If you've ever packed at the last minute for an important trip, you know that you're likely to leave behind the one thing you really need, that one little item you end up kicking yourself for forgetting. Maybe it's the extra memory card for your digital camera, your favorite shampoo, or the coffee you just can't start your day without.
But for the trip to the hospital to have your baby, start early: You don't want to leave the packing until your water breaks and your contractions are one minute apart! Labor coaches and other pregnancy experts suggest you pack a bag or suitcase long before you expect to be rushing out the door to welcome your new little human into the world. You may want to pack two bags: one with the things you'll need to get through labor and another one (that could stay in the trunk of your car) with the things you'll want after the baby arrives and the excitement has died down a bit.
Ask your hospital or birth center what items they'll provide, and what they recommend you bring. Here's a list of a few things you might not want to be without:
- Your birth plan
- A watch that counts seconds for timing contractions. (Hospitals usually have clocks and monitors nearby.)
- A bathrobe, nightgown, slippers or socks, and whatever other clothing you'll want so that you will be warm and comfortable. Wear something you won't mind getting blood-stained during the delivery or postpartum. Nightgowns that open in the front make examinations or breastfeeding easier.
- Eyeglasses if you wear them. (Contacts may become uncomfortable -- they also would be removed during any surgery.)
- Toothbrush and toothpaste (Hospitals usually supply this, if necessary.)
- Hair ties or barrettes if your hair is long enough to get into your eyes or face
- Lip balm for dry lips
- A colored washcloth to wipe down with. (A white one might get mixed up with the hospital laundry.)
- Any birth book you may want to refer to.
- Favorite music and a CD player if the hospital doesn't provide one.
- Camera and/or camcorder with charged batteries and accessories. Check with the hospital ahead of time to be sure they allow camcorders in the delivery room, and be sure to have extra film and tapes on hand.
- Massage equipment like oils, lotions, and tennis balls or a plastic rolling pin to roll across your lower back.
- Suckers, hard candy, or honey sticks, unless you have a medical condition that precludes them. Sugarless candies may not make you as thirsty as sugared candies.
- Special snacks or drinks you may want during labor. (Noncitrus juices, sports drinks, and fruit popsicles are good options.)
- A pad and pencil to write down any questions you may have for your health care provider.
- Anything else you want to put in your room to make you comfortable -- like photos or your favorite pillow.
- Snacks for your labor coach, as well as money for the vending machines and parking.
- A phone card for keeping in touch with out of town family and friends. (Sometimes you can't use a cell phone in a hospital.)
After the baby is born
- Nursing bras and pads
- Sanitary napkins (Hospitals also have them on hand.)
- Clean nightgown and maternity underwear. Although the hospital or birthing center will usually supply you with something, you may find your own to be more comfortable.
- Clothes to wear home. Remember that now isn't the time to try to fit into your favorite pre-pregnancy jeans. Bring something that fit comfortably when you were about six months pregnant.
- Favorite toiletries (including lotion, since your skin may be a bit dry from a loss of fluids)
- List of people to call after the baby is born
- Extra film or videotapes
- A book or magazine for both you and your partner
- More snacks! Having a baby is hard work and you might be hungry afterward. If the hospital kitchen is closed (or if you don't want to rely on hospital fare), you'll be glad to have your own food on hand.
- If you don't have anything on hand, you can always recruit a family member or friend to go out for something. Healthy snacks like raisins, nuts, and whole-wheat crackers can help keep you regular, too.
- Car seat. You will need one to bring the baby home. Some hospitals can also loan new parents a car seat.
- Going-home outfit. Make sure to bring a sleeper with legs -- rather than a gown -- so that the baby will be warm and comfortable in the car seat.
- Receiving blanket appropriate to the outdoor temperature
- Diapers (Hospitals may provide these.)
- Socks or booties
Eisenberg, Arlene, Heidi E. Murkoff and Sandee E. Hathaway, B.S.N. What to Expect When You're Expecting, Third Edition, Workman Publishing.
Labor and Delivery: Packing for Two. March of Dimes. http://www.marchofdimes.com/pnhec/240_1039.asp
What to Take to the Hospital. University of Michigan Health System http://www.med.umich.edu/obgyn/smartmoms/labor/hospital.htm
Julia Rosen. Packing 101: What to Bring to the Hospital. Pregnancy Today. http://pregnancytoday.com/reference/articles/pack.htm