By Ali Weatherford
This is a VERY good question! What to bring to the hospital for delivery is something most people worry about as they’re getting closer to their due dates. Before then, you’ve probably been very busy dealing with all the complexities of pregnancy, and then you have to think about preparing for birth. You choose your care team, you learn what birth might be like, you learn about coping strategies and decision making, and you think about a new baby and how to care for them when they get here. Then you realize you’ll need to pack a bag! Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as a weekend getaway.
First, Do You Know How Long You’ll Be Gone?
Probably not! It’s like taking a trip that you don’t know a start or end date for. How do you pack for that? You can’t know exactly when labor will start or end. This is even true if you have a scheduled induction. Labor inductions can happen quickly, or they can take one or even two days! Once the induction is successful and labor gets going, it might be quick and take just a few hours, or it can also take another day or two. Then if you are in a hospital, you need to spend some time in recovery. Most people spend about two days in recovery after a vaginal birth. If you have an unplanned cesarean birth, that will add a day of recovery to the whole thing.
If you have a planned cesarean, you have a more specific time frame. You’ll show up at your appointed time, and as long as there are no big detours, things can proceed as scheduled on that day, and then you spend three days in recovery.
I like to tell people to pack for:
- Three to four days in the case of spontaneous labor and vaginal birth
- Five to six days in the case of an induction
- Four days in the case of a planned cesarean
Secondly, Do You Know What To Pack?
Again, probably not! Why would you if you’ve never done this before? Of course, there are the basics. What would you pack for a weekend getaway where you’re going to be hanging out in bed most of the time, snuggling and feeding your baby, and need to be comfortable?
- Toiletries/cosmetics: Bring your toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, soaps, lotions, and potions.
- Medicine/supplements: Make sure you have what you use on a daily basis or what you would normally pack for just in case.
- Comfortable clothing: Have a change of clothes and underwear for each day. We’re talkin’ comfy sleepwear and robes to keep you and baby comfortably warm, not your jeans. Perhaps one cute going-home outfit that will make you feel like yourself after you have been transformed into a new parent.
- White noise machine: Do you use something to help you sleep in strange places?
- Phone/devices/chargers with extra long cords: Sometimes the outlets are far away from where you need the device to be.
- Glasses/contact lenses: You want to get a good view of your baby!
Then you have to think about what you need to pack for BIRTH and POSTPARTUM RECOVERY and FOR YOUR NEW BABY!
I have provided a packing list to help you. I tried to think of everything someone might like to have, and even took a little poll of BFS’s former birth class students to find out if anyone had additional suggestions. I got some great ones and added those too. However, not all of these things are absolutely necessary. It’s your preference, so look it over and see what you might like to take and what you might leave off.
Labor & Birth Packing List
- Labor outfit(s): You might like to bring something comfortable to labor and give birth in. You don’t have to wear a hospital gown. There are lots of neat options out there. Try doing an internet search for “labor gown” and see what you find. Most will have snaps and velcro in all the right places to make easy access for breastfeeding, skin-to-skin time with your baby, and epidurals. There are some really beautiful options out there that provide full coverage, easy access, and comfort. These are great to wear in the postpartum recovery period as well with easy access for breastfeeding and skin-to-skin time with baby.
- Electrolyte tablets: These will turn your bottle of water into an electrolyte drink and are easy to pack and carry.
Water bottle with straw: You’ll probably drink more water during labor when you use a straw. It’s easy! And staying hydrated is VERY important for better labor experience.
- Reusable Hot/Cold packs or a rice sock: You can literally fill a tube sock with rice and that becomes a hot OR cold pack. You can heat it in the microwave, and keep it cold in the freezer. You can also buy them. I recommend having 2 or 3 of these. You can always have one in the freezer staying cold while you’re using one, and another ready for heating up.
- Music and speaker or earbuds: Listening to music or relaxing sounds can be REALLY helpful for labor. You might like to play your sounds out loud with a speaker or keep it in your ears.
- Something to hold hair back: A rubber band or clip for long hair can be a lifesaver when hair gets in the way! They don’t always have those around when you need one.
- Mints or gum for breath freshening: This is for your partner or any helpers that get close! In labor, smells can be easily annoying or even overpowering, so keep it fresh.
- Garden kneeling cushion: This is a little cushioned pad that gardeners use so they can kneel while working in the garden. This can be handy for getting into certain labor positions on the floor if you need to.
- Something to pass the time: Depending on your situation, there might be some boredom in labor, especially in the case of epidurals. The pain is gone, we’re stuck in bed, and there might just be a lot of waiting to do until it’s time to push.
- Lotion and lip balm
- Snacks: Nutritious choices will help! This is your labor fuel. You want to feel good and you want it to last. Sometimes snacking is discouraged, but more and more often now it is encouraged, so bring healthy and delicious options just in case. You know what they say about hospital food.
- Battery-powered candles, string lights, or a plug-in night light: I love great lighting. When I walk into a room with super bright overhead lights, I definitely DON’T feel relaxed and comfortable. Your labor and delivery room is a temporary home and sanctuary. You want to feel good there. A little warm lighting can go a long way.
- Your pillows and blankets: Hospitals and birth centers provide pillows and blankets, but they might not be your favorite kind. Again, this is your temporary home and you should feel relaxed and comfortable.
- Slippers: Most hospitals provide at least skid-proof socks, but you might like to bring your own slippers for walking around.
- Massage tools: Massage can have a powerful benefit when coping with labor pain. If you have someone helping you with massage, sometimes tools can be very useful. That might be fancy battery-powered tools, or even just a couple of tennis balls.
