When I was pregnant with Jane, I had an obsession with reading articles and blog posts about what other women packed in their hospital bags for labor (okay fine, I had two obsessions: hospital bag posts and spicy Indian food). Some women prepare for their labor experience by reading books on the delivery or working with a doula. I never made it past chapter 3 in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and closed my eyes for most of the birthing class we took, but I was sure as heck going to have everything I possibly needed in my overnight bag! Part of the fascination with finding out what other women brought with them has to be rooted in my control-freak tendencies. So much of the delivery, I knew, was going to be out of my control (boy was I right!). Being ready with a well-packed bag was one of my little ways of feeling like I was prepared for anything that the hospital stay threw at me.After sharing Jane’s birth story earlier in the week, I got a few comments and questions about what exactly I packed. And after reading new fewer than 40 articles on what to pack, I absolutely feel the need to return the favor! I’m sharing my own perspective on what I would pack for Mom, Baby, and Dad, what was silly and unnecessary, and a few thing I learned just in case there’s a next-time!
For Mom. In all my extensive packing list research, I’d see pictures again and again of luxurious pajamas that women said they were packing. Let me get real: You won’t ever want to see the clothes you were during labor again. Go get yourself some loose, cozy pajamas from Target that are super easy to get on and off – I had a pair that were elastic waist shorts and buttoned open in the front, which was helpful with all of the exams and monitoring. I later threw them out in the garbage after my water broke while wearing them, and I never looked back! After that, I wore a hospital gown for the next 48+ hours because the doctors need easy access to check how things are progressing, and you’re attached to about 10 different monitors with wires.
I packed clothing options like I was going to a destination wedding, but in reality, I wore that one pair of pajamas and a hospital gown for three of the four and a half days I was in the hospital. Once I finally got to take a shower, I changed into a good pair of maternity yoga pants and a comfy, large t-shirt I could nurse in. I’m happy I packed two very comfortable, wire-free nursing bras (thanks to the advice of a very helpful employee at Destination Maternityhttp://bit.ly/2mrbmPY). I wore them through the entire labor, and the clean one was easy to change while still maneuvering IV and monitoring wires after the labor.
A good, cozy robe was a nice thing to have to throw on over my hospital gown when family popped in the morning after the delivery, but again, nothing fancy because it won’t be something you really want to wear post-hospital stay. One thing I would recommend investing in is a good, rubber-soled pair of slippers – I have lived in my Birdies slippers since having Jane. They’re easy to slip on and off, and the rubber-soles are key when you’re still weak and wobbly post-delivery and trying to hold a squirmy newborn on top of it all.
In my toiletry kit I made sure to have a travel-size bottle of my favorite Living Proof dry shampoo, since that first shower doesn’t come for 24 hours after delivery. It saved my hair so I looked semi-presentable in front of my visiting family and girlfriends. I also knew I wouldn’t be putting on a whole face of make-up, but some waterproof mascara and a few swipes of this Benefit Posietint stain on my lips and cheeks did wonders for me to look human again!
Hair ties and chapstick were two other must-haves in my hospital bag; the breathing during labor is no joke, and it dried my lips out so much and I’ve pretty much had my hair up in a newborn-mom-life ponytail for the last 6 weeks!
The last must-have in my bag for the hospital stay was a pen and notebook. If you thought pregnancy brain was bad, just wait until those first few hours after the baby is born. My brain was mush, and having a notebook nearby was essential for writing down notes to remember doctor’s instructions, nurse’s recommendations, thank you note reminders, feeding notes, and for me, a few general thoughts I wanted to remember weeks later when I started to write these blog posts!
For Baby. I had filled up our diaper bag to the brim with baby supplies and tucked into our car for the trip to the hospital, and guess what? It never left the car. Just about everything you could possibly need for the baby was provided at our hospital. They wrapped Jane up in plain white kimono-style stops, and those classic blue and pink hats and swaddles. Diapers, wipes, bath supplies, feeding supplies – everything and anything you can think of they had on hand in the little wheeled bassinet cart she slept in in our room. The only things we grabbed out of that diaper bag were her going home outfit – something cute to take her photo in – and a pacifier, which a nurse recommended to me but the hospital didn’t provide.
What I would recommend for the baby is packing an empty tote bag for the trip home from the hospital. We ended up collecting a bunch of gifts from friends and family that visited that were in tons of small gift bags. The hospital also told us to take home any open boxes of diapers, formula, bathing supplies, swaddles, and other baby-gear we used during the stay. A big empty boat tote to consolidate all of the gifts and hospital swag in is key!
One other item I’d recommend for moms packing their hospital bag is an empty folder to store all of the baby’s paperwork in. There were welcome packets, birth certificate forms, vaccination materials, discharge papers – more paper than you can imagine! I happened to have a small file folder in my purse that had my birth plan notes and a few other pieces of paperwork in it when we arrived, and I repurposed that as a centralized place to collect all of the papers I’d have to sort through and digest when we got home.
For Dad. Poor Dad! I totally under-packed for Mike. We threw in a toiletry bag and a change of clothes for him last-minute as we were heading out to the hospital. In reality, he probably needed more than either Jane or I, because he wasn’t a patient. Mike had to run home after the first day to grab a few more changes of clothes, slippers, a sweatshirt (it was so cold in the hospital!) and other things we forgot. I did remember to bring him an external battery charger for his iPhone, which was key, since he was in charge of all communications to our parents and siblings and my gang of girlfriends. This is a pretty high-stakes role in the birth process if you can understand how much my family texts each other on a normal basis!
I saw in many of the articles I read about hospital bag posts the recommendation to pack snacks and some entertainment (iPad, magazines, books). I couldn’t think about eating during the labor, let alone sit down and read a book, so those things fell-flat on my packing list. Mike though, had some downtime while I was resting and spent a lot of time on his phone – bringing along an iPad or a book for him probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea. The hospital food left something to be desired, and wasn’t available at all hours, so having a bag of granola bars and trail mix was a nice for snacking.
With all of that excitement, we spent a ton of time on our phones FaceTiming family that couldn’t make it up right away, coordinating visitors, and of course taking 1000 photos of Jane and every little scrunch of her face we could. Probably the best thing I packed was an extra-long charging cord to keep us connected.
In the end, I over-packed for Jane and myself, and way under-packed for Mike. My main takeaway was this: it doesn’t matter what you put in your bag. Every birth is going to be different, and you can’t really prepare for what’s about to happen. If you’re lucky you’ll have great nurses (like I did!) that are going to help you get comfortable and take care of most of the things you and the baby need. After the labor is over, the last thing you’re thinking about is what is in your bag, and everyone you know is so eager to visit and help out, there will be lots of people to task with bringing you food, or more clothes, or anything else you can think of.
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