What to Pack for a Hospital or Birth Center Delivery
Even though we are planning on a home birth (more about organizing and preparing for that in the next blog), I am still going to pack a suitcase in the event that we need to transfer to the hospital. When I initially thought about it, I thought that I’d probably just throw a few things in the suitcase and call it good. Boy, was I being naive.
Upon researching it further, there are quiiiiiite a few items that one should pack when having a hospital or birth center delivery. A lot of things that, after talking to some of my mom friends, I didn’t realize I’d really want to have with me.
Birth Plan, Maternity Notes:
These would be things that are really important to you during labor, delivery, and after the birth as well as some of your expectations around pain management. Two examples of what you might include can be found here, here and here. A written birth plan is especially important if the things that you expect are not typical of hospital protocol like delayed cord clamping, keeping the placenta, or not having your baby bathed.
Personally, I haven’t made an official birth plan because my midwife, doula, and husband are all on the same page about what kind of experience we’d like it to be and they will all three be with me for support and as advocates in the event that we have to transfer to the hospital.
Clothing for Mom:
The overall jist of the clothing seems pretty straight forward… something loose and comfy to wear while at the hospital and a coming home outfit. Robe – I’m not sure how many moms said that this single item was a life saver. Robes made it easier for many of them to be covered loosely, yet still easily breastfeed the baby. Comfy PJs Maxi Skirt/Dress – I’ll be packing one of these. There are the most comfortable item of clothing I own, I lounge around in them at home all the time. Lots of Comfy Underwear – It’s been suggested to either just use the mesh ones provided for you at the hospital or to bring your own over-sized granny panties which are much more tolerable if you have to have a c-section. Socks, Slippers – Many moms have complained about their feet getting cold (and swelling up) so these helped to keep their tootsies warm. Personally, I hate socks and slippers so I won’t be packing any. Flip Flops – Great for the shower and nice and easy to walk out of the hospital in especially if your feel are a little swollen. Nursing Bra or Tank – A bunch of moms said they wish they would’ve brought these with them to the hospital to be able to be a little more covered up yet still nurse their baby. Going Home Outfit – If you’re expecting to take a ton of pictures on the way out, might be a good idea to bring something you won’t loathe being seen in when you look at the pictures later.
Pillows – Several moms have said that they wished they would’ve brought their own pillows (especially body pillows) because the pillows at the hospital weren’t very good. Massage Oil – If you want your partner or doula to massage your hips or back during labor, massage or coconut oil could make that experience a whoooole lot better. Essential Oils for Aromatherapy – Lavender is a great essential oil that will promote relaxation and help relieve pain. Frankincense also helps with relaxation and can also be used to help heal perineal tearing. Birth Ball (if not provided) – This is great to sit and rock on and will help ease contractions.
Water Spray Bottle & Handheld Fan – Many moms get really hot during labor. Your partner could use these to help keep you cool. Eye Masks, Ear Plugs – Hospitals can be bright, loud places with people constantly walking through the well lit hallways. Getting enough sleep during labor is essential, so having these items handy might enable you to get a little more shut-eye. Rice Bags to Heat or Cool – They can be put in the freezer or microwave and can really help out with muscle aches or to cool you down when you’re overheating.
Clothes for Baby – Bring several different outfits and in a couple different sizes since you won’t be totally sure how big your baby will be. Some babies go through a lot of clothing changes, so it’s good to bring a couple different sleepers, onesies, and pairs of socks.
Receiving Blankets – The hospital will provide these for you unless you want to use a different kind. Personally, I prefer the muslin baby blankets, they are breathable (if baby’s face gets covered) and super comfy. Lots of Diapers (as many as 12 x day), Wipes – Most hospitals provide basic disposable diapers, you will only need to bring your own if you prefer to use a different kind. Manicure Tools – Most babies come out with those crazy sharp nails. Might want to bring something to cut them with so they don’t scratch their cute little faces. Boppy Nursing Pillow – One mom said she wished she would’ve brought this along to help her nurse. She said that as a new mom learning how to breastfeed, she had a hard time trying to use the flat hospital pillows for support.
Some hospitals won’t feed you during labor, but you still need to keep up your energy, and a good way to do that is by eating, so be prepared to bring your own favorite snacks that are somewhat mild on the stomach (since there may be vomiting) but packed with enough nutrients to keep you going. Coconut water – This stuff is packed with electrolytes and potassium which will really aid in keeping you hydrated and having energy through labor. Rice Cakes Peanut Butter Fruit & Nut bars Nuts Jerky Fruit – dried, fresh, fruit strips Honey Lollipops – A great way to combat dry mouth! Mints or Breath Strips – If there’s any vommiting you may want to “freshen up” instead of having to go to the bathroom to brush your teeth. Take-out Menus – We all know hospital food isn’t the best. It’s a good idea to get a few of these from the nurses station since some of these places will deliver. Your partner needs to eat, too!
