The time has come to pack. You’re thinking ahead and although the hospital gave you a packing list, you wonder if it's enough.
I suggest packing in multiple smaller bags (like clean reusable grocery bags) inside your large bag or suitcase, and leave room in each because stuff never goes back in as nicely when you’re in a hurry to go home. Those extra cloth bags will come in handy too if you receive gifts in hospital. If you can barely zip your bag shut before heading to the hospital consider less stuff or a larger bag.
When you're done, you'll have your purse, large suitcase, and companion's bag coming into the hospital with you, and a transfer bag that stays in the car. A printable PDF of this post is here.
The first and most important hospital bag is a purse, because it is with you all the time. If you have to transfer to the hospital urgently, having your purse with you will ensure you’ve got the basics covered. Begin by cleaning it out so there are no crinkled receipts, random business cards, crumbly granola bars etc. in the bottom. I chose a purse that is bigger than what I used previously so that I had room for things at the last minute, and could toss in a diaper and wipes for times I didn't want the full diaper bag later.
Besides whatever you normally carry (or not!) your birth-prepped purse should contain:
~cellphone/smartphone if you have one
~charger for your phone
~wallet with photo ID, insurance and drug plan cards if applicable
~hospital registration info (midwifery binder with you if applicable)
~paper list of names and numbers to call in an emergency. Your primary support person and their relationship to you, childcare providers, doula*, midwife or doctor
(no doula? Check out my mini- guide to labour, birth, & postpartum)
~printed copy of your birth plan
~if you have a medical condition or take medications or supplements that should be on a page at the front of your birth plan
~$20 bill in case of parking, plus $20 in change for vending machines etc
~hair elastic or headband
~contact lens case & solution (even if you normally wear contacts, pack the glasses still)
~granola bar, mints, gum
~labour music on your phone/headphones if desired
~small comfort item like a mala bracelet, birthing beads, affirmations, etc.
Hospital Transfer Bag
Next is your Hospital Transfer Bag which will help you get more comfortably from home to hospital. It lives by the door or in your vehicle if you're not worried about it freezing. It should go to the car first when you’re ready to transfer and stay in arms reach of the birthing person or a companion so you can easily get what is needed on the way. Once you arrive at the hospital this bag can stay in the car. Use a small Rubbermaid-type container to hold things if you want the option of an extra container otherwise a small bag will do.
It should contain in the following order:
~extra plastic grocery bag in the bottom.
~folded up large trash or recycling bag
~large receiving blanket
~printout of the American College of Nurse Midwives Guide to Birthing in Place. If you suspect you aren’t going to make it to the hospital pull over in a safe place and call 911.
~small bottle of hand sanitizer
~2 bottles of water and bendy straws (use a hair elastic to hold straw to bottle and then you have a spare if you need it!)
~can of gingerale and bendy straw
~heavy duty zipper/slide seal extra large ziploc bags – in case you need to vomit. Zip it up and put it inside the spare grocery bag so you don’t have to look at it ;) Throw it out in the hospital trash on your way in.
~waterproof mat (or old thick handtowel & a garbage bag) – put this on the seat of the car in case your water breaks on the way.
~change of clothes - something comfy to change into before you leave the house: underwear, sports bra, socks, comfy pants, loose shirt.
~newborn disposable diaper – grab this just before heading out the door, and wear it in your underwear like a pad for the trip to the hospital. It holds a lot if needed!
(Once you've used the diaper, outfit, and waterproof mat your ziploc bags should be the next thing on top so you don't need to search for them in a hurry.)
The Suitcase - Labour
This is the stuff that will get you through labour and birth. Pack it at the top of your suitcase. In addition to any specifics your hospital suggests, you’ll want to consider some of these things to make your labour more comfortable.
If making the hospital feel more welcoming is important to you, and to set yourself apart as a PERSON not just a patient, consider bringing your own gown(s). It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. A discount store nightgown will do just fine and it doesn’t matter if it is ruined somehow. You can also use a short cotton robe and hand stitch on ribbon as extra closures so you can wear it backwards like a hospital gown and still be covered. Or just wear one robe forwards and another one backwards. Battery operated tea lights, prayer/meditation flags, a piece of art or focal object, and music + portable speaker can all give your room a nice vibe that comforts and grounds you, and helps your caregivers see you for the unique birthing person you are.
If that stuff isn’t your cuppa tea, skip it all and move on to the following:
~copy of your birth plan
~re-usable water bottle with built in straw so you stay hydrated without dumping water down yourself while laboring.
~lip balm – attach the lip balm to your water bottle with a rubber band so the two things are easy to find.
