When you hit the third trimester of your pregnancy, there is a lot on your mind — finishing the nursery, practicing your breathing, getting the car seat installed — all the important things that you want done before the baby arrives. One of the most important tasks on the to-do list is packing your bag for the hospital.
Typing “What to pack in your hospital bag” on Google will offer you over 8 million lists of what to pack in your bag. Some lists are short and basic, some are so over-zealous that even the most prepared mommas will chuckle and some leave you with a lot of questions. Will I really need bottled water? Should I pack my own hand soap?
To help you digest the abundance of information at your fingertips, here are some questions to help you narrow down the list:
1. What will the hospital provide?
When you take your hospital tour, here are the things you will want to pay special attention to:
- What is available for your labor coach? Some hospitals provide a refrigerator of juice, snacks and the like for those helping you through labor. If your hospital does not, you will want to pack some drinks and snacks for your coach. You don’t want a “hangry” labor coach!
- What will go home with you? Hospitals will load you up with paperwork, footprints, diapers, gauze pads and more! My awesome hospital (located next to Rubbermaid’s factory) provided a 40-gallon tote for all patients. If your hospital is not so conveniently located, plan to pack an empty duffel bag.
- What are your food options if you deliver overnight? Will the cafeteria be closed? Are there restaurants near your hospital that are open 24 hours a day? If not, pack some non-perishables to get you through the night.
2. What will the hospital need from me?
- What paperwork will I need to provide? A picture ID and an insurance card will be your starting points, but be sure to ask the hospital if there’s anything else they will need from you.
- Can you pre-register? Asking questions about your allergies and family history can be a nuisance when you’re trying to make it through the next contraction, so take care of anything you can before you are in labor!
- If you have a tricky name (like me), verify that they have it right! They missed the first letter of my last name and I had to re-register as they started my IV… I did not enjoy that and I doubt you will either.
- Birth plans. My plan for birth was to get a baby out of me. The end. If you are a bit more detailed, don’t forget that important document!
3. What clothing will I need?
Depending on your labor and hospital practices, you will be in the hospital for one to three days; plan ahead.
- During Labor:
- Hospitals will provide a gown.
- If you are a robe wearer, you may want one. I am not a robe wearer, and — although I packed one — it did not leave my suitcase.
- Socks and/or slippers are likely the only fashion accessories you will be allowed to pair with your lovely gown.
- BE AWARE: anything worn during labor is susceptible to splatter… childbirth splatter… don’t bring anything you are unwilling to toss.
- After birth:
- Comfy clothes. If you do not already have a favorite pair of oversized sweatpants, you will want to purchase one now. I bought a $10 pair a few weeks before I had my son and I basically lived in that pair of pants for the next three months.
- Pack your favorite maternity clothes and grab a t-shirt or two for your husband.
- The hospital will provide some mesh panties and sanitary napkins for you. Some people say they do not like the mesh underwear, but with the super-period that occurs after you deliver a baby, why would you not want the option of throwing those panties away? Embrace the mesh disposable panties!
- Also pack a nursing bra or a comfy sports bra so you can feel put-together as you show off your new cutie to friends and family.
- Take-home outfits:
- Taking your baby home will be a picture-taking bonanza. While most put their efforts into baby’s take-home outfit, many forget that Mom and Dad will also be in the pictures. I’m not saying you need anything fancy, but please don’t pack the t-shirt you won at a football game with your local pharmacy printed across the front of it like I did. My husband took some incredible pictures of me with our son in his nursery for the first time and EVERY TIME I look at those pictures I want to change my shirt!
4. What else can I not live without for a few days?
- Toiletries are a given. Pack your basics and do not forget anything important like glasses or contacts case and solution.
- Do you have any quirks you should plan for? I always have cold feet, so slippers were an absolute must. Do your lips dry up in record time? Pack some chapstick. Think about who you are as a person and plan for what you always need to have along.
- Chargers, chargers, and more chargers. Pack them all. And extra batteries if any of your devices are that old school.
- A camera, empty memory card, and anything else you need for documenting your sweet one’s arrival should all be packed and easy to find for your labor coach.
- Be sure to consider what items cannot be packed until the last minute. A list right by the door will ensure you don’t forget anything important.
5. What will I do inbetween contractions?
Because the average first birth typically lasts twelve or more hours, you should plan for some easy-to-step-away-from distractions:
- Television can be helpful, and will likely be accessible in your labor room.
- Something light to read, like a magazine.
- Games, like crossword puzzles and Sudoku that can be interrupted.
6. What will my coach need?
- Are there basic toiletries your coach would appreciate after several hours of helping you through labor (deodorant, contact solution, shaver)?
- Would a change of clothes be appreciated? If you deliver late at night and going home is not the best option, changing clothes in the morning will definitely be a blessing.
Take these questions and pack away! If you want more detailed lists, here are a few of my favorites: