11 dos and don’ts for your hospital bag

Whether you’re a first- or second-time mom, packing your hospital bag for you and your new baby can be a daunting task. As you sort through your cupboards and all the cute items you received at your baby shower, you may feel overwhelmed and start to wonder what you should include, and what you can get away with leaving at home. Well, the good news is that we’ve done the hard work for you – and compiled this essential hospital bag check-list with all the stuff you don’t need for your hospital stay, as much as family and friends might tell you.

So, here’s to making your life easier, and your hospital bag a breeze to carry!

For you

1. You don’t need: a breast pump

You do need: breast pads and nipple cream

From the minute your little one is born, he’ll start to suckle from your breast and take in as much colostrum as he can. As a result, your nipples might become dry and cracked as you get used to breastfeeding, which is why it’s a good idea to pack a good-quality nipple cream and breast pads for when your milk does come in. However, it takes a few days for your body to release the milk you’ve produced, so chances are you won’t need a breast pump initially. If for some reason you can’t produce milk or your baby has a medical condition that needs careful monitoring and attention, the hospital staff may suggest feeding your baby through a tube or supplementing some feeds. In this case, most private hospitals do supply electric breast pumps, which are constantly cleaned and ready to use. This means you can safely leave yours at home for later use.

ALSO SEE: 13 great uses for nipple cream

2. You don’t need: magazines or books

You do need: calming music 

Most new moms will agree that those first few days are a whirlwind of feeding, changing nappies and bonding with your baby. This means lots of kangaroo care (skin-on-skin contact) and letting your little one sleep on your chest. So, although you may not have a spare second, or a free hand, to page through a magazine, some calming music playing might come in handy at 2am when you’re feeling a little anxious or struggling to sleep. Also, let’s face it, when sleep deprivation starts to kick in, it can be tricky to concentrate on reading when all you want to do is sleep when your baby does!

3. You don’t need: lacy lingerie

You do need: practical panties and feeding bras

Whether you had a C-section or natural birth, you’ll want to wear clothes and underwear that’s as practical and as comfortable as possible. This means leaving your sexy underwear for later, and packing soft cotton clothing that’s easy to slip on and off. Feeding bras are brilliant in this sense, as they have simple clips that can be undone with one hand and fastened again with ease. You might also want to consider keeping a feeding shawl handy for those times where you need to breastfeed, but have visitors.

4. You don’t need: perfume and make-up

You do need: dry shampoo and tinted moisturiser

Studies have shown that smell is the most advanced sense that your baby has at birth. He’ll be especially drawn to the smell of breast milk and can distinguish his mother’s unique smell from another woman’s. These familiar smells are soothing and comforting for your baby, which is why you should avoid wearing heavy perfume or scented body lotion for at least the first 12 weeks. Also, you’ll be so busy with your new bundle of joy that you might not even have time to shower or apply make-up before visitors arrive. Or, if you’re recovering from a C-section, it might be too painful to bath or move around too much. This is where dry shampoo and a dual product such as a tinted moisturiser will do the trick!

5. You don’t need: energy drinks and caffeine

You do need: jungle juice and smart snacks  

What you eat and drink while nursing can have a direct impact on your baby. This means you should be cutting out preservatives, additives and stimulants such as sugar and caffeine. However, the good news is there are healthier alternatives that’ll give you the nutritious boost you need to breastfeed every two to three hours in those first few weeks.

See this recipe for jungle juice, which stimulates milk production, below:


  • 1 litre boiled water
  • 1 litre apple juice
  • 1 sachet Blackcurrant Rehydrate
  • 60ml Schlehen Blackthorn Berry Elixir (available at Baby City and DisChem)
  • 8-10 drops of Rescue Remedy

Mix all the ingredients in a two-litre container. This amount should be consumed in 24 hours.

6. You don’t need: your baby monitor

You do need: an eye mask and ear plugs

Unless you specifically ask for your little one to be kept next to you, most hospitals allow your baby to sleep in the nursery if you need a break. If you’re breastfeeding, the nurses will bring your baby to you to feed, so you don’t need to listen out for your little one. So, in order to get much-needed rest after giving birth, you may want to consider blocking out all the hospital noises and bright lights with ear plugs and an eye mask. Ask a nurse to wake you when your little one needs a feed or cuddle.

ALSO SEE: 12 essentials to pack in your hospital bag

For your baby

7. You don’t need: bottles and formula

You do need: hand sanitiser

Breastfeeding provides all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients your baby needs to thrive and grow. For this reason, the hospital staff will always promote breastfeeding. However, if for some medical reason you can’t breastfeed, or choose not to from the get-go, there should be a supply of formula and sterilised bottles for you to use in the hospital. And even if you’re specific about which formula you want to use, chances are you’ll be able to find it at the hospital pharmacy.

8. You don’t need: first-aid essentials and soap

You do need: your chosen baby creams or oils

Whether it’s gripe water, a thermometer or surgical spirits to clean your baby’s umbilical cord, the hospital will have these first -aid items on hand. However, you’ll want to bring along the creams or oils you want to use on your baby’s delicate skin. And make sure you’re prepared for your little one’s first bath. This means you need to pack a towel, cream or baby oil, as well as a mild cleansing milk if you choose to use one (most newborns don’t need to be bathed with anything but warm water and a soft cloth or sponge).

9. You don’t need: summer baby clothes

You do need: long-sleeved onesies and socks  

Even if you have your baby in the middle of summer, he’ll more than likely need to be dressed in a long-sleeved vest or Babygro most of the time. This is because newborns can’t regulate their own body temperature and often feel the cold. Plus, they’re used to the warmth and comfort of the womb, yet their first days in the world are spent in a cold, hospital room. So make sure you pack essential items to keep him warm, such as long-sleeved onesies and one or two short-sleeved vests if its summer, and socks and a hat for when you leave the hospital.

10. You don’t need: a carry cot

You do need: swaddle blankets

Your baby will spend the first few days wrapped in blankets in a bassinet next to you. For this reason, you can leave your co-sleeper, Moses crib or carry cot at home, but you’ll need to bring a steady supply of light cotton swaddle blankets, as well as burp clothes for when your little one brings up all his milk.

ALSO SEE: How to swaddle your baby safely

11. You don’t need: a portable changing mat

You do need: baby wipes and nappies

There are plenty of places for you to change your baby in the hospital, so no need to worry about a changing mat. You will, however, need to pack nappies and wipes, as the hospital won’t supply these.

ALSO SEE: What to pack in your baby’s hospital bag

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