You’ve assembled the crib, prepared the changing table and have a mountain of onesies at the ready. Baby time is just weeks away. That means it’s time to pack your hospital bag!
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As is so often the case with parenting, it seems everybody has an opinion about the hospital bag, or a story that they think is fascinating about that one thing they forgot. All that information can get to be a bit overwhelming.
But your hospital bag’s supposed to help ease your anxiety, not make it worse! That’s why we decided to ask somebody who knows a thing or two about having babies — nurse manager Jenna Plas, MSN, RN — what she recommends you pack.
When to pack your hospital bag
“It’s a good idea to pack your bag a month or two before your due date,” Plas shares. “That way, you don’t have to rush around when it’s time to get to the hospital.”
What to pack for labor and delivery
When it comes time to pack your hospital bag, Plas advises you to leave room in it for all the things that you’ll be taking home from the hospital.
While not all hospitals provide the same items, it’s common to be sent home with things like peri bottles, diapers and wipes, mesh underwear and maternity sanitary pads.
- Photo identification and insurance card. If you didn’t pre-register for labor and delivery, you’ll be showing these cards to a lot of people while you’re in the hospital. It’s good to have them readily available at all times, just like you do when you’re going about a normal day.
- Your cell phone (and charger). You’ll want to call loved ones to share your good news! Depending on the phone you have, you can also use it to take pictures and videos. Just don’t forget your charger!
- Personal toiletries. Some hospitals will provide you with toiletries, but you’ll probably feel more comfortable if you use your own lip balm, soap, shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, hairbands or ties, lotion, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Glasses and/or contact lenses, if you wear them. All the better to see your baby with!
- Comfortable clothes to wear home. Unlike in the movies, where it’s common to slip right back into your favorite pre-baby clothing, Plas notes that it’ll take time for your body to adjust to being baby-free. “You’ll likely go home in maternity clothes,” she says, “And that’s normal.”
- Flip flops or sandals. You’re going to want to have shoes on in the shower, so bringing a pair of shower-friendly shoes (with treads so you don’t slip) is a smart move. Some hospitals provide socks and slippers, but bringing your own is a good option, too. Just keep in mind that they could be a fall hazard if they’re not stored away when you aren’t using them.
- Nursing bras or sports bras (two or three). If you plan to breastfeed (chestfeed) your baby, you’ll be grateful for the convenience of a nursing bra. If you’re planning on formula-feeding your baby, Plas recommends wearing snug-fitting sports bras. It’ll take some time for your milk to dry up, so it’s helpful to have that extra support.
- Nipple cream or ointment. Many hospitals provide it, but it’s better not to gamble on something this important!
- Soft toilet paper. Bet you didn’t see this one coming! According to Plas, it’s common to find hospital toilet paper too rough and uncomfortable after giving birth. Bringing soft toilet paper to the hospital with you might seem weird, but your body will thank you.
- Back massage aids (tennis ball, hand-held massager, etc.). No matter how you deliver, your body is doing something incredibly difficult. And you’re going to feel the effects for quite a while. If you find that massage aids help soothe your aching muscles, bring them!
- Robe. Some people are robe people. Some people aren’t. Be whoever you are!
- One or two nightgowns or comfortable clothes for sleeping. Hospital gowns are provided, so you don’t need to bring sleepwear, but you may be more comfortable in your own clothes.
- Personal entertainment: laptop/tablet, books, magazines, a journal, etc. A lot of people don’t end up using the things they pack for entertainment — there’s a lot going on, after all. But if you have enough space in your hospital bag, grabbing something to pass the time is a good idea.
Things you may not need:
- Jewelry and other valuables. Having a baby is hectic. You don’t want anything with big monetary or sentimental value getting lost. “It’s also important to keep in mind that some hospitals require you to remove any jewelry you’re wearing, including a wedding ring, particularly if you’re having a C-section,” Plas notes. Talk to your obstetrician or midwife ahead of labor and delivery to find out what your birthing facility’s policy is regarding rings and jewelry.
