What to Pack for Unexpected Hospital Stays

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When my daughter Alexis was born, she was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart defect. After she was born, I knew that we would find ourselves having to stay overnight at the hospital, but sadly I didn’t realize how many overnight hospital stays that we would end up having. 

The first overnight stay was miserable for our daughter and for us. The hospital stay was unexpected and we had to pack our overnight bag in a short period of time without knowing how long we were going to have to be there, so we really did not know what to pack. We packed what we thought was necessary, like a change of clothes and a toothbrush. After our first overnight stay at the hospital, we learned a lot about what to pack every time we found ourselves having to pack for unexpected hospital stays.

When your child is ill and has to stay in the hospital, it is important that as their parent you know what to pack for unexpected hospital stays so that you are comfortable.

When my daughter was born, we knew that she would have at least 4 surgeries that would require her to stay in the hospital for a short period of time. Unfortunately, we didn’t expect her to have unexpected tests and complications before her major surgeries that would cause her to have to stay in the hospital overnight, so with that said we were not ready. We learned very quickly that during our first overnight stay at the hospital what we needed to bring for future hospital stays in order for us to be comfortable. 

  • Pacifiers– To ease our daughter’s discomfort, she needed her pacifiers. During our daughter’s hospital stays, we made sure to bring as many of her pacifiers as possible. The hospital staff did have pacifiers that they provided but they were the kind that when they fall off of the bed, they bounce onto the floor and get lost on the very dirty hospital floor. We made sure to bring her favorite pacifiers, WubbaNubs.
  • Movies– Some hospitals may have a DVD player, but just in case they don’t, you should pack one. In addition, pack your child’s favorite movies and some of your favorites also. Hospital television is not always the best, so in order to help with passing time, good movies are important. Of course, you can download movies onto your child’s tablet or have Netflix or Amazon Prime readily available. Make sure you have something to pass the time. 
  • Blankets and Pillows– The first time that my husband and I had to stay overnight in the hospital with our daughter, we discovered that hospital pillows and blankets were not only in short demand but are not comfortable. In order to be as comfortable as possible, it’s important that you have your favorite pillows from home and comfortable blankets. When your child is in the hospital, nurses come into the room throughout the night to check their vitals, so everyone is woken, so when you are able to sleep, it’s nice to have a comfortable pillow and blanket. 
  • Air Mattress When your child is in the hospital, the hospital’s job is to make the patient comfortable and it’s your job to make yourself comfortable so you can be ready and alert for your little one. Hospital rooms are not designed for parents. Often times the pull out couch is very small and uncomfortable and is not meant for two people. I remember during our first stay at the hospital I slept on the tiny fold-out chair and my husband slept on a floor of pillows. After that night, we made sure to bring an air mattress. This made our stay much more comfortable which in turn made us alert and ready for our daughter.
  • Toiletries– Make sure that you bring body wash, shampoo, conditioner, makeup, and your razor so that you can refresh yourself with a hot shower. 

After each of our stays at the hospital, we realized more items that we should have brought for the next time that our daughter had to stay in the hospital. It is important that you pack smart and think of what will make you and your baby comfortable along with what will help you get through the long hours of sitting and waiting in a room.

After our first overnight stay at the hospital with our child, we learned a lot about what to pack each time we found ourselves having to pack for unexpected hospital stays.

What to Pack When Your Child has Constant Hospital Stays



  1. I love your list. As I’m currently in the hospital for the 3rd time in 3 mos. with my son I have a few things to add. A spare charger in your bag. We were sent from the Drs office to the ed, and admitted. We didn’t get chargers till the next day when someone brought stuff from home. When packing a bag stick a 5$ charger in there too. Slippers for you and your kiddo. My teen hates the socks, but it’s hassle to put his socks and shoes on ever time he gets up. A blanket and pillow for them and you is a must. Snacks and change for you. If you frequent the same hospital meal cards. I had forgotten everything including money that day. Having a meal card already would have helped. Oh and keureg k cups. The family kitchen has a machine you just need your own k cups! How cool is that!?
    Laundry detergent, dryer sheets, bath items, are all necessities too.

