Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What To Pack In Your Hospital Bag {Checklist & Printable}

Tips for Packing a Labor Bag. Free Printable.
Be prepared for labor with this Hospital Bag Checklist! 
Having a baby is an emotionally joyous, physically demanding, and a moment-by-moment experience for any woman. From the first time mom to the experienced pro, all moms can feel prepared and ready to go with a well-packed hospital bag.

Need ideas and a checklist for your hospital bag? Or know an expectant mom that needs one? 

Here's the list that got me through my labor and delivery!  

Do You Know What Essential Items You Should Have In Your Hospital Bag?
A well-thought out labor bag will cover everything you need during labor and delivery.

This post will cover the following:
  • Some lessons I learned
  • Items the mother will need--before and after labor 
  • Items the baby will need
  • Items the labor partner/dad will need

To start, here are at least 4 lessons I learned about what to bring to the hospital:

(1) Consider drafting a birth plan and share it with your doctor and the hospital nurses. Bring extra copies with you on the day you go into labor.  Feeling prepared helped calm my nervous energy about delivering for the first time. If you are giving birth at the hospital, speak up about the type of birth you want and expect. You have more input than you think. Putting a birth plan in place helps you prepare ahead of your labor so you don't have to worry about how it may go. Here is a birth plan checklist from Earth Mama Angel Baby. This is the plan I used because it was really comprehensive. I knew what to bring based on the plan. It made me think about the possible scenarios that could happen during labor and the type of shots/treatment my baby would receive immediately after birth.   

For instance, I wanted a natural birth (as much as possible) so I did not want the nurses to ask me about induction or the epidural unless I asked for it. I also wanted to have skin-on-skin time with my baby immediately after birth (and we got it: the nurses gave my husband and I a lot of time to do so and that was great!) I was also able to talk to my OBGYN about it before my due date so he knew about my preferences and what may or may not happen. I also knew what birthing aids I could bring.

The lesson here is to educate yourself about birth options before your delivery date.  Based on those options, you will know what to bring. Because when you're in the middle of contractions, the last thing you want to do is feel pressured about making decisions or worrying about something you forgot at home. 

(2) Tour the hospital twice and ask the hospital what they do and do not offer.  I toured the hospital's maternity ward twice. The first time was to get a "feel" for the place. The second time was with my birth plan.  In fact, once I had my birth plan, I asked specific questions about what type of birth aids I could bring (specifically, LED candles, photographs, music, laptop, etc.) I talked about the layout of the room, the lighting, and handed my birth plan to the nurses there. 

Yes, I had all the questions a first time mom would have, but I was glad that I got a second chance at asking specific questions on what allowed at the hospital before my delivery date.

The lesson here is you don't have to bring everything, just the essentials.  Know what they have and what they don't have to offer you during labor and delivery. Communicate with the maternity ward before you go in and feel more confident about what to expect. Then you can finalize packing for your hospital bag. 

(3) Ask other moms and decide for yourself what you will bring.  Aside from doing research, it's great to connect with other moms (young and old) and especially those who have given birth at the same hospital. And while you might find yourself overwhelmed with advice, I wrote about how moms shouldn't be doing the "mom thing" in isolation. We definitely need each other more than we think. So start creating your network. My sister was very helpful and reassuring.  My cousin was a great resource. Other moms who did it before me were a tremendous support network that I leaned on.  And each mom will have their opinion on what they brought or shouldn't have brought (boppy pillow or no boppy pillow?) At the end of the day, their opinions may help you filter the important items from the not-so-necessary ones. Why? because you'll be getting more "stuff" (diapers and other baby items) and paperwork at the hospital. Not to mention gifts. Keep it light and tight so you don't become overwhelmed!

(4) Know your car seat!  Do you know the car seat laws in your state? You need to have a car seat before you check your baby out of the hospital.  For liability reasons, some hospitals are not allowed to put your baby into the car seat (even if you ask), so you and your labor partner will definitely have to learn how to safely put the infant in the seat.  

AAA has a good website on resources and you can even call a technician.  It's definitely a must to see a car seat demonstration. My husband and I greatly benefited from that.

Additionally, if you are already on the road and are unsure about the car seat, a nearby fire station will have someone who is trained and can help inspect if you did it correctly (as nervous first-time parents, we did that!) 

Essential Items for Labor that Really Helped Me
Here are some of the important items I packed in my labor and delivery hospital bag: (1) fuzzy slippers, (2) non-skid socks, (3) hair ties and brush, (4) button-down shirt, (5) lip balm, (6) loose undies, (7) a sports bra, and (8) a folder to hold hospital paperwork.  For a comprehensive list, see the checklist below or print one out.

