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Packing your hospital bag for c section. Expert tips from a c section mama with everything you need for a post c-section stay in hospital.
I’m a c-section mama, and I got to say…it really is a bit of a doozy. I had an unplanned C section, after 22 hours of unmedicated labor. Honestly, I wouldn’t try that again!
When it finally became clear that my little one wasn’t budging and really was stuck in an awkward position, my doctor told me it was time to make the call. They helped me across the hallway for an epidural in between contractions. Hoisted me onto the operating table. And delivered my beautiful little daughter.
I still get misty eyed thinking about giving birth. But when I think back, I don’t miss the feeling of utter unpreparedness. I went into hospital expecting a natural birth, and left after major surgery.
Maybe you’re planning for a scheduled c-section. Or maybe you want to be prepared just in case. In either case, I’ve put together this list of what to pack in your hospital bag for c-section.
To be fair, a lot of items work when packing for a hospital bag for labor of any kind, or planning what to wear when giving birth more generally. And there’s also cross-over with what to pack in a hospital bag for dad.
But I wanted to give c-section mamas a shout and a helping hand, because, well, you’re my people.
Hospital Bag Checklist for a C-Section
I recommend putting all of this info in a sturdy document folder that you can close via zipper or elastic. Ideally, have some photocopies prepared too, just in case.
- Healthcare and insurance cards and information.
- Medical history, but especially any info about your pregnancy or allergies.
- Your ID / drivers license.
- Depending on where you give birth, you may need area-specific documents. For example, some jurisdictions will want your marriage certificate or residency info. Check with local officials in advance.
Toiletries & Personal Care
Some of these – like a toothbrush and toothpaste, are pretty obvious. But I’ve also included some things you might not have thought of. These are things I’m really glad I had (or I really missed) when I was a new mom in hospital!
- Personal hygiene basics such as toothbrush, toothpaste and floss; deodorant or antiperspirant; hair brush, clips and hair ties.
- A soft towel from home. Hospital laundry rooms and detergents aren’t exactly known for resulting in super soft, fluffy towels. Believe me when I say, this is a time in life where a simple luxury goes a long way. If you don’t have one, super soft hotel-level bath sheets can be had for a pretty reasonable price. Ideally, bring a dark color.
- A bit of makeup to feel normal. Don’t go overboard, but some blush, mascara, and lip gloss can go a long way to feeling like yourself again. There’s a good chance you won’t use it. But if you decide you’re up for it, it’s a nice to have.
- Chap stick or lip balm. Hospitals can have dry air, and you’re about to lose a lot of fluids.
- Glasses. If you need glasses or contacts to see, bring your glasses. Chances are you won’t want to deal with contacts.
Above I’ve listed some basics – things you’d probably pack in your hospital bag no matter what. However, I also have some c-section specific items to add to your checklist for hospital bag, which I go into below.
- A soft cloth headband. Pack one or two loop-style boho headbands. Something that’s easy to put around your neck and pull up and back over your forehead to keep your hair out of your eyes. I also am in love with this Head Peace band from Hatch Collection, which can serve as a headache reliever too during pregnancy.
- Dry shampoo. Washing my hair was not at the top of my priority list post c-section. Dry shampoo can keep your hair looking good for a few days. I’d recommend one that’s fairly well rated by EWG. Check out QET Lavender Dry Shampoo or Beauty By Earth Dry Shampoo.
- Facial towelettes are a good option for your hospital bag. Wipe your face when it’s feeling greasy or sweaty or you just need to refresh a bit. Normally, I don’t like the concept of these wipes because the environmental cost. However, labor and c-sections aren’t normal times! Again, look for something that’s verified or well rated by EWG. Rooted Beauty’s Purifying Facial Towelettes are a good choice, and they’re easy to find on Amazon.
- Gentle body wash for a shower. While you won’t be able to take a bath after your c-section, you can take a shower. And oh – what a glorious shower it will be! Pack some gentle body wash in your hospital bag. Ideally go for unscented to skip the phthalates, or only lightly scented, and verified or well rated by EWG. I like the Attitude products and their unscented body wash easy to get on Amazon, which is a bonus.
Care for Down There
Depending on where you deliver, nurses will supply you with mesh underwear and massive pads to wear in the first few days after your c-section. It might surprise you to learn this, but the hospital supplied mesh underwear and pads will not be the most comfortable options out there. Ha ha.
So while you can arrive at the hospital without your own underwear and pads, you’ll probably be more comfortable if you bring your own.
The Postpartum Recovery Bundle is another great option, combining mesh panties, postpartum pads and stool softeners.
