I’m 30 weeks now, into my third trimester, and thinking about all the things I need to do before this baby comes. One of them: packing my hospital bag.
My hospital bag will contain very different items this time… and I’d like to think it’s because I’m a little smarter this second time around. Here’s the rundown for all you noobs who could use a little help packing — split into two categories: labor and delivery, and post-delivery.
By the way, I’m not going to cover the “duh” items here. That’s the stuff you would take on any overnight trip (toothbrush, toothpaste, your phone charger). You’re on your own there, sister. If you can’t figure that stuff out, I can’t help you. 🙂
Labor & Delivery
1. Something to read
A girl can only watch so much daytime TV. Labor can take a long time, and my friends tell me that their labors were a whole lot of waiting (especially if you’re induced, and sometimes even if you’re not). Bring something to read, preferably a book and not a People Magazine that you’ll be finished with in 20 minutes.
2. A couple of your favorite movies
We watched Point Break when Peanut was born (I think you all know how much I love that movie, and luckily our L&D room had a DVD player). My friend Dominique said they watched Stepbrothers three times during her 30-hour labor. The staff kept hanging around and watching it with them. Find out ahead of time if your L&D room has the right equipment, or bring your own portable DVD player or a laptop to watch movies.
3. Something for dragon breath
My friend Christa had this to share: “Spending a long time in bed laboring and waiting for tests, plus being on a liquid diet made my mouth feel nasty/dry. Plus a lot of mommas get nauseous and vomit either during labor or after from the meds (I puked my brains out). When you can’t brush your teeth constantly, a strong stick of gum is a good plan B.” While you’re at it, some Chapstick or lip balm is a good addition, but hopefully you keep that in your purse and didn’t forget it at home.
4. “Get this f*&%ing hair out of my face!”
Imagine that you’ve been taking it easy for the last several months, and suddenly you are forced to perform the Mother of All Exercise Routines. You’re calling on muscles that generally don’t get used for much (except pooping), and you’re putting them to work for a really long time (the average push time for a first birth with epidural is about two hours; sans epidural, one hour). It will likely be the hardest workout you’ve done in a long time, and you’ll be shaking from exertion. Unless you’re one of those freak women who works out with her hair down, you’ll want yours back and out of your face. Pack one of those workout headband thingers or something similar, or you might find yourself taking scissors to your hair mid-contraction. Trust me, sanity isn’t exactly present when you’re in pain.
5. A fan
Dovetailing nicely with the last suggestion, this one might seem a little odd, but I’m bringing it along. I was sweating after just a few minutes of pushing, and the L&D room didn’t exactly have fans handy. My husband found a laminated flyer on the bedside table and fanned me with it like I was a Persian princess. (A snarling, screaming Persian princess, but still… it was nice). I was incredibly hot and the fan helped. Next time I’ll scrounge up a folding fan, just like a Spanish flamenco dancer, and have it at the ready.
6. A doula
I can’t really speak to this one first hand, and to be honest, I struggle with it being a “must-have” for labor. But then again, I had a weird-ass labor and delivery and didn’t feel any contractions until 8cm. In total, it was 1 hour and 20 minutes of pain followed by an hour of pushing — that’s it. The poor doula wouldn’t have been very useful in my case. She’d have sat there while I happily ate popsicles and watched TV.
That said, two of my friends made a point to mention that their doula was a must-have during L&D. One friend said: “The doula stays with you as long as you want whereas the nurses/midwives/OBs will change on shifts. Our doula was fantastic for suggesting non-medical pain relief options and positions. I had a lot of back labor and she took turns massaging me with my husband during contractions. She also tended to my husband, which was great since all eyes are on the mom.” The other friend emphasized the entire doula relationship, from pre-birth prep through L&D and post-natal visits. I’ll let you make your own call on this, but it’s certainly something to consider if you can afford the extra expense. It’s typically not covered by health insurance. #sadtrombone
1. Nursing tanks
My hospital has special gowns for the mother-baby ward, with ties on either side of your neck to make nursing easier. But I couldn’t hold the baby and untie them myself, and had to ask for help constantly. (I’ve also learned some hospitals have these other type of gowns which seem way better.) This time, I’ll bring my own nursing tanks — easy to snap and unsnap with one hand. Most of them have a shelf bra (here’s a link to my go-to nursing tanks), which means I don’t have to wear an actual bra so long as I bring some breast pads with me (last time, I didn’t think to bring any nursing bras, but I couldn’t wear a normal bra since I was constantly feeding Peanut… it was inconvenient and I felt a little too exposed for comfort).
