Labour & Birth
Packing your hospital bag
Many women pack their bag weeks in advance, then it sits in hall as the big day gets closer and closer. Others leave it to the last minute, though there does seem to be something in our nesting instinct which means even the least organised woman will get a bag packed at least a week before her due date. But what are the essentials when you don’t know if your stay will be a few hours or a couple of days?
What goes into your hospital bag?
If you are giving birth at a hospital or clinic, find out what kinds of facilities they provide – how much bedding, easy access to snacks and meals etc. This will help guide you on less obvious items. For example, if your tour of the labour rooms suggested there’s a lack of pillows or the rooms seemed very hot, you might want to pack your own pillow with a very distinctive case on so it doesn’t go astray, or you could pack a small fan that’s easy to clip onto the end of your bed.
Here are more common items that suit almost every need:
• Two front-opening nightgowns
Bear in mind that even if you have a private or single room, there will be times when you need to go to the bathroom or to get food, so make sure your bed wear is not too flimsy, or that you pack a good length dressing gown. You might want to take something more casual and loose like a large beach vest you feel comfortable in, as the labour room can get hot. Some hospitals might advise putting on one of their gowns, but so long as your clothes are clean and suitable most will let you wear your own choice. (You might want to strip down as the labour progresses).
• Slippers or slip-on shoes
You won’t want to spend forever bending down to do up shoes when you need to walk around, especially after the birth. Also it’s worth taking some bed socks or leggings in case you get cold when you are still in just your birth vest or gown.
• Five pairs of knickers
Some people recommend disposable ones but these aren’t very comfortable, so if you don’t want to mess up your favourite pairs, take old knickers or buy some ultra cheap normal cotton ones you won’t mind throwing away. It’s a good idea to pack large knickers that come up to your waist. They are not very pretty but they will keep you more comfortable, especially if you plan to have or end up having a caesarean.
• A pack of maternity pads
These are like sanitary towels but should not be full of the kinds of chemicals used in regular towels. (After the birth you will have a mild bleed for a few weeks.)
• A change of day clothes
Make it something that’s really easy to throw on – like a dress or loose pull-on trousers and a top. Nothing that will pull in at the waist too much or which requires too much fiddling around to get on.
• Toiletries bag
Take your deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste in case you do end up staying overnight. Even if you are only in for a few hours you will be encouraged to have a shower. There’s no need to feel pressure to look perfect soon after the birth, but lipstick and a hairbrush might help you feel a little more yourself. To be sure of comfort, pack a towel, tissues and soft toilet roll too, though these should be provided.
• Clothes for your baby
Take three newborn short-sleeved vests and three newborn sleepsuits, and either a baby blanket or a soft overjacket or top for going home. In hospital it might get hot, so you might only need to dress your baby in the vest or even just a nappy until it’s time to go home.
• Baby changing kit
Pack newborn nappies (6-10 max). Take a couple of nappy bags in case you can’t just fold up the nappies and throw them away, or follow the guidelines on your real nappy set if you have opted for reusables. Also a small changing mat, some cotton wool balls and a little bowl to put some warm water in when cleaning your baby’s bottom. Take a few muslin cloths – preferably in two colours so that one set are used for mopping up when your baby is feeding, and the other set can be used to pat your baby’s bottom dry when changing. You can use baby wipes if you want, but in the early months water should be all you need to clean your baby’s gentle skin.
Take a magazine or book and pack a bottle of water and some easy to carry snacks (cereal bars are useful). If you want to take your camera either make sure it can be stored somewhere safe when your birthing partner is too busy to look after it, or take a disposable camera. Don’t take too much cash with you, but do have some change for machines.
Remember, you are not going to another planet – your partner can always go home or to the shops to get you anything you find you need, especially if you need to stay for longer than expected.
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