At 36 weeks pregnant, I decided it was time to pack our hospital bags. I've been getting Braxton Hicks with this pregnancy since somewhere around 20 weeks, and with each passing week, they get stronger and more frequent. At 36 weeks, there were times that these contractions were pretty convincing too! Besides, I'm an over-planner. If I can be more than ready far ahead of time, I'm happy. There's nothing I hate more than not being prepared, and I'm usually more prepared than necessary.
It was one thing, packing a hospital bag when I was about to have my first child, but with a second, I have more people to think about. In fact, this time around, I packed for four people. Also, I know what my hospital visit is going to be like this time so I know from experience the things I'll wish I had. Thankfully, my midwife works out of the same hospital as my old OB/GYN doctors. She gave me a nifty packing list for so I used that as my base and then added and subtracted the things I knew I'd need and those I wouldn't.
First of all, I packed a bag for my three year old daughter (which thrills her beyond belief). Now if you have family living in your area, you might be able to leave your kids at home and have an Aunt or Grandmother come by and stay with them. Our families live far enough away that this is not an option for us. She's going to spend the time when I'm in labor with friends of ours. She's familiar with these people, but sleeping overnight at someone's house without Mommy and Daddy is still something she has rarely done and I wanted to make sure she has things with her that will make her comfortable.
So, for my daughter I packed:
- A couple days worth of clothing: I picked some sensible clothing for her to wear, but I also know how much she loves to dress up so I made sure she had a Tinkerbell dress up dress in addition to some more frilly numbers so she can express her personality through her wardrobe as she prefers.
- Comforting things to sleep with: She won't be sleeping in her familiar bed with her favorite stuffed animals so I packed her Cinderella Pillow Pet as a pillow and a favorite blanket.
- Toys: In addition, I asked her to pick out a toy and 3 books that she could bring along.
- Toiletries and cute hair ties.
- A favorite DVD.
- A "Big Sister" shirt.
Next, I need to pack a diaper bag for my unborn son. This time around, we won't be using the hospital's diapers or soaps--I've decided that I want to go with organic lotion and baby wash, and for his circumcision (which we decided to do after painstaking research and prayer), we're going to use un-petroleum jelly because I've heard it's safer with cloth diapers and also because it's made from all-natural oils rather than petroleum by products. Now, I have no experience cloth diapering a newborn. Well, I shouldn't say no experience. I did start cloth diapering my daughter when she was a week old, but I was using only three bumGenius 4.0 diapers offset with disposables. By the time I started building my stash, it didn't make sense to buy anything but one size fits all diapers for her. With this baby, I've been slowly amassing mostly handmade, newborn size covers, fitteds, AIOs, and prefolds and I know he will be big, but probably not more than 9 lbs like my daughter was, so I really don't know what will give him the best fit. That means, I'm packing way more diapers than he needs. I also know that in the first few days of their life, newborns require very few diaper changes. In fact, they require one diaper change for each day of life lived until they hit 8-12 diaper changes a day. That means 1 diaper change on his first day, 2 on his second, and so on and so forth. So, in my son's bag I packed the following:
- a handmade changing pad
- an assortment of about 15 cloth diapers (AIOs, prefolds, fitteds, and covers)
- cloth wipes
- diaper fasteners
- a couple changes of clothes including hats and shoes
- a swaddling blanket (though I'm not sure he'll need it since it's summer)
- organic toiletries (baby wash, baby lotion, un-petroleum jelly) I prefer that he not use any Johnson & Johnson stuff because they have some harmful chemicals in them.
- a well-installed car seat. I took mine to the local police station to make sure it was installed properly. The base shouldn't be able to move more than an inch from side to side once installed properly. The actual baby seat will have to be taken into the hospital where the nurses will check that you have secured your baby properly before you're allowed to leave.
Next I packed for my husband. Actually, I packed one combined suitcase for both of us together. I learned last time that my husband needs a well-packed hospital bag. I also learned that when I'm in labor and even postpartum I like the room ridiculously cold and he was shivering the entire time. So for him I packed both some summer clothing, and some warmer clothes so he can cope with my frigid temperature preferences. I also packed him swimming trunks so he can climb into the birthing tub with me if that's what I need. But since he can come and go as he pleases following the labor, and even during parts of it, I didn't go to the trouble of packing him much else. He can always go home and get what he needs once the baby has been born.
My midwife handed out a list of suggestions for our packing list. Based on that list I packed the following for myself:
- A focal point: I don't know if I'll need it because I prefer to close my eyes when trying to lose myself in pain. My midwife suggested that the focal point be something you can get rid of when it's all over because looking at it might remind you of the pain and agony, so no cutesy photos of my daughter. Instead, I chose an encouraging scripture and printed and framed it.
