It can be overwhelming to think about all of the things that you might need at the hospital, especially for first-time moms. You haven’t even met your child yet and you now have to work out what you actually need for his or her very first days in the real world.

Here’s a little guide to help you pack your ‘birthing go-bag’.

Normally, you will stay in the hospital or the maternity home one or two days if you have a natural birth, and a bit longer – two or three days – if you have a cesarean section. The first step is to plan for the longest potential stay in hospital and then sort everything you need into bundles for each day.

Clothing and diapers

  • Four changes of clothing for the baby (remember layers in case the weather changes)
  • 2 blankets (make sure they are appropriate for the season and the weather)
  • Gloves and a hat if it’s cold
  • A bag of diapers (cloth or disposable, depending on your preference)
  • Comfortable maternity clothing for you (tracksuits or pajamas)
  • A gown or loose-necked top for breastfeeding
  • Any spare clothing items you might want in case of emergencies for you and baby

A good tip is to pack everything into bundles for each day. This way you can easily grab what you need for the day, without having to think about what you are going to dress your new baby in.

Hygiene items

  • Liquid soap for washing you
  • Liquid soap for cleaning your baby
  • Cotton swabs (separate them in a little box or zip lock bag to keep them clean)
  • Alcohol rub for keeping things sterile
  • Anti-rash cream
  • Wet wipes (go for hypoallergenic options as they’re kinder to brand new skin)
  • Pacifier (this can be a big help for new moms)
  • 1 plastic bag for laundry

IMPORTANT: When you visit the hospital or maternity home that you’ll be giving birth in, you’ll often get a list of things that they think are necessary for a new mom to bring. Be sure to ask about this, as it will be a big help to all.

Other items to consider for your maternity suitcase

It’s quite nice to have some kind of decoration for your room in the hospital. Perhaps something specific to your child like a teddy bear or something to signify gender. Also think about the car ride home. You want your new baby to be safe, comfortable and ready to face the outside world.

Remember, whatever you forget to pack or didn’t think you would need – it doesn’t matter. Your partner, family members or friends will happily go and fetch anything you find you need.

So let’s get started with planning what you’re going to pack:

What season of the year will the baby be born?

This is essential because the general temperature of the season will determine how much clothing and what kind of clothing you need to pack.

How far away is the hospital or maternity home?

Most of the time you won’t give birth in a place that’s very far away from your home. However, if you do plan to do this, make sure you pack wisely because it will be more difficult to go home to fetch anything.

How long are you likely to stay in hospital?

If you know you are having a cesarean section, you know that you are likely to have a longer stay in hospital with your new baby. Work out the maximum number of days you’ll be staying and pack accordingly for both you and your baby.

Remember, this time in hospital or maternity home is likely to fly by. You will end up needing a lot less than you probably think. Pack carefully and don’t waste time and space on things you definitely won’t need or want.

Readers’ questions:

How should I organize my maternity suitcase?

It’s easiest to pack items per day. Put all outfits and necessary items into bundles according to the day you are going to use them. This will make things easier for everyone, and allow you to focus on getting to know your new baby.

Use clear, plastic bags or boxes to organize everything inside the suitcase so that you can just grab what you need without having to think. Make sure you label hygiene products and extras like blankets so you can spot them quickly and easily.

What bag should I use for my maternity suitcase?

Look for something that has compartments or allows you to easily organize everything you pack. Partitions for toiletries and space for bundles of clothing will help you in the hospital.

When should I pack my maternity suitcase?

You might feel the urge to start packing as early as possible – just to be prepared. However, it isn’t really necessary until the baby has come to a point where birth is viable. This will happen at 27 weeks. Most doctors won’t encourage you start getting ready until 32 weeks as this is when you are far more likely to go into labor.