Some books and websites will tell you that you only need the bear minimum and that as long as you have a 'front buttoned nightshirt', thats you're pretty much set. This, however, is not the case. A lot of women are scared of the thought of a long labour and intervention, and tend to shy away from the facts. But unfortunately, intervention is quite common, as is long first time labour. I was very lucky with the birth of Erica, I was in labour for a total of 13 hours, 3 hours less than the first-time birth 'average'. There are a few things which should be considered when packing your hospital bag.
- How you expect the experience to go: would you like a natural experience or are you willing to do whatever it takes to keep you as comfortable as possible?? Think about the possibility of using aromatherapy and holistic therapies to keep you calm and focused. If your planning a waterbirth, would you like to be naked in the pool or wearing a bikini top/t-shirt/bra?
- Will you breastfeed or bottlefeed after the birth? : If choosing to breastfeed, a nursing bra and nipple cream are essential post birth items. If bottlefeeding, decide which formula to use before hand, and which bottles could suit you. When choosing formula, think about stuff like price, availability and popularity. Often the most popular milks are the most convenient as they are widely available. When choosing bottles, think about styles, size and BPA content, if this is an issue you care about. I know that the companies SMA and Cow and Gate sell packs of 'hospital bottles', about 15 small bottles of ready made formula in sterilized small glass bottles.
- Time of year: I gave birth to Erica in a very warm April, and I took a few tins of atomised water spray to cool down (such as Magicool). Hospitals can be very warm anyway, without you being in labour! Also consider if your baby is a winter baby, if so, think about packing some cosy socks as your feet can get unusually cold in labour!
- Length of hospital stay: You may only pack 2 baby grows and vest in the hope that you will be allowed to leave hospital 6 hours after the birth, but remember, this may not always be a possibility. As much as you may not want to consider it, If you're left with a ventouse delivery or even an emergency c-section, you could end up staying for a lot longer than you had anticipated. I would suggest always taking a minimum of 3 days worth of baby clothes and underwear. Your partner can always bring more, but if your baby pees all over the place whilst you are changing her for the second time, you may go through more clothes than you think! And always anticipate that you could maybe leak blood onto your clothes, maybe 2 or 3 times a day. Its not pleasant, but its true!
Factors like these can play a big part in packing your hospital bag. A lot of first time mums will pack what they have been told to by magazines and websites etc, but this is often not enough. On the day I left hospital, I had ran out of clothes, and asked my partner to bring me some to leave in. He made it all the way to the hospital gates before realising he had forgotten and had to drive the 20 mins journey back! So dont always rely on your 'better half' to remember for you! Men are notorious for forgetting things in a sleep-deprived state!
So this is my list for essential Hospital Items.
- 1 pack of newborn nappies (never underestimate a newborns ability to poop!)
- Cotton wool balls (Hospitals do NOT reccomend baby wipes)
- 3 vests
- 3 sleepsuits/babygrows
- 3 hats
- 3 pairs of scratch mitts
- 1 newborn cardigan
- 2 blankets
- 6 muslin squares/burpies
- Going home outfit for baby
- 5 pairs of BIG knickers!
- Slippers (hospitals have cold floors!)
- Dressing Gown
- Maternity pads
- Breast Pads (even if bottle feeding)
- 3 nighties/pairs of PJs
- Nursing bra (if needed)
- Nipple cream (if needed, Lansinoh is expensive but worth it!)
- Toiletries (don't wash 'down there' with heavily perfumed soaps! very sore!)
- Going home outfit for you (NO pre-preg jeans!)
- Possibly a comfy outfit for wear on the ward.
- Chocolate/Snacks (if not used in labour will be used in middle of night during feeds!!)
- Mobile Phone or loose change and numbers list
- If formula feeding, bring formula and bottles (you can ask your midwife for the policies on formula feeding, some hospitals will provide some milk)
Of course there are a lot of other 'luxury items' that you can take too. Such as make-up, body moisturiser, straws (for drinking during labour) and cordial (warm hospital water = bad!!).
Sit down, and have a good think about what you think may make your life easier. What makes you feel nice and special and how you would feel if you did have to stay in hospital longer than you expected. Try and make it a pleasant one, its one stay you will always remember.