Packing your hospital bag ready for the eagerly anticipated hospital stay, to meet your new bundle of joy, seems to be a milestone of sorts for many expectant mothers. What you pack inside, is both important and an exciting part of pregnancy, as it marks the nearing of your babies' arrival.
No new mother wants to be without the necessities and comforts they desire, during their hospital stay. So, it is vital to check and re check a packed hospital bag many times over, to ensure no key items are missing. Many new parents, will use pre-written checklists found on the internet or in baby magazines. However, it is personal choice from one mother to another, what is deemed as an essential or wanted item, to make their hospital stay that much more comfortable.
Maternity Pads - Whether you give birth naturally or have a c section, you should expect some bleeding afterwards (much like a heavy period) and therefore will need some good maternity pads. I would advise to buy a few different brands and styles, to try out what works best for you.
Breast Pads - If you plan on breast or bottle feeding, your breasts will usually leak colostrum (a bright yellow substance that leaks from the breasts after giving birth - very high in antibodies and nourishment), so I would advise buying some breast pads for use afterwards.
Comfortable Knickers - some women opt for disposable underwear for after birth; however, I found them to be uncomfortable and would advise spending a little more on some good quality, natural cotton knickers. If you have a planned c section or suspect there is a chance your babies' birth may end up with a c section, then I would highly advise opting for some high waisted knickers, so they do not rub on your fresh wound.
Non-wired/Feeding Bra - As above, whether you are planning on breast feeding or not, your breasts will be engorged and probably tender, from the bodies' natural production of milk. It is advised to wear a non-wired bra to begin with. If you plan on breastfeeding, then you will need to invest in some good quality nursing bras. There are many different styles on the market and whichever style you choose will be fine, so long as they are not wired!
Toiletries - As with any stay away from home, you will need a toothbrush and toothpaste, flannel, body wash (preferably perfume free - so as not to upset babies' delicate skin), hairbrush and any other toiletries you would generally pack for a mini break.
Spare Clothing - I would take at least 1-2 changes of clothing with you - whether that be nightwear, loungewear or clothing, that is completely up to you. However, I would suggest something comfortable and easy to get on and off. After birth, you will still have a bloated and probably tender stomach. So, take this into account when packing clothing. Many women choose to wear maternity clothing for a while post birth, as it gives support to your empty stomach and many are designed for a nursing mother. If you plan on breast feeding, then nursing clothing, where your breasts are easily accessible, will be very helpful - especially in the early days, where you and your baby are both new to breastfeeding and learning what works for you both.
Slippers/Flip-Flops - I would not necessarily class this as an essential, however I would personally not want to go without a pair of slip on shoes of some description in hospital. Although cleaned regularly, hospital floors are not 100% sanitary and I would not like the thought of walking bare foot on the floor and then getting into bed, where you will no doubt have baby with you at some point. So, something easy to slip on and off your feet to walk about in I would say, is much needed!
Nappies - This one I am sure goes without saying! Disposable or re-usable, you will need an abundant supply. A newborn baby will pass meconium - a thick, black, tar-like faeces - in the first couple of days after birth. This substance is a build up of liquids ingested whilst in the womb. As the meconium is expelled, your babies' poos will slowly become lighter, until they are yellowish in appearance. Your baby will have several wet and dirty nappies a day and whilst you are getting used to those first nappy changes, you may have a few accidents along the way. So, I would suggest packing a few extras just in case!
Cotton Wool - Newborn babies, have very delicate skin. You do not want to use any harsh detergents, like that of wet wipes, on their fresh, delicate skin! So, cotton wool is a must for your baby. Not only for wiping tiny bottoms, but also for cleaning little hands and faces. Be careful to use fresh cotton wool and wash hands in between nappy changes and washing their hands and faces. Babies are born with white, waxy-like substance on their skin. This is called Vernix Caseosa. This substance coats the babies' skin to keep it moisturised and protected in the womb. After birth, they will still have at least a light coating of Vernix on their skin. It is advised to leave your newborn's first bath for as long as possible to enable the Vernix to keep them protected for as long as possible, whilst still tiny. It takes a while for newborn's to be able to regulate their own temperatures and is thought that Vernix plays a role in helping a baby to keep their temperature at normal levels. So, cotton wool is handy to wipe their eyes, nose and mouth, where they may have a build up of mucus, without removing all of the Vernix - perfect whilst waiting to bathe them!
A Hat - As a newborn struggles to regulate their own temperature, it is important to keep them warm. A lot of heat is lost through their heads (especially as most babies do not have much covering of hair on their heads), so hats are a must. Depending on the time of year they are born, will depend on what type of hat your baby will need. For example, in the heat of summer, your baby will not need a thick wool hat, whilst in the minus temperatures you can expect in some winters, a thin cotton hat will not offer the correct amount of warmth a newborn would need.
Blankets - Not only for comfort, babies need blankets for warmth and again to help with regulating their temperatures. Hospitals will generally have blankets there, but you will need one/some to take baby home. Also, personal choice you may want your baby to have a certain type of blanket your hospital may not supply. It is advised to layer blankets, so that you can add/remove them depending upon how warm/cold your baby is. You will not want a blanket that is too thick, unless outside temperatures are very cold. If you plan on breastfeeding, you may choose to take a muslin swaddle blanket to cover yourself, whilst you are both getting used to nursing. Using a blanket, to swaddle your baby, can help them to feel secure. It imitates the feeling of being in the womb and can help to settle and relax them in those early days.
Baby Clothing - As it is well known, babies poo and sick a lot! Therefore, it would be sensible to pack several changes of clothing. How you dress your baby is up to you. I find body vests and baby grows to be the most appropriate and comfortable clothing for a new baby. Baby grows and body vests with poppers that open near the inside leg -from foot to foot- making the nappy area more accessible, is most useful, seeing as you will spend a lot of time changing nappies.
Birth Plan/Hospital Notes - Recently birth plans have been transferred from paper versions to online. You are able to download an app onto your phone, where your hospital notes are stored. This makes it easy to take about with you, as generally speaking, most people carry their phone around with them. On this app you are able to write your birth plan. It is helpful to write a birth plan as a rough guide to how you would like your birth to be handled and any special requests you may have. For example, I stated that I would like delayed cord clamping and for my baby to be put onto the breast as soon as possible after birth. I believe these are now practise in most hospitals. Although, births never go strictly to plan, it is good that those caring for you during labour and birth, know of any any specifics you may have for what you would and would definitely not like to happen. They can then try to adhere to your wants and needs as much as possible. This can help you feel a little more in control and safe in the knowledge that the doctors and midwives have your best interests at heart. Try to do as much research into certain practises as much as possible, so you can make an informed decision on how you want your labour and birth to go.
Baby Car Chair - To allow you and your baby to be discharged from hospital, a nurse/midwife will need to see that you have a suitable car chair to take baby home in. Preferably you should buy a new car chair. However, not everyone can afford/will want to buy a brand new seat. If buying second hand, please make sure that the chair was not involved in an car accident. This will affect the safety of the seat. When choosing a car chair for your newborn, make sure it has suitable head support for a newborn and try to have a go at putting the car chair in and out of the car you will travel in regularly. This will mean that when it comes to taking your new little one home, you are well practised at using your new seat.
I feel that these are the most essential items you will need to take into hospital with you. Many expectant mothers will take other items with them, including dressing gowns, nipple creams, phone chargers, money, books/magazines, snacks, drinks, bibs, burp cloths, nappy barrier creams etc; but these are all personal choice. Whatever you choose to pack, the most important thing, is that you and baby are happy and safe!