she learned about the benefits of having a doula and knew in her heart that this was a career and passion she wanted to pursue. She services the greater Toronto area, Caledon, Oakville, Brampton and Orangeville.

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