- Comfy socks (you can choose slippers as well)
- Comfortable underwear--black might be good, in case they get stained.
- A couple of nursing bras. Your cup size will increase a size or two once your milk comes in, so don't invest in a lot of nursing bras yet. I already have an idea of what size I will be because this is the second time I've nursed, but if this is your first child, you should get a sleep bra--something very soft and comfortable with lots of stretch and give rather than a bra with band and cup sizes. Don't go with any underwire or molded cups, especially at first. Your girlies will really need to breathe and these options are not always the healthiest choice for lactating breasts. That said, though, I wonder if any type of bra will be necessary for me because most of my time in the hospital with Bunny, I just went without.
- Nursing pads: You can find plenty of cloth options at a cloth diaper retailer, but Babies R Us has a couple of trustworthy brands including Bamboobies. Don't go with the Gerber cloth pads, though. From my experience, they're worthless.
- Lanolin or some other nipple ointment. The hospital does provide this, but you might want your own brand.
- Clothes for going home in. Even if you didn't' gain much weight during your pregnancy, very few girls go home wearing their pre-pregnancy jeans. Your belly will usually be sort of loose and flabby for awhile until everything shrinks back down to where it should be. You can pick some comfortable maternity clothes to wear, or something with a lot of stretch. I chose a loose, flowy knit dress to wear home. It will look cute for that picture you take when you're about to get into the car and it will hide any unsightly post-partum bulges.
- Toiletries: Actually, the hospital may give you these. They gave me some last time, but you might want to bring your own just in case.
- Reading material: It's good to have this just in case--you never know how long you'll be in the hospital and if you end up with a cesarean, you'll be there a couple of days. We stayed two nights after my daughter was born because the pediatrician wanted to monitor her oxygen levels an extra day. I had originally planned on not allowing visitors but got so bored that I started inviting everyone I knew to come and see her. That worked well for us, but a book would have helped to pass the time when she was napping just as well. Also, if you chose an epidural, there will be long stretches of your labor where you are just resting or waiting. A book, or knitting, or something similar would be helpful if sleep eludes you during this time.
- Card games--I packed my favorite, Dutch Blitz (and if you know what that is, you know what area of the country I come from J), but I don't envision being able to play any card games unless I get an epidural, which I have about a 1% chance of getting at this point.
- A bathrobe
- Some lounging around clothing such as sweats and a T shirt, just in case.
- Your own hospital type gown. I'm perfectly fine wearing the one they give you in the hospital, but if you're not, bring your own. I have a friend who gets some specially made for her and wears them when she has her babies. Also, once the baby is born, they'll give you a nursing gown. Nursing gowns have slits in the front for breastfeeding and I absolutely loved them! I might consider asking the hospital if I can buy one of theirs next time?if they even allow that kind of thing.
- My birthing literature: Maybe I'm a dork, but I'm bringing along the birthing book my midwife used to teach us about the birth process and coping methods in our Lamaze classes. Who knows? Maybe my husband will want to refer to it during labor.
- Cameras: We're bringing both our video camera and our nice camera with us. We both have iPhones with pretty great cameras on them--in fact most of the pictures I post here come from my iPhone camera--but for the birth it would be nice to have the nice SLR to take more "professional" looking pictures. I made sure that both are fully charged with empty or almost empty memory cards in preparation for the big day. I'm also well-stocked with extra memory cards, batteries, and chargers.
- Music: My iPod is stocked with lots of relaxing worship music that I find soothing. In fact, I have an entire playlist labeled "Labor and Delivery."
- Massage tools (such as a plastic massager or tennis ball, and some lotion or massage oil)
- Birth plan--My midwife already collected my birth plan at her Lamaze classes and entered it into my file. If your OB/GYN or midwife hasn't done that, make sure you take one along to give to the person delivering your baby.
- Birthing ball: My hospital has an ample supply of birthing balls so mine will be staying at home. Check and see what your hospital has and if they don't have one, you might want to take yours with you.
- Heating pad or hot rice sock
- Candles/aroma therapy
- hair ties and a brush
- Insurance card and paperwork.
- Breastfeeding pillow. I got backaches when I first tried to breastfeed and sent a family member back to the house to bring it to the hospital for me.
When all is said and done, you might end up with more stuff than you'll need for your hospital stay, but when dealing with something as sensitive and important as labor, delivery, and newborn care, it's best to have all the comforts of home with you, if possible. Birth and baby care are best accomplished in an environment where you feel comfortable and relaxed and often, having these simple items from home can help accomplish that.
So, what did you pack in your hospital bag? Is there anything I left out that you feel every mother should have with her?