Now that I'm doing monitrice-doula service, I'm being asked what women should pack for the hospital. Here, I share what, to me, are the bare-bones items necessary for a new mom's labor and postpartum stay. When making a decision about what to bring, take into consideration 1) when you'll need the item 2) if it brings you great comfort 3) the limited space in hospital Labor & Delivery and postpartum rooms. If you feel angst about not having something, bring it! If you can live without it, leave it behind.
What to Bring to the Hospital
(in 2 parts)
Part 1 – For the Labor
Part 2 – For the Hospital Stay
Part 1 - Bring in when admitted to the Labor & Delivery Suite
- iPod, headphones and/or docking station
- Your pillow, any color pillowcase but white
- Camera with extra batteries and memory cards
- Chargers for phones and cameras - Some find it easier to buy a new charger and keep it in the Hospital Bag instead of trying to grab the one by the bed or in the bathroom when the time to go comes. You can always keep it in the suitcase after the birth for trips and vacations.
- Chapstick – at least two
- Cooler – Pack with easy to eat, non-smelly, snacks (crackers & cheese, protein bars, PB&J, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.); no need to pack juice, the hospital has all you’ll need.
- Water bottles – Hospitals have the best ice, but the water comes from the faucet. Bringing a half-gallon bottle of water or 2-3 liter bottles is a good idea. No need to bring cups or sports bottles.
- Ten $1 bills and $5 of quarters (more or less) – When the cafeteria is open, credit cards are fine, but if you’re needing food in the off-hours, ones and change is always a good idea
- Tylenol or Ibuprofen – for partner/other family members, not mom!
- Sports bra & sarong – Many women find wearing these far preferable to the hospital gown. The gowns make women “patients”; the sarongs are pretty and keep the room bright and remembering this is a birth, not an illness.
- Hair ties or barrettes
- Hairbrush or comb, especially if mom likes to have her hair brushed.
- Slippers, flip flops or other slip-on shoes for mom.
- Toothbrush & toothpaste - can help mom feel refreshed.
- A birth ball if the hospital doesn’t provide one. Be sure to ask at your hospital tour. I don’t know of any hospitals that don’t have them, but make sure you know if you need to bring your own or not.
After the birth, your support person will take the cooler and dirty pillowcase back to the car. The bra and sarong can also go out to the car. If you brought a birth ball, it will go back in the car as well. The best time to make the run to the car is as you are being checked into your postpartum room. That way, the items brought into the room are the ones you need and the things you don’t need anymore aren’t cluttering the often small postpartum room.
Part 2 – Leave in the car until after the baby is born and you are in your postpartum room.
- Your computer – Be sure to bring your cord and/or extra batteries. If you’re going to download pictures from the camera, bring the adapter cord, too. Addendum - It was brought up that leaving the computer in the car is probably not the best idea, so you decide when to bring it in... during labor or, better yet, have someone bring it to you after the birth and once you're admitted to the postpartum floor. If an epidural is a given, having the computer during labor can provide entertainment and helps the time pass quickly.
- Another non-white pillowcase - Trade out the dirty one from labor… clean case on pillow; old, dirty case in the car.
- Bras, nursing ones – If you’re used to wearing one to sleep. Your breasts will be bared more than covered, so if you don’t normally wear a bra, it isn’t the most necessary thing quite yet. I encourage women who don’t have to wear a bra for shoulder/back comfort to wait until after engorgement to put them on. Bras during engorgement (potentially, days 2-5 postpartum) can cause clogged ducts and possibly infection. It’s best to not wear any underwire bras during nursing for this reason.
- No need to bring a nursing gown. The hospital gown is perfect for the entire stay. You’ll be sweating like crazy and bleeding a lot, so might as well use their gowns and change it several times a day. (Do not feel like you can only change it once a day! Change it as many times as you want or need to so you feel fresh.) Some women have said stretchy, inexpensive tank tops are more comfortable than the hospital gown, so that's an idea, too.
- Deodorant/Antiperspirant – You’ll probably use this a couple of times a day. It’s amazing how much you’ll sweat those first few days after the birth.
