Today, I'm officially 35 weeks pregnant, which means that sometime in the next few weeks, I am going to have an actual, real-life human child. Yes, with all going well, I should have at least another couple of weeks to myself (hopefully giving me enough time for a total binge of The O.C. during my first week of maternity leave), but after that, all bets are on as to when bump will officially become baby.
So last weekend, I decided it was about time that I stopped ignoring the advice of my pregnancy app and actually started thinking about packing my hospital bag. But I have to say that as a beauty editor I found the checklists available to be a little… uninspiring. The NHS list is great if you're as clueless as I am about what your baby might need while you're in the hospital, and Bounty's list is one of the few that recognises that your birth partner will need to pack a bag too, but I don't feel like any of the lists available made concessions to the fact that new mums might be in need of a little TLC.
Disclaimer: This will be my first baby, so I'm aware that I have pretty much no idea about what to expect when I go into the hospital or what the aftermath will really be like. But I know one thing: During some of the most difficult times in my life, having the right products with me to calm the senses provides a little pampering and generally acts as a bit of a pick-me-up that's proved to be invaluable.
So while I might try hundreds of trending beauty products each week and have a pregnancy skincare routine that some might consider excessive, I've narrowed down my own hospital bag to 21 key products (and a few little extras) that I think every mum-to-be would benefit from packing. I've used a combination of other lists on the internet, recommendations from friends and family and my own intuition to create a pretty comprehensive hospital bag checklist that I hope will prove useful and restorative to any other expectant mums out there.
Warning: This list isn't about the breast pads, nipple cream and giant knickers—it's about the products you can pack that will make you feel good as a mum. Pick and choose what works for you, and most importantly, good luck!
So many people have recommended that I stockpile clear bags to pack everything from beauty products to baby clothes in for my hospital bag. Why? Well, if you're not in the most communicative state, then it makes it easy for whoever is with you to immediately see what you've packed and access it quickly. This one from Beauty Pie feels compact yet holds everything I've listed below, and I like the fact that it has a separate zipped section for things like cotton pads and cloths.
I know it probably goes without saying that you need a toothbrush, but it's exactly this kind of basic item that I know I'll forget. While I love my Philips DiamondClean Sonic Electric Toothbrush (£150) which comes with a rechargeable travel case, I've packed one of these sustainable toothbrushes already so that I know I've got one and there's no worry about finding a place to charge my usual toothbrush.
Obviously, use whatever toothpaste you like to take care of your pearly whites, but Marvis is Victoria Beckham's favourite toothpaste brand, and if I'm likely to be in a hospital gown with unwashed hair, then I will take any opportunity I can get to feel a little bit posh.
I pretty much only use natural deodorants now (Schmidt's Rose and Vanilla is my favourite), but I have to admit that even the best formulations can leave your underarms feeling a bit wet when temperatures really start to rise. With the general consensus being that hospitals are hotter than the sun and post-pregnancy hormones can cause your body temperature to go haywire, I've therefore made the decision to bring out the deodorant big guns for my hospital bag. This Dove deodorant has kept my under-arms bone-dry even when I've been on the tube in the middle of a heat wave, so I know I can rely on it to get the job done.
There's always the option of decanting your favourite shampoo into a smaller, travel-friendly bottle, but loads of top salon brands now do mini versions of best-selling formulas to help make packing fuss-free. This is one of my favourite shampoo discoveries from this year—it's incredibly gentle, leaves hair soft and shiny and basically smells like a Bakewell tart, which I'm very much into.
Don't worry—I'm not so delusional that I think I'm going to have hours to spend soaking in the tub with a hair mask in. However, rather than taking a classic conditioner, I'm packing this shea butter-infused treatment from Amika. Even if I only slap it on for 60 seconds, it always does an incredible job of smoothing and softening my hair so I feel like it's more worth of a space in my hospital bag.
Of course, if you're anything like me and hate washing your hair, then the real aim is to get through the hospital stay with nothing but a few spritzes of dry shampoo required. This one from Living Proof is the best because unlike other formulations, it actually cleans your hair. I love the fragrance too. You'll feel like you've given your hair a real freshen up with no water necessary.
I'm a little bit fanatic about shower gels. For me, choosing the right scent and formulation is key to creating a great shower experience, and they don't come better than the Rituals Foaming Shower Gels. This one is a particular favourite of mine, as it contains Indian rose and sweet almond oil for sweet and luxurious scent. But it's the skin-softening formula that transforms from gel to foam that I can't get enough of.
This body lotion might look basic, but it actually contains lactic acid to gently exfoliate the surface of your skin and remove dead skin cells while hydrating and softening your limbs. This means you can skip your usual exfoliation for a couple of days without your skin starting to look dull. It's also non-sticky so you can pull your clothes on immediately after applying.
