One thing I’m asked time again is what to take in a hospital bag. The last thing you want is to have got settled in the maternity ward to realise that you’ve left the most crucial item behind so I have written a list that should cover most eventualities.
The Bag Itself
Lets start with the bag itself. Try to keep the size and weight of the bag to a minimum because the person carrying the bag, hopefully not you, is going to do a lot of carrying as he/she walks from the car park to reception, and on to the maternity ward, the delivery suite and finally the postnatal ward. You may find it easier to take 2 small bags, one for you during the birth and one for after the birth, perhaps with a nappy and first clothes on the very top to avoid the whole bag being emptied to get the baby dressed. Soft bags rather than hard sided cases are preferable for squeezing into hospital cupboards.
- Something comfortable and light-weight (hospitals can be very warm) to give birth in.
- A dressing gown, preferably in a dark colour.
- Lip balm
- Things to help you relax or pass the time, such as books, magazines, games and so on. If you are likely to want music or a DVD take a battery-operated machine, as many hospitals won’t let you plug things in. Some hospitals provide their own CD players or radios so check this when you take the maternity tour during your pregnancy.
- A hairband. If you have long hair, you’ll probably want to tie it up.
- Pillows. The hospital might not have enough to make you really comfortable. Perhaps leave these in the car for your partner to collect as required.
- Nursing bras, tops or nightie to make breastfeeding easy.
- Breast pads
- Old, cheap or disposable pants. If you end up having a caesarean large ‘hip huggers’ can work really well.
- Proper maternity towels. These are usually a little softer than sanitary towels which is useful if you have had stitches.
- A toiletry bag with anything you would normally take for a couple of days away. Maybe some make-up too, especially if your local newspaper visits the hospital to photograph babies for its new arrivals page! I learnt this to my cost when I ended up in the local ‘Advertiser’ looking like the creature from the deep!
- Arnica tablets to help with bruising after the birth. Many women report that taking arnica helps reduce bruising and helps the healing process.
- Food and drink for during and after birth. HypnoBirthing® mums especially tend not to lose their appetite so be prepared with a supply of goodies. Also, if you give birth during the evening or night it may be that no food is available until the morning and by that point you will have worked up a hunger. Remember that your partner will be hungry/thirsty too.
- Cotton wool balls
- Nappy Bags
- Something to go home in; consider whether the weather is likely to be hot, cold or wet.
- Sleepsuits, Bodysuits etc.
- Socks or Booties
- Scratch Mitts
- Muslin Squares
- Don’t forget to have an appropiate infant car seat ready. Most hospitals won’t let you leave by car without one. Take the time beforehand to read the instructions. When I put my baby in for the first time I had no idea how to tighten the straps and surprisingly the midwife wasn’t able to help either so I had to get the manual out before we could leave!
For Your Birth Companion
- A change of clothes for your birth companion in case theirs get messy.
- Something to wear in the pool if he/she is likely to join you.
- Your birth plan. Take a few copies in case there is a shift change during your birth.
- Your hospital notes.
- Change for the car park. Leave some change in your car now (out of view) so there will always be some change available. During your hospital tour ask whether there are any special arrangements for the maternity patients. At my local hospital the parents pay for the first 2 hours and then a sign is put in the car to tell the parking attendant that the ticket will not be renewed due to it belonging to a birthing mother. This was not widely advertised so it is worth asking.
- A fully charged camera.
Anything valuable since hospitals tend not to provide lockable cupboards and you may have to move to a different room quickly so items are easily mislaid.
I purposely haven’t put quantities down since you can never tell how long your birth will take and how long you will remain in the post-natal ward. Some mothers leave hospital within a few hours whilst more complicated births can result in a longer stay. Therefore, take enough for a couple of days but leave additional supplies, well labelled, at home for your partner to bring in as necessary. Perhaps go through it with them since new parents don’t necessarily know the difference between a romper suit, a babygro and a sleepsuit; I certainly didn’t and neither did my husband. Also ensure that your partner knows the whereabouts of the closest Mothercare. Boots or similar in case there is something that you have totally forgotten.
I won’t have covered everything so please, if you can think of anything please add a comment. I hope this has been helpful.