- Postpartum pads. Always Extra Heavy purple pads are what friends recommended to me when I gave birth, and I’m passing on the recommendation.
- Postpartum underwear for in the hospital. The hospital will likely give you some disposable mesh undies. However, Bodily’s Mesh Boy Shorts are a serious upgrade and made specifically for your immediate postpartum needs. Super affordable too, and they come in a 3-pack.
- High-waisted postpartum underwear to go home in. KindredBravely makes a good postpartum panty that actually looks nice. You might also want to check out the Knix postpartum period panties, which absorb blood as an extra layer against leakage.
- A Peri Bottle. Peri bottles are often recommended to moms who’ve had a vaginal birth. However, I found it useful after a c-section, too. Generally speaking, I wasn’t particular mobile after the surgery, and my abdomen was pretty swollen, making it tough to wipe. Using the peri bottle made things a lot cleaner and easier, and was also helpful given the amount of blood your body ejects after giving birth.
- Stool Softener. Chat to your doctor, as they may have this for you at the hospital. But generally speaking, you don’t want to do any sort of straining for the first few days after you c-section, and the medication you get during surgery may cause some constipation.
Snacks and Nutrition
I recommend bringing some healthy snacks that will boost your energy, and a few treats, too. These items need to be safe to keep in your c section hospital bag for a few days, without refrigeration.
- Postnatal vitamins. Talk to your doctor, but I liked having postnatal vitamins in the first few months after giving birth. Being a new mom was busy and overwhelming. I definitely didn’t manage a perfectly balanced diet day after day. So I liked having the back up of the vitamins.
- Healthy Snacks. Anything with health fats, protein, vitamins and minerals, and/or complex carbs for energy. Generally speaking, nuts and whole grains can work in your hospital bag. Basically, things that pack a ton of nutritional punch but don’t need to be refrigerated. If you need ideas, check out these blueberry almond quinoa bites or pistachio power clusters.
- Treats. I was definitely ready for some treats a day or two into my c section hospital journey. I was grateful we’d thought to pack some dark chocolate covered blueberries or pomegranates, but you do you, mama.
- Sippy cup with bendy straw. A friend gave me this tip, and it was incredibly helpful. Usually I use a stainless steel water bottle. However, after my c section I used a cheap plastic kids cup with a bendy straw. It was pretty tough getting in and out of my hospital bed for the first day or two. It was even tough adjusting my position in bed. A bendy straw made it a lot easier to drink water without having to shift too much. It was also great when my daughter fell asleep on top of me!
If you’ve decided to give breastfeeding a try, pack your breastfeeding gear in your c section hospital bag. I also recommend packing a baby carrier for nursing to get some all important bonding and closeness with your little one!
- Nursing pillow. I hemmed and hawed over whether to bring my nursing pillow to the hospital, and I’m so glad I did. I think it’s especially helpful for c-section mamas. After surgery, you may have less mobility, and find it harder to hold your baby in the first few days. Even if you’re not planning to breastfeed, a nursing pillow helps for bottle feeds in the first few weeks too. You’ll be able to get your baby in more positions, without straining your incision and abdominal muscles.
- Nursing bra. I wore a nursing bra with a loose and comfy labor dress while in the hospital. A nursing bra, with a labor and delivery gown and a robe over top, is a great combo for the first few days in hospital. This Hospital Bag Bundle includes a labor and delivery gown, postpartum panties, a nursing bra, a nursing tank, a robe, and some skip-proof socks. There are also lots of sports bras for nursing, which you may prefer style wise.
- Soft Baby Carrier for Baby Wearing. A soft, unstructured wrap carrier like the Solly Baby will let you bond with your baby and promote milk production.
- Leak pads. Until your milk supply regulates itself, expect some leakage. I suggest eco friendlier reusable nursing pads over disposable!
- Nipple cream. Nursing is honestly pretty painful in the early days. Cracked, bleeding nipples aren’t that uncommon unfortunately. I used nipple cream religiously, and found it really helped. Once my daughter and I got into a groove and nursing was no longer painful, I phased it out.
- Nipple shield. This is optional, but I swore by them, in the early days especially. I didn’t nurse with nipple shields all the time. Instead, I used them when my nipples were particularly sore, and my daughter was hungry. I have one girlfriend who used them for every single feed with both of her kids. And others who didn’t use them at all. If you decide you need them, you’ll be happy you have them.
- Breast pump. Some hospitals will provide a breast pump, and others won’t. Check in advance whether you need to bring your own or whether you can borrow.
- A lightweight nursing cover. If you plan to have visitors in hospital, pack a lightweight nursing cover in your c section hospital bag. That way, you’ll be able to nurse when guests are visiting.
