We all know that some people are more organised than others, but the arrival of your baby is something that you really do need to be prepared for in advance. If you are planning to have your baby at the hospital, you will need to have your bag packed and ready to pick up as you walk out the door from at least 35 weeks. As a midwife, I have seen people arrive at hospital in various stages of readiness and the last thing you need is to be flustered and trying to find bits and pieces for your bag when you are in labour! Here are a few of my recommendations of what to pack in your hospital bag.
1. Antenatal notes
The most important thing you need to bring with you to the hospital is your antenatal notes, containing your pregnancy history, birth plan etc. Some Lead Maternity Carers (LMCs) hold on to the notes in the last trimester, but most will give them to you. Whoever is looking after you during your birth will need to refer to the antenatal notes, so don’t leave them at home.
2. Comfortable clothes
Comfortable clothes are key during and after you give birth. You may be required, or choose, to labour and give birth in a hospital gown but in those few days and weeks post-birth you are going to want to wear clothing that is as comfortable as possible. Make sure you pack clothes that are loose fitting and have a bit of stretch in the material. I also recommend packing tops that are easy to breastfeed in. Button-down shirts are great – much easier than rolling up your t-shirt and having it fall down on your baby’s face while trying to breastfeed.
Don’t forget your breastfeeding bra too! And while we are talking about underwear, do not pack your nicest undies. In fact, buy some big ugly granny panties that you are happy to throw out, because that’s what you will probably end up doing!
Most hospitals provide basic soap and shampoo, but I suggest you take your own. There is something very comforting about showering with your own familiar products post birth.
You never know how long your labour might be so I recommend packing a few of your favourite snacks. It’s generally okay to eat when you are in early labour but I would advise consulting with your LMC first. Even if your labour goes quickly or you don’t end up being allowed to eat, it’s great to have snacks on hand so that your partner can keep his energy up! In the first couple of hours after you have given birth, it is recommended that you eat something. Most hospitals offer a cup of tea or hot chocolate and a few pieces of toast. If you have any dietary or cultural sensitivities, you will need to bring your own food for this time. Something high in carbohydrates and sugar is recommended to boost your blood sugar so that you don’t faint.
6. Baby clothes
Once your baby has been born and has had some skin-to-skin time, been weighed and had all its necessary medical checks, you will need to dress baby in an outfit. One word for this outfit is wool – woollen singlet, hat, booties, onesie and blankets. Because baby has been living inside of you for nine months, the outside world is pretty cold in comparison. Babies can very easily lose a lot of body heat, especially in those first few days, and particularly if you transfer home or to another facility in the middle of the night. Wool helps the baby to regulate its body temperature and you don’t want your precious newborn to end up in NICU because it got too cold.
7. Baby car seat
Speaking of transfer, of course you will need your baby car seat. This can stay in the car until you are ready to leave the hospital but make sure that you have had it properly installed into your car before baby arrives.
8. What you do/don’t need to bring
Most hospitals provide newborn nappies and wipes, towels and maternity pads but you will need to double check. If you want nappy cream and special soap to bath your baby in, you will probably need to bring your own. Also, if you plan to bottle-feed your baby, you will most likely need to bring your own bottles and formula, but again double check with the facility you are planning on staying in after your baby has been born.
Some people like to play some relaxing music during labour and birth and some birthing facilities have speakers. Check beforehand as to how you can link into the system in the room, if there is one. Relaxing music can help create a familiar and peaceful environment that can greatly improve the labour and birthing experience.
10. Camera, phone and chargers
Don’t forget your camera to capture those first precious moments and your phone to call and message anxious friends and family. And don’t forget the chargers too. You never know how long you might be in hospital for and the last thing you want is a flat battery.
So there you have it. My final recommendation would be to make sure you have worked out your route to the hospital, taking into account traffic at various times of the day – and keep the car topped up with petrol!