PACKING your bag to have a baby can be daunting — there’s so much that you could bring, but what is actually required?
Particularly in recent times with visitors limited, you want to strike the right balance between having enough of everything, while not having too much unnecessary “stuff” to be rummaging through.
Here’s a summary of the essentials that will almost definitely be used during your stay.
Add to this any personal extras, and you’re ready to go!
It’s a good idea to have everything ready and waiting from Week 34 onwards. Give yourself time in the few weeks in advance of that to be gathering things. This may involve a trip to the pharmacy, some online shopping and some washing of baby clothes. Being organised will reduce the stress of an unexpected early labour.
Pack a small Labour Bag for everything you’ll need for the delivery suite or before a scheduled C- section, and a separate Hospital Bag for the items you’ll need in the days afterwards. Separating these out is the best thing you can do to minimise hassle at a time when you’ll have other things to worry about!
It’s also helpful to compile a list of the things that can only be added at the time of leaving the house, e.g. documentation, chargers, toothbrushes. Have this waiting on top of the bags, so that nothing gets left behind in the panic!
Nightgown – with buttons down the front if you plan to breastfeed, or for those first hours of skin-to-skin if you don’t.
Slippers and robe – for extra comfort if some walking of the corridors is required!
Comfort items – lipbalm, facecloth (dampen this and use as a cold compress across your forehead during labour), water bottle, snacks, chargers, change of clothes for birth partner.
Hospital file – for all your pregnancy records to date. Include a copy of your birth plan if you have one (better referred to as your “birth preferences” - birth rarely goes fully to plan!) Anything extra that your birth plan refers to e.g .TENs machine, headphones.
Baby’s first outfit – nappy, vest, babygro and hat. You can have this ready in a ziplock bag to give to the midwife when the time comes.
Pyjamas/nightdresses or comfy clothes – the amount of time you spend in hospital depends upon how the birth goes, and whether you have a C-section or not. Pack four or five of these in case, dark colours are good!
Underwear – Bridget Jones style and plenty of them! Make sure they’re cotton, loose and that the waistband goes up quite high; if a c–section is required you won’t want anything that rubs against the wound, which is usually just on your bikini line.
Big green maternity pads – ask for them in any pharmacy. Whether you deliver vaginally or via C-section you will have bleeding for several weeks. To start with, these pads are the most absorbent. They’ll feel like you’re wearing a nappy, but you’ll be very thankful of that! Tidier versions are available for later weeks when the worst of the bleeding has stopped.
Shower essentials – you’ll want to feel some way human in subsequent days. Bring an old dark coloured towel, flip-flops, and a small hanging washbag that fits any other essentials. For some, this might just be shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, deodorant and toothbrush/toothpaste. Others may wish to bring their entire makeup bag. Whatever helps to put some pep in your step is fine!
Going home outfit – something comfy is essential, you’ll be straight back into PJs when you get home anyway!
Small plastic bags – handy for collecting laundry.
Nursing bras – three of these should suffice. Make sure that they don’t have an underwire, but give you good support.
Lanolin Nipple Cream and Multi-Mam Compresses – If breastfeeding, these will be your new best friends! Those initial weeks can be uncomfortable as your nipples adjust, but it’s very important to note that breastfeeding should not be very painful or cause bleeding. Ask a midwife or lactation consultant to check that baby is latching correctly if so). Be careful of the lanolin though, it stains clothes and will not come out! The compresses are very large and can easily be cut in half.
Breast pads – initially there is minimal leakage, but be prepared for day 2/3 when your milk comes in!
Vests and babygros – approximately five of each is plenty.
Cardigans and hats – two of each of these should be fine. Have all baby clothes pre-washed.
Blanket – the hospital provides blankets, but it’s nice to have something cozy and gender- appropriate for those newborn pictures. For safety reasons, baby should only be put to sleep in the blankets with the little holes in them, called “cellular blankets.” Muslin cloths – these are fantastic to have after leaving the hospital too for any spills, spit- ups, or for use during feeds.
Baby towel – you’ll be shown how to bath baby safely during your stay.
Nappies - bring a couple of packs of these.
Water Wipes or cotton wool – in later weeks you can switch to other brands of wipes, but the Water Wipes are gentle for newborn skin.
Vaseline – a very neutral, protective layer for baby’s bum.
Baby’s Going Home Outfit - it’s very important that baby is warm enough leaving the hospital. Even in the summer months, a few layers will be required. However, avoid very bulky body suits as these trap a layer of air between baby and the straps of the car seat, and are deemed to be a safety hazard.
Car seat – the person collecting you can bring this in with them. The midwives will check before you leave to make sure that baby is strapped into it safely. Make sure that you have also practiced securing the seat into the car several times in advance. With tiredness and overwhelm this can be extra tricky, even if you’ve been shown how to do it previously.
It’s a good idea to have everything ready and waiting from Week 34 onwards... Being organised will reduce the stress of an unexpected early labour.
Dr Michelle O’Driscoll is a Lecturer of Clinical Pharmacy in UCC, while continuing to work in the community pharmacy setting.
Her research lies in the area of mental health education, and through her company InTuition she delivers health promotion workshops to corporate and academic organisations nationally.