keep-calm-and-pack-your-hospital-bag smallPacking your labour bag for hospital is something we all know we should do but it some of those tasks in later pregnancy that seems to appear on the “I’ll do it tomorrow” list. As the baby can easily arrive within a 5 week window, most people choose to pack their bag around 36 weeks.

Even if you are planning a home birth, you are still advised to pack a hospital just in case you need to transfer to hospital, which is a bit annoying as in many cases it means doubling up the things you have prepared for your home birth. You don’t want to have to rely on your partner having to throw something together whilst stressed and tired at the last minute but I can guarantee you will end up with a motley assortment of unhelpful items!

So, what does one pack in your hospital bag? I found it most helpful to pack a number of smaller bags that can be put together into a larger suitcase or even kept in separate ones, some left in the car. Label each one very clearly!

Most people who have an uncomplicated natural birth will be able to go home within a few hours or at most one night if the birth is late in the evening (Birthzang had Babyzang 2 at 10.30pm and was discharged at 3.30am, although they did offer me a place on the ward for the night). If you or your baby have any complications, had an epidural that needs to wear off or had a caesarian birth then you will probably be in for a few days.

This list is quite exhaustive and it is unlikely you will want to include everything. Similarly, there will be other things you might want to add; this list is aimed as a starting point. You can also Birthzang Hospital Bag Packing List and use as a checklist as you pack. Please feel free to contact me if you think I have left something important out!

I have split this list into the following categories (you can click on the category to jump straight to that section):

1) Things to add at the last minute
2) Labour Bag
3) Post-labour – first 24 hours
4) Staying longer – to keep in car
5) Baby – first 24 hours
6) Baby – staying longer – to keep in car
7) Birth Partner
8) Labour Snacks
9) Bag for other kids

1) Things to add at the last minute

This is a little add on in case you have things that you use daily and don’t have duplicates for.

  • Coat & shoes
  • Phone charger

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2) Labour Bag

This contains items that you will be using during your labour and up to the birth of your baby. Check what equipment your hospital or birthing centre usually have in the rooms, ie. birth balls, so you can decide whether to include them on the list.

    • Pregnancy notes & pen
    • Birth preferences
    • Floor mat
    • Birth ball & pump – check if your hospital has them
    • Rebozo
    • Tens machine & spare batteries
    • Battery charger
    • Aromatherapy oils: orange, clary sage, ylang ylang, lavender – please consult an aromatherapist about suitable oils for use in labour
    • Unscented massage oil
    • Water spray
    • Hand-held fan
    • Flannel – to help keep cool
    • Music/ipod
    • Straw & water bottle
    • Small change for food machine – most hospital cafes and stalls close at night
    • Flip flops/crocs – for walking around or going to the loo/shower
    • Tankini/bikini for water birth
    • Comfy clothes for labour – good idea to be loose especially around the bump, and offer easy access for examinations, monitoring and skin-to-skin once baby is born
    • Old socks – many people get cold feet in labour
    • Hair bands/grips
    • Pillow – there are never enough pillows
    • Duvet – funnily enough it can make the room really feel like home. Use an old one.
    • Lip balm – you can get dry mouth and lips during labour
    • Paracetamol – if you ask the hospital for any pain relief you have to get it signed off by a doctor. Best to carry your own.
    • Arnica tablets – these are thought to help with bruising and healing post-birth. Please consult a homepath.
    • Notes on birth positions or from antenatal class
    • A copy of Janet Balaskas’s New Active Birth!

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3) Post-labour – 1 night stay

Even if you don’t stay the night you will definitely want to have a shower, have a change of clothes and sanitary pads.

  • Nightie x1 – good idea to have a button-down neck for easy skin-to-skin and breastfeeding
  • Baggy t-shirt or top, button down or loose neck
  • Pyjama bottoms x2 – in case you leak you have a spare pair
  • Bra support vest tops – far more comfy than bra
  • Knickers x4 – get some cheap big baggy ones that don’t matter if they get stained. You can also get disposable ones. Get at least 1-2 sizes too big.
  • Washing kit
    • shampoo
    • conditioner
    • soap/shower gel
    • toothbrush
    • toothpaste
    • hairbrush & comb
    • hairbands
    • body cream
    • deoderant
    • Cosmetics – you may well find putting on lipstick is not top of your priorities, but if you can’t receive guests without your “face on”…
    • Make-up remover
  • Nipple cream – Lansinoh is a good brand
  • Breast pads x 6
  • Sanitary towels x1 pack – you can get maternity pads which are very thick but highly-absorbant normals ones are also fine
  • Ear plugs & eye mask – you WILL hear your baby cry, you don’t want to hear everyone else!
  • Ibuprofen & paracetamol – see above re painkillers. You may get after pains that feel like bad period pains but may have to wait a few hours to be prescribed painkillers.
  • Plastic water jug – can help relieve painful toilet trips if you have a tear or episiotomy (pour on water while peeing)
  • Towel – coloured is better as it won’t show up stains and you know it is yours
  • Plastic bag for dirty clothes
  • Magazine/kindle/easy-to-read book – you never know you might get to read it for 10 mins!
  • Breastfeeding pillow
  • Baby wipes – just to have a bed bath if you just want a quick freshen up
  • Going home clothes – keep them loose and comfy. Your bump won’t have gone down much and you will want to avoid those skinny jeans for a few days!
    • knickers
    • socks
    • bra – maternity bra recommended
    • leggings
    • tunic
    • jumper

