This post is for all the Mommas who’ve asked me over the years, “What should I pack for the hospital?” But it’s especially for two particular Mommas who asked me over the weekend. One posed this question during an express class and I didn’t have time to get into my list, so I directed her to the one that was in her book. The other asked me on the tour if I had the info I was sharing with the group in written form. I promised that if she checked out my blog this week, I’d have it in writing for her. And I don’t go back on my promises.
So here, without further ado, is the world’s most practical packing list of things to consider packing for labor, delivery and postpartum. This is not comprehensive, these are just things that I know will get used and -bonus! – you probably already have them all.
Grab two separate bags – one will be for labor and delivery and one will be for postpartum and can stay in the trunk of your car until after the baby is born.
Pack your postpartum bag first – this one’s easy. It’s whatever you and your partner would normally pack if you were to go away together for a long weekend. All the toiletries you’ll need and comfy clothes that you’d like to wear while getting to know your newborn. The hospital usually provides nursing gowns, “special” undies, and the monster pads that you’ll be wearing for the first couple of days, so unless you have personal issues with wearing these, I’d just let the hospital worry about it.
But for going home, Mommas will want to pack something they wore when they were about six months pregnant – something that is loose and comfortable. You’ll lose a lot of weight according to the scale after you give birth, it just won’t look like you have. Remember: It took nine months to put the belly on, please be gentle and give yourself nine months to a year to take that belly off.
The only thing you should need to pack for your baby is an outfit for them to go home in. And, then… a back-up outfit. They almost always decide to do a huge poop as you’re trying to leave the hospital and you’ll have to change everything and put them into something new.
As for the “Labor and Delivery Comfort Bag,” don’t think you have to bring different lotions and massage tools. You shouldn’t have to go out and buy a bunch of stuff – it’s completely unnecessary. What you’ll end up using you probably already have. While I think it’s fine for the Momma to gather all the items for this bag, it’s better if partner packs it so they know what’s coming to the hospital and where it is in the bag. Once you’re admitted to a room on the L&D floor, partner needs to make sure to unpack the bag, or you won’t remember to use anything you’ve brought with you.
Things to consider:
A way to hold your hair off your face. Even if you only have bangs, you might want them out of your face and eyes.
What do you want to wear in labor? The advantage to using the sexy hospital gowns (with the open-air option in the back – ooh, la, la!) is that there are a million of them and if one gets dirty you can always put on a new, clean one. Birth is messy business. But if putting on a hospital gown will make you feel like a sick person, then wear something from home instead. Just make it something you won’t mind getting rid of after birth – because it will probably end up in the trash can.
Laboring Mommas get overheated during the pushing stage and their heart rate can mimic that of their baby in utero climbing somewhere between 130-160 beats per minute. It’s not unusual for women to take off their gowns because they’re so hot. If you’d like a little more coverage, a sports bra (that you don’t care about) under whatever it is you’re wearing would be a great idea. The quickest way to get your baby on your chest, skin-to-skin, after birth would be to cut the bra off, because trying to wrestle out of a hot, sweaty sports bra is like giving birth – and we’re only doing that once, if we can help it.
Moving onto partners: pack some good quick snacks you can grab to eat that will sustain you and help you help her throughout the birth. You can’t tell a Momma in active labor, “I’ll be right back! I’m just going to jet down to the cafeteria to grab something to eat. I’ll be back in about a half hour.” Not unless you want to hear about this for the rest of your life.
Pack a swimsuit for yourself. Every laboring Momma should be planning on using hydrotherapy (a fancy word for the shower or tub) to help her cope with contractions. Depending on the size of the tub, you might be able to get in with her. But you’ll definitely both be able to fit in the shower together and your nurses will continue to check on Momma’s progress. They’re super comfortable with naked pregnant people, but wildly uncomfortable with naked non-pregnant people! Cover up.
You’ll want to bring toiletry supplies, including glasses, contacts, a toothbrush and toothpaste for you both: Mommas will sometimes throw up late in labor and nobody likes barf breath. If you, dear partner, have eaten nacho cheese Doritos in the past six-eight weeks, she’ll be able to smell it on your breath. Don’t let that be the reason she’s throwing up!
Throw a hoodie into this bag, because her temperature might be all over the place during labor and you’ll appreciate being able to put on and take off an extra layer.
Mommas might feel overheated, but still have cold feet. Warm socks or slippers would be a good idea. The floors in hospitals are cleaned several times a day and are a lot cleaner than your floors at home, but they are hospital floors. Wear some sort of foot covering.
Pillows from home will be appreciated both during and after birth. Hospital pillows suck – they’re good for propping you up in the tub, but not much else. Your pillows will smell like home, which can be extra soothing, and will help get you better situated for breastfeeding on the other side. Make sure they’re coming in bright pillowcases so the hospital doesn’t mistake them as part of their stash.
Lip goop is a necessity! It seems inconsequential, but can become a huge irritant during birth if she’s using breathing as the great coping technique that it is, and her lips become dry and chapped.
Last, but absolutely not least, remember to make your “Birth Mix.” Yep, I’m talking about taking the time to come up with the playlist of music that you love and would want to listen to as you’re giving birth to your baby – the emphasis here is: music that you love. If you love Enya, or whale mating calls, or songs from the rainforest, then by all means make that mix. But if that’s not for you, remember there’s nothing that says you can’t rock out to whatever music you really enjoy. Quiet and mellow music has it’s place in labor – but so does AC/DC. You’ll want to have a mix of music to chill to and music to move to so that when it’s required, you can change the energy in the room.
And some sing-along music is a great idea, too. If you open your mouth in between contractions to sing the chorus of your favorite song, it’s really hard to stay tensed up. If your jaw is open, your cervix is opening. If your jaw is clenched tight, so’s your cervix. It’s called the “Sphincter Law.” I didn’t come up with this, renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin did. And here’s what she has to say: “The state of relaxation of the mouth and jaw is directly correlated to the ability of the cervix, the vagina, and the anus to open to full capacity. A relaxed and open mouth favors a more open vagina and cervix.” Something to think about, for sure.
As for any other items you want to bring with you – go for it. This is just a list of what I consider the absolute basics and extremely practical things to consider when packing your “Go Bag.” As a Momma of four, I’m nothing if not practical.
Are there things that I’ve missed? What other (practical) items would you consider essential to the labor and delivery bag? I’d love to hear what you think should be added.