You’re nine months along, baby’s due any day, and the light is officially at the end of the pregnancy tunnel. The nursery is set up, the car seat installed (hopefully) properly in the car, tiny onesies are folded in the dresser, and you’re fielding “any baby news?” texts from well-meaning friends.
Now all that’s left to do is pack the hospital bag.
This part may seem like a no-brainer, but it can actually be more daunting than it seems. There’s a perfect balance between too much and not enough stuff. You don’t want to show up at the hospital with seven rolling suitcases, any more than you want to wind up with only a duffel bag that’s missing a crucial necessity you didn’t realize you needed.
Most moms-to-be know to pack a change of clothes, a toothbrush, their baby’s coming home outfit and a couple swaddles. You’ve a water bottle, extra hair elastics, sweat pants for the ride home, and a brand new nursing bra.
But what about the must-haves that don’t occur to first-time mamas to stash in their bags? We reached out to new moms to see what more obscure items they wished they had had during their first labour and delivery. These 15 items topped the list:
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15 Soft Toilet Paper
It’s no surprise here, but hospitals operate on a very strict budget, which means low-cost, bulk-bought supplies (think of the slop that passes for food).
Included in that list is toilet paper. The quality of the stuff you use to wipe your nether regions may not be something you pay much attention to in your day-to-day life. But once a baby has dramatically entered the world through said nether regions, the thin, crispy, sandpaper-like material that passes for hospital toilet paper will simply not do.
Before packing your hospital bag, head to the pharmacy and grab the most luxurious, velvety three-ply toilet paper you can find. Stash a roll of it in your hospital bag, and don’t let anyone else lay their hands on it. Your lady parts will thank you.
14 Pillows From Home
Hospital pillows are glorified pancakes stuffed inside paper-thin and heavily bleached pillowcases. If you’re lucky, your bed will come with one such pancake, and you may be able to convince your nurse or midwife to score a second one. Neither will be sufficient, especially after going through the ordeal of childbirth.
You deserve more than a pancake as you recover from bringing forth new life. Not only do you want to be comfortable in that narrow rubbery hospital bed, but it’s also nice to have something from home.
Bring at least two pillows from home – maybe even a third for your spouse, if you can manage the load. Steer clear of white pillowcases, as your pillow could easily get mixed up with the hospital ones, never to be seen again. And guard these fluffy luxury items with your life.
13 Slippers, For Pacing The Halls
There’s nothing like stripping down to your birthday suit and then putting on a paper dressing gown (that opens at the back!) to make a labouring mom feel totally exposed and chilly.
Hospitals are not the coziest places in the world. They’re a safe and practical place to give birth, but the experience can feel sterile and cold. Something as simple as a pair of cozy slippers can make all the difference.
That’s because you may find yourself walking up and down the halls for hours. And no matter how you give birth – vaginal, c-section, epidural or drug-free – you’re going to spend some time recovering in a hospital bed with a thin sheet over your shivering body.
The best slippers for the hospital are ones with enough cushion that they’re comfortable for walking around, but with soft soles so you can wear them in bed – like a moccasin, or fuzzy ballet flat-style slipper.
12 Moisturizer And Lip Balm
Okay, so a full palette might be overkill by most women’s standards – even for those who want to look a bit pulled together for photos after baby is born. But there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of gloss or blush to make you feel human after the ordeal of giving birth.
At the very least, make sure you pack some lip balm and hand moisturizer. You know how dry your skin gets when flying on a plane? Hospitals are much the same.
In fact, some basic toiletries will go a long way to making you feel renewed and refreshed, so pack a collapsible brush, toothbrush and toothpaste, and carry-on sized shampoo and conditioner. You may be one of those lucky mamas who aren’t in the hospital long enough to ever need to brush your teeth or take a shower. But the lip balm will come in handy. We guarantee it.
11 Jumbo Pads
Remember that period you haven’t had for nine months? Well, it’s going to come back in full force as soon as baby is out.
This was totally news to me, and I was completely unprepared for the floodgates to open after giving birth. A kind nurse took pity on me, and supplied me with a puppy pee pad until my husband could get himself to the pharmacy to pick up a pack of ultra mega jumbo overnight pads.
Some hospitals provide new moms with mesh underwear that have humongous pads already in them, but many don’t. Hence the puppy pads. So grab yourself a pack of those mega pads from the feminine hygiene aisle – the ones that always made you wonder: “Who the heck needs those giant glorified diapers?” The answers is: You do.
10 Change For Emergency Snacks
We showed up in labour with our first baby just as the hospital cafeteria was closing, and delivered before it opened again the next day. Normally, going all night without something to eat isn’t a big deal because you’re, well, asleep.
But if you’re spending all night awake and in labour, you and your partner will likely have a hankering for something to eat. And a jaunt to the local drive-through probably won’t be in the cards.
Luckily, most hospitals have flights of vending machines stocked with snacks and, if you’re lucky, coffee. Find out ahead of time what change they take, and bring lots. There’s nothing better than a bag of Bugles or single-bite brownies at 2 a.m., especially if all you brought for yourself are healthy options like nuts and fruit. Helpful hint: in the midst of labour, Gatorade will be the most delicious thing you’ve ever had. So pack a couple bottles of your favourite flavour, too.
9 A Nice Big Towel
I remember my first post-baby shower. It was in that icky shared hospital bathroom with the salmon-pink floor-to-ceiling tiling, and quivering fluorescent lighting reminiscent of the showers in university dorms.
We thought we were clever packing light, which meant not bothering with shower necessities, including a towel. Well, the grey, scratchy, glorified hand towel my nurse begrudgingly found for me in the depths of some storage closet didn’t come remotely close to covering my swollen, sore, post-delivery body.
