The infamous hospital bag
If you’ve spent a big chunk of your pregnancy nesting, researching baby essentials and trying to be as prepared as possible for when baby comes, I promise you, as soon as your pregnancy term approaches, you will start to think about the infamous hospital bag.
One would think that packing a bag for a few days stay should be quite straight forward, but the more you get into it, these questions come up:
How long am I packing for?
I haven’t even met this baby yet, how am I supposed to already pack a bag for him? How do I know what he likes and needs?
What exactly am I packing for? Do the items I need to pack differ based on my birth scenario? What will my birth scenario be?
This list is endless, but for the sake of every pregnant woman’s anxiety level, lets just keep it at that.
Here’s the thing about giving birth - expectations aside, nothing will ever fully prepare you for what you are about to experience. Since no one knows exactly how the birth will go, how long it will take, how smooth/painful/uncomfortable it will be, making a checklist and only bringing items you will need/want at the time, is practically impossible.
However, in order to make it easier for you, we have collected advice and feedback from a number of wise and resourceful moms around me who have been through it themselves multiple times. I’ve also separated the items based on Essentials and Nice to Haves. Because not everyone wants to show up at the hospital with three suitcases and multiple pieces of furniture :)
I suggest you read through, and create your individual list by selecting the items that make the most sense to you.
When to pack?
Most moms will start packing anytime between week 35 and their first contraction.
One precious tip I got from a doula: “Pack your bag with all your goodies and then have your partner/husband/whoever is accompanying you unpack and repack it. You aren't going to want to go digging for a hair tie during a contraction and they won't know where to find it if they aren't involved with the packing.”
One more suggestion, based on personal experience, have your individual final list ready as early as you feel necessary, start packing the bag with the ‘extra’ stuff, and once the contractions start to come, just (calmly) follow the list.
What to pack?
When it comes to packing your hospital bag I find that there are two schools of thoughts - which may have a correlation with your general packing approach, but not necessarily, as we are talking here about very unique circumstances.
Some, like me, are minimalists, enjoy traveling light and only bring essentials (theoretically). Others prefer to be totally prepared for any and every scenario, and love their comfort. Whether you lean more towards one end of the spectrum or the other, I strongly recommend you read through the whole list. Like I said, these are very unique circumstances.
- Disposable underwear - 2-3 boxes - without getting into too many details here, just trust me, you will need these.
- Pads - Same as above.
- Phone charger - for obvious reasons
- 2 changes of clothes for baby including small hat and gloves - One for the journey home from the hospital and the second in case the first one gets dirty.
- Change of clothes for you. You want to make sure you have at least one clean outfit for for when you leave the hospital.
- Baby Blanket - for the ride home
- Flip-Flops - for basic hygiene reasons, hospital showers are not exactly the ideal place to step on.
- Car seat pre-installed in your car or stroller in case you’ll be walking home - that is mandatory in most countries.
- Pregnancy medical folder - with all recent blood tests and GBS results. This will save you the time it requires to take a blood test prior to receiving an epidural. And believe you me, that time is precious.
- Parents ID - In many places, you are given the option at the hospital to register your baby to the Minister of Interior, health insurance etc.. If you have the possibility to do so right then and there I really recommend you take the time to do it. It’s quick and easy and will save you the bureaucratic nightmare later on.
- Toothbrush/toothpaste - that is not included in most basic hospital packages :)
- Water bottle with a sports cap/squeezy/skoosh. This is not for drinking. It's for skooshing the vajayjay after birth after every pee. It will help clean the area better than paper or wipes and it is very soothing.
Nice to have
- Pyjama/Robe - Make sure they are light and damageable, not your La Perla anniversary robe please.
- Slippers/Socks - For extra comfort and coziness, depending on the weather.
- Toiletries - Shampoo, Conditioner, Face wash, Soap, Toothpaste. Avoid deodorant and perfume as baby is going to spend a lot of time with direct contact to your skin, you want to make sure he isn’t exposed to those chemicals and gets used to your natural smell.
- Books, magazines, ipad/phone with games - depending on the situation, you may be spending a lot of time patiently waiting, it’s always nice to bring something to pass that time and get your mind into a relaxed state.
- iPad with music, Speakers, Candles - for those who want to create a nice, calming ambiance in the delivery room
- Pillow and Blanket from home - for extra comfort
- Snacks - the whole process could take a while and you may get hungry. It’s always good to have extra healthy, energizing snacks such as nuts etc.
- TENS machine - There are many opinions about this machine, many found it to be a lifesaver and to have significantly reduced the pain of contractions. Others found it cumbersome and useless. Again, it depends on your birth scenario and it seems to be pretty individual.
- Perinueum Oil/Almond Oil - Some midwives will use this during labor to massage the Perinueum and in order to avoid or minimize stitches. Not all midwives will do it and it isn’t appropriate in all birth scenarios, but this is something that is very much recommended for easing the coming out of the baby on the vajeuge.
- Burping Clothes - In most places the hospital will provide these but you will need your own for the journey home.
- Dark Towel - you may want to take a warm shower during labor as it can be very soothing through the contractions. A towel will come in handy as you probably won’t want to be wet, naked and cold on top of being in pain. That would be like adding insult to injury.
- Dummy - Lactation experts will tell you not to rush to give your baby the dummy as it could potentially interfere negatively with breastfeeding. Personally, I didn’t bring one to the hospital with me as I wasn’t planning on giving it right away but after the first night of our baby crying non stop inexplicably, I sent my husband to buy one and it soothed her (and us) immediately. She’s two and a half now and the dummy is still our bestie :-/
- Swaddle blanket for baby - you may (or may not) start swaddling your baby on their first night. Swaddling is soothing for many babies and allows them to feel cozy and safe as they did in the womb. I think the main advantage of bringing a swaddle would be that you can have the nurse guide you and teach you the swaddling technique - which is easy peasy once you get the hang of it, but really not that obvious the first few times, trust me.
- Baby Wipes/Diapers - The hospital will provide these - I would hope, but in case you want your own kind (I swear by organic diapers, fully water based wipes).
You will probably also need them for the ride/walk home.
- Hair ties
- Camera/Video Recorder - For most of us, using our phones is enough for documenting this life changing experience, but in case you want to have higher quality footage, feel free to bring one.
- Nipple Cream - If you plan on breastfeeding, there is a pretty reasonable chance that your nipples will react to suddenly having baby plugged into them hours and hours on end. Having a soothing cream such as the Lanolin one could come in handy.
- Homemade meal - you don’t know how long the process will take, if it is a long waiting game, like many births are, you will probably get hungry. We only put food in the nice to have section because obviously it is not essential that you bring your own homemade/favorite gourmet meal. Hospitals do have cafeterias!