~put hair elastics or headbands around the handle of your hairbrush, so both are easy to find as well.
~moisturizer/lotion – hospitals are dry. Minimal or unscented as per hospital policy
~soap/body wash – hospital soap dries you out. Bring your own from home and even keep it in your bathroom as long as you don’t mind sharing. It can be nice to freshen up your armpits too before labour really gets intense, if you haven’t had a chance to shower or bathe.
~gum &/or mints
~suckers (lollipops) &/or honeysticks for quick easy energy
~2 pairs of comfy socks for when you’re in bed
~slippers &/or flip flops &/or grippy slipper socks for wandering the halls
~large ‘wetbag’ or recycling bag to put your dirty laundry in.
~camera/charger/batteries/memory card if you don't use your phone for this
Crunchy Mama Extras
If you have herbs, homeopathics, tinctures, essential oils, healthy foods and drinks, or your Premium Birth Kit or Postpartum Kit etc that you won’t be able to get easily once in the hospital, be sure to pack all those. If you use cloth pads or cloth diapers and intend to start in the hospital make sure you pack enough and also a suitable wetbag to store them in until you get home. If you are having your placenta encapsulated check with your placenta specialist to see what they need you to do. You’ll probably need a container, cooler, and ice. If you are doing anything out of the ordinary and want everyone to be clear about it, consider making a sign that can be placed in the appropriate part of the room (pack some sticky tack)
The Suitcase - Baby
~moisturizing oil – massage into diaper area before first diaper so the meconium wipes off easily
~weather appropriate head to toe clothing in NB and 0-3 (approx 3 outfits/day)
~soap (if you decide to bathe baby after 24 hours, before going home)
You will also need a proper carseat installed before leaving the hospital. Read the manual thoroughly.
The Suitcase - Postpartum
How much you pack depends somewhat on your intended length of stay. If you have given birth under the care of Ontario Midwives and intend to go home right away all you’ll need is one change of clothes etc. If you are having a planned cesarean and know you will be in hospital for 3 days then you’ll need to pack more.
~black 'granny panties' or old underwear, or even adult diapers.
~pads - Something large, but no dryweave style as stitches can catch. Newborn disposable diapers work.
~bandeau bras/halter tops are an easy fit option and you can tuck breastpads into them if needed
~if not bandeaus/halters, then a proper nursing bra
~If you intend to formula feed, bring your preferred ready-to-eat formula and bottles.
~undershirts with scoop/stretchy necks - - so it is easy to breastfeed or have skin to skin while still having some belly coverage in case of visitors
~button down shirts or loose fitting shirts - - so its easy to breastfeed or have skin to skin but also not freeze or feel too exposed.
~cardigan/hoodie as hospitals can be quite cool
~yoga pants or other dark coloured comfortable maternity pants.
~comfy dark coloured pajamas
~travel size shampoo & conditioner
~toothbrush & toothpaste
~facial care products
~if makeup makes you feel better then pack your basics only.
~hemorrhoid cream &/or witch hazel solution & wipes
~earplugs in case of noisy neighbours
~sleepmask if sleeping in a lit room bothers you
~chargers for all devices & an extension cord because outlets are often too far from the bed for your charge cord to reach fully.
~cash for machines and snacks
~travel mug to keep coffee/tea warm
~timekillers like a book, magazine, deck of cards, puzzle book etc.
~notebook & pen for jotting down questions, important things to remember etc.
~if you're the gifting type, small treats and blank thank you notes for nurses etc., as well as gifts for existing children 'from the baby' etc if desired.
~Some women feel strongly about using their own pillow, towels, or blankets. If this is you then pack these items but they may need to be separate from your suitcase.
This is the stuff to support the person who is supporting the birthing person. If there is no companion then you'll want to add the food to your own labour bag or pack it in a small cooler or bag
~comfortable change of clothes: socks, underwear, pants, tshirt, longsleeve shirt
~button-down shirt for skin to skin
~pajama pants & sleep shirt
~hoodie or sweatshirt
~flipflops if you may be supporting the birthing person near the shower
~swim trunks if you may be supporting the birthing person in water
~basic personal toiletries
~basic personal medications such as tylenol, advil, antacids, muscle rub
~cellphone and charger
~magazine or puzzle book etc
~$ for parking and vending machines
~re-usable water bottle
~preferred teabags or Starbucks Via Coffee sachets
~Food items such as:
instant oatmeal packets
fresh fruit &/or fruit cups
arrowroot type cookies
candy/chocolate (both what the birthing person likes, and what you like)