I recently had a conversation with my sister-in-law, whose baby is due in November, about what to pack in her hospital bag. It got me thinking about what I packed and wish I had packed. It’s really hard to know exactly how many baby grows to include when you could be in hospital for one night or ten. In my case, I think I packed enough outfits for the baby to be in hospital for a month!
There are loads of lists online that will tell you the essentials you need for yourself and baby, but I’ve come up with a few things that I found useful and a few I hadn’t thought of at the time but would definitely recommend.
Obviously each person’s needs differ and perhaps a Cadbury’s cream egg won’t be top of your list, but I really enjoyed eating one after childbirth once the shock had worn off and hunger kicked in (I’m always hungry).
1. Maternity pads
People told me I needed loads of these and I thought they were exaggerating – they were not! You need the really thick ones and lots of them. Those purple packs of Always night-time pads just aren’t going to cut it. Add to this some old pants that you don’t mind throwing away. As I was virtually incontinent for the last week of my pregnancy, I had bought loads of Tena lady throw-away pants (they are a bit like pull-up nappies but for adults). These were actually an amazing find, because I wasn’t worried about leakages and then you could rip them off at the sides and chuck the whole thing away.
2. Sports drinks
If you end up using gas-and-air during labour your mouth gets really dry. I bought a couple of bottles of still Lucozade in fruity flavours (I can’t remember the exact ones but they tasted nice. Oh and don’t get fizzy ones!). The style of drinks bottle was really easy to sip from, as you didn’t have to keep unscrewing the top and the fruity flavour was refreshing, plus it gave me a sugar boost when I needed it.
3. Post-birth snacks
I’ve never been happier than when Grump came back from the hospital café with a Cadbury’s crème egg. You might not think you will fancy anything like that, but pack a couple of treats for after the birth – you’ll need all the little perk-me-ups you can get. I also managed to get in a KitKat Chunky while floating in the birthing pool (that was probably the best part of my labour).
4. Eye mask
I found sleeping in hospital really difficult and wearing an eye mask made it that bit easier. I would also recommend ear plugs, but you probably need to be able to hear your baby crying when he/she is hungry! I spent my first night in hospital in triage waiting for my contractions to start and my second night in the delivery suite as there were no rooms in post-natal. In the room next to me was a screamer. I heard her entire labour in crystal-clear surround sound. Enough said.
5. F is for Formula
Even though I intended to breastfeed, I took in a pack of little bottles of made-up formula. They came in a sterilised bottle with a separate sterilised teat, so all you had to do was put the teat on the bottle and it was ready to go. I think the hospital will give you one if you ask, but I didn’t want to be judged for offering formula instead of breast. I gave the J a bottle on the first night of her life, as she was struggling to latch on and was crying for milk. I then went on to successfully breastfeed her for the next 4 months. Using a little bit of formula is not a crime. Why do health professionals make us feel like it is??? (That’s a whole other discussion/blog post).
6. Nipple shields
If you are struggling to get your baby to latch on, these are a god send. They are also great if, like me, your nipple splits open (yes it was gross) and is so sore that you wince and cry during every feed. I didn’t pack these in my hospital bag, as I had never heard of them until a month or so into breastfeeding when one of my NCT friends was using them. I don’t know why they aren’t recommended by professionals, but I can only assume that the best practice is to be able to feed without any help. It is a mild inconvenience to make sure they are sterile and to keep sticking them on before a feed (this sometimes leads to flashing family members, friends and strangers in coffee shops), but I take the view that if they are making your life easier and your baby is feeding happily then what’s the harm.
7. Home comforts
Slightly obvious, but pack your favourite toiletries; face wipes, hand cream and lip balm were lifesavers for me. Basically take anything that will make you feel a bit more human. Also, hospital pillows are not the best and you want to be comfortable and to get the best quality sleep you can. Having your own pillow makes life that little bit better. Oh and make sure you put it in a brightly coloured pillow case so that it doesn’t get mixed up with the other white hospital pillows.
8. Slippers and a dressing gown
You’ll definitely need something for walking around the hospital in. Just think of all the germs! I packed a pair of those white slippers that you get free in hotels. Don’t go for anything too hot, as hospitals are really warm, so leave your UGG booties at home. You might want a light robe (I just took a cardigan), but don’t bother with a big fluffy dressing gown or you’ll be sweating one out in no time.
9. Stuff for your birthing partner
Whether it’s your husband, boyfriend, friend or mother, make sure they have either packed their own bag or you include things for them to do and eat (obviously I had to pack a bag for Grump). He had lots of snacks, magazines, a Dad-to-be parenting book (he only read the first two chapters) and a phone charger. Don’t forget a change of clothes and toiletries if they are planning on staying the night. We also took a fold-up camp bed and sleeping bag for Grump and he slept on that the first night I was in hospital. His other option would’ve been an uncomfortable-looking chair, so it was worth lugging it along with us.
10. A little plastic jug
Sounds odd, but you will need this little friend after the birth. No one warns you that the first time you do a wee after giving birth, it stings like hell. The only way to make it more bearable is to pour water over your bits while you are peeing. I did not have a jug and tried this with a plastic cup and a water bottle – neither were very effective. You have been warned! (Obviously don’t bring a massive gravy jug or the midwife might think you want to take the placenta home or something).