    • aimeefauci@gmail.com says

      Didn’t even think of change… Our hospital has complimentary soda machines.. which ended up being real bad!

  2. Tamara Hyland says

    Hi, This is a great post! When my son is in the hospital I use a self-inflating camping pad that fits perfectly on the fold out bed provided for parents (bought at Walmart). If the hospital you stay in has laundry facilities(some do). Bring laundry pods/fabric softener and a fabric bag for laundry. I always bring a few extra pillowcases as well to switch out after a few days. Another trick I figured out if you don’t have the inflatable pad is to put a sleeping bag under the fitted sheet they provide for you to soften up the fold-out chair that is usually provided for parents to sleep on…they are so hard and painful to sleep on(I always keep sleeping bags in my car). I love the idea posted about the coffee maker, I am going shopping for a one cup coffee maker today, great tip! Just as a side note, sanity saver, get into a routine. Get up every morning use the parent shower, put on a load of laundry, organize and tidy your area. Routines help you feel normal..you may also want to do this routine at night or after hospital rounds when a nurse or playroom volunteer might be available to help you watch your child. Also, take advantage of whatever they can supply for you. If you don’t ask you may never know..I ask for all kinds of things..extra towels to keep on hand, a fan for our room, they even supplied us with vitamins and body lotion.

  3. I definitely agree with the blankets and pillows just from personal experience. Great list and tips!

  4. I have a little one that spent a lot of time in the hospital. No lie one time I packed my own coffee pot and a blender! It was the best decision ever 🙂

  5. This is a wonderful and incredibly helpful post. I hope and knock on would we will never have to go to the hospital with our daughter besides the day she gives birth to our grandkids many years from now but things happen quick and you just never know.

  6. I can’t imagine how scary it would be to stay overnight at a hospital, especially with your new little baby.

  7. I would have never thought of some of these. An air mattress is so smart!

  8. I hope your little one doesn’t need to many more of these visits

  9. This is a great list! A portable dvd player is great for kiddos or parents if the child is too young for tv. Praying for you and yours.

  10. Sick children is hard for me mainly because my heart goes out to them I want them to stop hurting. Hope all is well with your daughter. great article. thanks for sharing.

  11. I hope your daughter feels better ASAP. I’m sending prayers your way. I haven’t experienced my child in a hospital, so if I ever do, this list will be very helpful. 🙂

  12. I dont have any kids but I pray I dont have too many unexpected hospital visits. This is good info to know just in case.

  13. What a great list! I love the personal DVD player and air mattress idea!

  14. I would not have thought to pack an air mattress. That would be a lot more comfortable for the parents.

  15. Great list! I’m sure this post will help a lot of parents in similar situations! Thanks for sharing and praying for you both as you walk this journey!

  16. Hospitals stays are so stressful so having this lust to make sure you have everything to make it a little easier.

  17. The suggestions you give above for preparation for a kid’s hospital stay are excellent. I always take a book or two, one to read to the child and one to read myself. My laptop accompanies me almost everywhere.

  18. What a good idea to have an air mattress and bedding on hand. So far we haven’t had any emergency overnight stays but if we do I’ll be a bit better prepared thanks to you.

  19. I haven’t had any unexpected hospital stays. My husband has had a few. Thankfully my kids haven’t

  20. Ha! I love the air bed mattress idea. Does anyone grouch about it? Seems like the rooms are so small sometimes. My nephew and his wife found a hospital-sponsored apartment for $15 a night while they’re newborn is in ICU. 5 minute walk, but mom just had her, so walking isn’t an option, but it’s still super nice that they’re that close.

