Probably one of the the most common question we get from clients and see on mommy group threads is "What should I pack in my hospital bag?" So we decided we would not only poll our own clients to find out what their favorite must-haves were, but we also decided to share our very own recommendations via the printable PDF checklist we usually only share with clients! (It's at the end of this post.)
The Hygenic Stuff. Believe it or not, Depends (yes, the adult incontinence garments) are top on the list of labor and postpartum must-haves. Of course, don't forget the other stuff--like your own soap, shampoo, grooming tools (do NOT forget your brush and hair ties!) and maybe a touch of makeup to make you feel human, but our clients LOVE Depends--specifically the Silhouettes brand which come in black, nude, and even purple. They are discreet, don't leak, and can just be tossed after use, reducing the amount of dirty laundry you have to take home with you! They also don't bunch up or press on the sensitive lady parts like pads do. (When Amber saw them at a recent birth she *almost* swore off underwear all together in favor of these things). Another top must-have is chapstick. "I remember my lips being so dry when I was breathing through contractions," our client Melissa says, so maybe toss a few tubes in your bag.
The Electronic Stuff. In the Information Age, electronics are now a necessity, especially at a time like the birth of your child. After all, your family might die of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) without your labor Snapchats, and you might want to Facebook Live yourself dancing in labor in an effort to go viral. And you HAVE to have a camera to take a TON of pictures, right? "My laptop was gold," Anna says. "We used it to watch movies and shows in early labor to keep us distracted." Also, a Bluetooth speaker is a great way to play your labor playlist. But don't forget all the requisite chargers for all your separate electronic items. Loryn suggests bringing a LONG charger cord or cordless charger in case the hospital outlets aren't conveniently located. "I never had a cord long enough to reach my bed in the middle of the night when I was nursing and needed my phone," she remembers.
The Environmental Stuff. If you've hired a doula, it's likely she will help you set up your labor space with lighting and music, but you can take that same labor vibe into your postpartum room using things like ambient lights and fans. "Take a small lamp," Chelsey recommends, "so you don't have to turn on the overhead light for middle of the night changes, and it's just more relaxing in the evening." Anyone who has birthed with us knows our absolute favorite must-have is a strand of white Christmas lights. "We brought [a strand of] lights and after delivery we put them up in the recovery room," Lauren says. "It was glorious and kept the room cozy and calm."
We love strands of lights because they add just enough light to the room at night to see what you're doing without disrupting sleep. We recommend a 20-35 bulb strand so it doesn't get too bright--Hobby Lobby & Walmart both carry them in the wedding section. Consider getting a strand for the room and one for the bathroom to keep the lighting dim and constant. This is SO important during birth and postpartum since bright lighting can disrupt the production of melatonin which contributes to the production of oxytocin, a hormone essential for labor, birth, and breastfeeding. Also, the hormones associated with labor and birth can make your body temperature during labor and postpartum shift from hot to cold at a moments' notice, and you may have little or no control over the room temperature, so a small clip-on or table top fan that you can easily move wherever you do is also a must-have.
The Clothing. It's totally easy to over pack on the clothing front. Our recommendation is to keep it simple and pack a few really comfortable, loose, easy-to-layer clothing items that are also easy to put on and take off. You may still have quite the baby bump even post-baby so don't pack anything that you are even slightly doubtful you will fit into. For labor, consider that you may be dealing with the cords involved with an IV, epidural, and monitors, so you may need to pack even less if you choose to use the hospital gown. There are plenty of options for buying your own, prettier, labor gown (like Pretty Pushers, which are sold locally by ShoMe Prenatal Imaging, or the ones carried by Latched Mama), but some moms may want to save those to change into after the birth so they don't get icky and messy during the birth process. Loryn says that she brought her own lightweight robe. "It made nursing super easy and it was quick to close when visitors came by. It also made those 15-minute-long bathroom visits easy to manage."
Don't forget to pack clothing for your partner and the baby, but once again, keep it simple--two or three changes of clothing are usually enough. You aren't packing for a week-long cruise to the Bahamas, after all (although I am sure all moms everywhere wish this were the case).
The Linens. It's so nice to use the hospital linens during the birth process, not only because you may go through fourteen sheets and sixty-five towels in between trips back and forth from the bathtub to the bed, but also because (like the hospital gown) you just don't have to worry about all those bodily fluids ruining your favorite pillow or blanket. BUT sometimes, a familiar bedding item can really help increase your oxytocin levels (sensory input is also a necessary part of labor efficiency) and just make your room more comfy. For labor, we suggest one or two favorite bedding items that you wouldn't be distraught over if they got doused in amniotic fluid. But for postpartum, bringing your own pillow, blanket, and towel can be really helpful. "Those hospital towels = sandpaper and doll-sized," Anna comments.
The Stuff You DON'T Need to Bring. While this list might seem sort of long, and even exhaustive (after we said to keep it simple!) there are actually things you really DON'T need to bring to the hospital. It's always a good idea to check ahead of time with your birth place to avoid making assumptions, but in our experience, hospitals usually provide:
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