- Clothing you like. Remember, you’re going to be bleeding for some time after giving birth … and babies are stain machines. Go ahead and pick out a great outfit for pictures if you want, but keep in mind that it probably won’t be great by the time you get home. Make sure you’re comfortable throwing away the clothing you wear to and from the hospital.
- Underwear and sanitary products. You’re going to be extremely sensitive after delivering a baby and regular underwear just isn’t going to be comfortable. And regardless of how you deliver, Plas says that you should expect to bleed about as much as you do when you have your period for several weeks. Good news, though: The hospital will provide you with both mesh postpartum underwear and plenty of pads.
- Medications of any kind. Discuss the medications (prescription and non-prescription) you need with your doctor ahead of time, and bring a list of your daily medications to the hospital with you. “With a little pre-planning, everything you need will be provided by the hospital pharmacy,” Plas confirms. And, bonus: You won’t have to remember when to take your medications because they’ll be brought to you!
- Diapers, diaper wipes, bottles, nipples and (if you decide to use them) pacifiers. Everything your baby will need during their hospital stay is provided. You only need to pack for the trip home.
- Candles. Open flames are a big no-no in a hospital. If you’re trying to create a calming mood, try flameless candles.
What to pack for baby
- Car seat. “It’s a good idea to install the car seat you’ll be using to travel home about one month before your due date, and to practice using it with stuffed animals or — if you can — somebody else’s baby,” Plas recommends. Installing the car seat early will give you extra time to check and make sure it’s set up properly.
Did you know that some car dealers, police and fire stations offer free safety inspections on car seat installations? Check what’s available in your community and take advantage of the opportunity to ensure your child’s safety! And speaking of safety, keep in mind that babies and toddlers should never be wearing snow suits or jackets in their car seats.
- Sleepers. You need at least one sleeper (that’s not too tight — you don’t want to irritate the umbilical cord) to bring baby home in, but it’s better to bring a couple, just in case. Also, consider bringing a size up because if your kiddo’s large and in charge when they make their debut, they might not fit in newborn clothing.
- Receiving blanket(s). Receiving blankets are the Swiss Army™ knives of infant care. You can use them as swaddling blankets, burp cloths, bath towels, cleaning cloths and much more. Having at least one on for the trip home will come in handy.
Packing a bag for a partner/support person
Chances are you’re going to have somebody staying with you at the hospital, whether that’s a partner, family member, friend or your birthing coach. Here’s what they should pack:
- Money. “Since they aren’t actually receiving care, your support person will need to make sure to have money on hand to buy snacks and meals,” Plas reminds us. Having actual cash is a must-have for those times when a vending machine is the only option.
- Change of clothes. Keep in mind that whatever they wear at the hospital will likely be stained, so they shouldn’t wear anything they’re too attached to.
- Personal toiletries. They’ll be staying at the hospital for at least one night, so they should make sure they have all the personal hygiene items they need.
- Slippers, socks and comfortable clothes for sleeping. “Nothing else about their sleeping arrangement is going to be comfortable, so they might as well make themselves as cozy as possible!” Plas says.
- A folder or binder for documents. If you have a birth plan, it’s a good idea for your support person to have it printed out and ready to share at a moment’s notice. The folder will also come in handy with the mountain of paperwork you’ll be doing.
- A camera (if you’re old school). If you want higher quality pictures and video than your phone can handle — or if you just want to make sure nothing gets deleted — bringing a real-deal camera is a great idea.
- Electronics and chargers. You don’t want your support person filming a major motion picture in your room or anything, but it’s OK for them to have a laptop/tablet, cell phone, camera and maybe even a handheld gaming system with them for those moments when they’re the only one awake.
It’s in the bag
No matter how much you prepare for your baby’s arrival, you can bet that something isn’t going to go exactly according to plan. And that’s OK. If you arrive at the hospital and realize you forgot to pack an item in your hospital bag, it’s not the end of the world. You might be able to get somebody to run back to the house for you — but if you can’t, that’s OK, too. “Your healthcare team is going to make sure you and the baby are fine,” Plas reassures.