This is a question that is asked by every birth client and everyone taking our prenatal classes. Some moms-to-be become so focused on this bag and make lists and google lists and talk to friends about it. I often see it as a question on Facebook groups. So I thought I would share what I find is used out of peoples birth bags and what is NOT used.


  1. Flip flops – they can be rinsed off if needed and are easy on, easy off. NOT your cute fuzzy slippers incase your water breaks on them.
  2. Hair ties – If you have long hair you WILL want to keep it contained in an elastic/hair tie. Also nice if you are hopping in and out of the tub or shower. No one really wants soaking wet hair.
  3. Toiletries for you and your support person. This would be small size bottle of shampoo/conditioner, deodorant, hair brush, toothbrush/toothpaste, soap, body lotion. Skip the curling iron, flat iron – you are only there for a day or so usually and you should not be worrying about doing your hair.
  4. Lip balm! When in labour you breath thru your mouth more and your lips become very dry. Add the dry hospital to everything and you end up with dried out lips – not fun.
  5. Phone chargers – everyone uses their phones for everything (including pictures) and you don’t want to be cut off from the world… or maybe you do. But at least leave that option open. You might want to leave a note on the bag to remind you to throw these in as you head out.
  6. Snacks and change for the vending machines. Our local hospital does not offer food 24/7 and there are not many options available on weekends. And sometimes your support person doesn’t want to leave you, but needs a quick bite. So pack some granola bars, trail mix ahead of time and then you can always throw in some fruit, cheese, muffins and other fresh items before you head to the hospital.
  7. If you wear contacts, don’t forget the solution and case. Also if you wear glasses when you take your contacts out, add those into your bag.
  8. Clothes to labour in. This might be nothing. It might be a birthing gown. It might be the hospital gown. If you do not wish to wear the gowns and housecoats provided by the hospital, pack your own. You are welcome to wear what you want usually. You also might want to add a swimsuit for your partner incase he/she wants to jump in the tub or shower with you.
  9. Comfortable clothes to wear home. You will not be back into your pregnancy jeans, so pack something that loose and stretchy. I think yoga pants are a great choice to go home in! (Our hospital provides awesome stretch panties for postpartum and pads -so no need to pack those items)
  10. Relaxation items… this might be music, or a focus object. It might be your own pillow or blanket for after. If bringing your own pillow, use a bright coloured pillowcase so it doesn’t get left behind.
  11. Going home outfit for baby. The hospital provides diapers, wipes, blankets, etc to use during your stay.
  12. A LARGE water bottle with a straw! The cups at our hospital are tiny styrofoam cups that hold two sips of water.


There are so many things you could pack. But do you need them? Typically you are only there for the labour (say around 6-24 hours) and then usually you go home 24 hours after giving birth. There is NO need to bring 3 suitcases, a birth ball, a nursing pillow and 4 duffel bags of “stuff” with you. Everything should fit in one small bag. I once had a client arrive at the hospital via ambulance. Wearing only a housecoat. NOTHING else. We made it all work. Was it ideal? No, but it was fine in the end. If you have a doula, she might carry music, extra hair elastics, a rebozo and other things so you do not need to pack so much. Make sure you check with her and what she carries.

You can leave baby’s stuff in the car in another bag that can be brought up after you have your little one. The carseat also should be left in the car. Just make sure you know how to install it before as the staff cannot check it for you.


Christine Catherall is the owner of Central Alberta Doulas (www.centralalbertadoulas.com), servicing Red Deer and area. Among her many certifications, she is a Certified Birth Doula through DONA, Birth and Bereavement Doula through StillBirthday, and a Childbirth Educator through CAPPA.


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