How you choose to give birth may be a very personal choice, but so is what you decide to pack in your hospital bag for the big day!
This post isn’t a checklist for what you need to bring, because everyone is different and what worked for me may not be right for you.
So, I’m going to discuss 6 tips for making informed choices about what to bring in your hospital bag(s).
This is relevant to anyone giving birth, even if you plan to have your baby at home. Sometimes things don’t go according to what we hope for, and if you end up at the hospital, you’ll be glad you had a bag packed just in case!
Let’s jump in!
#1 Get to know yourself better
Packing your bags is so much easier if you really know what you’ll need to have a more comfortable and pleasant experience during and after birth.
Look up checklists and watch YouTube videos of what other people say you need in your bags and what they brought in their own. This can spur ideas about what you need and remind you of things you may be overlooking.
Just don’t consider them the end all be all of packing your hospital bag.
If you see a bunch of resources telling you to bring dry shampoo because they say you won’t want to shower, but you hate dry shampoo and prefer to shower every day, trust yourself. Childbirth may be a new experience to you, but you aren’t new; your preferences probably won’t change.
So, take the essence of online packing lists and apply them to your situation. Pay attention to why someone tells you to bring certain things, and decide if that’s the best solution for you, or if something else would work better. You’ll stand a better chance of only bringing what’s important to you.
Related reading: Prepare for Labor by Getting to Know Yourself
#2 Find out what your hospital provides for you and baby
If you’re in the United States, chances are good that your hospital provides diapers, wipes, maternal pads, mesh undies, and all those sorts of things. They probably provide breast pumps you can rent or borrow if you need one.
Double check what they provide for you and baby, though. Then, consider whether you want to use what’s provided, or if you’d prefer to use some of your own things. For example, your hospital may provide mesh panties and gigantic pads, but maybe you’d feel more comfortable in your own undies and thinner pads.
#3 Find out what, if anything, the hospital provides for your partner
While providing for you and baby is almost a given, providing for your partner is totally optional, and as far as I can tell, pretty rare.
Chances are, you’ll need to bring some bedding for your partner to be comfortable on their couch bed (including a pillow). They’ll probably be responsible for their own food.
Find out what resources are available. Does the hospital have a microwave in the unit? A vending machine that sells cups of ravioli and soup, or only candy and chips? Should you bring protein bars? What are the hospital cafeteria hours? Should you make arrangements if your partner is hungry outside of those hours? Designate someone to bring outside food in?
#4 Pack for the unexpected
This post isn’t a checklist, but here’s where I’m going to strongly suggest you bring two particular things with you.
Item #1: 2-4 days’ worth of extra clothes for you and your partner (which you keep in the car unless you need it)
If you have an unexpected NICU stay like I did, you’ll be on a busy and rigid feeding schedule. Every minute will count as you try to cram in more than 2 hours can handle.
Talking on the phone with someone who’s at your house trying to locate stuff you need them to bring eats away from time spent sleeping, or with your baby, or squeezing in your own meals. It might not seem like much, but every little thing can be overwhelming when you have so much on your plate.
Even without a stint in the NICU, there are other reasons you could end up staying longer than expected and could need your extra bag. Or, maybe you just didn’t pack enough. Extra clothes are great to have in case you need or want them.
Item #2: Lotion
If you have a NICU baby, you’re going to want lotion. The hand washing is real. Scrubbing for 30 seconds all the way up to your elbows, with hospital soap, every time you enter the NICU. For me, my skin was physically hurting by the third time we scrubbed in.
In any case, hospitals are dry and lotion is nice to have.
Hopefully you won’t need these items like I did, but if you do need or want them for some reason, they’re right there for you!
#5 Pack for your labor, not just for postpartum
If you’ve gotten to know yourself to prepare for labor and delivery, you might know of extra items you want to pack to make your birthing experience more personal and comfortable.
I had a duffel bag packed with labor and delivery items and important paperwork, and that’s all we brought into the hospital before our baby was born.
In the duffel, I packed things like headphones, a back massager, an extra sports bra, a folder with our birth plan and copies of our ID’s and insurance card, and a few other things I thought would make labor and delivery a better experience.
Pack your clothes and toiletries and everything you need to stay at the hospital, but don’t forget about the things you need before your baby is born. Keeping these in a separate bag can make checking in a little easier, too.
#6 Make a list of last-minute items to pack
After you’ve packed all you can, make a list—on paper—of all the things you can’t pack ahead of time, and include descriptions of where these items are kept.
When it’s go-time, you may not be in the best frame of mind. If you don’t have a written list, you can easily forget important items! If you write it all down, all you have to do is follow a checklist.
Additionally, if you don’t have time to finish packing, you can send someone to bring what you need, and all they have to do is follow your list, where you’ve already told them where to find your stuff.
Post your list on the fridge or the inside of your front door, and consider hanging a reusable bag or some other container right below it; then you can just chuck everything into the bag and go (or the person grabbing your stuff can have a bag right there, ready to go, without you having to tell them where to find one).
You might also consider keeping a spare key outside; if someone’s headed to your home, it’ll save some time and gas compared to them meeting you first to get a house key.
A smoother packing process
I hope these tips help guide your packing process! Putting some thought into what you truly need and what you don’t can really make putting together your hospital bags easier.
At the end of the day, if you forget something or bring things you don’t use, don’t stress! Take it all in stride and enjoy your baby and your birth experience.
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