Dad's Hospital Bag: Everything You’ll Need Plus a Few Extras

Dad's Hospital Bag: Everything You’ll Need Plus a Few Extras

You’re about to enter uncharted terrain with the birth of a newborn, but you'll still have dominion over one thing: your hospital bag. With a little planning, you can have all the essentials plus a few stealth items.

Never fear, you can view this planning frenzy as survival training. Like it or not, planning and organizational skills will blast to the top of your survival list once the baby arrives.

The Basics

Before you get down to the nitty-gritty of separating the purely frivolous from the absolutely essential—and making the hard choices in between—there are a few broader issues to keep in mind.

Timing is Everything


  • Pack your hospital bag when your partner is 36 weeks pregnant, a few weeks before your baby’s due date. Even earlier, if you can.
  • Plan for two day’s worth of items, but also plan for the unexpected. 
  • An extra bag, left in the car or with a trusted friend, won’t go amiss if your stay is longer.

Responsible for Three

  • Know which last minute items go into your partner’s bag in case she forgets during labor.
  • You’ll be responsible for your partner’s bag once you get to the hospital, so figure out how to keep track of everything and avoid duplicates.
  • If you bring a separate bag for the baby, leave it in the car. You can also ask someone to bring it along later.  

Become a cartographer


  • Map out the route (and alternates) to the birth center or hospital, and have everything ready for check in. 
  • Plan to park your car for at least 24 hours, and map out the parking options in advance.
  • Know where to enter the hospital. Entrances can vary during peak times and off hours, so it’s a good idea to check. You may need to enter through the ER at night, for example, and use the main entrance during the day.
  • Get the lay of the land by taking a tour of the obstetrics floor, if available. Familiarity breeds calm, in this case.

Choose a Sturdy, Versatile Hospital Bag

Dera Design organic cotton diaper bag with laptop


  • Make sure your bag has loads of pockets and holds a travel pillow.
  • To control costs, choose a bag that can be repurposed once the baby arrives—a gender-neutral diaper bag is perfect. Even better if it doubles as a laptop bag. 
  • Take a look at our GOTS-certified organic diaper bag that holds up to a 15-inch computer.

What to Pack

Once the overall strategy is in place, you can start fine-tuning. We’ve listed some items to get you started, and included a downloadable 2-page checklist for quick reference. 

Loose Change & Cash

Coins for hospital bag

Normally a nuisance, loose change has tons of uses if you arrive at the hospital after hours.

  • For vending machines. Nerves and boredom can take a heavy toll on your stash of healthy snacks. It’s hard to be in the moment when your stomach is growling and your lizard brain is demanding food.
  • For parking meters or the hospital car park. Soon there’ll be an extra mouth to feed and you don’t need that parking ticket.
  • For pay phones in case your smartphone runs out of juice (it happens).
  • Tip: Add cash and loose change to your hospital bag early to avoid a last minute scramble, and don’t be tempted to dip into it. 

Travel Pillow

travel pillows with organic cotton pillowcases by Dera Design

  • A lumbar, travel, or toddler pillow will help you grab some shut-eye when nothing much is happening.
  • You can also use a pillow to help position your partner for pain relief.
  • Tip: Bring a couple of pillowcases, too. Because hospitals. Take a look at ours.

Extra clothes & Footwear


  • Extra socks, underwear, and shirts. Yup, you’ll definitely want a clean shirt for holding your newborn.
  • A sweater—layers are always a good idea, especially in hospitals where doors are always opening and closing.
  • Extra pants, if you have room. Sweats for comfort and shorts if it’s hot.
  • Comfortable shoes. You may do a lot of walking with your partner in early labour, pacing the corridors and climbing stairs.
  • Tip: Keep comfortable shoes next to your bag so they’re ready to go.

Bags, and Lots of Them

  • Bags are always useful and take up little room. 
  • Potential uses include segregating dirty clothes from clean items and keeping food separate. 
  • Fold-up shopping bags are great for carrying hospital freebies and gifts home.
  • Tip: Go for a green option like organic cotton, but include at least one waterproof bag for wet items.

Toiletry Kit

Toiletry kit

  • The obvious, razor, shaving cream, deodorant, shampoo, toothbrush/toothpaste.
  • Breath freshening mints or gum, when you’re too tired to move.
  • Painkillers & medication for you. No one will pay much attention to your aches and pains, so pack everything you’ll need.
  • Tip: Glasses, if you wear contact lenses. Your lenses may dry out with constant wear, irritating your eyes. You’ll want your eyes at their sharpest for the drive home.

Snacks, Water, Drinks


  • Nuts and protein bars are filling and easy to pack.
  • Water and juice are essential. Filling up your water bottle and packing your own juice gives you healthy options to keep your energy level up.
  • Tip: For extra points, include your partner’s favorite beverages and something extra special (and healthy).

Smartphone and Charger

You won’t forget your phone, of course, but there are still a few things to remember.
  • Load it up with distractions, like movies and tunes, and keep enough free space for new pictures.
  • Make sure you have chargers handy, including your partner’s.
  • Download helpful apps, like a contraction timer and white noise generator.
  • Download your birth plan, health insurance information, and medical notes.
  • Tip: update your contact list and add your partner’s contacts to your phone.

Other Distractions

  • Books, magazines, or a deck of cards for when your partner is trying to grab some rest or doesn’t feel like talking. 
  • Tablet or Kindle loaded with tunes, books, and movies.
  • Camcorder—check with the hospital beforehand to make sure it’s allowed in delivery rooms. 
  • Digital camera, if not using your smartphone’s camera.
  • Tip: make sure batteries are fully charged or bring spares.

Important Documents

  • Bring extra copies of your birth plan, health insurance information, and medical notes.
  • Hospital registration forms. Even if you've already registered at the hospital, some will need to confirm your records before admission.
  • Hard copies of tips for labour. Any printouts from your antenatal classes to help with breathing or positions to help ease the pain.
  • Tip: Keep papers you likely won’t use in a separate envelope to avoid mixing them with insurance and registration forms that you will need.

Download the 2-page PDF checklist from here

Image Attribution: Toiletry Kit Hannes Grobe, Kulturtasche hg, CC BY-SA 4.0

Gabrielle Masse