As an added bonus, this list comes complete with horrible, disgusting and COMPLETELY HONEST explanations of why you might need or want certain items. Thanks to everyone who left comments on this post. If you have anything else to add, please do so in the comments and I will do my best to keep this list updated. Copy and paste as you see fit!
LABOR AND DELIVERY:
Throat lozenges/suckers/hard candy: Both medications and repeatedly screaming “GET IT OUT OF ME NOW!” can lead to a sore, dry throat and mouth.
Pillow from home with not-so-great pillowcase: Hospital pillows are flat and completely unsupportive and also PLASTIC. (Who knew?!) Bring your own from home if you think it will make you more comfortable, but don’t use your best pillowcase because, well… FLUIDS. Never underestimate the fluids, ladies!
Comfort food/snacks/drinks your husband/support person: That he clearly cannot under any circumstances eat around you, the bastard.
Camera/video camera: Do I need to explain this one? I will say this: MAKE SURE YOUR BATTERIES ARE CHARGED. And remember to bring the charger along.
Pen and paper: For compulsive list-makers like myself. Also handy for a quick game of Hangman in between contractions.
iPod/CD player/boom box: Music for relaxation. Also, it never hurts to have a rendition of Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It” for that big, climactic, the-head-is-crowning! moment. (Push it REAL GOOD!)
Books/magazines: Make sure they contain many more pictures than words. Because your brain at this point? It don’t work so good.
Blanket or throw: For a husband/support person who is spending the night and who also may freeze to death in the meat locker that is otherwise known as the hospital.
Ponytail holders or a headband: To hold your hair off your face so that it doesn’t get plastered there with sweat instead.
Blow-up neck pillows: For added support if you plan on a water birth or even if you simply plan to soak for a bit in the hospital tub.
Lotion and Chapstick: To combat the ill effects of the dry air of the hospital. Also keeps you soft and smooth in case you want to make out with your husband after they whisk the baby off to the nursery. (Riiiiiiight.)
Back massager: Can be as simple as a tennis ball and can be especially helpful with back labor.
Mints for husband: If he’s going to be leaning into you and telling you when to breathe? Minty fresh beats out stale coffee ANY DAY.
Sleeping mask: Might help you catch some shut-eye in the hospital where things are busy and distracting 24 hours a day.
Roll of toilet paper: Apparently most hospital-issue toilet paper is cheap and scratchy and will irritate your bits and LORD KNOWS your bits will not need to be irritated any more than they already will be.
Warm, comfortable socks that can be thrown out without hesitation: Because it is quite possible that they will be—ahem—soaking up errant fluids that happen to drip down your legs. (HEY! I SAID I WAS GOING TO BE HONEST.)
Boppy/nursing pillow: Because breastfeeding ain’t necessarily easy the first time around. Also great to prop the baby up on for general ooohing and ahhhing.
Baby book: To record baby’s footprints and vital statistics (length, weight, time of arrival, SAT scores, etc.).
Alarm clock: Keeping track of time in a hospital can be next to impossible, especially with visitors and on little sleep.
Dermoplast/Proctofoam: For numbing your war-torn, sensitive girl parts. May be available from the L&D department.
Depends: Because sometimes pads are too much damn trouble. Bring on the disposable underpant and pad combo deal! And make your husband buy them for you!
Going home outfit: Don’t get all high and mighty about this one. Your mother was totally lying when she said she went home in her pre-pregnancy jeans. Chances are, you’ll still look about six months pregnant when you’re discharged. Bring loose-fitting maternity clothes to wear home—loose-fitting clothes will be more comfortable for those with a c-section incision. You may want to bring a pair of your own underwear, but it seems the horrible Mesh Panties of Enormity are actually preferred by many of those who have gone before us.
Personal phone book: Complete with the numbers of family and friends who want to be notified about the birth.
Calling card: Some hospitals don’t allow cell phones.
Cell phone: Some hospitals DO allow cell phones.
