Hospital Checklist: 10 Must Haves For Adoptive Parents To Take

When you get to the point in your adoption journey where your profile is being shown, you never know when you might get “the call”. This is the time to get the items on your hospital checklist together. If you’re adopting a baby, you likely won’t know how quickly things will move once you receive the call. For example, will you be chosen by a birth mom that just found out she’s pregnant or maybe she’s already had the baby?

The point is that you just don’t know exactly what this will look like until it happens. For this reason, having a list of things to pack for the hospital is smart.

Hospital Checklist for Adoptive Parents

The call

Four years ago, we received a call on a Tuesday. Birth mom wanted to meet us that Thursday! Wow! After all that waiting, things were happening fast!

And, she had already had the baby!

We had no idea what this day would be like. It turned out that after we talked to her for a while, she invited us to the hospital (like right then!) to meet our daughter. That launched us immediately into time spent at a hospital which we weren’t entirely prepared for.

Hospital Checklist: 10 Must Haves For Adoptive Parents To Take
Holding our daughter for the first time ❤

So, if a hospital visit is potentially in your future, you likely don’t know when it will happen. Even if you do know the timeframe, having a hospital checklist is extremely useful. Again, for us, with our first adoption, our daughter was already born. Then, with our son, we knew months in advance.

Hospital Checklist: 10 Must Haves For Adoptive Parents To Take
Our newborn son ❤

Regardless of when you get the call…

If you’re adopting an infant, you’ll want to have some must-haves ready to go.

Once your home study is approved and you’re officially on the list to have your profile shown, this is a great time to grab your hospital checklist and get things together. It’s a lot of fun and I thought it felt like a part of “nesting”.

Related: What Exactly is an Adoption Home-Study?

A great bag

Before we dive into the 10 must-haves, I suggest starting with a bag you love.  Everything you need likely won’t fit in a bag but a lot will. If you don’t know if you’re adopting a boy or girl, there are plenty of great neutral bags. We had this one and loved it!

We got a ton of use out of it. It was really handy to have a backpack style. Your hands will be full ❤

I’d use the bag you plan to use as your diaper bag. You may want another bag for more room to pack everything.

Now, the fun part! Packing it.

So, what do you need to pack in your bag? There is no definitive answer here but there are some things you’ll need and some that you will be so glad you packed.

I’ve created a hospital checklist with 10 must-haves (and a bonus!) A couple of things on this list are items I wish we had thought to pack. You can download it below. Enjoy!

Hospital Checklist for Adoptive Parents

1) A few outfits should be on your hospital checklist

My favorite thing here was picking out a cute homecoming outfit.

Here are a few I think are adorable.


If you’re local to where you’re adopting and will be traveling home in one day, you shouldn’t need too many. But, if you’re going to have a long trip home, or your baby won’t be coming home for a while, you’ll want to pack some extras. Babies have this weird thing about getting clothes dirty, a lot! Who knew?!

Again, there are cute gender-neutral outfits you can get. But, if you find out the gender before the hospital trip you can always get some gender-specific ones. Just a little tip- wash them beforehand in a free and clear or baby detergent. Babies can have sensitive skin so better to be safe here.

And, don’t forget some cute baby socks!

2) A package of newborn and/or size 1 diapers

The hospital will provide some but you’ll probably want to have your own as well. And, if you’re on the “crunchy” momma side, you might prefer more natural or cloth diapers anyway.

Just some advice, I wouldn’t start with cloth diapering until you get home because you’ll have enough on your plate. But, I never really got into cloth diapering so feel free to ignore this tidbit if it’s important to you. You do you 😊

3) Wipes

It’s basic but you’ll need them. Believe it or not, not all wipes are the same. Some of them just don’t work well. Here’s a brand we like. There are so many different types of wipes including ones for sensitive skin, budget wipes, sanitizing wipes and even nose (boogie) wipes. I prefer to just find a good baby wipe I can use as multi-purpose but you have options. One of my favorite  things about carrying around a diaper bag is always having wipes handy.

4) A few blankets

I’d suggest a couple of muslin blankets for swaddling. Aside from that, new babies don’t need thick blankets and it’s a safety issue. Do yourself a favor and learn the skill of swaddling! It’s a game-changer for most babies.

In case you’re not familiar with swaddling, it involves wrapping your baby securely in a blanket so that only their head is peeking out. The rest of their body is comfortably snug inside the blanket. This can help the youngest infants feel like they’re still inside the womb.

Swaddling has been around since ancient times. And its impact on babies has been studied for decades or more. The secret to a good swaddle is keeping it snug.

You may have heard that swaddling has the potential to be unsafe. And that can be true if it isn’t done correctly. That’s why it’s important to understand how to swaddle, when it could be unsafe, and when to stop swaddling altogether. So, I know I sound like a broken record, but do your research!