2. Nursing nightgowns
This is an alternative to a nursing tank, or maybe a nice addition to it. Definitely handy to have in the hospital. I actually bought a couple of nursing gowns at a garage sale last weekend, with matching robes. I’m looking forward to trying them out at the hospital and in the weeks after baby is born when I become a 24-hour late-night watering hole.* They’re less than $20 on Amazon. Here’s one example and here’s an even cuter one!
3. A robe
On the advice of my sister, I did think to bring my own robe last time. I didn’t take it off for 3 straight days. It helped hide the fact I wasn’t wearing a bra when company stopped by, and helped me ignore that I was basically entertaining a bunch of guests in my pajamas. Luckily they were paying more attention to Peanut than to me.
4. Boppy pillow
In the days following Peanut’s birth, I used three different bed pillows (stacked Jenga-style under my elbows) to get her into position for nursing. The hospital-issue pillows were slick and kept falling off the bed. You probably know this, but they actually make special pillows for nursing, and I bet you already have one (get one here if you don’t). Do yourself a favor and bring it to the hospital! I am totally psyched to have mine this time around.
A few friends pointed out that even if you don’t plan to nurse, your Boppy is critical. One said, “My arms were so tired after giving birth (from pulling back on my legs) that holding the little guy was tough… so the extra support from the Boppy was amazing!”
5. Something washable for your feet
Slippers, slipper socks, plain ol’ socks, flip-flops… they all get the job done. Basically, bring something to put on your feet. I say “washable” because my single pair of slipper socks were destroyed the first time I got undressed to take a soak in the tub. You’re bleeding quite a bit those first few days, like a super heavy period, and you have to use pads (ewwwww). I know it’s gross, but I totally ruined my slipper socks (I’d been laying down for several hours, and when I stood up and undressed… yuck). And I had no backup. Next time I’ll bring several pair. If you are a warm person normally, you could go the flip-flop route. My feet are always cold, so I am a slipper girl.
6. Huge-ass maxi pads with wings
I mentioned the bleeding — that shit’s no joke. Picture your worst period, but you can’t use tampons. (If you deliver vaginally you won’t want anything near your hoo-ha anyway.) The hospital-issue pads are free, but they also suck, so grab a pack of Always Jumbo 747s with Pterodactyl Wings and bring enough to last you through your stay. This might also save you from having to bring too many of my next suggestion…
7. Granny panties
Got cute britches? Good for you. Leave them at home. You’re bleeding like a stuck pig after delivery and resigned to using pads, just like 8th grade! Yippee! You will probably leak (even with the good pads), so leave your good undies at home and pack your ugliest granny panties. Expect to go through a couple pair each day, just to be safe.
We arrived at the hospital at 10am when Peanut was born, and she didn’t emerge until 14 hours and 15 minutes later. That entire time, all I could eat was orange popsicles and Sprite. For good reason — if they needed to knock me out and slice me open, an empty stomach is important — but I didn’t give a hoot what the reason. I was HUNGRY. When I finally could eat, at 12:17am, the kitchen was closed. They scrounged up a sandwich for me, and though I’m sure it was awful, to me it tasted like The Best Sandwich Ever Made. Moral of the story: bring some snacks because there may not be much to choose from once you get the all-clear to eat — particularly if that all-clear comes in the wee hours.
9. As little as possible
My friend Raven put it best: “For my first baby, the hospital bag was packed like I was giving birth thousands of miles from home on top of a mountain. I had everything imaginable in that bag(s). For my second baby, I think I packed a quick bag a few days before my due date. The only things I didn’t want to be without were my iPhone charger and my favorite smelling shampoo and conditioner for the glorious first shower.” The moral here: don’t go crazy, and no matter what you pack for the first birth, you’ll probably take very different things if you have a repeat performance.
Note: She wasn’t the first person to mention the glorious first shower. Another friend listed her favorite shower gel and body poof as a must-pack item. Not really my thing, but if it’s important to you, go for it.
10. Nursing pads
Because your milk sometimes comes in before you leave the hospital (mine did — I was there 3 days), and you’ll wish you had them if that happens. You can opt for disposable (I like Lansinoh) or reusable (these are my favorites).
As usual, I’m quite sure I forgot something. Fill me in — what’d I forget? Leave it in the comments!
*I can’t take credit for ‘late night watering hole.’ That goes to Elle from WhatsUpMoms, a YouTube channel I’ve recently discovered. Elle is my favorite of all the video bloggers. A couple of my faves: Friends Without Kids (aka Why We Can Never Get Together Anymore) and Newborn Basics (particularly helpful for those of you perusing this list with a feeling of panic, lol!).