Laptop: What, like you don’t want to alert the entire Internet of the baby’s birth as soon as you get off the phone with your mother? Complete with PHOTOS? I mean, everyone’s DYING to know what you’re naming him!
Toiletries: My guess is that not only will you want to take a shower, you’ll want to take a shower with YOUR OWN STUFF.
Lanolin nipple cream: For sore nipples. Your hospital will probably make it available to you, but JUST IN CASE.
Breast pads/nursing pads: Mmmmm! Leakage!
Industrial-strength cover up makeup: No one looks good after labor. Seriously. NO. ONE. But you can totally pretend like you did.
Slippers: Hospital floors are gross. And are covered with other people’s fluids. FLUIDS! EVERYWHERE!
Large t-shirts/yoga pants/pjs/gown/robe: Some people are just more comfortable in their own clothes after delivery. Keep in mind that your Special Baby-Making Area will need to be monitored by nurses and doctors, so if you don’t want to keep pulling your pants down or off, bring a gown instead. Gown = easy access. (That’s probably how you got pregnant in the first place, isn’t it?) Button-up pj tops are great for nursing access. Just remember the first rule of thumb concerning labor and delivery: THE FLUIDS ARE EVERYWHERE. And DEFINITELY on your clothes.
Towel and washcloth: Your first post-baby shower experience will probably be somewhat dampened if you subject yourself to the scratchy, thin hospital towels that will also probably make you feel enormous because they’re so small that they won’t wrap all the way around you. (NOT THAT IT HAS HAPPENED TO ME.) Of course, there will still be copious FLUIDS, so if you want to avoid getting them on your OWN stuff, then just deal with the scratchy, thin hospital towels. Because, again: FLUIDS.
Nursing bra: The girls are going to need support when your milk comes in. And avoid bras with underwire to prevent painful blocked ducts.
List and phone numbers of nearby takeout places/restaurants: Be honest. After your burn millions of calories pushing a baby out, would you rather have a hospital-issued turkey sandwich or a big, juicy cheeseburger and fries? Or a gooey, cheesy pizza? Or a giant chocolate milkshake? Obviously I’m still pregnant while writing this.
Chocolate cigars and champagne: The traditional celebration gift! And because hospitals are non-smoking.
Thank you notes: Get started thanking people for gifts and flowers while the baby sleeps. You might also want to have them on hand to thank a particularly wonderful nurse who gave you free stuff and treated you like a real human being instead of the vagina in room 205.
Change of clothes/toiletries for your husband/support person: Especially if your hospital is far from home.
Receiving blankets: General consensus is that you should steal as many from the hospital as you can, but bring your own, too. Because yours is bound to be cuter and will definitely photograph better.
Hat: Something about heat loss, staying warm, blah blah blah. But truthfully? Because his head may still be a little misshapen.
Diapers/wipes: Try to get your hands on as many as you can from the hospital. But bring a few of your own for the car ride home, too. Your new motto as a parent should be JUST IN CASE.
Car seat: Can’t leave the hospital without it. Well, not in a car at least. Duh.
Going home outfit: You may want to consider having a couple different sizes on hand. You may end up taking home a 12 pounder whose ANKLE wouldn’t fit inside a newborn-sized sleeper. And if you do, I hope you had really awesome drugs.
Additional baby outfits: For unforeseen longer hospital stays or perilous vomit situations.
Baby nail clippers: There is ALL. KINDS. OF. CONTROVERSY surrounding this suggestion. Bring them if you want, they don’t take up space and you don’t have to use them if you don’t need to.
Baby mittens: To prevent baby from scratching himself if you don’t want to clip or file the nails in the hospital.
Snowsuit: If it’s really cold out, no receiving blanket is going to a good job of keeping baby warm. And you will feel like a horrible, horrible parent only 48 hours into the gig.
Socks: Keeps little feet warm and also helps anchor feet inside sleepers that are a little roomy.