What to Pack for an Extended Hospital Stay

Published by Josie on October 16, 2023

A hospital stay can be an unexpected and stressful experience, especially when your child is the one in need of medical care. To help parents navigate this challenging time, I’ve put together a survival guide with essential items to pack and tips for preparation. From experience, these are some of the things I’ve found to help make a hospital stay more comfortable and manageable (even though that idea feels impossible).

1. Comfortable Clothing:

When packing for a hospital stay, prioritize comfort. I had almost a hospital capsule wardrobe. I know that sounds silly, but I cannot tell you how great it was to not have to worry about what to wear. Every single thing was so overwhelming, so anything I literally didn’t have to think about was 100% helpful. Bring comfortable clothes (like these pants and shirts) I had these in different colors so I could always look sort of pulled together for appointments and while we were inpatient. Also, firm sole slippers for in the room. I like these slippers because they can kind of pass for shoes if you were them to the hospital cafeteria to grab something to eat.

2. Toiletries:

Toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, moisturizer and a hairbrush. Dry shampoo is your best friend and this one is great if you have dark hair because it doesn’t leave a white residue. I am going to be creating printable, packing checklist, once I figure out how to do that!

3. Coffee supplies:

There’s not a lot you can do about hospital coffee. It’s there. It’s hot. You need it. But bring your own creamer, label it and put it in the fridge to make it a smidge better.

4. Chargers:

Bring chargers for your electronic devices, including your phone, tablet, or laptop. Staying connected can provide a sense of normalcy during your stay. I bought a long cord charger but the nice thing was there was a TON of outlets in the CICU! So if you don’t have a ten foot charger, you don’t need to buy one but it is kinda nice to have some space.

5. Entertainment:

To pass the time, bring books, magazines, and ear buds. Having distractions can help alleviate stress and pass the time even though you will be busier than you think! I had to get use to reading an eBooks on my phone because sometimes you’d put your book down and forget where you put it. Or maybe you left it in the Ronald McDonald house and now you have nothing to read. You always have your phone so if you can, try reading from there. Also, I wish I had a pair of ear buds like these, so I could have put one in my ear and still been able to hear everything going on in the room. I didn’t want the beeps to be a subconscious trigger for my daughter so I asked the nurses to turn on classical music from Pandora. That way she didn’t have to hear all the beeping while she was sedated after surgery.

6. Comfort Items:

Bring comfort items from home, such as a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or pillow. These familiar objects can provide comfort and a sense of security for your child. I would always have a blanket tucked into my shirt while I was next to Maya’s bedside, so when I would leave to get some sleep, eat, or shower, I would place the blanket next to her in hopes that it gave her comfort when I wasn’t right there. Maybe it worked for her…maybe it was more for me….

Be sure to ask the hospital if they have toys and books for your child so you don’t need to pack those things.

Don’t forget about yourself though: bringing a pillow and nice blanket for when you have to sleep in the hospital room with your baby. A heated blanket is clutch because hospitals are notorious for being cold. This one gets warm, but isn’t bulky AND is machine washable! If you don’t want that, an electric heating pad is also amazing to sooth a sore back from sitting so much, or a stiff neck from sleeping in weird positions, and to keep you warm! 

7. What can I do?

You’ll get asked this question a lot. I am going to write a whole blog post about it but here are helpful, actionable things people can help with:

  • gas cards
  • giving you a ride to the hospital
  • hospital cafeteria gift cards
  • local restaurant gift cards
  • über eats gift cards
  • any of the aforementioned helpful things to buy
  • someone to watch your pet or get your mail
  • subscriptions for kindle unlimited or HBO Max/Hulu etc.
  • someone to pick up your laundry and return it clean and folded
8. Journal:

Consider keeping a journal to document any and all questions that come up, medical updates, your thoughts, and feelings. This can serve as an outlet for your emotions. My mom would always take notes when I would fill her in. She would tell me to journal but I remember thinking, “I’m not going to want to remember this.” but now, after time has passed, I wish I would have. It is very cathartic. So yes mom! You were right!!! : ) I used the notes app on my phone but deleted the questions after I got them answered. I really wish I would have kept them. 

9. Support System:

This is one of the most important tips I can give you: Designate 1 person to be your main contact and fill that person in daily. Then that person can forward your texts, pass along the message from your phone call, distill the information you gave and pass it along to all the people who love and care about you and your child. It saved me from having to make a thousand phones calls, or repeating myself so many times, or fielding questions I didn’t have answers too. Having a support system in place can be incredibly reassuring and then it isn’t up to you to remember who knows what, someone can help you with that.

A well-packed bag can make a significant difference during a hospital stay. By preparing in advance and having essential items on hand, you can focus on supporting your child and navigating the medical journey ahead with greater ease. It will also give you sense of preparedness and a way to channel your nervous energy when you know this date is approaching.