Oh boy… (or girl).
The baby’s coming any day now. You can’t stop it or delay it.
So you better be ready!
At some point between 32-35 weeks pregnant, you should pack your hospital go-bag so you’re ready to run out the door should baby decide to make his or her grand entrance.
(It’s always at least somewhat unexpected, so it pays to be prepared ahead of time.)
But what should actually be in daddy’s hospital survival kit? What should dad pack in the hospital go-bag?
Here’s a quick checklist:
- A spacious bag
- Healthy snacks
- Energy boosters
- Extra clothes & pajamas
- One nice outfit
- A camera for high-quality photos and video
- Phone & other device chargers
- Books, games, movies & other entertainment
- Extra blankets or pillows
- Change for vending machines
- The push present
- Something to celebrate with
Below I’ll dive into each one with my thoughts and tips, plus why you should bring it with you for labor and delivery.
How long will you be at the hospital after having a baby?
Before we can figure out what to bring to the birth, we need to know about how long we’ll be at the hospital.
While there’s no telling really how long labor might last (the average labor is about eight hours), we have a pretty good idea of how long you’ll be allowed to stay at the hospital after birth thanks to stringent insurance policies.
Once the baby is delivered, assuming a normal vaginal delivery with no complications, you could be ushered out of there after just 24 hours. Chances are you’ll stay anywhere from 24-48 hours after the baby is born.
If you’re having a C-section by choice or necessity, you’ll stay closer to four days — so be ready to rough it for a while!
Of course, as the dad, you can always run home temporarily to grab necessities, restock on supplies, or check on the house.
(Related: My guide to being a better dad based on scientific research and studies.)
These days will be no picnic, obviously.
Not only is there the small matter of labor and delivery to deal with, but after that, you’ll get a crash course, intensive boot camp in:
- how to change a diaper
- how to breast or bottle-feed
- soothing a crying baby
- and more.
All of that while sleeping in a noisy and uncomfortable hospital room.
My best tip for 1st-time parents? Please, please let the staff take your baby to the nursery so you can get at least one good night of sleep before you get home.
After that, all bets are off.
Alright, now let’s dive into what to pack in your dad’s survival kit for the 1-4 day hospital stay.
1. A spacious bag
Don’t overcomplicate this.
You probably don’t need to stuff your full-sized Samsonite suitcase to the brim or buy a new luggage set for the birth of your child.
Just grab any old duffel or, frankly, gym bag you have lying around the house — as long as it doesn’t stink.
OK, I see a lot of people recommending you pack your bag full of junk food, garbage, and high-sugar treats pretending to be healthy.
It’s totally fine to throw a few snacks or desserts in the bag that you can grab quickly.
But I urge you to bring some healthy options that offer a better nutritional profile!
Think fuel and energy, not junk.
Chances are you’ll be living off of fast food and hospital or cafeteria food for a few days, so make sure you bring some good stuff like protein bars and granola bars (not sugar bombs like Clif bars).
Some other good, healthy options that won’t go bad in your hospital bag or survival kit:
- Trail mix
- Dehydrated fruit
- Veggie straws
While the average labor is around eight hours, it could be significantly longer than that.
Before the baby arrives, there’s actually a lot more waiting around than you would think.
But you have to stay vigilant and alert!
Don’t be afraid to toss a couple of Red Bulls, 5 Hour Energies, or caffeine tablets into the bag for the home stretch.
4. A few different outfits/change of clothes
A no brainer, but not something you want to forget!
You’ll be at the hospital for at least two nights, in most cases, and possibly longer if there are any complications or if mom is having a C-section.
Make sure you have enough clean clothes to stay fresh — that includes underwear and socks!
It’s totally fine to bum around in sweat pants and other comfortable options, but you might want to look like a respectable human being when the family starts coming to visit.
5. A going home or newborn photos outfit
Consider bringing at least one “nicer” outfit — just like you might on vacation.
A button-down and nice jeans or slack should do the trick, and maybe a nice-looking sweater to top it off.
At some point, you might want to take some photos of your brand new family, either by bringing in a professional or having your family help you out.