I remember glancing in the mirror in horror at what had become of my body and wanting nothing more than to wrap myself in an oversized, dryer-warmed terrycloth bath robe. Now, I’m not advocating showing up with a bathrobe in your hospital bag (although, all the power to you if you do this), but at the very least, bring a nice big fluffy towel from home.
8 Next-Size-Up Diapers (And Lots Of Them)
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget this baby necessity if you’re not used to packing for a newborn. And don’t assume the hospital will have enough on hand for you.
Many hospitals provide new parents with a welcome kit (sometimes for a fee), but they usually only contain a few of the basics like newborn diapers, wipes and a couple pads for mom. If you’re in the hospital for more than a few hours, those couple diapers could get used up pretty quickly.
You may also be surprised to find you’ve given birth to a big baby – and that may mean that your jumbo box of newborn diapers never actually fit. So pack a variety of sizes, just in case, and enough for at least three day’s stay in hospital.
7 Music And Magazines
You may be one of those women who are blessed with a quick and relatively easy birth. You show up to the hospital at noon, you’re pushing at 1, baby is in your arms by 1:30. Wham, bam thank you ma’am.
Or, you may be like me, stuck in hospital for 12 hours waiting for things to progress at a snail’s pace, bored out of your mind post-epidural and cursing your husband for snoring in the corner.
Just in case you fall into the latter category, plan for some down time. Which means a couple trashy magazines, an iPad with some movies downloaded to it, and some sweet tunes to get you through a) the boring parts of labour, or b) the stressful parts, wherein a kick-butt labour mix might really help your mood. We brought cards, our iPod and a small speaker to get us through the waiting game. And it was perfect.
6 Phone Chargers (For All Those Selfies)
You don’t know when you’re going to have to make a B-line for the hospital, or whether your phone or your spouse’s will be sufficiently charged when the time comes.
Imagine showing up to labour and delivery with two nearly-dead phone batteries and no way of taking pictures or calling family (I mean, who has change for a pay phone these days – if you can even find a pay phone?).
Go dig up your back-up BACK-up phone charger, the one you got with your phone three phones ago, and pack it in your hospital bag along with an outlet adapter. That way you’ll be selfie ready, Facebook update ready, Instagram ready, and baby ready. With no panicked trips home for your spouse to grab a phone charger.
5 Nursing Pillow
This may seem like a bulky and cumbersome thing to lug through the labyrinth of your hospital on your way to the maternity floor, but you’ll be glad you did.
Not all places provide nursing pillows to new moms, and those hospital-issue pancake pillows are a sub-par alternative to a nice, overstuffed nursing pillow – especially if you’re dealing with down-there stitches, a c-section incision, or just general exhaustion.
If it seems like too much to bring with you while you’re in labour, leave it in the car along with your car seat and the baby’s bag, and your spouse can go fetch it after baby is born. You may think that you can make do for a couple of hours or days until you go back home, but why suffer?
4 Something For Dad To Sleep On
Considering most parents spend at least 24 hours in hospital over the course of their labour, delivery and recovery, it’s surprising that more hospitals don’t provide the non-labouring spouse more than just a stiff waiting room chair.
Some rooms do have window seats or benches to lay down on, but they’re not much more comfy than a church pew, and certainly don’t come with bedding.
Most partners will want to catch some sleep in the hospital, and that’s a pretty uncomfortable endeavor for many of them. So don’t forget your spouse when packing for the hospital. Grab an extra pillow and a blanket, and get them to pack some basic necessities like sweatpants, a change of clothes, and toiletries. They’re spending just as much time in the hospital as you are, and are likely not getting much more sleep.
3 Something Nicer Than A Hospital Gown
A hospital gown is a perfectly acceptable piece of clothing for active labour and delivery. You’re not going to care too much what you look like, so long as you are comfortable.
But once baby is born, especially if you are spending a few hours or days in hospital and expect some visitors, you’re going to want something a little … nicer.
The tricky part is finding exactly the right thing to wear – something that’s light and comfy, covers you up when you have visitors in the room, but is also easy for nursing.
A nightdress or oversized PJ shirt that does up at the front – like one with buttons – is perfect for nursing, and if you can find one that isn’t inspired by Granny fashion, that’s a bonus. For mamas who are a bit more discerning, there are lots of beautiful maternity kimonos specially designed to be worn at the hospital. So you can feel a little bit pulled together after being pulled apart.
2 Crappy Underwear
Granny panties are a must in your hospital bag, for a couple reasons.
The underwear that fit you during the last months of your pregnancy suddenly aren’t going to fit, and neither will your pre-pregnancy undies. If you’ve had a C-section, you’re going to want something that comes above your incision. And you’re also going to be bleeding, so you’re not going to want to wear any undies that you aren’t willing to throw away on your way home from the hospital.
Head to Walmart or Target and get a pack of cheapo granny panties a size smaller than you were wearing when you were pregnant, and a size bigger than you wore pre-pregnancy. Opt for a dark colour, too.
1 Post-delivery Power Food
Our biggest celebrations and parties always come with an amazing spread of food, so why should childbirth be any different?
There’s no need to wait until you get home to enjoy your first real, good post-delivery meal. Especially considering how dreadful most hospital food is (and trust me, the food at the cafeteria and lobby coffee shop are no better). So pack some indulgent post-labour, energy-boosting treats: Granola bars and chocolate, a double-thick nut butter sandwich and, my personal fave: a can of Guinness.
Most maternity floors and birthing centres will have a tiny kitchenette with – at the very least – a little fridge and a microwave. Make sure you label all your goodies, or they’re likely to disappear. Then bring out the food, and celebrate to the new little person you just welcomed into the world!