The one beauty product that I have been recommended to pack over all others is a lip balm. Apparently, if you end up opting for gas and air, then it can seriously dry your lips out. I'm a lip balm fiend, but it's this one from EOS that has made the cut. Opting for something that I don't have to put my finger in to apply feels easier and more hygienic. Plus, it contains shea butter and jojoba oil to hydrate, vitamin E to protect and has a minty flavour that I hope will feel refreshing on the day.
I very much doubt I'll be styling my hair at all during my time in hospital (in fact, I reckon a topknot will be my hairstyle BFF), but should I end up washing my hair, then a hairbrush is essential to remove those post-shower knots. WetBrush is my favourite hairbrush brand of all time, and its travel-sized versions are just as effective (and even cuter).
While I'm not an advocate for makeup wipes (to my mind, nothing removes makeup and cleanses the skin properly like a cloth-and-cleanser combo), but I'll make a concession for my hospital bag. These pre-soaked pads from Omorovicza actually feel impressively luxurious on the skin. They're soaked in micellar solution (a French-girl beauty secret) and really do a great job of removing makeup, dirt and oil without dragging on your skin. Plus, they smell like a rosy dream.
Of course, I'll also be packing a proper cleanser in case I do have time to wash my face. I love cleansing balms, and this one is a new discovery for me. It's 100% natural, brimming with kind-to-skin ingredients like rosehip, chia seed and vitamin E to melt away grime and leave your skin feeling nourished. Plus, the uplifting aroma reminds me of a spa. I have a full-sized pot at home, but this travel-sized pot is perfect for packing.
Whether you prefer muslins or good old-fashioned flannels, packing a cleansing cloth means you have something to remove your cleanser with, but you could also use it in the shower for your body too. These ones from Oskia are made from 100% cotton and have a soft, smooth side and an exfoliating towelling side. I like that they come in a reusable bag so you have somewhere to store the damp cloths afterwards too.
Much like the lip balm, the consensus from friends and family has been to make sure you have a moisturiser handy—and a rich one at that. Technically, this one from Elemis is an overnight mask, but I have been using it as a moisturiser now that the weather has got colder and my skin is feeling parched. It has a lightweight gel texture that plumps skin with moisture and revives tired skin. Apply a small amount if using it as a moisturiser or a light layer if you want to leave it to soak in overnight.
Plus, I'll be taking my holy grail daytime moisturiser from Ole Henriksen with me as I can't bear to be parted from it. Packed with vitamin C, it instantly makes my skin look brighter and more awake—even on days that I'm going makeup-free.
Pack whichever hair bands you fancy—just make sure you have a ton of them for the aforementioned topknot and just generally keeping your hair out of your face. I swear by the silk ones from Slip, as they don't snag in my hair. Invisibobble also does more affordable hair ties that don't kink or crease in your hair.
The Extra Touches
Obviously, there is plenty of hand sanitiser already at the hospital, which is why I haven't included this product as essential. However, I was lucky enough to be sent this very fancy tube of rinse-free hand-wash from my favourite fragrance brand Byredo, and it has gone straight in my hospital bag. It's alcohol-based so it will still kill germs, but it smells absolutely incredible.
I always have a mini bottle of this cult Caudalie spray with me when I travel because the fragrance instantly makes me feel calm. (It's kind of a minty-rosemary fusion.) While it's also brilliant at adding glow to your skin, it feels cooling and refreshing when it's applied which I've heard can be so helpful during labour—and I'm willing to try anything that might make things a little calmer!
I've been doing lots of reading around hypnobirthing and how creating a space that feels homely while you're in the hospital can really help you to relax and remain calm. So, throughout my pregnancy, I've been using this essential oil spritz before bed to create a calming environment. It's a soothing blend of chamomile and lavender and I hope that this travel-sized version will come in handy once I'm at the hospital too.
A friend that recently had a baby said that the one thing that she wished she had packed in her hospital bag was an eye mask, as she spent some time on the labour ward before her little one was born and really struggled to switch off. These Spacemasks come individually packed and actually heat up once you put them on to help you unwind. Plus, they're infused with lavender for extra relaxation benefits. Pack one for your birth partner if you're feeling kind too!
Of all the things that new mums might choose to pack in their hospital bags, I've found that makeup is often the most divisive. Of course, there should be no pressure to do yourself up when you've just birthed an actual human, but for some (myself included) wearing makeup is actually a great way to give yourself a little pick-me-up. I don't know whether I'll get around to using it, but at the very least, I'll pack a foundation alternative like the It Cosmetics CC Cream which offers natural coverage and plenty of radiance.