Help! What should I pack in my hospital bag for labour?
This is a question I get asked a lot so I thought I would share the insights of some of the parents I have worked with and what they found useful to have with them when they went into labour.
Like packing for a holiday, it’s subjective, so feel free to add and alter as you see fit. Please leave any other ideas in the comments to help other parents.
It is useful to have your hospital bag packed at least 2 weeks before your due date, so it is good to go if you need it. If you are having a home-birth, it is recommended you pack a 'transfer bag' just incase you need to go to hospital at any point during or after birth.
BIRTH PARTNERS - LISTEN UP! This bit is for you .....
When it comes to the birth bag, get involved. It is likely to be you who is having to go looking for things in the bag so consider packing it yourself so you know what's in it, or do it together so you know where everything is.
Labour wards are notoriously warm so make sure you have a change of clothes especially if you arrive with mum at hospital in your winter woolies. Having a t-shirt and even shorts to change into can be good.
Consider anything else you might need to take care of yourself. You can't support mum if you are feeling hot, hungry, thirsty, have a sore head etc. Make sure there are some snacks for you and maybe some toiletries so you can freshen up a bit. Don't forget any medication you might take too incase you are in hospital for while.
Maybe consider a birth partner 'go-bag' just for your bits
KEEPING YOURSELF ENTERTAINED
Geez Joy, I am going to be in labour, what do you mean about entertainment!
OK, peddle back a little bit ....
Imagine you have been asked to arrive at hospital for a planned induction of labour or caesarean and your slot has been moved or they are running late. Perhaps having a book to read or a movie to watch on an iPad or your phone would be a useful distraction. I have known clients take a pack of cards, a good book or similar to pass the time. Some headphones could be useful too if you want to listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks.
Birth partners .... opiate pain management can make mum sleepy so if mum is resting you might want something to do to keep yourself calm.
PERSONAL COMFORT - WHAT TO WEAR DURING LABOUR
Labour wards are warm! so think something lightweight, loose and comfortable. Also, consider would you mind if your clothing got stained or you had to leave it behind at hospital. Perhaps don't take your favourite nightie. You could choose:
Bra and floaty skirt
Tankini / bikini if using water / birth pool
You may choose to labour and birth in the buff!
Fluffy socks / socks with rubber bits on the bottom or some slippers
PERSONAL COMFORT - COULD BE USEFUL DURING LABOUR
Glasses can be easier to work with than contact lenses
Toiletries: deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, face-wash, moisturiser etc.
Hair tie / hair band
Hand-held-fan or ways to keep cool
Snacks (cereal bars, jelly babies, glucose tablets, grapes)
Drink (bottle of water or sports drinks like Lucozade)
Drinking straws - straws can make drinking easier depending what position you are labouring in.
Headphones for zoning out to music / hypnobirthing
Earplugs for zoning out to the world
Towel - if you want to use your own if you use water during your labour
ENHANCING YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Your own pillow / blanket that smells of your fabric softener and home. (Just make sure it is not white as all hospital laundry is white!)
Hypnobirthing anchors / affirmations if you have been using them
Your own birth ball if it is pumped up how you like it
St Johns Hospital, Livingston, West Lothian.
POSTNATAL WARD IDEAS
If you have had a straightforward birth and you and your baby are well, your stay in hospital may only be 24-48 hours. If your stay in hospital is longer, don't forget your birth partner will be popping home so they can always pick up extra items if needed to save you taking lots to the hospital. Perhaps put a pile of ‘spare things’ out on a spare bed so they can be grabbed if needed.
Something to wear on the ward at night
Comfortable clothes for the day - PJs, trackie-bottoms and top, skirts or trousers with an elasticated waist, maternity trousers/skirts.
Lightweight tops - suitable for breastfeeding if needed
Lightweight dressing gown / hoodie / cardigan – something just to chuck on if needed
Slippers or shoes for the ward.
Flipflops / pool shoes for the showers depending how you feel about going bare foot.
Towel for the shower
Maternity bras / feeding bras
Comfortable underwear – a pack of big “Bridget Jones” granny pants a couple of sizes bigger than your pre-pregnancy size
Maternity sanitary pads - a pack for your bag
Breast pads - you may need a few changes a day
Something you feel comfortable enough to travel home in
NB: It is common for women postnatally to notice swelling in their hands and feet a day or so after-birth. This fluid retention will self-regulate but initially you may find wider shoes, slip on shoes, or something more loose fitting is comfortable.
POSTNATAL WARD ENTERTAINMENT / MISC
Earplugs can be handy if you are trying to rest and other people's babies are crying
Headphones if you want to listen to music / audiobooks / podcasts if your baby is sleeping
A book, magazine, other distractions
Some snacks incase you are peckish in-between hospital meal times.
Charger for phone /iPad
Money for phone / onsite facilities
Any other daily medications you ordinarily take
FOR YOUR BABY
Pack of nappies - disposables are often easier to use in a hospital setting
Packet of cotton wool balls for cleaning your baby
Formula milk if required
Basic baby essentials such as nappies, formula milk etc the hospital will have some so if you do not have these do not worry as they will not leave you without. It is just preferred you take your own.
A hat (might be used initially after birth as baby regulates their body temperature)
Scratch mitts - not essential, but one pair could be useful if baby has longer nails
(allows for some changes of clothes if needed) Maybe a couple of newborn sizes but the next size up often has more scope. )
Muslin squares - the go-to baby cloth for mopping up things
Baby blanket for taking baby home or if you want them wrapped in something special at the hospital
Seasonal clothing like a snowsuit/hat if needed
Car seat – again car seat and seasonal clothing / baby blankets could be kept in the car until needed
I hope that has given you some ideas. When you arrive at hospital, consider taking in just what you need for labour and birth and those initial few hours with your baby. Your birth partner can always go and retrieve items for the postnatal ward once you and your baby are all settled in.
NHS Fife have produced this information video which you might find helpful too.
Don't forget to share any hints, tips and comments for other parents below!
For more birth hints, tips and info, follow me on social media or join me and other local parents-to-be on The Complete Birth Prep Package plus Hypnobirthing
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