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4) Staying longer – to keep in car

Just in case you end up staying longer. If your baby is poorly and needs to stay in, you will also be admitted.

  • PJ’s or nightie x2
  • Knickers x4
  • Light dressing gown
  • Comfy clothes – you don’t have to stay in your PJs all day!
  • Sanitary towels x1 pack
  • Breast pads x 12
  • Hairdryer, straighteners – in case you want to look nice for visitors

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5) Baby – First 24 hours

It goes without saying that if you are having twins or more, then you’ll need to double=up on this list-

  • Newborn nappies x 4
  • Nappy sacks
  • 2 small plastic bowls for top/tail
  • Cotton wool – best to avoid baby wipes for the first few weeks/month
  • Fold-up baby change mat
  • Short-sleeved vest x 2
  • Long-sleeved babygro x 2
  • Cardigan x1
  • Socks x 2
  • Muslin square x 3
  • Bibs x3
  • Scratch mits x1
  • Going home outfit if different from above
  • Cotton blanket
  • Baby towel – best to avoid using products to wash baby for first few weeks
  • Bottle & newborn formula – it is a good idea to at least try breastfeeding but if you plan not to then bring your own. Many hospitals provide formula so might be a good idea to check.
  • Dummy – if you plan to use one
  • Hat
  • Coat – important not to put thick padded coat on baby in car seat rather use layers and cover with blanket.
  • Car seat – some hospitals won’t let you take home baby without a car seat. Make sure you and your partner know how to put it into the car.

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6) Baby – staying longer – to keep in car

Newborn babies are often smaller than newborn clothes. They also vomit a lot so if in doubt stick a few more in.

  • Newborn nappies x 12
  • Cotton wool
  • Short-sleeved vest x 3 – possibly a few different sizes
  • Babygro x 3 – possibly a few different sizes
  • Socks x 3
  • Muslins x 3
  • Bibs x3
  • Scratch mits x3
  • Blanket x1 – just in case baby vomits on the other one!

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7) Birth Partner

It is important for your birth partner to be comfortable and nourished as well

  • Phone & charger
  • Camera/video & charger – battery is charged and SD card empty!
  • Ipad/kindle/magazine
  • Money for food and change for car park or snacks – many hospitals will provide a car parking pass while you are in labour but not once baby is born and you are back on the ward.
  • Wash kit – deodorant
  • Change of clothes
    • pants
    • socks
    • t-shirt

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8) Snacks

Most hospitals have some sort of cafe, stalls or at the very least, vending machines. But during labour it is better to be prepared so you don;t have to leave the room.

  • Snacks for mum – easily digestible in small mouthfuls and provide energy: melon, chocolate
  • Snacks for partner – high in energy: sandwiches, cereal bars, flap jacks, banana
  • Lucozade or isotonic drink
  • Energy tablets
  • Cartons of juice
  • Champagne! – Drink at your discretion AFTER the baby is born. Might want to include some plastic glasses
  • Long-life food – if you give birth late at night you might find you have missed dinner. Good to have some back-ups for a midnight feast: pasty, sausage roll, biscuits, bananas

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9) Bag for other children to stay with family/friends?

If your kids are going to stay with Granny & Grandad then make sure their bag is also packed.

  • Pyjamas
  • Socks
  • Pants x 3
  • T-shirt
  • Trousers x3
  • Jumper
  • Coat
  • Dummy
  • Comfort toy or blanket
  • Bottle/special cup (for milk)
  • Teddy/doll
  • Favourite book

Wow, as I write it all down it a pretty exhaustive list. Birthzang Hospital Bag Packing List.

If all this fills you with horror then you can buy pre-packed hospital bags – just Google it for some suggestions.
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References

1) http://www.mumsnet.com/pregnancy/hospital-bag

2) http://www.babycentre.co.uk/what-to-pack-in-your-hospital-bag

3) http://www.boots.com/en/Going-to-hospital-your-baby-bag-checklist_1125664/

4) http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pack-your-bag-for-birth.aspx