April 21, 2016

Packing for the Hospital - Labor and Delivery

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Your feet are swollen, your belly has bulged and you probably haven't been getting much sleep - you are in the final stretch of your pregnancy - congratulations! One of your biggest considerations at this point is what you need to pack in your hospital bag for labor and delivery. Eight months ago I was blessed with baby #2 and after three hospital visits, I had a very clear understanding of what was needed for a Labor and Delivery bag.

Before I delve into the necessities for a hospital L&D bag I'll share one piece of advice with you - pack early - at least make sure you are gathering these things around 30 weeks. If something should happen and you need to rush to the hospital early, the last thing you want to think about is laundry and making sure you have all your toiletries packed. With my first child, I went into labor early and I was so thankful that I took the time to pack my bag ahead of time.

Packing for Labor and Delivery

A Lightweight Bag 
You're already carrying enough extra weight, make sure that whatever bag you take with you to the hospital doesn't add to your load. Find a bag that is lightweight, durable and easy to maneuver. You may change rooms several times during your hospital stay and you want something that will hold up and is easy to identify. I would also caution you not to overpack. Try to limit yourself to just the essentials.

Identification (Drivers License) and Insurance Card 
Eliminate a lot of worry and paperwork by preregistering at your hospital when you're around 30 weeks pregnant and always have your drivers license and health insurance card available. It will make the check in process much shorter and you will likely take priority if there is a line of other women waiting for a room.

A List of Current Medications
You are going to fill out some forms (well, lots of forms), nurses are going to ask you questions (lots of questions) - one question that will come up repeatedly is what current medications you're on, their dosage amounts and the last time you took each one of them. Prescriptions, OTC and prenatal vitamins should all be on this list. If you're like me I can't remember what I was doing five minutes ago so I put a list together on my phone. I had easy access to it when the nurses asked me for the obscure names of my medications. 

Money for Parking
Most hospitals have parking garages or metered parking. Make sure to bring some cash, don't rely solely on credit or debit, to help cover the cost to park conveniently. 

Not to get too personal, but just don't even bother with the cute underwear or thongs. You're about to have a child, there's no shame. Pack those grannie panties - you'll thank me later. 

If you decide to have a vaginal delivery there is going to be some blood after the delivery. The hospital will provide you with some heavy duty pads - take advantage of these and stock up but just in case you'll want to have some extra-strength pads with you. I'm not talking about panty liners ladies think something just below an adult diaper. Honestly, if your bag is getting full, you can likely skip this - just give your hospital a call to make sure they'll be providing enough pads for your stay and your journey home. 

Two pairs of warm, comfortable socks 
When you're not in the middle of delivery you might be asked to walk (or waddle) around the corridors of the hospital or you may need to catch up on some much-needed shut eye. In either circumstance, comfy socks are a great asset. Plus, hospitals almost always keep things cool, so if you are cold by nature you'll want to bundle up. 

Flip flops
Some hospitals have private showers for each patient, some require you to share with others, either way - just like when you went to summer camp or freshman year in your college dorm - you'll probably want some sturdy flip flops for the shower. Also, if your feet swell before or after delivery they may be the only pair of shoes that fit. 

Comfort is key with pajamas but it's also important to think about coverage. At one point or another, you'll likely walk the halls in your PJs so make sure you're comfortable. If you plan on nursing take pajamas that are easy to manipulate for when you want to feed the baby. An option like this one would be perfect. If you're planning on a cesarean delivery I would air toward a gown-like option as you likely won't want the added pressure of a waistband against your scars. This option is great

Most L&D hospital stays range from 2-4 days so make sure to pack all the toiletries you'll need. Here is a small list of items you might want to consider bringing with you: a toothbrush and toothpaste, if you wear contacts be sure to pack an extra pair of them plus your glasses and any necessary eye care items, face wash, moisturizer, body wash, body lotion, shampoo and conditioner, a razor and shaving cream,  a comb/brush, hair spray, hair ties or any hair accessories you may want for during and after labor (fabric headbands are a great option to help keep your hair out of your face), chapstick, deodorant....

Straightener/Blow Dryer/Curling Iron
After two days of sweaty labor, you'll likely want to quickly refresh yourself, especially if you're having hospital visitors or pictures taken. Some hospitals provide blow dryers but not all of them do so come prepared if it's important to you to do your hair during your stay. But no  pressure there's no shame in the mom bun! 

Similarly, you may want to freshen up before or after delivery so be sure to pack your makeup. I recommend waterproof products since you just may shed a tear or two when you get to meet your new bundle of joy. 