- Plastic sandals/shower shoes: A lot of people like to slip out of slippers and into shower shoes when getting in the water. Showers can be really helpful for labor pain and of course for getting clean!
- Big soft towels for showers: Towels are provided, but sometimes they are too small or too rough, so if you like a big soft towel you will need to bring your own.
- Rebozo or substitute: A rebozo is a very useful labor tool that can help with pain and discomfort and even with fetal positioning. If you like the idea of trying some of those techniques, bring one. If you don’t have access to an actual rebozo, try using a big scarf, sofa throw blanket or twin-size sheet.
- Aromatherapy products/essential oils: It might smell great where you’re laboring, or it might not. Either way, smells can be a powerful way to help us feel different. Do you need to feel relaxed? I bet you can find a smell for that. Do you need to feel more alert and energized? There’s a smell for that too! Essential oils come in tiny bottles and you can pretty much find any smell you’d like. There are a few that are not recommended for pregnancy, so avoid those, but if you’re just smelling them, they’re almost all safe.
Recovery Packing List
- Extra bag or extra large suitcase with some empty space: You will likely be given some more stuff to take home, so you’ll want to make sure you have somewhere to put it!
- Sleep nursing bra: This is a nursing bra that is so comfortable you can sleep in it. These are perfect because the fit doesn’t need to be perfect. They usually come in S, M, and L. You don’t want to buy an expensive nursing bra that needs to fit just right until about 2 weeks after giving birth. At that point your breasts will have stopped changing so much.
- Nursing pajamas or gown: These outfits make it easier to breastfeed without the need to totally undress or cover up. When you’re first learning, anything to make it easier will be welcome. These might be your “outfits” for your days in recovery.
- An outfit to wear home: Sounds simple, but a postpartum body is WEIRD! You might consider taking a dress option. Our bellies don’t shrink immediately, but they do change shape and get softer. It can be hard to make pants fit during this transition stage. If you have a cesarean, waistbands might also be very uncomfortable.
- Gel nipple pads: These are not a necessity, but many people find them to be soothing for sore nipples.
- Postpartum recovery underwear: Hospitals and birth centers usually provide some VERY stretchy mesh underwear for you to use. They’re large enough for the weird bellies and for the large pads we need to wear at first. They’re also quite comfortable for most people. They are not attractive. If that is important to you, you may look for some of your own. They also may not give you enough so you can avoid doing your laundry every day.
- Robe: For extra warmth, comfort or coverage.
- Eye mask: To block light so you can sleep better
- Ear plugs: To block sound so you can sleep better while someone else is there taking care of the baby.
- Baby book: If you plan to collect a footprint for your baby book, it’s a great tip to bring it with you. When they collect a footprint for the paperwork, you can ask them to put one in your book too!
- Journal: Writing down your thoughts, experiences, and feelings is great for so many reasons. Your birth story will be fresh right after your baby is born, but you might quickly forget the details. Someday, you might be very glad that you wrote it down.
- Peri-bottle: Hospitals and birth centers usually provide a squirt bottle to help you rinse off “down there” after birth. There are a lot of great reasons for this. Wiping feels terrible and you want the area to be VERY clean and lint-free. Also, peeing might hurt at first, and spraying with water while you pee, helps. Unfortunately, the squirt bottles are a little awkward to use. A Peri-bottle is designed to spray upside down which makes it much easier.
- Belly band/maternity belt (maternity compression): These are often provided to you, but sometimes not. When they are provided, they are often cheap and uncomfortable. Good quality bands and belts can make a big difference. When they’re uncomfortable we just don’t wear them and can’t get the benefits. These are often considered medical equipment and might be covered by your insurance company, so shop around and see what’s out there. You might like to start wearing one shortly after giving birth if it helps you feel better and they can often help us recover better and more quickly.
What to Pack for the Baby
- Car seat: You definitely want to have the car seat in your car and properly installed before you go to the hospital to give birth. You don’t have to take it in with you though. People are usually advised to leave it in the car. They do take up a lot of space, and you won’t need it until you get in your car to go home.
- Blankets/swaddles: If you have a blanket you plan to use for swaddling, take it with you! Nurses and midwives can often show you how to do a great swaddle, and it might be just what your baby likes.
- Clothes to wear home: Your baby might not need any clothes while you’re snuggling them skin-to-skin constantly those first few days, but you’ll probably want to put something on to go home in. Make sure you check the weather before you pack. Is it going to be really cold or really hot? You want to make sure your baby is dressed comfortably for the weather.
- Hat and socks: When it’s cold, babies usually need a hat and socks at least. You’ll likely be given some by the hospital or birth center, but they are not usually very good quality. They fall off! For less frustration, you might want to bring some good ones that will stay on.
- Nursing pillow: If you have one of these waiting to be used, bring it! Lactation consultants especially like this, because they can offer you help and advice using the tools you plan to use at home when you’re on your own.
- Nail clippers: Baby nails are tiny but often sharp. They don’t have a lot of muscle control yet and they tend to scratch themselves if their nails are not kept short. For a lot of us, using clippers to trim those tiny delicate nails is very intimidating. Bring them with you, and a nurse might be able to show you how to do it safely and easily.
This probably seems like a lot of stuff, and it is! You might prefer to keep it simple and light, or just pack the things you need for labor and birth to take with you. Then you can ask someone to bring the rest for you later, or ask your partner to go home and get it after the baby is born.
Download our Hospital Packing list and be sure to check out our classes to make sure you’re ready for the big day!
Our articles are not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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