The baby is coming! You’re about to go from pregalicious to momtastic and one will become two. It will be one of the most momentous occasions of your life but also one of the most exhausting. When that little angel finally arrives all you’ll want to think about is what to name her, how gorgeous she is and how much she looks like your Great-Uncle Carl! You won’t want to be distracted by things you’ve forgotten to bring to the hospital. BTW… if you think you’re in labour, you might want to read this article first…
Moms need to be prepared for anything and it’s good get into the habit of such preparations before Baby arrives. Week 36 of the pregnancy is a good time to pack your suitcase so you’ll be ready. We’ve scoured the Internet for everything you could possibly need and added our own little recommendations. So here’s a list of what to pack for a hospital birth.
Remember that even if you’re planning a home birth, if there is an emergency you may end up at the hospital. So no matter where you are planning to give birth, packing a bag for the hospital is a good idea. It’s a good idea to review what services are available and what rules and restrictions are enforced at the hospital you choose well ahead of time. You may be expecting all of your relatives to be allowed to be there the whole time you are there and then find out at the last minute that visiting hours and numbers are restricted. The more you know about your hospital, the less you’ll need to be learning when you don’t really have time for details like parking rules.
Hospitals are often low on space for personal effects and they may be moving you from one room to the next to the next so it may be a good idea to limit what you bring. Pregnancy Today recommends packing two bags: one for labour and one for the hospital room. You can leave the hospital room bag in the car and have your birthing partner bring it in when you are moved to your room after the birth. A final packing tip is to have the bag(s) already in the car so you don’t need to find it or forget it when your water breaks!
Before you start packing, it’s good to investigate what the hospital provides and what they allow you to bring with you. For example, if they do not have hospital gowns specifically designed for nursing moms, UrbanMommies CEO Jill Amery recommends you bring a favourite sarong to wrap around yourself when nursing the newborn. Also, if anything goes and you have a private room, the personal touches you could bring to your hospital room are endless. Anything that would make you feel more at home would be good to bring to a hospital that allows it.
Essentials to Pack for a Hospital Birth
- Your health card, medical insurance cards, ID and anything else you will need along that line.
- Your birth plan if you have one and any birthing information you might need.
- Your hairbrush, toothbrush and favourite toothpaste. Lip balm and your skin care regimen in case you have the time for them. Any other toiletries or cosmetics you might need. Pregnancy Today points out that after the messy, sweaty birth, feeling fresh and clean from a shower and all your regular hygiene routine items may help you feel better. Make sure to leave scented products at home because hospitals are fragrance-free zones due to allergies.
- Hair elastics and headbands for keeping your hair out of the way should you want to.
- Water bottles for yourself and your birthing partner.
- Camera or video camera. Make sure you have an extra battery, plenty of film or a large SD card, the charger and the camera is all ready to go. The last thing you want is to run out of battery power or space for pictures. Have a friend back-up pictures as quickly as possible so you don’t lose them all should the camera or SD card disappear. Check with the hospital to see if video cameras are allowed in the delivery room. You don’t want to be disappointed at the last minute.
- Nursing bra and Maternity underwear. Baby may be out but you’ll still need those comfy pregnancy panties.
- Maxi pads good for heavy flow after the birth. The hospital will provide them, but they may not be the most comfortable so bring your favourite brand.
- A bit of money for the payphone, vending machines, cafeteria and gift store for that snack or magazine.
- A towel and wash cloths. Your favourite fluffy towel will be more appealing than the icky hospital one. Bright coloured ones are better for distinguishing them from hospital ones.
- Phone list. Cell phones are not allowed to be used in hospitals so make sure and write down the numbers for new grandparents and new aunts and uncles of all types.
- A watch or stop-watch to time contractions.
- Ear plugs. You don’t want to hear other mothers giving birth when you’re about to. Trust us.
- Cultural items. If there are any cultural items for cultural or religious rituals before, during or after birth or for the newborn and they are OK with the hospital, be sure to bring them. For example, Chinese women eat a special soup made of preserved eggs after they have given birth.
Personal Touches to Bring to the Hospital
- Your favourite pillow and blanket to make you more comfortable. BC Women’s Hospital says it’s a good idea for them to be easily distinguishable from the drab hospital ones so you know what’s yours and what’s not.
- Comfy clothes to wear before and after the birth such as sleep wear or yoga wear. Remember that birth (and babies) is messy so don’t bring anything you mind getting stained and bring lots of extras to avoid having to have them laundered. Also remember that you’re not going to suddenly shrink to your pre-pregnancy size and weight, so bring things that will fit you well.
- Socks and Slippers for chilly feet. Be sure they’re suitable for slippery hospital floors.
- A Housecoat for before and after the birth. One comfortable for any temperature might be advisable because you won’t know how warm or cool the hospital is.