- The hospital provides tee shirts for the baby, so you can use those, but it’s sweet to put your baby in his or her own clothes. Know they might get messy from the meconium, which is hard to get out, or barf, so save the beautiful outfit for going home pictures. Onesies are the best thing for hospital-wear. Especially if you’re going to be putting your baby in organic clothing, this is the time to introduce your baby to your personal style. 5-6 should be plenty. Make sure they don’t end up in the hospital’s laundry, so just like with the pillowcases, anything but white is best.
- The hospital also provides disposable diapers for the baby, but if you’re going to use cloth diapers, you might choose to do so even in the hospital. This can be cumbersome, what with dirty/meconium diapers that need to go home and be washed, but plenty of women feel this is totally worth it. Others who cloth dipe wait until the meconium has passed to use them. Your choice is the right one.
- The hospital provides incredibly unattractive mesh underwear. It’s functional, but if you wear underwear larger than a size 9 or 10 (not clothes size 9 or 10, but underwear size 9 or 10!), you might want to bring your own. Larger women struggle with the mesh; it cuts into the skin and can make your postpartum time miserable.
- The hospital also provides sanitary pads (the size of your pillow); use theirs, but have a goodly supply of large, extra-absorbent pads at home, in the bathroom. Have several garbage bags in your garbage can in the bathroom, too. The pads fill the can quickly, plus the pads can smell if left in there too long. It’s best to empty the bathroom trash a couple of times a day those first few days. Keeping bags in the bottom of the can saves trips to the cupboard to grab them.
- If you need a breast pump in the hospital, they will provide all you need to pump… from bottles to nipples or syringes… no need to bring any pumping supplies at all. Unless you’re going to work soon after having the baby, you might not ever need to pump or, if you do, the standard advice is to wait until the baby is at least 4-weeks old before beginning. If you have questions, feel free to ask me or your Lactation Consultant. The hospital offers LCs to breastfeeding women, but know they are typically extremely busy, so you might need to have your own breastfeeding resources at your fingertips. I highly recommend Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding and The Breastfeeding Book: Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Your Child from Birth Through Weaning by William Sears. (Anything by the Sears pediatricians is fantastic!) I know it seems odd to recommend 2 books by men, but I promise, these will get you through just about any nursing problem.
- Several pens – You’ll be filling out lots of paperwork… from the menus to the birth certificate. Pens are at a premium in the hospital, having your own expedites many processes.
- Going home clothes for you and the baby – For you, bring something very loose, a large tee shirt and sweat or yoga pants are good choices. You want something you can nurse in and also something that won’t rest on your cesarean incision if you have one. Expect your belly to still look pregnant! That is absolutely normal for another week or two. It might be tempting to cram yourself into jeans, but resist the temptation and be comfortable. Style takes a distinct last place next to comfort and function. For the baby, this is the time to bring the lovely Going Home Outfit. Bring 2. It is so common to have the first one get dirty from poop or barf that I’ve seen lots of babies going home in tee shirts because parents didn’t bring 2 outfits.
- The carseat! I highly encourage attending the Car Seat class at the Police/Sheriff’s Department so you are 100% sure of putting the carseat in properly. You will bring the carseat in from the car after mom is discharged, but still in the room. The baby will not be discharged without the nurses seeing the baby in the carseat.
These lists are merely suggestions. You bring whatever else you may need to make your hospital stay more comfortable. If you see something glaringly missing, please let me know so I can add it.
Below is the abbreviated checklist of all items so you can make sure everything you brought in goes out with you. Remember, if you bring something not on this list, add it to the Bring It Back Home list!
I hope your birth and hospital stay are as comfortable as can be when you aren’t sleeping in your own bed. You’ll be home with all your stuff soon enough. And congratulations!
Bring It Back Home List
- iPod headphones or docking station
- Camera plus extra batteries and memory cards, also adapter cords
- Computer plus electric cord and extra batteries
- Chargers for cell phones
- Pillow + 2 pillowcases
- Water bottles
- Tylenol or Ibuprofen
- Hair ties and barrettes
- Slip-on shoes
- Birth ball
- Bras and underwear
- Baby clothes and hats
- Cloth diapers if you brought them
- Breastfeeding books
- Going Home outfits