  21. I’m sorry you have had to deal with this. Thank you for sharing what you have learned so that others may benefit.

  22. What a great list, never thought about what to pack for an unexpected hospital stay. I hated being in the hospital for my three kids births, I was so happy with my second two that I could convince the hospital to let us go home after 24 hours.

  23. Hospital stays are so stressful and hectic. The air mattress is a great idea. I have spent too many nights on their fold out chair beds.

  24. Fortunately my daughter has not spent too much time in the hospital. However, she did stay a few days for an appendectomy a few years ago and an air mattress would have been really helpful. The chair I slept in was not comfy at all.

  25. I imagine all of those hospital stays were hard on your family. Thank you for sharing tips to help others.

  26. Hospital stays are the worst! (Even when you have a great hospital.) My must have has always been something that I can log into social media with – Facebook in particular. I have only dealt with babies in the hospital, both times in situations that I couldn’t hold them much, and with a SO who had to work to keep up on the bills…being able to have my support system with me at all times on facebook (my mom, sister, etc.) saved my sanity for sure!

  27. Your daughter is beautiful. I’m always amazed at children that have overcome so much in such a short amount of time. These are great tips. We’ve had a couple of hospital stays with my son, due to severe asthma. Never fun, but having a laptop, DVD player, coloring books, etc. definitely helps pass the time. And pillows! We always bring our own pillows! #SITSblogging

  28. Aww this is great advice! I am definitely saving this post for when I have little ones 🙂 Thank you for sharing!


  29. Love the list. something’s you wouldn’t even think about when your in the moment.

  30. I have had more than my share of hospital stays with my kiddo as well. I also recommend bringing a bag for yourself with one change of clothes, and leaving a packed bag at home with a change of clothes. Whoever is helping you, can bring your dirty clothes home and just swap bags, and you have 4 outfits on rotation that way! Don’t forget a few snacks too- some times its hard to get out to grab something to eat too!

  31. Wow fantastic set of tips.I have to admit I would have no idea what to pack so this made me think of things I wouldn’t! #sitsblogging

  32. A DVD player is a must for kids. I brought my lap top too so I had something to do when my daughter was napping.

  33. My oldest was in the hospital when he was a year old. It was not expected and we did not have the luxuries we have today. Glad you can make things easier for everyone!

  34. So sorry to hear that you and your sweet baby had to endure so many hospital stays. I don’t yet have children, but my husband and I had to stay in a hospital for a little over a month last year for his Mother….having dvd’s to watch on our lap top and lots of extra blankets and pillows were life savers. I also found having a journal to jot down little notes and thoughts throughout the day was helpful.

  35. What a sweet baby! So sorry she and you have had to endure so many hospital stays.Thanks for sharing your tips. #SITSbloggin

  36. I’m sorry you had to stay in the hospital, but thank you for the tips. I would never have thought of a DVD player.

  37. This is a great list, that I hope never to have to use, but also helpful for friends who are in the hospital with their kids.

  38. I wholeheartedly understand where you’re coming from. My daughter has a blood disorder and I learned very quick of how to pack for our stays. I always have my laptop (or Kindle), chargers, books, puzzles, games, etc. Best of luck to your and your family.

  39. Being at the hospital with our kids is so stressful. Thanks so much for the ideas. I do hope there is not a next time.

  40. Hopefully you won’t have to have another hospital stay. But definitely good advice!

  41. I have thankfully only had one kid hospitalized once, but that was bad enough. It was Christmas and I was 5 months pregnant. He was 2 and a half and had pneumonia! The children’s ward tried to make it as fun as possible, but it still sucked. There was very spotty wifi and we couldn’t get out of bed. I hope we never need to know about these essentials again, but thanks for posting them to help someone else who might!


  42. What a sweetie! Hospital stays really stink but that’s some great advice from a pro (unfortunately!)!!

  43. Awww I hate when the babies are sick and in the hospital. I want them to be so comfortable I probably would not be thinking about myself. kokoamag.com

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