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All the must-haves for when you say, “Honey, I think it’s time!”
By Brittany Doohan
Baby can come at any time in the weeks before your due date. Will you be ready when you have to leave at a moment’s notice? Of all your pre-baby to-do lists, this is one you don’t want to save for the last minute. When baby is finally on the way, you want to (calmly) grab your bag and go, and not worry that you forgot any essentials. Here are the must-haves for labor and after delivery, from experts and pregnant women like you, taken from our communities.
- Health insurance card.
- Hospital forms, if they’re not already filed electronically.
- A picture ID (driver’s license or passport).
- Your birth plan, if you have one.
For During Labor:
- Lip balm, hard candies or lollipops (to keep your mouth moist), and your favorite hydrating beverages if your hospital allows them (the hospital can get very dry!).
- Eyeglasses, if you wear them. You may not want to deal with contact lenses.
- Short-sleeve nightgown with a button-front or wide V-neck for nursing (if you want to replace the hospital gown).
- Electronics, depending on how wired you are (and how wired your hospital is; call ahead to check if it has wi-fi):
- iPod or other music player. Make a “Baby’s Coming!” playlist jam-packed with all your favorite songs.
- Computer, tablet or e-reader. If your labor slows, it’ll be handy to have movies, games or e-books to pass the time.
- Cell phone or phone list and prepaid calling card (if you can’t use your cell).
- Photo and video cameras.
- All of your chargers! You don’t want to arrive at the hospital and discover your batteries are running low.
- A cord blood kit, if you choose to bank your umbilical cord blood. Cord blood contains blood-forming stem cells, which may be useful for treating diseases that require stem cell transplants.
- Labor tools, such as a birth ball or peanut ball, a handheld massager, relaxing imagery, or aromatherapy items.
“We didn’t even use anything but my Kindle and charger. The hospital gave us everything we needed.”
For the Recovery Room:
- Cozy clothes to change into, like pajamas or a robe.
- Slippers or socks (look for ones with no-slip grips on the bottom, which are safer on the slick hospital floors).
- Going-home outfit (maternity or loose-fitting clothes).
- Extra underwear and a maternity or nursing bra.
“Trust me, at midnight when your little bundle of joy wakes up for a feeding, you’re going to get a little hungry.”
- Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush and hair ties or hair band, shampoo and conditioner, soap (if you’re having a C-section, be sure to check with your doctor to see if the soap needs to be fragrance-free), deodorant, face-cleansing wipes, facial moisturizer and hand lotion.
“I splurged on expensive travel-size toiletries. That first shower feels wonderful, so smelling lovely is a nice bonus!"
- Flip-flops if you plan to shower.
- Your own pillow and comforter (be sure to use a colorful or patterned duvet and pillowcase so they don’t get mixed up with the hospital bedding).
“I know I will not leave without my pillow. LOL. I never go anywhere without my pillow.”
- Going-home outfit that covers feet, or bring booties. Have a spare outfit or two in case of a diaper mishap or if baby is born bigger or smaller than you thought.
- The hospital should provide a hat, but bring one just in case. Especially if it matches baby’s outfit!
- Blanket and/or bunting depending on the weather where you live that time of year, and how far the walk is from hospital to car and car to home.
“This is my first pregnancy and I'm sure I probably overpacked. I put diapers, wipes, a newborn outfit, a 0- to 3-month outfit, matching booties for each outfit, hats, mittens and a pacifier.”
What You May Want to Leave at Home:
- Jewelry and other valuables.
- Medications and vitamins. Talk to your doctor; the hospital can often provide anything you’ll need to take.
- Breast pump. If you need one, the hospital will provide it. However, if you do bring your pump, the lactation consultants may be able to show you how to use it; check with your hospital or provider.
- Diaper bag and a supply of diapers and wipes; most hospitals will provide them for you.
- Pacifier. They’re not recommended while breastfeeding is being established.
When Should You Start Packing Your Hospital Bag?
“I packed mine while my water was in the middle of breaking, ha! That was fun. Lesson learned. Do it before 35 weeks. I’ll probably pack one around 30 weeks this time.”
Because you can go into labor before your due date, it’s smart to get everything ready when you’re between 28 and 32 weeks pregnant. If you know where you’re going to deliver, call ahead to get of list of items they provide so you don’t waste time and resources (not to mention precious bag space!).
Once bags for you and baby are packed, store them in your car by week 35, so that if you go into labor outside your home, you’re ready. If you don’t own a car, store them near the front door to grab on the way out.
What Your Spouse Should Pack:
- Money and loose change for parking and the vending machine.
- More snacks. The hospital usually won’t feed your partner, just you.
- Something to read or watch to pass the time.
- Toiletries for an overnight stay.
- Car seat. Put your partner in charge of safe transportation home. A consultant should check the seat to make sure it’s safe for baby. But take note: there's no need to lug the infant car seat carrier into the hospital. Baby can be brought down in your arms.
Published on December 30, 2015.
Brittany Doohan is a San Francisco-based health and lifestyle writer and editor.
Reviewed by Susan Spencer MSN, RNC, IBCLC on November 19, 2015.