As you’ve probably heard, baby’s sleep a lot, especially in the early days. You’ll need an epic sleep to recover from your labor and surgery.
However, once you’ve caught up on sleep, you’ll have some time to kill. As you recover and wait to be cleared to go home, some tech time might be appreciated.
Plus, you’ll probably take about a million photos of your little one in those first few days!
- Tablet or laptop with Netflix, Prime, etc, and chargers.
- Phone and charger.
- Camera, memory cards, and chargers.
- Portable power bank.
Hot tip regarding chargers. Do your best to bring extra long cords so you can charge from bed if needed.
I’ve written a whole post about what to wear after c section.
In general, you want loose and comfy. For the first day or two, your health team will constantly check on your incision. For those first few days, stick to a labor and delivery gown which opens in the front for easy checks. When you get up to walk the hospital floor, throw a robe over top of it.
The Kindred Bravely Hospital Bag Bundle is a pretty good choice for getting the basics. It includes a labor and delivery gown, postpartum panties, a nursing bra, a nursing tank, a robe, and some skip-proof socks.
As you progress, you might want to wear loungers, postpartum shorts or postpartum leggings on the bottom. You can pair that with a nursing tank or t-shirt, or just wear a loose nursing dress. All of these make a great going home outfit for mama, too!
Additionally, I have a few more tips and specific items to add to your hospital bag.
- Labor and delivery gown and nursing robe.
- Comfy going home outfit for mama, such as postpartum loungers and a t-shirt or nursing tank with cardigan.
- Flip Flops or slippers for wearing in hospital.
- Comfy warm socks with non slip bottom. Post-labor and delivery, your temperature will be all over the place. The shock of the surgery and fluctuating hormone levels mean you may alternate between hot and cold. Some super comfy socks will be a godsend if you have cold feet. Just be sure they have a nonslip surface to minimize any chance of falls.
- Postpartum Girdle. My hospital provided me with a belly binder. However, I’ve heard from other moms this is kind of rare. If you think you might want one, pack it in your hospital bag.
All the stuff above is about your own comfort as a new mom in hospital. But yes, you’ll also need some stuff for baby.
- Baby clothes and PJs. The hospital will probably provide baby clothes and PJs while in hospital. However, ask beforehand to be sure.
- Baby Diaper Bag. It might be worth having a diaper bag packed before you head to the hospital, so you have it ready to go at home when you’re finally ready to head out with baby. It’s not entirely necessary, but it’s one of those things you can get ready before baby arrives and starts taking up all your attention!
- Swaddle or swaddle sack. If you plan to swaddle your little one, bring it along. Personally, I love swaddle sacks. They give your little one the feeling of being wrapped snuggly. But they have easy to use zippers and don’t come with hip dysplasia risks. I used the Love to Dream arms up style, and my kid seemed to like it.
- Baby scratch mittens. Our baby was a non-scratcher, so we never ended up using baby scratch mittens. However, I have friends who’ve had babies that accidentally scratch themselves from day one. They were very happy to have scratch mittens in the hospital.
- Going home outfit for baby. This is obviously weather dependent, but at minimum a onesie and pants, a light beanie hat, socks
- Car seat and cover. The hospital won’t let you go home without a car seat that’s properly installed. In winter, you might also want a safe car seat cover to keep baby warm.
The most important items are above. However, I have a few more tips still and ideas.
- Positive Affirmation Cards for New Moms. Maybe I’m a bit biased, because I made these cards, but I think they’re a great addition to a hospital bag, and for getting through the early days of the transition to motherhood!
- Coins and small bills for vending machines at the hospital. While plenty of vending machines take credit cards or Apple Pay, it sucks to be caught unprepared. Pack a stash of small bills and coins just in case!
- Food delivery apps. Load any food delivery apps you might use onto your phone ahead of time. Similarly, pre-populate the hospital address and directions in the apps as well. Hospital food gets old quickly, so it’s nice to be able to order your own meals if allowed.
- Thank you gifts for nurses. While labor and delivery nurses certainly don’t expect gifts, it’s a nice touch. Nurses do a lot of work to keep your little one safe during labor and the first few days. If you want to let them know how much you appreciate them, a small gift goes a long way. Store bought treats, gift cards, or a hand written card are a thoughtful touch!
- Photo Props. If you have a special outfit you want your little one in for a photo, be sure to bring that. Similarly, be sure to bring milestone cards if you plan on using them.
Final Thoughts About Packing Your C Section Hospital Bag
Whew! If you read this far, thanks for sticking with me. I hope this post has been helpful as you prepare for your c-section.
If this post helped, please share it!