As a Mum of 4 children, I have packed the odd hospital bag in my time. Things have changed a little since I packed my first one way back in 2001. The birth of proper mobile phones means, you won’t need to worry about packing loose change for a phone box for those first birth announcements. And nor will you need to pack a camera with batteries and film!
Ever since I ‘met’ my little niece last week, I’ve been thinking about hospital bags again.
As is my thing, I had a look on Google to see what people are recommending expectant parents should be packing in their hospital bags these days. I’ll admit, I had a little knowing smile on my face whilst reading them. Whilst some checklists were on the whole useful, some seemed to suggest packing half the house, the contents of a fridge and a full makeup counter.
BELIEVE me, if your hospital bag contains everything on these lists, half of it will just be leaving your house for a little outing. And return again unpacked and unmoved.
Things you don’t need in your hospital bag.
Assuming everything is going to plan, you’ll probably not be getting to hospital until you’re in established labour. (Read more about the stages of labour.)
And unless you’re one of those magical women I’ve heard about, that don’t feel labour pains, or you’re going for an epidural, it’s pointless putting magazines, puzzle books and iPads in your hospital bag. You will be far too distracted by the pain to use them. If you do pack them, and your partner sits there reading through Heat magazine whilst you’re labouring, you may find yourself tempted to throw things (or words) at them.
The absolute worst thing I’ve seen suggested is paper or disposable knickers. They are an abomination. Believe me. I packed them in my first hospital bag. If you can get them over your knees without ripping them, you might be tempted to think they were worth buying. But don’t. They rip when you move. And are really uncomfortable. You can get a pack of 5 cotton knickers in supermarkets for less than a fiver. Buy dark ones and throw them out when they get ruined.
Hairdryers & straighteners are also a complete waste of time. You will most likely have a shower or bath after delivery, but it’s unlikely you’ll want to put your baby down long enough to dry and straighten your hair. Either pack a shower cap to keep your hair dry whilst you shower, or keep your hair out of the water. Most women leave hospital around 6 hours after delivery anyway, so you can always wash and do your hair properly when you’re home. If you want to that is.
For me, the hairdryers and straighteners go hand in hand with makeup. I think it’s wrong to tell women to pack makeup in their hospital bag. To me it seems like that’s putting a massive expectation on women to look picture perfect after birth. If you want to, that’s one thing, but don’t feel pressured to. Makeup or no makeup, you’ll look amazing after birth because you’ll be an absolute warrior.
There is no greater beauty than a woman who’s just become a Mother.
The last thing you shouldn’t bother packing is anything light coloured for yourself. It can be tempting to buy a pretty set of pyjamas for a pick-me-up after birth, but the biggest downside to not having a period for 9 months, is getting them all at once post delivery. Blood loss is often heavy, and it will really show through light coloured clothes. Its embarrassing enough walking like John Wayne, without having a massive blood stain on your behind.
Essentials for your hospital bag.
These are the things you will definitely need to have in your hospital bag. Don’t be daunted. It is a lot, but pack your hospital bag over a week and it won’t seem so laborious. (Pun intended).
- Your maternity notes.
- Your birth plan (if you made one).
- Oversized nightie or T-shirt to wear during labour. Try to pack one that’s between thigh & knee length. Not wearing ‘bottoms’ makes things a lot easier when you have internal examinations to check how you’re progressing.
- Fluffy socks. Feet often get cold during labour.
- Slippers or flip flops.
- Lip balm. Your lips will get really dry, either due to the heating, using Entonox or deep breathing.
- Lightweight dressing gown, in case you want to walk around the hospital.
- Hair ties if your hair is long enough to tie back, or a bandana to keep your hair off your face.
- 5 pack of cheap cotton granny pants in a size bigger than normal. You won’t want anything too restrictive, and you will need to allow room for maternity towels.
- Maternity towels or the longest, thickest sanitary towels you can find. You will go through a lot of them to start with. So take a pack.
- Breastpads. Even if you decide not to breastfeed, your breasts will leak.
- Breastfeeding bras if you’re going to breastfeed.
- Button down nightie or pyjama top if you’re breastfeeding.
- Basic toiletry bag, with toothbrush, toothpaste, face wipes, deodrant, moisturiser, shower gel, shower cap/shampoo & conditioner, hairbrush.
- Any regular medication you are taking.
- Clean T-shirt/top for your birthing partner.
- Leggings or joggers and a loose top for going home in. Nothing restrictive, you’ll be sore and still have a tummy.
- Snacks. This is very important. Even though hospitals usually have a restaurant or coffee shop, they aren’t open 24 hours. You probably won’t want to eat during labour, but you will be ravenous once you’ve given birth.
- Phone charger for your and your partner’s phones.
Personally, I found it easier to have a separate bag for all the baby’s things. It makes it much easier to find stuff – especially for people who haven’t done the packing!
It makes sense to use your baby changing bag for this stuff. And it will help you get into the habit of packing and using your bag. Because that baby changing bag will be your lifeline for the first few months, and it will go with you everywhere.
You changing bag will need the following items.
- 3 vests
- 3 sleepsuits/babygrows
- 2 pairs scratch mittens
- 2 Cardigans
- Baby blanket
- 6 nappies
- Nappy sacks
- Cotton wool / babywipes
- A couple of muslin cloths for burping/possetting
- Fold up changing mat
- Snowsuit or coat if you’re having a winter baby.
If you’re using cloth nappies, you’ll probably need a couple of outer nappies and a few liners.
If you’re not breastfeeding, you’ll also need some sterilised bottles, and formula.
Obviously, everybody is different, just as every birth is different and you might want to take extra things with you. Some women like to listen to music during labour, so a small bluetooth speaker might be useful. Others find aromatherapy oils calming, so your favourite one might be beneficial. Some women like to take their favourite pillow too, but I never bothered, there were enough things to remember to bring. And if you’re having a water birth, you might want to take a bikini top.
At the end of the day, it’s your labour and delivery, so you should pack whatever you think you will need to help you through it. Just be wary that if you’re making your own way to hospital and you’re in active labour, you won’t be able to carry anything. You might also need to lean on your partner for support, or be pushed in a wheelchair, in which case lots of bags and accessories is going to make that journey difficult. So bear that in mind.
Inductions and caesareans.
If you’re going in for an induction or caesarean, you probably will have a lot of waiting around. So adding boredom busters to your hospital bag might be a good idea. Things like ipads, books, magazines etc will be great boredom busters. Make sure you pack some earphones if you want to watch Netflix or something. I would also pack an eye mask and earplugs to try and get some sleep whilst you’re waiting for things to kick off.
And lastly, don’t forget the car seat to take your baby home in! Although that’s probably best left in the car until you’re ready to leave.