Whether you are planning a home or a hospital birth you will need to pack a hospital bag and have it ready by about 36 weeks because it can be normal to go into labour form 37 weeks (like I did!)
There are many lists online with what to pack . . . sometimes I read these and think, ‘What on earth do you need that for!?’ Ask any second-time mum about the difference between her first and second hospital bag and it’ll be vast. If you end up staying longer than planned you can always get someone to top you up with stuff or bring something you forgot. Here is the list of what I packed for myself, I hope you find it helpful.
There are many brands and types of nappies nowadays but it’s good to know that each child uses around 8,000 nappies and regular disposable nappies can take up to 100 years to degrade in landfill, or end up in an incinerator. Biodegradable nappies usually have fewer chemicals in them, and are made from more natural fibres – although the jury is still out on how well they degrade. Washable nappies are another option; although mums sometimes say that in the very early days disposable are easier. Have a think about what works best for your family.
You’ll need a few vests, babygrows and a hat to leave hospital in. Baby’s tend to need whatever you are wearing plus one extra layer. Whether you are having a boy, girl or surprise, cream or white colour is best for those first few weeks. If you have never had to deal with a poo explosion you’re in for a treat. What comes out of your tiny baby can be rather impressive – and get everywhere. You can boil wash cream/white clothing and get any stains out rather than ruin outfits. Opt for babywear that opens all the way down the front – it’s easier to get on and off. Also, don’t forget you can also pull the baby wear downwards in the vests that have larger neck room so you don’t need to pull and poo/wee stained baby grow over your baby’s face.
These fabric squares are a must from mopping up sick, protecting your clothing whilst winding, to making a little blanket or wrap. You are guaranteed to make use of a muslin or two.
Cotton wool or natural wipes:
For the first few days of life, your baby will pass meconium, a type of poo, which is thick, black and sticky (a bit like Marmite). It can be difficult to clean off. Using baby wipes with perfumes or alcohol can strip the all-important skin barriers. You may need to keep rubbing the same section of skin to remove the meconium and this can become sore for your newborn. Warm water and cotton wool is recommended although emerging research states that some baby wipes are purer than water and cotton wool due to the purification of water in the wipes.
If you plan to bottle-feed your baby, you will need to take some formula and bottles with you, but if you plan to breastfeed then don’t worry about getting formula. Remember that formula milk is generally manufactured by the same companies. They all need to stick to the same strict guidelines, so in honesty, they all look different due to marketing and packaging but really, they are all very similar.
And those are the main necessities for your newborn. They really don’t care how much you have bought them, whether or not they’re wearing hand me downs or what anyone else thinks. They just want cuddles and comfort in skin-to-skin contact.
Your antenatal notes:
Unless your hospital has gone digital of course. Your notes have got everything we need to know about you and your baby and an important part of ensuring you get the best care.
Phone charger, iPad, camera, headphones etc
If you have got long hair you will want your hair up and away from your face so you can breathe properly and cool down during labour. If you are breastfeeding it can also be useful to pop a hair tie on the wrist you last fed from so you don’t need to write it down or remember.
You will probably get hot and sweaty in labour, so a nice cool cloth can be lovely on your forehead. You can also pop a couple of drops of lavender oil on it which may help you feel a little calmer.
Birthing ball and pump:
If you have time to deflate it and get it in the car – don’t worry too much as most hospitals/birth centres have these. Make sure you ask for it if you can’t bring your own. They reduce lower back pain and have even been associated with a reduction in c-section.
Snacks and drinks:
Pack the yummiest snacks and fuel like flapjacks, bars and dark chocolate and dried fruit as energy boosters/treats. Bring plenty of drinks to keep you hydrated and to keep your sugar levels up – a mix of water and juice is great. Get your partner to pack food for them too – they’ll probably be hungrier than you.
Hot water bottle or wheat bag:
Warmth is a real comforter on the lower back/pelvis, especially in early labour.
Music can be a real game changer so make a playlist for labour, whether hypnobirthing tracks or pop music. I had a playlist that I listened to while exercising in pregnancy so I associated that with hard work but feeling good and I put that on in early labour. It changed my mood from a little nervous to I can, and I am doing this!
Your own pillow case:
It makes such a difference to have a bit of home comfort with you. Smells can have such an affect on us too.
Something to birth in, and for afterwards:
A nightshirt or long T-shirt is ideal for birthing in (unless you’re having a water birth then you may want a bikini or nothing. Naked is also great for birth). After birth go for a super soft and comfy nightshirt that unbuttons down the front so you can feed without hassle of getting your top off or pulling it up and struggling to see.
Even if you don’t wear them at home usually, take a pair to protect your feet from the hospital floor – go for the non-slip ones.
You’ll probably want to have a shower soon after birth. Bring in your usual toiletries and something a little more indulgent like a rich, luxury moisturiser or hair conditioner, even if it’s just a sample from an expensive luxury brand. You deserve a little luxury something.
Not just for after but for when/if your waters go. There is more fluid than people think so you’ll need plenty of pads. You’ll bleed quite heavily after birth – many women are surprised by their blood loss – so go for the proper thick maternity pads or disposable knickers, they’ve got the built-in pads
Go for real Bridget Jones-style big pants because comfort is key after you have had a baby. Make sure they rise right up above your belly button to support your tummy and avoid any potential wounds. As mentioned disposable pants are a good option if you want a two in one.
Your breasts will need support after birth, whether you choose to breastfeed or not. Breastfeeding bras are usually really comfy as they don’t have underwire so they don’t dig in or pose a risk of you developing mastitis (infection usually caused by blocked ducts). They are much easier to feed in too.
Going home outfit:
Stick with your maternity clothes for a little while after birth as your body will still be adjusting, a comfy maternity dress is perfect. They take up a lot less room in your bag, you don’t need to worry about the fit, you haven’t got to think about a matching top to go with your bottoms, they are airy and don’t rub anywhere that could be sore and they are much easier to get on and off. Winning.
Anything that makes you feel calm:
It’s a good idea to put anything in your bag that will help relax you. That could be aromatherapy, an eye mask, photos, battery powered candles. What ever works for you. These things can help the flow of oxytocin which you can’t have your baby without.
You now have a list of the essentials but the most essential thing to remember when you go into labour is to relax and help your oxytocin flow. Even if you have a c-section, this hormone is great for bonding, breastfeeding and overall happiness!
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