Money for the vending machines
A lot of hospitals have vending options and the birthing process can last hours, if not days. It's best to be prepared for a late-night chocolate craving and have a few extra dollars handy. Plus if you're laboring during late-night hours the cafeteria options may not be open. 

If you have a favorite snack, that's easy to tote (like my favorite peanut butter and honey crackers) pack them. Hospitals aren't known for their gourmet cuisine. Also, unless you walk in 7 cm dilated with some serious contractions you may play a bit of a waiting game having something to snack on doesn't hurt.

Clothes for the baby
Don't forget you're packing for two now. Hospitals oftentimes provide things like receiving blankets, diapers, and wipes so I wouldn't worry about packing those, but you will need a take home outfit. Also, if you're planning on having pictures taken of your little one at the hospital you might also pack a simple outfit to show off your new bundle of joy. 

Don't miss a moment of your beautiful birthing experience. Make sure to bring your camera and/or video camera and any necessary chargers.

A List of People to Update 
During the hustle of childbirth, details can be missed. If you have a list of names and phone numbers prepared ahead of time, indicating who you'd like to contact with updates, it will help you stay focused but you can rest assured that everyone that needs to know about your status is aware of what's happening.

What to Pack When You're Expecting

Thank You Cards 
Nurses, doctors, friendly neighbors, front desk clerks - you'll never know to whom you'll need to extend an extra special thank you. It's best to be prepared with some thank you notes handy in your hospital bag. This is not meaning to say that everyone you encounter should receive one but there will be some people that go above and beyond and how nice will it be when you have a little something that acknowledges their kindness.

Once admitted to the hospital you never know if the birthing process will be minutes, hours or even days. Be prepared with something that will keep you stress-free but also entertained. I'm ob-sessed with my Kindle Paperwhite.

Wash Cloth and Towel
It's nice to have the comforts of home. Hospitals have wash clothes and towels available but should you feel more comfortable with your own, be sure to pack them. Just make sure that they are clearly marked or very easy to recognize.

Clothes for your Husband/Boyfriend/Partner
You and your partner will be staying in the hospital so it's important that they feel comfortable too. I suggest that your partner brings an extra pair of clothes, something to sleep in and all their toiletries.

A Car Seat
Taking baby home is the most essential part of your trip to the hospital, so having a safe car seat ready to go is of the utmost importance. This is the one we use and love. You may want to consider taking your car seat to your local fire station. They will make sure your car seat is installed correctly so you can bring home baby safe and sound.

Hospitals can be noisy places, people are consistently in and out, nurses are changing shifts and babies are crying consistently. You'll likely be sleep deprived those first couple days (okay, months) and you may need to nap in the middle of the afternoon, having a pair of headphones can help you relax. Some women also like to have a playlist prepared for while they labor.

Eye Mask
There will almost always be some sort of light on in your room and nurses and caregivers will come in and out of your room. Similar to headphones an eye mask - like this one - can help you shield out light and get some much-needed R&R.

A Pillow 
The pillows the hospital provides are a little thicker than a piece of paper. If you are a picky pillow sleeper, feel free to bring your own pillow but make sure it's easy to identify and clearly marked - you don't want to lose it in the shuffle from room to room.

A Robe 
Post labor you'll be encouraged to get up and walk around to regain your energy. Bring a robe that is at least knee length so that you can venture through the hospital hallways.

Gas in your Car
Alright so this isn't necessarily something you keep in your hospital bag but the last thing you'll want to do if you're having contractions is stop to fill up your tank. Make sure you start rolling with at least half a tank of gas by the time you reach 34 weeks.

What are your hospital must-haves for Labor and Delivery?

Check out some of these other great posts for new and expecting moms:

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  1. Great list! I don't have any kids yet but this is definitely a great list!

  2. A robe! Why didn't I think of that when I had my baby 15 months ago?? I wish someone would have told me that I would still look about seven months pregnant after giving birth, that way I would have bought larger post-labor clothes. Ugh! Next time I'll be more prepared. This is a great list, very thorough and thought-out. I agree with you, I was very thankful that I had pre-packed my bag! Not sure how I would have done it otherwise! Thank you for sharing -- Amie, www.pocketfulofthyme.com

    1. After my first I was also surprised by how big my belly still was! I was rocking maternity clothes for quite awhile after having both my boys - oh and every Thanksgiving 😜

  3. As an OB nurse and mom of two, I think you hit the nail on the head! This is a great comprehensive list for those almost moms ready to deliver. Thanks for sharing :)