By Josh Moore of

The third trimester is chock full of prep work and to-do lists in order to get ready for your new arrival. Packing your hospital bag is one of the most important tasks ahead of you — and it’s also one of the most frazzling. Here’s a look at a few ways to make this process easier and more effective:

What Should I Pack?

When you’re packing your hospital bag, you’re prepping for two distinct events: labor and the hospital stay that comes with it. Your first step should be thinking about what kind of labor you want to have. Coming up with a birth plan empowers you to go in mentally prepared for the process, but try to stay flexible. Pregnancy and birth are unpredictable things, so be sure to read about what to expect in any scenario.

Once you know what you want out of labor, you can come up with a packing list for it. This might include a comfortable labor gown, a relaxing album, or a comfortable pillow. Be mindful, however — anything you wear or use during labor is likely to get pretty messy, so don’t bring anything too precious.

For afterward, bring several days’ worth of clothes for the baby and loose, comfortable clothing for Mom. Focus on nursing tops, lounge pants, and high-waisted undies with a non-restricting waistband. You won’t want anything digging into your abdomen, especially if you wind up having a C-section.

Be sure to include clothes for your partner, even if your hospital is close to home. If you have any kind of complications, odds are they won’t want to leave the hospital. Even in the best, least complicated scenario, they may just prefer staying with you the whole time (or you might not want them to leave.)

When Should I Pack It?

Ideally, you want to have your hospital bag packed by the middle of the third trimester. Your absolute deadline should be 38 weeks — it’s perfectly normal for moms to go into labor around this time, and you don’t want to have to fuss with packing it between contractions.

We say all this knowing perfectly well that this is a common source of procrastination for expecting parents. Remember, procrastination is almost always rooted in anxiety, and it’s perfectly natural to be anxious about the birth and entering this next stage of life. To that end, it’s wise to give yourself a chance to de-stress and unwind before and after packing your bag.

Schedule a specific date and time to pack your bag. An hour before you plan to pack, enjoy a favorite meal, book, or television show. While you’re packing, try to approach any stress you feel about the birth mindfully, watching as it comes and goes. Afterward, go for a nice walk or take a warm bath and bask in being that much more prepared for the big day.

Where Should I Keep It?

There are a few schools of thought on where to keep your hospital bag, but it all comes down to your specific circumstances. If you only have one car, or you have two but you know (without a shadow of a doubt) which one you’ll take to the hospital, keeping it in the trunk makes sense. This way, you don’t have to worry about remembering it on your way out the door.

If you don’t know for sure which car you’ll take, you can either place it by the door or you can put it in a visible, easy to remember spot. A good trick is to keep it in your nursery or next to your bassinet so you have the quick association with it being in the baby’s space. Don’t keep it in a closet or tucked underneath something since this could increase your odds of forgetting it in the rush to get going.

Packing a hospital bag can be a bit of a chore, but it pays dividends. There’s no substitute for knowing you don’t have a to-do list to put together while experiencing the early stages of labor. Knock it out in advance, and you’ll be thankful when the big day arrives.

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