Plastic Bags for Soiled Clothes Toiletries: Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash, Lotion, Deodorant, Body Spray – Bring your favorites, whatever smells you love that make you feel good when they’re on your body. It can make a world of difference. Toothbrush and Paste, Flossers Chapstick – This is a BIG one for me. I can’t go anywhere without chapstick, so having this handy at all times is an absolute must. Hairties, Bobbypins, Comb & Brush – The last thing you want is your hair being in the way hanging down in your sweaty face. Don’t forget something to tie it back with! Q-Tips Vitamins – You’ll still want to be taking your multi-vitamins during your hospital stay. Also, other supplements that I’ve been suggested are Arnica (for muscle aches to aid in pain relief) and Magnesium (which will help rebuild muscle for recovery). Contacts/Glasses, Cases, Wipes – When I do sports I generally wear contacts, but I’m not sure what I’d feel like wearing in this case, so I think I’d bring both.
Toilet Paper – Some people want to bring their own soft TP from home because that hospital stuff is paper thin and not exactly comfortable. Large Towel – For me, I’d prefer to have my own oversized soft towel for after the shower/bath instead of having to piece several of the smaller, scratchy hospital towels all over my body that has a preeeetty decent sized surface area. Wash Cloths – As my nurse friend pointed out to me, it’s a good idea to bring a few of your own because faces aren’t the only thing other patients wash with the hospital wash cloths.
Phone & Charger Camera & Charger Tablet & Charger – During the slow parts of labor you might want to play games or watch some episodes of your favorite Netflix shows and usually the hospitals only provide basic cable. Extension Cord – Sometimes the plug-ins are far away and you’ll want that access from the comfort of your hospital bed!
Folder or Large Envelope: This is a great place to keep your insurance documents and any paperwork that the hospital will send home with you without having it all end up crumpled up in the bottom of a bag somewhere.
Cash and Change:
You never know what kind of random cravings you might have for some vending machine items or if you want to purchase something you (gasp!) forgot at the gift shop.
Xtras For Your Partner:
Several Changes of Clothes – It’s better to have more than you need. If your partner runs out, you will not be happy if they have to leave you to go home and get more clothes to wear, because you never know how long you might have to stay at the hospital. Swimwear – You might want your partner to join you in the pool or shower, and while the hospital will let you do it in your birthday suit, your partner won’t be able to! Snacks – Usually hospital meals aren’t also provided for your partner. You both need to eat during and after labor and to keep up your energy.
For after the Birth:
Nursing Pads, Soothing Gel Pads, Nipple Balm – Even if you don’t plan on breastfeeding, your will be leaking. While breast feeding you will probably encounter sore nipples and the gel pads and balm can help relieve some of that discomfort. Large Overnight Maxi Pads – While the hospital provides you with some, you will probably want to bring your own. Several of my mom friends swear by the soothing Padsicles (of the frozen variety) that are pads filled with Witch-hazel and Aloe Vera to help soothe and heal those lady parts! Even while at the hospital, using them unfrozen can help alleviate some of the discomfort. Extra Bag or Two – You’ll more than likely come home with more than your brought, especially if visitors drop by with gifts. Bring an extra bag or two to help transport this extra stuff home. Breast Pump, Milk Bags, Permanent Marker (most hospitals will provide these) – If there are any complications and your baby needs to go to the NICU or is unable to stay with you, you will want to pump some of that vital immunity building colostrum for your baby. A good friend of mine was unable to even hold her baby for the first 20 hours after birth so she pumped instead of having them feed her baby formula. Soap & Microwave Sterilizer Bag – She also noted that trying to get the soap out of the dispenser in the bathroom to wash the pump parts was a huge pain. She said, had she of known, she would’ve brought her own soap and her sterilizer bag.
Car Seat and Base Installed
Familiarize yourselves with how your car seat operates and is installed. It’s a good idea to have this all ready to go and installed leading up to the birth before you even go into labor.
You probably won’t use everything that’s on this list, but it’s better to have it if you need it, than to wish you had. Don’t worry about trying to lug it all in when you check in, just leave it in the car and send your partner out after it after you get all settled in.
A bunch of my mom friends even went the super minimalist route and only took a few items to the hospital and just used mostly what they provided for them. Whatever your preference is, here’s a decent checklist to at least get you started!