Your doctor will most likely tell you to start preparing your hospital bag at around 34 weeks. I honestly did not pack my bag until I was 38 weeks. I was just so busy with work (preparing my temp replacement) and with packing up our stuff (yes, we were moving pretty much after the baby was born).
Many websites and books will suggest you pack a list of things. I completely overpacked. In fact, after the baby was born, I sent my husband home with 90% of the things I had packed in my bag. 1) The hospitals provide you with pretty much EVERYTHING you really need, 2) it’s an unwritten rule that you can take home hospital supplies – Yes, you SHOULD take home hospital supplies, especially the ones you cannot buy, such as the big leak-proof pad they place under your body before and after delivery.
Unless you are staying in a private room, space is limited and you don’t want to have all your bags in your way. You will be exhausted, tired and too busy learning how to care for your baby.
Here are the things you really need or should have in your hospital bag:
- Only the really important personal items: Your ID, insurance information, hospital forms (although you should pre-register online if you can), 1-2 credit cards, some cash (for the vending machine and the popsicles). You should leave your wallet and jewelry at home. If you end up with surgery, you will need to remove all your jewelry anyways. You can bring a birth plan, but things end up taking its own course, so it would be best to discuss the birth plan with your doctor and your husband in advance.
- Non-Skid Socks. The hospital will provide you with a pair, but they are thin and don’t keep your feet warm. You may want to just have your own. I had Lantee Yoga socks. You really don’t need flip-flops or shoes (other than the one you wore to the hospital), you’ll be in bed most of the time.
- Nursing Bras or Tops and Nursing Pads. The hospital will dress you in a gown that opens in the back, so having 2-3 nursing bras or nursing tops will make breastfeeding your baby easier and you won’t be too exposed to everyone.
- Lanolin instead of lip balm. During labor you won’t be allowed to drink or eat anything, in fact, I felt sooo nauseous, I did not even want to drink or eat. Your lips will be dry from dehydration. I personally recommend bringing a tube of Lanolin (some brands: Lansinoh, Medela, or Geritrex Lan-O-Soothe). Not only will you be using lanolin after breastfeeding, but it sure keeps your lips super moist! I still use it instead of lip balm. My personal favorite is the Medela Lanolin – it’s smoother and glides on easier than the other brands.
- Toilettries and personal use items. Toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, shower gel and shampoo, deodorant, facial moisturizer, body lotion (I recommend using a fragrance-free one, because the baby will remember your body scent and may be confused if you showered and smell all fresh), hairbrush, hairbands (you probably will end up using them during labor and delivery), eye-glasses (or contact lenses) and your make-up bag or just a concealer. I did not want to walk around looking like a Zombie, even though I felt like one.
- Underwear. You may be wearing the oversized hospital sanitary pads for a while, but that does not mean you can’t wear your own underwear. They fit better than the thin disposable ones they give you anyways.
- Your phone and the charger. It’s your choice to bring a camera and books, however, I did not need them – I used my phone to take photos, to surf the web and to read. You pretty much can leave all other entertainment items at home, you just won’t have time.
- Mother’s Milk Tea. The Lactation Consultants will probably give you the evil eye, but every new mother will be able to relate to how painful it is hearing your little one cry for food while your body is working (slowly) on producing the colostrum (the very first type of breastmilk). I brought a few teabags and had a cup one day after being frustrated about not making any milk. Very soon after, my milk kicked in, my baby was satisfied and I left the hospital relieved to know that my breasts were producing milk and that I will be fine. 🙂
- A Sweater. Especially during labor, you will feel cold. Bring a (fleece) sweater that you don’t mind sacrificing if it gets dirty (yup, we’re talking blood).
- One outfit that fit you when you were 6 months pregnant. After giving birth, your uterus will take some time to shrink back and you will still look 6 months pregnant, so bring one comfortable outfit for when you get discharged.
Nowadays, the hospitals provide you with most of the things you need during your entire stay – from labor to recovery. They have exercising balls if you want one, extra pillows and blankets, socks, towels, heavy flow sanitary pads and disposable underwear, sitzbaths, donut pillows, witch hazel pads, hemorrhoid creams, cooling packs, shower gel and shampoo, Lanolin, nipple shells and shields… You just have to ask!
And as I mentioned earlier, it is an unwritten rule that you can take home those items that were given to you! I took home a bunch of recovery supplies (sanitary pads, witch hazel, cooling packs) that lasted me for about 2 weeks. I also grabbed a bunch of big leak-proof pads for home and I am using them now as my baby’s sheet saver or as a tummy time pad when we’re out on-the-go.
Here’s basically what you will be carrying home after discharge: your hospital bag, your baby’s diaper bag, a bag full of hospital supplies for home, the gift bag from the hospital, gifts from your loved ones AND your baby in a car seat.
So, enjoy packing light!