The Best Maternity Gowns for a Hospital Labor & Delivery

Pregnancy, Birth & Babies

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Packing and prepping to have a baby is one of the most exciting (and sometimes overwhelming) things facing expectant mothers. Having given birth to 10 babies, helping a new mom confront these conflicting emotions is one of the best parts of my job. Today we’ll address finding and packing the perfect delivery gown to give birth in, recover in and breastfeed in. The birth and recovery process is so much more enjoyable when you’re feeling as comfortable as possible!

Delivery gown vs recovery gown

The first thing you’ll need to decide is if you’d like to bring a separate, soft gown to birth in or just use the hospital’s gown. I’m an advocate of having 2 different gowns available simply because whatever you give birth in will undoubtedly get very messy and gross! You’ll want to change at some point after having the baby and take even more pictures with the little one. I usually gave birth in the gown supplied to me by the hospital (not cute but very functional) and then changed into a cuter, softer and more comfortable maternity gown to lounge around in. You could always bring two outfits: a labor gown of your own as well as something comfy to recover in.

If you decide to go that route, check out my New Mama Gift Box which comes with a pretty nightgown in a super stretchy, soft material. It has all the necessary features I mention below and is a great option for welcoming baby into the world. It even comes in two different, stylish options!

Breastfeeding and skin contact

The first (and I would argue most essential) feature that a great birth gown has to have is easy access to your breasts. If you’ll be nursing your baby or even just giving him or her that “liquid gold” colostrum, then you’ll definitely want something that allows for easy breastfeeding. The gown included in our New Mama Gift Box has front snaps along each side of the bodice so that you can easily access either side of breast and quickly give your baby the sustenance he needs.

Don’t forget to shop for and pack a comfortable nursing bra made of stretchy fabric but be aware that you might not even put it on for a day or so. I usually just lounged around the hospital in my nursing gown and posptartum panties for the first little while. Once I showered and wanted to feel a bit more human, then I’d add a bra and a little lip gloss when visitors started coming.

Immediate skin-to-skin contact is also so critical in those first few hours, as well as days and weeks after birth; it can calm a fussy newborn like nothing else. Traditional hospital gowns supplied by the labor and delivery department generally have these shoulder snaps as well, for this reason and for easy nursing access, but be aware that they’re often scratchy and not very cute.

Access for hospital staff

Hospital gowns have open backs so that nurses and doctors can better access your body to provide care. If you’re planning on receiving an epidural, fetal monitoring or other medical examinations, then you’ll also need a gown that opens in the right places and allows for convenient access. But again, you can always choose to use the hospital’s gown for the actual birth, and just change out of it into something more comfortable afterwards. Be aware that the staff will also be taking your blood pressure regularly so you might want to avoid anything with bulky or tight long sleeves that can’t be rolled up.

You might consider wearing your own gown after birth, especially if you have a chance to break it in beforehand and wear it around the house. I think that wearing a gown that already smells like mom could go even further to calming baby after the traumatic entry that brings them into the world.

Maternity robe

A hospital robe is another great option for packing in your hospital bag for several reasons. First of all, if can be a great complement to an open-back hospital gown as it would cover up your backside and keep you warm while you wander the halls in early labor. Hospital gowns usually have some sort of back closures, but they’re often just a handful of ties which leave you uncomfortabley exposed back there.

Secondly, it can function as a post-birth nursing gown by just wearing it over your stretchy panties and nursing bra. Then, you can continue to wear it over your pajamas at home for added warmth or coverage when all the relatives want to stop by. Finding a matching robe set could be a great gift for yourself or an expectant loved one!

Best fabric choices

There are probably dozens of different delivery robes out there made out of hundreds of different fabrics, but I’ve always been a big fan of super stretchy knits. Be aware that while hospital temperatures are usually quite cold, the act of giving birth is a genuine workout and will probably make you pretty warm! All that to say, you might want to choose a gown made of a lightweight, breathable material that can also be layered under a cardigan or robe in case you start to freeze. Luckily, once baby is born, you’ll have a little warm newborn baby on your chest to snuggle with!

A cotton/spandex blend is always a great choice as it tends to be more breathable than polyester. But knits with some rayon content or modal can be unbelievably soft. You might want to order a few of them and see which you like best against your skin.

Non-gown options

Dislike the idea of lounging around in a gown of any kind? There are plenty of other cute options too, or you can just bring your own clothes to recover in. Once gain, you’ll want to make sure that you get a nursing top or something with easy access for breastfeeding. .

Even if you’re normally a very modest person, nursing a newborn requires most new mothers to fully expose their breasts to see what they’re doing! A shirt that fully unbuttons or unsnaps or can be pulled all the way up is your best option.

Bottoms can be a little trickier since your belly will most likely still be very large and swollen while in the hospital. Any stretchy, comfy pants that fit during the 2nd or 3rd trimester should work just fine for after birth.


It might seem tricky to choose a size for a postpartum gown or dress because you don’t know what size you’ll be after baby makes his or her exit. In general, if it’s a great fit for you as a pregnant woman, then it will be the right size for you after you give birth. I always wanted my post-birth gowns to be as roomy as possible for comfort’s sake, but if you’re thinking you’ll want to wear something a little more fitted, or are thinking about what to wear coming home from the hospital, you might want to choose a cuter maternity dress or other maternity wear.

The best thing to remember is that you want to choose an extremely comfortable option that will allow you to focus on all the wonder of your baby’s birth day and not on your outfit. Your hospital stay is all about you and your newest addition, not on what you’re wearing!

Check out our New Mama Gift box for the best choice for a baby shower gift that includes evertything the new mom will need to welcome her little bundle of joy!

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