What to pack in your hospital bag
As any nesting mom-to-be knows, it’s never too early to pack your hospital bag.
When the time comes for you to head to the hospital or birthing center, it’s important that you have your bag packed and ready to go. It’s so frustrating to get to hospital to realize that you’ve forgotten your insurance details, or your toiletries or even your birth plan. Here’s our guide to exactly what you’ll need before and after birth.
Tip – Pack your bag around 35 weeks, and leave it by the front door. If you’re in doubt about anything on this list, ring your hospital or birth center and ask if they provide it. If they do, check it off.
Before the birth
- Cell phone charger: As well as any other chargers for devices you’re bringing: Kindle, iPad, camera etc)
- Your birth plan: A birth plan summarizes your ideal birthing experience. It outlines your preferences for care, and provides your medical team with a clear understanding of your wishes. This can be invaluable when important decisions need to be made quickly and under pressure. So, if you have made one, bring it! And don’t forget to Xerox extra copies. If you haven’t written one yet, here are some simple Birth Plan tips to get you started.
- Music: After waiting months and months you might get super excited at the first signs of labor but… labor may start slowly and be a lengthy process so pack some items to keep you calm and focused. A Taiwanese study has shown that the use of music can significantly reduce pain and anxiety in labor so bring an iPod and speaker deck and different mixes of feel-good songs and relaxing music. If you are planning to use specific labor tapes or relaxation methods make sure they are pre-loaded onto your device before you go to the hospital.
- Stress ball: Some women recommend taking a stress ball into labor as a distraction aid during contractions – or you can pass it to your partner if they need a distraction!
- Insurance info: Even if you are already registered at the hospital or birthing center, at a minimum, you’ll need to bring some ID and your health insurance card.
- Slippers or non-slip socks: During labor, some mamas feel like moving around by swaying back and forth, side to side or going for gentle walks. So don’t forget your slippers!
- Flip-flops: Trust us: you’re going to want these for the shower or walking to the nursery if necessary.
- Home comforts: Like a heating pad, hot water bottle and some organic massage lotion will go a long way to ensure you’re feeling comfortable during this time. And if your pregnancy pillow has been a godsend, bring it – you might be sleeping before labor really kicks in.
- Healthy snacks: You may not feeling like eating much, but labor can be a long game and it’s good to keep refuelling with light, healthy and nourishing snacks. Granola bars, protein balls and fruit are all handy. Coconut water is refreshing and hydrating. It is wise to ring in advance and ask the hospital what you may be allowed to bring – broth or coconut water for example – so you can get organized.
- Non-toxic Toiletries: Your hospital or birthing center will provide the basics, but we recommend using natural and organic personal care products where possible. The last thing you or your baby need is to be exposed to the harsh chemicals often found in commercial toiletries. Bring your own Body wash, shampoo and conditioner, cleanser, Unscented Deodorant, toothpaste and a toothbrush, as well as a heavy-duty moisturizer and lip balm – hospitals are notorious for their drying air con. Lavender is often recommended as a calming scent for women in labor so bring along some lavender scented massage oil. A lavender spray for your face can also cool and calm you during labor. Also, remember labor is an important and sometimes stressful time for your partner too. Partners can sometimes feel a bit redundant because, as much as they would like to, they can’t actually do the work of labor for you. Having your partner give you a massage, rub your feet or offer any kind of distraction can be a way of reducing the stress for both of you.
What to wear
- You’ll be offered a hospital gown for the labor but if you’d prefer to wear your own clothes pack a loose oversized t-shirt or nightdress.
- Your hospital stay could be between two and five days depending on how your labor goes (and whether you have a cesarean section) so pack a couple of items of comfy nightwear plus loose clothing such as sweatpants and loose tees. Few of us look like Kate Middleton hours after we give birth, so expect to be in your maternity clothes for a little while longer. Your legs and ankles may also be swollen from fluid retention so definitely leave the skinny jeans at home.
- In early labor it helps to let gravity do its work so pack a lounger robe and slippers so you can move around the hospital corridor to get things moving.
- Many women get cold feet while in labor, literally! This can be exacerbated if you have an epidural, so pack at least one pair of nice warm socks.
- Many hospitals have in-house photographers who will come and take photos of you and your newborn, or you can organize your own photographer. Pack a solid color top to wear for your photoshoot and a favorite blanket to wrap your tot in.
- If you decide to breastfeed expect to be unbuttoning your shirt frequently! Wrap nursing sleep bras are comfortable and convenient, especially when your milk comes in and your breasts are engorged.
- You will need all your everyday products such as shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, face wash, deodorant, a toothbrush and toothpaste. We love this Mommy Travel Kit by Erbaviva for a few organic essentials.
- Then there’s nipple butter for breastfeeding mamas (that newborn latch be tough and providing a barrier during and between feeds can really help).
- Before you go to hospital find out whether breast and sanitary pads are provided by the hospital or whether you will need to bring your own. We recommend the Kushies Organic Jersey Nursing Pads (these are washable rather than disposable, and there are six in a pack, but in the early days of breastfeeding with leaking and sometimes excessive supply, you might want to purchase a couple of packs so you can have them on high rotation.)
- Hospitals usually supply newborn diapers, wipes and creams for those first few days, but these tend to be really harsh on baby’s sensitive skin. We recommend using more natural products that are free of harmful ingredients and chemicals. We love Erbaviva Baby Lotion and Bambo Nature Tidy Bottom Baby Wipes
- You will want to pack a super cute outfit for the proud moment you take your bundle of joy home – though don’t be surprised to find yourself inundated with gorgeous newborn gifts and spoiled for choice! When you choose your baby’s going home outfit be mindful of the weather and the fact that newborns aren’t very good at regulating their temperature – babies usually need one more layer than adults. Here are a few of our top picks for Newborn Essentials: Kyte Baby Solid Footie, Poeme & Poesie Sleepy Eyes Footie, Woombie Kimono Onesie.
- Swaddled babies sleep better but newborn babies can be surprisingly defiant about swaddling. Don’t say we didn’t warn you: many moms compare their little newborns to Houdini when it comes to escaping the swaddle! Save yourself the hard graft of re-wrapping your infant over and over throughout the night by investing in a couple of swaddle suits. We like the Woombie Vintage Linen Swaddle or this Halo organic cotton sleep sack swaddle. The hospital will provide bedding for your newborn, though you can bring your own if your own fitted sheets and blankets if you prefer.
- It may sound strange, but newborns also aren’t aware that their arms and hands belong to them – the move their arms and hands at random and are quite prone to hitting and scratching themselves. Take along a pair of Kyte Baby Scratch Mittens to protect from little fingernail scratches.
- The hospital will not let you take your baby home without a car seat with the base safely installed. You can get your car seat inspected free of charge at many fire or police stations. See our guide on How to choose the right car seat.
- You might wish to pack a nursing pillow to take the pressure off your back as you come to grips with breastfeeding.
- Take a journal and pen. You won’t have this time again and even if some details will remain acute forever, some things you will forget. So, if you have time, write down how you are feeling, what you are thinking, your experience. Some time in the future when your Tot is running around the house or off to school or… well, grown up, you will treasure what you wrote about how you felt in those first strange and exciting days as a parent.