Firstly, make that THREE hospital bags. Yes, you heard us correctly. Three bags, packed as early as 30 weeks – after a friend went into labour very early, before packing her bag and before buying a car seat, you don’t want to be caught short.
Bag One: Your stuff
Bag Two: Baby’s stuff
Bag Three: Birth partner’s stuff
You could, of course, put it all in one bag but, should you need to stay without your partner, it makes sense to separate everything. Plus, having a shedload of stuff is great practice for any time you leave the house in the next few years. Travelling light will become but a distant dream. More on this another day.
Back to the hospital baggage. You don’t know if you’ll be in and out within a few hours or if you will have a hospital stay. Pack for the latter; it saves your partner having to go home and guess at what you need and where these things are kept (Familiar with the ‘man look’ (sorry, chaps!) – walk into a room, survey it from the doorway and shout, “nope, can’t find it!”? Well, imagine said man is operating on zilch sleep and has just become a new dad!). Anyone who has requested clean pants after labour only to be brought a g-string will echo the sentiments here.
Bag One: Your Stuff. Some of these items could be kept in your car as they are bulky but invaluable if you have a longer stay.
Your birth preferences (aka plan). Print five copies and laminate them. Staff changeovers mean that backup copies are useful. Some women don’t bother with these and choose to ‘go with the flow’. Whilst we’re pretty relaxed, we wouldn’t go into any other life-changing event unprepared and it doesn’t hurt to have your choices on paper. It’ll also help you think about decisions on things like vitamin K injections, which you might not be in the best capacity to research there and then having just given birth. We’ll cover birth preferences/plans in another post soon.
Thin cotton clothing. Labour wards and midwife-led centres are hot places so loose, breathable clothing is crucial. Your pre-pregnancy clothes won’t fit yet, so maternity leggings and stretchy breastfeeding tops are great. Stretchy / no waistbands are especially important if you have had a C-section – over the bump is best.
Thick socks or slippers. On the other hand, your feet get cold, for some reason!
Pyjamas and a dressing gown. Button down PJs or nighty for easy breastfeeding. Some ladies also like to have their own pillow, in case of a stay. Definitely something to keep in the car until you know what’s happening 🙂
Eyemask. Maternity wards are bright places. If you do feel able to sleep (if you can get past staring in awe at the little being you just gave birth to!) an eye mask will help block out the light.
Appropriate clothes for the journey home. Pack accordingly for the time of year. Comfort is key. Maxi dresses in the summer, leggings / baggy top in the winter. Basically, anything that isn’t too tight and with as light a waistband as possible.
Waterproof flip flops/sliders. For bathroom and shower trips
Your own towel(s). Hospital towels can be scratchy and it’s nice to have home comforts.
Maternity pads. Lots. And then some.
Breast pads and a stretchy, soft crop top for easy access. Though your milk can take a while to ‘come in’, some women still experience leaks.
Plenty of pairs of knickers. Some people opt for maternity pants but they sound and feel like tissue paper. Our recommendation is to either buy a few packs of cotton briefs, a size bigger than normal, from the supermarket or Matalan – cheap enough to bin if necessary but washable too, or borrow your other half’s old pants (ones he doesn’t mind being thrown away), they’re baggy and comfy enough and won’t break the bank.
Water bottle. Double use… 1) to drink from (obvs!) and 2) to pour warm water over your bits, whilst peeing, after labour. Seriously stops the stinging.
Straws. Easy to sip water during contractions, especially if you are in a position unnatural for drinking from a cup.
Vaseline. Dry lips are a pain in the proverbial that you can do without.
Phone and charger. Make sure any music you need/want for labour can be listened to offline.
Ear plugs. If you’re in hospital for any length of time prior to the birth, getting a decent amount of sleep is crucial. Hospitals can be noisy places!
TENS machine. Great for pain relief during labour (unless you’re in water!)
Aromatherapy oil. If you’ve used an anchor scent to calm you in the lead up to pregnancy, take it. Absolutely cannot be added to water if you’re in a pool, and the aromatherapy diffuser couldn’t be used (sockets were in the ceiling or too close to the water) but can be used it on a muslin cloth.
A hand fan. Useful during labour, and afterwards if you’re stuck on a hot ward.
Spray bottle of water. Double use… 1) during labour, to cool you off (add ice for extra cooling!) and 2) to refresh/wash your bits between showers.
