Some of the best advice I got while expecting was from my friend and colleague, N, who said "Pack your hospital bag now!" Her little one had arrived early so she knew from experience that preparation was key. I took her advice and had my hospital bag sitting by the door a good month before my due date.
As I have a couple of friends who are now expecting I thought it might be helpful to list the things I included in my hospital bag. I'm happy to say, I didn't over-pack. In one tote I included:
Two pairs of pajamas with buttons and/or an elastic neck for easy nursing.
Tank-tops (I hoped to be laboring in the tub and wanted to maintain my modesty).
Socks and slippers
Sweats (for going home)
One baby outfit (for going home. My hospital had everything else for the stay - diapers, onesies etc.)
One receiving blanket
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Lotion (I chose something that smelled yummy)
Spritzer (I mixed lavender oil and water just so I could spritz my pillow and make it feel more like home.)
Blush (I have a tendency to look a little like a corpse without some color).
Headbands, elastics, and barrettes
Books and magazines
Fully loaded ipod
Snacks (for hospital stay): nuts, fruit leather etc.
Cash (enough for cab rides and last minute runs to the bodega)
Chicken Broth: I didn't take this given that I went into labor early but intended to. It was the suggestion of our birth prep coach. A lot of hospitals won't let mom eat during labor - ridiculous- anyway, the broth is the way to sneak in a little protein.
Your partner should also pack a small bag with a few personal items: books, ipod, snacks, toothbrush, deodorant etc.