- Your iPod. Listening to your favourite music may be rather relaxing for you. Bringing an iPod dock or CD player might appeal to you, but be aware that others in the hospital may need quiet or may not share your taste in music. Also, many hospitals don’t allow you to use their electrical outlets. So headphones and battery-operated electronics are best. If you want your newborn to hear a certain song when they enter the world, his tiny ears will not like headphones, so check with hospital staff if music is OK. Also be aware that many hospitals are not secure so electronics may go missing…
- Your favourite treats. This is a tip from our CEO (and labour survivor) Jill Amery. Bring in your favourite sweet and savoury treats such as chocolates and cheeses. You can even bring in things you couldn’t eat while pregnant but are safe for breastfeeding to indulge in after the birth.
- A favourite game. Do you and your birthing partner have a favourite game that you play? It may come in handy if there are slow periods in the hospital before the birth.
What to Bring to the Hospital For Labour
- Something comfy and comforting but disposable to wear during labour. A T-shirt or nightgown would be good, just be prepared for it to get stained.
- Distraction is a great remedy for pain. You may want to be fully present in every moment of the labour but if that labour goes on for hours, you may feel yourself wanting a break. Consider bringing in a favourite DVD: something that is your movie or television equivalent to comfort food. Personal DVD players are pretty reasonably priced these days and might come in handy with your child later on (they’re great for road and plane trips). If it’s out of your budget, check with the hospital to see if they have DVD players and TVs available to borrow or rent.
- Popsicles, lollipops and other food and drinks for energy and comfort. Check with your doctor about what you can eat and drink during labour.
- Massage oil or lotions for sore muscles and other massage tools. Again, leave scented products at home because hospitals are fragrance-free zones due to allergies.
- Mini-fan or water spritzer to cool down with.
- A focal point. This is an item–such as a photograph or painting or other object–that you can focus on during labour that may make it a little easier.
What to Pack for the Hospital For Your New Baby
- Newborn Carseat. You will definitely need a carseat for the ride home. This may be more important than anything else on this list. Shopping for a safe one is something that should be done well ahead of time and you should have it safely and securely installed in your car well in advance so that you’re not scrambling with instructions at the last minute. Pregnancy Today puts it simply: “You can’t take your baby home without one, so don’t forget it!”
- A baby name book. Baby needs a name and when you finally see her the name you’ve picked out may no longer fit.
- Bring some diapers to take Baby home in in case the hospital doesn’t provide one. If you’ve already decided on a non-disposable diapering method, it’s never too early to start. It will be easier if your diaper bag with everything you need will be already to go so you can practice using everything at the hospital and have everything for the ride home.
- A hat and socks for chilly baby feet. Baby is used to being warm in your womb so the world is pretty cold for her at first.
- Onesies for Baby to wear and be warm and cozy. Make sure all clothing for Baby for the first little while is super comfy. Remember Baby has never worn clothes before so it’s nice to ease her in.
- Jacket or winter-suit for the ride home if Baby will be born during cold weather.
- A cute little outfit for pictures. If you bring a frilly pink dress with bows and lace, just be prepared to scramble if Baby arrives with some extra body parts.
- A blanket. Many babies and young children have a favourite blanket and it is usually the one they’ve had the longest. Choose a blanket wisely. Is it soft but durable and easily washable? Is it good for comforting Baby in warm and cold weather? Perhaps the blanket was a baby shower gift or was made by your mother.
- A soft baby carrier or sling. This recommendation comes from BC Women’s Hospital.
- Your baby book. You may want to have Baby’s feet printed for keepsake purposes or want to have your baby book handy for other reasons.
What to Pack For Your Birthing Partner
- Pillow and blanket if they are staying with you overnight. An air mattress may even be required. Check with the hospital.
- Comfortable clothing and shoes.
- Books and magazines.
- Snacks. There may not be time to leave Mom to go grab a bite to eat or something to drink.
- Swimwear in case Mom needs to use the birth-pool or bathtub during labour and you need to join her.
Packing For After the Birth
- Bring your favourite portable hobby in case you’ll need to pass the time during a hospital stay when Baby is in the nursery. Knitting, cards or a book are good examples.
- Maternity and breast pads.
- Prune juice, raisins, nuts, or whole grain foods to keep you regular. Lower abdominal surgery such as a C-Section can cause constipation and Pregnancy Today points out that hospital food can also cause constipation.
- Something to wear home. Baby may be out but your tummy will still be bulging so you’ll still need to wear maternity clothes, probably from the 6-months-along stage of the pregnancy.
- Finally, Pregnancy Today recommends bringing “Something for celebration!” Champagne may be allowed but a non-alcoholic alternative may be preferred. Other things that the hospital allows for celebration might be desired. But remember those “It’s a Boy” cigars will have to be smoked outside!
Be aware that hospitals are sadly not the most secure places these days. Just recently a woman who gave birth to a premature baby in Nanaimo, BC had her engagement and wedding rings stolen from her hospital room. Some hospital rooms have little lockers so check and see if your hospital has them. You could rely on relatives to watch your valuables, but they may be distracted by watching that beautiful baby. So here’s a list of things to consider leaving at home:
- Valuable or sentimental jewelry including your engagement and wedding rings.
- Your wallet with the exception of your medical cards.
- Your cell phone. Remember cell phones are not allowed to be used in hospitals so you might as well leave it at home. You can write down important numbers and bring that with you.
- Any other valuables.