You’ll want to look presentable in these.
And some people like to look nice when they leave the hospital and head home as a family for the first time, so keep that in mind, as well.
Speaking of photos…
If you have a modern cell phone, you’re probably all set in this area.
Frankly, the new iPhones take better pictures than a lot of pretty high-end consumer cameras.
But if you’re the kind of family that’s really serious about video or photo albums, don’t forget to bring the “real” camera.
I’m not saying you should videotape the birth or anything, but it might be nice to have some footage and candid shots of the moment your family began.
7. Phone charger & chargers for other devices
You’ll want to be in contact with a lot of people during and after the delivery.
You might even want to post to social media so your extended friend network can know everything went OK.
You DEFINITELY don’t want to be stuck with a dead phone.
Don’t forget this in your bag, and if you bring a laptop, camera, or other devices, make sure you have all the chargers you need in your dad hospital bag.
(Pro tip: Bring an extra long charging cord for your phone — hospital outlet layouts aren’t exactly well optimized. Here’s a 10 foot long iPhone cable on Amazon.)
8. Books & other entertainment
Again, expect a good amount of waiting around and, honestly, boredom.
No, of course, you won’t be reading a book or watching a movie during “the main event.”
But there are long stretches of time before and even some afterward where there’s not really much to do except relax and rest up.
Bring some entertainment options like:
- laptop or tablet for movies
- headphones for music or podcasts
- a deck of cards
- some other games
These will help pass the time and keep your anxiety in check before baby arrives!
Don’t forget the basics!
Bring your own:
- Razor or beard trimmer
- Lotions, chapsticks, and other products like that
It’s unclear if you’ll get a chance to shower at the hospital or not.
I don’t recall taking a shower during our 2-day stay when my daughter was born, but most rooms will have showers for laboring mothers and moms who have given birth.
You might get a chance to use this, you might not.
It couldn’t hurt to throw an all-in-one shampoo and body wash in your bag just in case you can sneak in a quick rinse.
10. Comfy sleeping stuff
Dads, sorry to say, but you’re probably going to end up sleeping on a rigid bench, sofa, or pull-out.
It’s not ideal.
The hospital should have basic bedding like a blanket and pillows for you, but don’t be afraid to bring along your favorites from home to make yourself a little more comfortable.
I know it’s the manly thing to do to “rough it” and be a hero, but your days of getting good sleep are numbered — they may not come back to full force ever again in your life!
If you’re able to sleep at all in the hospital, make sure you’re as comfortable as possible.
11. Change for the vending machines
You’ll have some healthy snacks in your go-bag, certainly, but if you get a hankering for something (or more importantly, if mom does), it’s really handy to have dollar bills or change around for the hospital vending machines.
Let’s be real: the hospital food probably won’t be great.
So you might want to supplement with something tasty from a machine, or from the cafeteria.
Don’t forget your bills, change, or credit card at home when you dash out of the house in a hurry.
12. Push Present
Don’t forget you’re “supposed” to get mom a congratulations gift after giving birth, called a Push Present.
After all, she literally just went through hell and came out the other end in one piece. She deserves a little pampering.
I’m not here to tell you what to buy or how to approach this, although jewelry and spa gift cards/appointments are good choices, just remember to get this taken care of BEFORE you leave for the hospital.
It’s up to you if you want to bring it in your bag to the delivery room — I think it’s a nice gesture to do it that way.
13. Something to celebrate with
Now I’m not saying you should sneak contraband into the hospital, but I’m also not not saying it.
Pack a little mini bottle of champagne, some cigars (sneak outside with family members to light ’em up), or make up little gifts to hand out to visiting family members.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge facing you, but don’t forget to enjoy it and soak it all in for a few moments before the chaos ensues.
One last tip before I wrap this checklist up for good:
Run your dad hospital bag list by your wife early. Make sure she’s not expecting you to bring something you’ve left off your list!
And of course, there are an endless number of scenarios and contingencies that could affect what you need to bring, but this basic daddy hospital survival kit should be a pretty good foundation for most births.
What did I miss? Let me know below!