Have you considered a birth plan, talked to other moms, checked in with the maternity ward about what you are allowed to bring, and received car seat lessons? You now have a picture of what what you will be bringing. And even if you haven't done it all yet, not to worry, here's a checklist to get you started

Hospital Bag Checklist

For Mom
  • Photo ID / Wallet
  • Toiletries - A toothbrush, lotion, hairbrush, hair ties, small towellette (see # 3 in the picture above)
  • Contact list of family and friends - Keep this "short list" with you or with your labor partner. 
  • Pen or pencil - You never know what documents you need to sign or when to take notes.
  • Non-slip or non-skid socks - Hospital floors can be cold. I did not have a pedicure that week and I wanted my feet covered for the photos. So I actually wore mine during labor (and it did kept my feet warm!) (see item # 2 in the picture above).
  • Fuzzy slippers - These slippers were a great gift.  It will keep your feet warm and luxurious as you walk in the hospital and through your contractions (see item # 1 in the picture above).
  • Lip Balm - This was a life saver when my mouth was dry.  Sure, there was the hubby to give me ice chips, but really, a lip balm or chap stick helped keep my dry lips moisturized during my breathing exercises. A definite must!  (see item # 5 in the picture above)
  • Makeup - Although this is really "optional" you may want to bring it if you want to spruce up for pictures. Or for hospital visitors. 
  • Comfortable robe 
  • Nursing bra - I didn't know what size I would be until after the baby was born so I didn't have a nursing bra with me. However, a sports bra was comfortable and this worked for me until I could get a nursing bra (see # 7 in the picture above).
  • Nursing pads - For leakage.
  • Lanolin cream - This is used for breastfeeding (or any chaffing in general, really!)  The hospital may or may not provide you with one. So ask if you don't bring it.
  • Button-down top/pajama shirt - A button-down shirt provides easy access for the baby during breastfeeding. Ask the nurses to help you practice nursing in different positions to get comfortable with it. A button-down shirt makes this process much easier (see # 4 in the picture above).
  • "Extra roomy" underwear - For women who are having a baby via vaginal birth, this is helpful as your body heals "down there" after delivery.  You will likely have to wear special pads (given by the hospital) and they will provide an underwear-like covering, but it helps to secure it with an extra comfortable bottom. (See # 6 in the picture above).
  • Sanitary pads -  Again, the hospital will provide some special pads during the healing phase of delivery, but I brought some extra ones just in case.
  • Snacks / water bottle - I didn't eat before going into labor, but it definitely helps to have some of your favorite snacks for after delivery.  Stay hydrated when you breastfeed!
  • Extra storage bags - I folded and packed some shoe bags in anticipation for the stuff the hospital gave me and for the gifts I received.  It really helped to have some extra storage space on hand.
  • Change of clothes and comfortable shoes - Think of what you want to wear as your "going home" clothes such as a comfortable set of tennis shoes, fitted sweat pants and a warm jacket.
  • Folder - With all the hospital papers I received, this folder came in handy for organizing it all. The hospital did give me a separate folder, but I wanted to make sure everything was organized and together.  Plus, this is where I kept my contact list of family/friends/doctors, labor and delivery tips, insurance information, and extra copies of my birth plan just in case. (see # 8 in the picture above).

For Baby
  • Change of clothes:  A snap top, bottom, hat and mittens. I had two sets of outfits ready just in case.
  • Car seat 
  • Receiving blanket 

For Your Labor Partner / Dad
  • Camera 
  • Birth plan and labor tips - You can help mom out by making sure the nurses and doctor have a copy of the birth plan on the day of delivery.  Also bring a sheet of encouraging phrases to say as you coach mom through the contractions.
  • Comfortable shoes/extra shoes - You may have to stay the night.
  • Cell phone charger 
  • Toiletries - You may have to stay the night.
  • Snacks and water - You don't want to miss the birth and if labor takes a while, you will find yourself hungry!  
  • Birthing aids - These items may include a tennis ball, birthing ball, spray bottle, favorite music for mom to focus on, DVDs, LED candles (if allowed), and photos to use as focal points.  Always check with the hospital if these items are allowed.

Knowing what to bring and having it ready helped me prepare for an amazing delivery! I hope these tips and the hospital bag checklist help you out too!

What did you do to prepare your hospital bag? What other items did you use? Or not use?

Be prepared! Print one and give it to a soon-to-be mamma and papa!  Oh, and if you don't yet one yet, you may want to fill out, print and share with your doctor a comprehensive birth plan.

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