One definite lesson learned revolves around the hospital bag. Typically, you would want to have that packed 4-6 weeks before your scheduled due date, since some babies decide they are too eager to meet mom and dad and cannot possibly stay in their cozy womb any longer. Birth is exciting and stressful enough. So when it happens a couple of weeks earlier than scheduled, you really won’t need additional things on your to-do list other than the big event itself. Certainly no “quick, let’s pack a bag” action.
What is most important though is that despite hospital bag preparation being a somewhat important task, you will always need less than you packed. A lot of women, myself included, check into the hospital for the birth giving the impression they plan to permanently live there and have thus seemingly brought all their belongings. Don’t worry too much about forgetting something, because you will not be there all that long if everything goes the optimal way, so a couple of nights at most, and anything that you did forget and can’t live without can be brought by your partner or a relative/friend.
Btw: ask if it is possible for your partner to stay with you and the baby overnight in a family room. The first 24 hours are very precious moments and allow you to bond as a family.
So here is my hospital bag list based on my personal experience (anticipating you stay in the hospital 2-3 extra nights):
Clothing for mom
- 3 extra-large t-shirts (more if you stored a lot of water, as a substantial amount will be sweated out in the first couple of days after the birth).
- 2 pairs of very comfy PJ pants.
- 2 nursing bras.
- 3-5 panties that are one size larger than your normal ones (to fit the hospital pads).
- 1 cardigan.
- 1 set of clothes that fit you 5 months into the pregnancy (opt for comfort over style, since you are most likely not a celebrity who is at the risk of being photographed by a lifestyle magazine while leaving the hospital, meaning a pair of sweat pants is probably making you feel better than jeans).
- A couple of extra comfy socks.
- Slippers or any type of shoe that is easy to get on without too much bending over or tying.
- Optional but surprisingly handy: bring an older buttoned down shirt from your partner (assuming his frame is larger than yours), as it is comfy like a PJ shirt and can be easily opened to breastfeed. Plus – but this might be a personal Mareike thing – I love wearing my partner’s buttoned-down shirts.
Optional: Clothing for dad (you know, since a birth can be long and if he can stay overnight)
- 1 set of clothing to change.
- PJs (if dad stays overnight in a family room).
- Personal care items to freshen up after the birth or in case the dad can stay overnight.
Items for your baby
- 2 onesies.
- 2 pajamas.
- 1 jacket or outdoor piece for the trip home (unless the baby is born on a hot summer day).
- Baby hat.
- Baby car seat (only bring that on the day you actually take the baby home, ideally simply leave it in your car) (optional: light blanket to tuck your baby in if s/he’s born in a colder month for the journey home).
Cosmetics and personal care for mom
- Lip balm (for the time in the delivery room).
- Hairband (for the time in the delivery room).
- Wash cloth.
- Towel (although some hospitals do provide them, so ask first).
- Tooth brush and tooth paste.
- Hair brush.
- Facial care items.
- Shower gel and shampoo.
- Dry shampoo (that might sound weird at first and I never saw it on any hospital bag checklist, but in case you are unable to take a shower (for instance if you end up needing a cesarean or are simply too sore to feel capable of standing in a shower), but want to freshen your hair up, I definitely recommend it).
- Wet wipes (as everything will be veeery sore and they do not provide these in hospitals and the first bathroom visit is terrifying enough as it is).
- Large envelope or folder to hold all documents listed here.
- Maternity log (will be needed by the hospital team handling your birth to know the history of your pregnancy).
- Health insurance card/documents.
- ID card.
- A bit of cash (in case you want to visit the hospital cafeteria).
- Varies by country: documents to register the birth in the hospital (if applicable).
Items to support you during birth
- Energy bar and a couple of snacks (a birth can be a long process and you don’t want the dad-to-be wandering around the hospital at 4am to find a vending machine).
- Water bottle (they do have water in hospitals, but it’s sometimes helpful to have some right there with you, without having to call a nurse first, as you will be alone in the delivery room for the majority of the time with your partner until the action truly starts).
- Camera or smartphone (fully charged and either equipped with enough storage space for all the gazillions of pictures you will take or with an app to an online database).
- Phone charger.
What you do not need to bring in 99% of cases:
Just to be certain, check in with your hospital of choice to see if these apply in their case
- Baby sleeping bag (provided by the hospital).
- Baby diapers (provided by the hospital).
- Nursing pillow (provided by the hospital).
- Hygienic pads for the mother (provided by the hospital).
- Night gown (while it’s a nice idea in theory, in reality you will not sit or walk around in a night gown, more handy is a cardigan as it will also allow you to feel a bit more “dressed”. After all, you are not in the hospital because you are ill, you “just” gave birth).
- Books (a lot of checklists contain books, but let’s get real. These are the first moments you get to spend with your little munchkin outside of the womb. It’s a crazy emotional rollercoaster ride and fascinating to no end. I doubt you will need to read a thriller or a romantic novel to entertain yourself. Baby watching, baby cuddling, baby everything is usually all you will feel like doing).