Handouts/notes on establishing breastfeeding plus the name of the breastfeeding specialist at your hospital. Whilst midwives are helpful, you can often receive conflicting advice. YouTube videos on how to help baby latch are also handy.
Lansinoh nipple cream (or similar). Look after those nips from the get go. Seriously, slather it on!
Toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, deodorant (Jo preferred a non-chemical one when P was tiny, so it didn’t irritate her airways), shampoo/conditioner (try to wash your hair without the water running down your body as this can irritate sensitive areas), unscented shower gel (nothing that will irritate sensitive areas post-birth).
Post-birth healing. Arnica tablets or cream (BUT consult your midwife or a homeopath before using either) aloe vera gel (amazingly cooling when applied to maternity pads), Epsom salts and tea tree oil for baths, to help any tears heal (again, chat with your midwife or surgeon before using anything on your parts if you’ve had a tear, as they may advise you let nature take its course alone).
Make-up: Some may think this vain but who cares? If you’re used to wearing it, take it. Maybe a scaled down selection – waterproof mascara, BB cream and some tinted lip balm. Or the whole shebang – whatever YOU want to take. Same goes for hair straighteners 😉 Don’t be upset if you don’t get a chance to (or feel like!) using them, though. Lauren’s discharge from hospital was so quick, she wasn’t even able to shower! Jo squeezed in a quick shower and went home with wet hair.
Stuff to do(!) Sounds mad – as if you don’t have enough to do, what with popping out a tiny human BUT if you go in and stay in, but labour is slow, anything that will help you remain clam is crucial. This will be personal to you. Magazines, books, iPad… Jo took colouring books in case she wasn’t allowed in the pool for any reason. She knew she’d feel a bit rubbish if that was the case as she had her heart set on it, so wanted to ensure that she had a distraction.
Last but not least, hospital notes! We got so caught up in the nitty gritty, we nearly forgot to add what is arguably the most important item. Have these right at the top of your bag and to hand when you get to the hospital, ready to give to the midwife.
Bag Two: Baby’s Stuff
Nappies. Size 0 and size 1. Both of us only had Size 1 and they were massive, even though P was 7lb 9oz and M 8lb. Emergency dash to the supermarket for hubbies! Newborns go through up to 12 a day, FYI! The hospitals also have nappies, so don’t panic too much.
Cotton wool. Whilst you swear to God you need white spirit to remove that first poop, it’s all about cotton wool and warm water. (If you’ve had a water birth, Jo would recommend hanging out in the pool until the meconium has passed, though she did feel a bit bad for the HCA who drained it and found what is effectively tar stuck the bottom! It’s also handy for wiping the poop off yourself if little one relieves themselves on you, as happened to Lauren! Wherever it happens, you won’t care, you’ve just done an amazing thing!
Vests, babygros and soft hats. Remember that your baby has spent nine months in water. Scratchy manmade fibres will feel horrible. Keep it natural and gentle. Wash in non-biological detergent before packing.
Extra tip: like size 1 nappies, newborn clothes can be much too big. First Size or Tiny Baby bits are often useful in the beginning.
Muslins. Again, washed in non-bio. Useful for receiving and for when the midwives pat and wrap baby after birth – much softer than hospital towels.
Blanket. Thickness according to the season but always as soft as possible. Remember newborns don’t sweat so don’t be tempted to pile on the layers – one more layer than you’re wearing is a good guide.
Car seat. Hospitals generally won’t let you leave without seeing you put baby in their seat.
Bag Three: Birth Partner’s Stuff
Snacks for you and them. High energy items – nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cereal bars, jelly babies, glucose tablets, smoothies. Try to avoid anything that will give you a sugar or caffeine high and then a crash a few hours later. Labour is exhausting, without adding to the tiredness. That said, you also want to feel comforted and have a variety of options – what you think you might want to eat could turn your stomach on the day.
Phone and charger
Change for hospital car parking. Can total quite a lot, so plenty of coinage. Vending machines and cafeterias deplete your change too – take more than you think you’ll need.
Toiletries and a change of clothes
Shorts and t-shirt. If your partner is anything like our hubbies, they will overheat in the sauna-like temperature of the hospital.
Swimwear. Some hospitals allow partners to get in the birthing pool. If it’s something you would like to do, pack those Speedos!
You can see why we’d prefer a home birth if we have another baby!
Now all you need to do is stop your hubby eating the hospital snacks in the weeks before you give birth. We hope you have better luck than us with that!
The Mother Side xx