Labor is as fast and abrupt as it is inevitable. After months in waiting, you do not plan for a specific day. You simply expect it any day. It is thus advisable that you pack the hospital bag as soon as you hit the seven months pregnant mark.
At this point, you might also start getting Braxton Hix contractions which in layman’s language means false labour. They are like the real deal, only milder, and at larger intervals. Although for a first time mum, they will feel like the real thing.
However, it is good to be on the lookout for ACTUAL signs of labour and be sure that you are actually getting into what most health practitioners refer to as the ‘Entertainment Phase‘ of your labour. This is when you are getting contractions that are not painful at irregular patterns and eventually when they start coming every ten minutes apart..
This phase is however not the one that you grab your bag but rather the one that you take care of what you need to take care of, call whoever is taking you to the hospital for them to finish up what they are doing and be prepared.
When the contractions are 4 minutes apart and you can’t joke, laugh or smile then you are ready to grab the hospital bag and make your way to hospital.
The contents of the hospital bag vary especially based on the hospital you will deliver your baby. Some hospitals provide the contents I will outline, while others do not. However, I would rather just carry all these things, better to have them and not need them.
1. Bath and hygiene essentials for the new mum
You will be at the hospital a day or three depending on the mode of delivery. Some hospitals may keep you for a week for observation depending on how critical you and/or your condition is during and after delivery. You will need to stay clean thus the need to pack a bath towel, a loofah, unscented bath soap and unscented body oil (preferably baby oil).
You will also need sanitary towels, alcohol free unscented wipes, and a hand sanitizer for when you are handling baby. A toothbrush and tube of toothpaste will also help lest you speak and the nurse’s eyes start tearing up. Most hospitals charge you extra for the sanitary pads and there are some types that are not recommended soon after delivery. Speak to your healthcare giver during your ante-natal visits to confirm which ones to carry. Don’t forget to also pack your lip balm.
2. Bath and hygiene essentials for baby
Most hospitals bathe the baby so you will need soft cotton liners to wipe the baby and to wipe her bum while you change her. I prefer using the cloth and warm water instead of the wipes because of the sensitive nature of baby skin. You will also need to pack unscented baby oil.
3. Baby diapers
Some hospitals provide this for you but in case they do not, or the diapers run out, pack a dozen quality diapers. If you are a first time mum then ensure that you buy the right size. Most places that sell diapers will ask you the age of the baby and all usually have a newborn size.
4. A change of clothes for mummy
Hospital clothes are not my best attire. Mainly because most of them cover just the front leaving your backside free and unconstrained by fabric. While I have experienced the lack of bodily shame that comes with motherhood, I much prefer carrying free size maxis with a plunging neckline that will allow for the many times you will have to yank your breast out to feed your little one.
You may also want to carry a pair of flip-flops or house slippers, a head wrap so your hair (or weave) does not shed and get swallowed by the baby while she feeds. You will also need to pack a pair of nursing bras which come heavily padded and with convenient adjustments for breastfeeding. The breastfeeding pads will also help in preventing the milk from leaking to your clothes once the ‘let down’ of the milk starts. High waisted, larger size granny panties are also heaven sent.
5. A change of clothes for baby
Hospital temperatures are optimum for babies. It is therefore not necessary to dress the baby in layers of clothing. A vest and cotton long-sleeved onesie and a pair of socks are enough for one wear. Multiply that by maybe five, then you have five such sets of outfits and one cardigan and hat for baby’s day to go home. You can also wrap the baby in not more than two shawls inside the hospital. If you overdress the baby, she will get too hot, cranky and most likely develop a heat rash.
6. Comfort items
A breastfeeding pillow is especially helpful when you deliver by cesarean section. Laughing, sneezing or coughing is quite hard to do without feeling a bit of pain because of the stitches. Placing a pillow on your tummy before doing any of that helps to relieve the pain. If you can, get the ones that have a removable cover as washing will become easy.
7. Health insurance card, ID & staff ID (if needed)
To pay the hospital bills of course.
8. Entertainment/relaxing material & power bank/charger
There is no telling if your labour will be long and frustrating or short and less painful. Loading up your smartphone or player with lots of relaxing music as well as carrying a book might help pass time in case your labour takes longer than most.
9. Fluids & Snacks
Most hospitals only offer water to help in dehydration and very few will offer snacks so pack a few light snacks as well as some juice that you can take during labour. The liquids will come in very handy for you if you have chosen to give birth normally and have also opted not to take any pain medication. Dehydration has been known to affect most women at the crucial pushing stage when fatigue checks in.
10. Going home outfit
A lot of women have been known to focus so much on the items for the baby that they completely forget to pack for themselves an outfit to wear when leaving hospital. Make sure that you get an outfit that is loosely fitting and comfortable that will also allow you to breastfeed easily.
Not on our list but equally important…
Baby’s name by heart
You will need to register your baby upon birth. I have had instances where people call and ask for suggestions of names as they register the baby. Know your child’s name by heart.
In case pregnancy brain extends after birth, write it down and pack the paper right next to your insurance card. There is the exception of that “spur of the moment name”. When you look at baby and you say their name. Or maybe I watch too many movies.