Pack Your Hospital Bag

This week, you can

• Prepare your hospital bag

I N SOME WAYS, packing for your hospital stay can feel like preparing for a lengthy voyage. Your hospital stay will usher in a huge change in your life. In many ways, it will be very much like visiting a foreign country! What do you need to have on hand for this journey?

In most hospitals, the bulk of your postpartum stay will happen in a separate room —sometimes even on a separate floor!—from where you labor and deliver. Some of the items you’ll need for each portion of your stay are different, but you’ll want to have some of your items in both places.

I’m going to split this list into three sections, in case you’d rather pack your items separately. This will also keep you from having to dig through a lot of items you won’t need while in labor and vice versa.

Keep in mind that if you are planning a cesarean birth or end up having one unexpectedly, your hospital stay will be several days long. You can either pack for those extra days or plan to send your spouse home to get you extra changes of clothing during your stay.


• Your birth plan.

• Music you might like (many moms like to make their own playlist. Check with your hospital to see if you need to bring your own CD player or MP3 player).
• Snacks and drinks for labor. Keep it light: fruit juice, herbal tea, an electrolyte replacer like Gatorade, granola bars, fruit, etc. If you’re hiring a doula, bring snacks for her, and for Dad, too. Some women like hard candy, mints, or gum while in labor.

• Heating pad or rice pack.

• List of people to call to announce the news.

• Any reference materials you think you might need—for example, your childbirth educator may have given you illustrations of different positions to try in labor or descriptions of massage techniques. Don’t rely on your memory! Labor and delivery will take you to a more basic and primal place in your mind. Written instructions are often necessary to remind you of what you’ve learned.

• Massage oil.

If you’re giving birth at home or in a freestanding birth center you may have a different list of supplies you will need to have on hand and/or bring along with you. Your midwife will supply this information. Don’t wait until the last minute to track down the supplies you’ll need—some of them may be tricky to find.

Some women who are planning a hospital birth still like to have an emergency birth kit at home or in the car (or in both places!) just in case things go much faster than planned. You can buy kits online that contain all of the supplies plus an instructional sheet helping you know what to do in the event that your baby decides to make a surprise appearance. At minimum, you’ll want to have some clean, dry towels, a blanket big enough to cover Mom and some receiving blankets for wiping/swaddling the baby, hand sanitizer, a flashlight, a bottle of rubbing alcohol and cotton pads, and a hospital-quality suction bulb on hand in your car and at home. Many birth kits will include scissors and cord clamps, but in most cases you can leave Baby’s cord intact until emergency help arrives. If you are unable to make it to the hospital and your baby is on her way, call 911. The dispatcher will send help and talk you through the process.

• Whatever nightgown or other outfit you plan to wear when you give birth. Bring an extra just in case.

• If you’ll be laboring or giving birth in the water, bring something to wear in the tub. (Some moms prefer to go nude, while others like to wear a bathing suit top or bra). Don’t forget swim trunks for Dad in case he wants to get in the water as well.

• Don’t forget your insurance information and master list!
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