5) Formula or breastmilk

I’d suggest deciding what formula you plan to use and take some with you. I am not a fan of the ones that hospitals hand out, but I also understand formula is expensive. If you’re not feeling extremely picky, let them send you home with as much as they will. But, if you do your research and decide on one ahead of time or even decide to get milk from a milk bank, I’d suggest taking some with you. In the very beginning, we used these ready to feed bottles. But, once we had time to get settled and do some research, we switched. Again, you’ll want to do your research on this but we liked baby’s only for our daughter and kabrita was amazing for our son. He still drinks the Kabrita brand that comes in the milk section of our grocery store.

Also, some women choose to induce lactation so they can potentially breastfeed. This isn’t something I chose to do so I can’t speak to it, but if you’re interested look into it.

Hospital Checklist for Adoptive Parents

6) Bottles

This is a definite must on your hospital checklist. Bottles come in so many different types including wide necked, glass, angled, orthodontic, anti-colic and, more. There are also latex or silicone nipples to choose from. Because every child is different, you may end up trying different types of bottles before deciding on your favorite.

With our daughter, we started with some simple, inexpensive bottles. And, with our son, he had massive infant reflux to the point where we had to use blankets as burp cloths! Cheap bottles did not work well at all for him. We tried different brands but, eventually, avent was our bottle of choice.

Decide what kind of bottle you want to start with and add this to your hospital checklist.

Hospital Checklist: 10 Must Haves For Adoptive Parents To Take

7) A baby wearing wrap or carrier

This can be excellent for bonding and it’s also very convenient. Again, there are so many choices. Some people prefer the carrier type while others like the wraps. Pick the one you think you’ll love and bring it along with you.

In general, the benefits of baby wearing are well documented. Babies who are frequently worn tend to cry less and develop better both emotionally and socially. And, practically if you are wearing your baby you’re going to interact with them more.

With adopted children, these benefits are perhaps even more important. It gives your baby a chance to learn your smell and the sound of your heartbeat. And, it helps form the bond faster since you didn’t have those first 9 months.

Hospital Checklist: 10 Must Haves For Adoptive Parents To Take

8) A white noise machine or baby sound machine

We still use a white noise machine and our kiddos are 2 & 4 years old. Also, if you’re accustomed to sleeping with a noise machine or fan, this could help while you’re in an unfamiliar place. I mean, don’t expect that much sleep with a new baby but every little trick helps! This is the one we use but there are many to choose from.

Some of the benefits of a white noise machine.

When your baby was inside the womb, think about how warm and cozy they felt, in a tight and safe little place filled with all kinds of muffled sounds. That’s what makes a white noise machine such a great choice for your baby.

  • Background noise When inside the womb, the volume can be compared to the volume of a lawnmower! Once a baby is born, it’s much quieter than what they were accustomed to.  Constant background noise can help a newborn’s sleep.
  • Stress reduction The sounds of a white noise machine is often comforting to a baby. This can help them sleep better.  Babies can be easily overstimulated throughout their day. The humming of white noise or a steady heartbeat rhythm can help comfort them.
  • Reduces active sleep Studies have shown that babies fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer (and get a higher quality sleep) when a white noise machine is used.

9) Car seat

It won’t fit in your bag, but a car seat has to be on your hospital checklist. They won’t let you take your kiddo home without it 😉

Do some research and find one you love. We liked starting with this kind that pops out of the base and can be carried. It comes in handy when you have a sleeping baby that you don’t want to wake up.

Safety note: Never leave a baby in a car seat unattended. Their head is too floppy and can drop down and potentially cut off their air supply.

Once our kids outgrew those, we switched to this one and it’s what we still use currently.

Funny side note: When we were on our way home with our daughter, her head was so floppy in her car seat, we were convinced we were doing something wrong even though the nurse had helped us. So, we pulled over and called the hospital to ask.

New parents are new parents whether biological or adoptive.

10) A portable bassinet

This also won’t fit in your bag but can be great to have! If you’re adopting from out of state, and you’ll have to stay put for a while you will need a place for the baby to sleep once you’re discharged from the hospital. If you’re coming straight home, this likely isn’t an issue. But, adoption hospital visits can be unpredictable so if it’s something you think you’d use at some point anyway, I’d get one and take it with you.

A bonus to add to your hospital checklist: Essential oils and a diffuser

This might not be a fit for everyone, but I certainly recommend it. Never underestimate the power of a good relaxing essential oil diffusing nearby for you and your baby!

Hospital Checklist: 10 Must Haves For Adoptive Parents To Take

But, don’t just grab a diffuser and some cheap oils and start diffusing. Do your research first. The types and amounts of oils you use are important. So, take some time to research and learn if you plan to use them.

This is the book I have and it’s great.

Related: 10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Adoption Wait.

This is an exciting time in your adoption journey! Have fun with it. Get items you are excited about and you know will be useful when you get that call that you have been selected.

Let me know what items are must-haves for you in the comments! You might help me think of something I’ve missed!

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