How to pack a hospital bag (for real)

(Image: Shutterstock)

By Stacey Vee

Here’s my list of everything I’ll be taking along to the hospital on Thursday for Oliver’s delivery. You know, the one I made instead of actually packing a hospital bag.

This is for a visit to a maternity ward in a private hospital, for a C-section birth, with high hopes of breastfeeding. Probably a three-night stay. (Read: holiday. This is a mommy in-joke.)

It’s also worth pointing out that I’m a less-is-more kind of mom, so you might want to pack in extra of life’s little luxuries. The tips are not exhaustive (there is a really solid ‘what to pack and why’ article over at YourParenting); they’re just lessons learned from a mommy who is riding this maternity ward merry-go-round for the fourth time. I’m counting our miscarriage here too.


Suitcase – take a dinky one with roller wheels, trust me on this

Identity document
Copy of medical aid certificate
Registration of Newborn forms
(can usually be downloaded off your medical aid’s website)
Black pen (for filling out forms)
iPad, plus charger
Camera, plus charger or batteries
Spectacles + glasses case
(because hospital TVs are teeny tiny)

3 x PJ tops (with buttons down the front, so you can pop out a boob to breastfeed)
3 x PJ bottoms (dark-coloured in case you are bleeding)
5 x maternity bras (the kind with a clip on each cup)
5 x pairs of comfy cotton panties
Slippers and gown
Going-home outfit

Shower gel
Face wash and moisturiser
Fluffy towel and facecloth
(plus a plastic bag to put a wet face cloth in)
Hairbrush and hairbands, scrunchies, clips
Very basic make-up: power foundation, mascara, lip balm
Toothbrush and toothpaste

Antiperspirant (don’t take your perfume!)
Breast pads and nipple cream
Maternity pads (those giant ones with loop thingies)
Linen protectors

Toiletries for baby – the pharmacy in your hospital usually pre-packs everything you need for baby into a single bag that you can buy. My hospital just gives you a bag of sample-size baby goodies for free

Wet wipes
Packet of newborn (size 1) nappies
5 x baby outfits

Snacks! Gummy bears, cola-flavoured Mentos, whatever
Plus, one or two juice boxes or bottles of water

  • Do I need to tell you that you need to do pre-admission at your hospital a couple of weeks before your baby is due? Cause those nurses won’t care if your baby is halfway out your va-jay-jay if you haven’t filled in all the paperwork yet.
  • Save your medical aid number and pre-authorisation number to your phone for easy reference. You’ll be surprised how many times you’ll need it.
  • Take off your wedding ring and other jewellery and leave at home.
  • Camera tips: Obviously make sure it’s charged before the birth, check that you have enough space on the SD card, and get permission beforehand from the gynae to take photos.
  • Photo tips:  1) If your man insists on uploading a photo of your goop-covered newborn to Facebook as it leaves the birth canal, for goodness sake make sure he checks that your nether regions are not in the pic. 2) If you feel naked without your make-up, just know that every second cousin and drinking buddy in your social circle will be taking photos of your bloated face and uploading that shizz. This is why it’s good if you’re at a hospital where they have a viewing window so that your man can display your new cub Lion King style, instead of you receiving visitors.
  • Write down your baby’s name. On a piece of paper. Don’t laugh; when my husband told me he’d gone ahead and filled in the birth registration forms for Home Affairs for Ryan, I had a moment of panic when I realised we hadn’t talked about how we’d be spelling his middle name ‘Sebastian’. (PS: He spelled it correctly.)
  • Download a couple of digital magazines or eBooks to your iPad to keep you occupied while recovering (have you tried The Bundle?). You can even load some episodes of your flavour-of-the-month TV series, and take earphones. I’m thinking Girls season 2 for me.
  • Do not make eye contact with the tannie in the bed next to yours unless you’re sure you’ll get along. Otherwise you’re stuck making polite chit-chat to her for the next 72 hours.
  • Why no perfume? Because you’ll probably go off the one you wore while you were pregnant. Also, baby needs to smells your skin.
  • A note on baby outfits: take a mix of newborn size and 0-3 month size, in case your baby comes out bigger than expected.
  • If you are a wash-your-hair-every-second-day kind of girl, forget it. There’s no washing hair in hospital. Slick it back into a ponytail and don’t give it a second thought.
  • Snacks. No one tells you to take a secret stash of snacks! Hide them well in your hospital bag, as you’ll be conked out when you come back from the delivery room, and the nurses will have been scrounging around in your bag for a set of clothes for baby. No chocolates that can melt or anything that will leak.
  • There are two types of nurses: grim, no-nonsense types. And (strangely often) big-bosomed cheerful types. Slip the second type a little something from your snack stash. Think of it as a down-payment on renting her bosom to cry on when those third-day blues touchdown.
  • Take a really plush, glamorous gown. I’ll never forget when I had Travis in Parklane, there was an Indian mommy there who had just had her third baby. She swanned around the maternity ward in a silky, flower-print gown looking fabulous.
  • Don’t leave the hospital without two things – your baby’s immunisation card, and confirming what is happening with regards to registering your sprog at Home Affairs. Most private hospitals do the latter for you and you can pick up the birth certificate a few days later.
  • For your going home outfit, make sure it’s something loose-fitting, like sweatpants with a top you’d have worn mid-pregnancy as you’ll still have a post-baby bump. For instant going-home-with-a-celebrity-baby glam al la E! Entertainment, add some oversized sunnies and a wrap scarf.
Tips sent in from Twitter moms
  • Birth plan
  • Lipstick
  • Ear plugs
  • Alarm - to remind you to feed 3/4 hourly
  • 6-pack of apple juice, if you get sick of H20
  • Telament drops (for formula bottles)
  • Dry hair shampoo
  • Two-point plug
  • Breastfeeding pillow and breastpump (although our hospital supplies these)
  • Blanket for baby
  • Nail polish remover, in case your doc thinks French or clear polish is a no-no
  • Small bag of salt (for a healing salt bath)
  • Vodka (this made me cackle)

If you have any tips to share with new mommies packing their hospital bag?

This article originally appeared on Living Lionheart.

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