I’ve had three kids and each time I’ve found packing the hospital bag a daunting task. I’ve never liked packing, not because of the actual task of putting items in a bag, but always for fear of forgetting something I really wished I had with me. So this time around, for my December baby, I packed my hospital bag twice. Once, when I woke up in the middle of the night with a few hours of regular contractions and was worried about the fact that I hadn’t gotten to it yet. Yes, that’s happens to all of us- the false alarm. I woke my husband and said, “I don’t know if this is going to turn into anything, but I have to pack my bag just in case, otherwise I won’t get any sleep.” And the second time I added all the things I purchased during a panic Target run. The panic Target run was a trip necessitated by the realization I came to during the first packing job, when I realized all the things I wanted in my hospital bag, but I didn’t have them yet. And yes, I definitely overbought on that shopping trip! I guess that’s what happens when your baby is born at Christmas time and you’ve got a lot going on. So here’s what you should consider, and I recommend doing the majority of this packing between 36-37 weeks.
Comfy clothes – You’re going to be wearing large thick pads in the hospital, so your clothes should accommodate for that. This means you may want to consider loose fitting pants or a sleep dress. You may also want to consider darker colors in case your pad doesn’t sit just right, you don’t want to stain your beautiful pale peach pajamas. You’re also likely to find yourself sweating from the hormone fluctuations so wearing layering pieces can be helpful. This may help you get better sleep, something you’re going to want every last minute of. There are also adorable robes available online now, many in perfect colors for post partum moms. And yes, they come in adorable patterns for those first baby pictures. If you can spring for it, you can even buy matching baby gowns or swaddles. Robes aren’t typically my thing, but here’s why they’re good when you’ve just had a baby. First, you can throw them on if you get a little chilly after you just broke a sweat. Next, you may find nursing tanks or bras convenient if you’re breastfeeding, but you may find they don’t cover as much as you’d like if your doctor, pediatrician, or birth registrar come into the room.
Bring socks – again, your feet may get chilly and you won’t want to be walking around the floor with bare feet. I don’t find the hospital socks to be comfortable, but if you like them, go for it! And of course if you’re unsteady on your feet at all, the little grippies on the hospital socks might be a good thing. You may also want a pair of slippers or flip flops.
Underwear – You won’t really need your own underwear after you deliver, but it’s possible you’ll want some of your own if you’re being induced. The hospital will provide you with their “special underwear” for after you deliver, just wait, you’ll see, it really is special. It’s not attractive, but it works, and who cares if it gets stained, you throw it away.
Bras -this is something you’ll want to think about and I’ll tell you what you’ll want to consider. You want your bras for your post delivery days to be both comfortable and practical. This means you probably don’t want to spend $5, but you don’t need to spend a fortune. Wireless bras with nursing clips can be surprisingly supportive and accommodate for the changes you will notice post partum. As your milk comes in, you can notice a significant change in size of your breasts, so a bra that doesn’t give to this pressure can make that time more uncomfortable than it already is. I’d also recommend only buying a few bras before you deliver. This will allow you to have something right away, but if you need to go get something else for a better fit later, it won’t be too frustrating. Some women prefer nursing tanks with built in bras because they offer a little support to your post baby belly and eliminate the need to wear 2 articles of clothing. You may or may not need breast pads in the hospital for when your milk starts leaking. Most likely they will be something you’ll need when you get home, if you need them at all. If you plan to breast feed they’re a good thing to have on hand in case you need them.
Snacks are a good thing to pack in your bag, especially if you have a few favorite snacks, but don’t go crazy. You will get 3 meals a day and often will have a few things left from your tray that you might save for a snack later. But, don’t forget your support person, they may want to have a few things they can snack on as well. Also make sure to buy all the snacks you like for when you get home, you can definitely get hungry and thirsty during those middle of the night feedings.
Consider some music for when you are in labor. This may help pass the time or help with relaxation. You might even want an iPad to watch your favorite shows while you’re in labor. And don’t forget chargers for your devices!! You won’t want to miss out on capturing all the adorable pictures of your new little one because you have a dead phone.
You might consider bringing your own pillow. This can make sleeping in an unusual bed, just a little bit easier.
Don’t forget to pack your toiletries. They have some personal care items they can give you for showering, but you may find you’re happier using your own products you are used to. A toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and body wash will be good and you may want your razor and shaving cream too. Chapstick and hair ties are a must have as well!! Don’t forget your brush, contacts and glasses if you wear them.
You may need your insurance card and drivers license, so don’t forget to pack them. If you have a birth plan, bring a few copies. If you haven’t thought of a birth plan, that’s ok, the nurses are good at asking you questions about your desires when you get the hospital.
Going home outfit. This is often something special you have picked out for the baby to wear on the way home. Each time it’s been tough for me, either because we didn’t know the gender of our baby or because we couldn’t decide between newborn or 0-3 months size. Many newborns will fit in newborn clothes, even if they’re on the bigger side, but when in doubt, bring both, then you won’t need to stress about it.
You’ll want to have your car seat already installed in the car and will want to bring it to the hospital when you go. The nurses will make sure you buckle the baby correctly before you leave to go home.
Things you won’t need: diapers for the baby, wipes for the baby, towels, valuables, lots of clothes for the baby
Feel free to adapt this list in away way to suit your needs, but I hope you find this helpful as a starting point.
Written by Janelle Murphy, NP