Pack Your Bags!
You might be having nightmares of yourself rushing out the door for the hospital or birth center and leaving behind the bags you spent hours packing so carefully. Will those bags really define your birth experience? What do you really need to pack, and what can you leave behind?
Many of the items packed in birth bags remain unused. That’s OK. How can you know exactly what you’ll use during labor until you’re in the moment? In fact, it’s best not to pack away all your comforts, such as a tennis ball for massage or a rice sack for soothing heat, as you may use these while you labor at home. If you are planning a home birth, keep a list of the items you will want, so it’s easy to gather them if you transfer to a hospital in labor.
Be flexible about what you might want in labor. While music may sound relaxing now, when you’re deep in the throes of labor, it may become irritating or you may not even notice it. Or, you may find that a certain track becomes your focal point and you insist that it be played over and over again. Expect your needs to change throughout labor and pack accordingly.
Think about practical items you may use, such as a brush and hair band for keeping your hair off your face. Also include a few luxuries—perhaps you’ll relish your most comfortable pair of pajamas (for resting after the birth) and your favorite pillow. Consider items that support movement throughout labor, such as soft slippers to pamper your feet while walking on bare floors and a birth ball for sitting, leaning or rocking. Massage oil will help your labor partner provide soothing touch during labor.
Depending on the place where you plan to give birth, you also may need or want to pack some food. Miso soup, chicken broth or a smoothie can boost your energy in labor, or try crackers with peanut butter, banana or apple slices. Pack energy bars, fruit snacks or other quick foods for your partner.
To make searching for packed items easier, use a separate bag for after the baby’s birth. This bag will contain your toiletries, a loose-fitting outfit for your trip home, an outfit for your newborn to wear home (including socks and hat) and a receiving blanket.
No matter what you pack, know that none of these items are necessary for giving birth. Some of the things may support the birth process. They may facilitate continuous labor support and your freedom to move in labor. Remember that all you really need is the freedom and support to listen and respond to your body’s cues. The power to give birth is in you.
Below you will find a list of suggestions offered up from moms who have given birth.
- Outfit/gown/skirt & bra/oversized shirt to birth in if you prefer not to use the standard hospital gown
- Socks or slippers
- Lanolin for breastfeeding nipple TLC
- Nursing bras or tank (some women prefer to go without while learning)
- Nursing pads (you will most likely not leak until your milk is in, which may not happen until you are at home; but if you have an extended hospital stay beyond 2 days, you may need them)
- Nursing pillow (if you forget it, extra hospital pillows work fine too)
- Toiletries: shampoo & soap, brush, make up, hair dryer, lotion, chapstick, tooth brush & toothpaste
- Towel (hospital towels are notoriously small and scratchy; but you may not care!)
- Personal pillow or pillow case (hospital pillows are thin; if you bring your own, be sure to use anything but a white pillowcase so as not to get it mixed up with the hospital's)
- Clothes/robe/night gown for recovery period (you'll most likely want out of the awful hospital gown asap!)
- Clothes to leave in (something loose fitting, like the maternity clothes you wore at around 6 months pregnant)
- Underwear -- if the thought of hospital-provided mesh undies makes you cringe, bring cheap cotton, stretchy, dark colored underwear that you won't mind throwing away in a couple of weeks
- LEAVE your pads at home; the hospital will provide these
- Flip flops for showing (if showering in a public place bothers you)
- Snacks (for labor and postpartum)
- Small fan for white noise (this may be helpful if you are in an especially noisy part of the hospital)
- Baby book
- Folder for baby's paperwork
- Electronics: phone & charger, camera + batteries, iPad, laptop, iPod for labor music
- Before you leave, ask for more supplies to take home: mesh underwear, peri bottles, witch hazel, baby wipes and diapers, and whatever else that is provided "free" to you that you think you may need more of
- Blanket (the hospital should have one, but it may be small, scratchy and thin)
- Pillow (the hospital should have extras, but they may be small and thin)
- Change of clothes (labor can get messy, even for partners!)
- Change for vending machine snacks
- Air mattress (many hospitals have a pull out couch, but some don't)
- Toiletries (at least a toothbrush!)
- Token thank-you gifts, like sweets or muffins, for nurses (not necessary, but always appreciated)
- Going-home outfit (hospitals offer outfits for baby during your stay -- best to use them as they tend to get messy!)
- Going-home blanket (hospitals provide blankets during your stay)
- LEAVE diapers and wipes at home; the hospital provides these during your stay