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Pack Your Bags: What to put in your hospital bag

What is in your hospital bag? Are you struggling to fit in everything you have been told you NEED to bring with you? Do you know what you want and need to have with you in hospital? And when should you have your bag ready to go? 
Pregnant woman holding baby grow

Let’s start with when to pack. It is a good idea to have your bag packed well in advance of your estimated due date. The last thing you want in late pregnancy is any stress caused by shopping for the last few pieces and packing your bag. Start preparing your bag at around 30 weeks. Once it’s ready you can put it somewhere easily accessible and let you birth partner know where it is. 

Separate your things into 2 bags. Bring a small bag or suitcase, the size you would bring as airplane carry-on, as your labour bag. Pack everything you want in the labour room into this one. 

When you move from the comfortable surroundings of your home to the medicalised environment of a maternity hospital, your body may no longer feel relaxed and calm enough to continue producing oxytocin at the same rate. Oxytocin is a hormone vital for the progression of labour. Any interruption to the production of oxytocin is likely to slow down labour. When you are packing your labour bag think about what will help you to feel relaxed and calm in hospital, increasing your oxytocin and encouraging labour to progress. It may be music, an eyemask to allow darkness, some of your favourite photos or affirmations, aromatherapy oils, massage oils or your favourite scented creams.  

All Antenatal Ireland antenatal classes will spend time discussing and practicing comfort measures for labour and birth. You will learn great skills and tips to use in labour and it will help you to figure out what items to pack. A birth ball and TENS machine are some of the other items that may help increase comfort levels during contractions. Leave the birth ball inflated in the car for your partner to retrieve once you have gone through the admittance process. If you decide to deflate it and pack it in your bag, remember to bring a hand pump. 

What do you want to wear for your labour? Many women presume they should wear pyjamas in hospital. However, maternity hospitals are not like other hospitals in that women in labour are not sick and they are unlikely to spend most of their time in bed. Most women decide to wear something that makes them feel relaxed and at ease and allows them to move freely and comfortably. Something that makes them feel confident and in control. You may opt for a comfortable dress or a tracksuit bottoms and top or your favourite nightdress may be the perfect choice for you. Do you feel relaxed and comfortable in a nightdress or pyjamas or are they only for when you are sick or asleep? Wear what feels right to you. 

Whatever you decide to wear for the labour and birth you will need to pack a nightdress or pyjamas for after your baby is born. Something that opens down the front will easily allow skin to skin contact with your baby and it will be great for breastfeeding too, if you decide to breastfeed. Some people suggest using disposable underwear, but I suggest buying some cheap, dark coloured, cotton underwear in a size bigger than you usually wear. This will allow some extra comfort. 

Don’t forget a few nappies, a vest and a babygrow for your baby to wear after you have enjoyed some valuable time skin to skin. If it is winter your baby may also need a cardigan. A good guide when dressing your newborn baby is to put one more layer on your baby than you are wearing yourself. Some people like to have a spare baby outfit in the labour bag, possibly in a different size as newborn clothes can vary in size depending on the brand and you don’t know what size your baby will be until he or she makes its beautiful entrance into the world. 

Include a hat. Babies do not usually need a hat indoors, but they may need one for a little while after they are born. It will depend on the temperature of the hospital. 

Your birth partner should pack their own labour bag. They will need to have some snacks and drinks for themselves, so they do not need to leave you if you do not want them to. Other useful items they may like to include are a phone charger, a change of clothes, flipflops to assist you in the shower and snacks for you. Depending on where you park, coins may be needed.

Finally, remember to bring your hospital chart if you have been looking after this yourself during your pregnancy.

Postnatal Bag

Pack a separate bag or suitcase for your hospital stay. This one can stay in the car if it is parked nearby. Your birth partner can retrieve it once you have been made comfortable in the postnatal ward. It’s worth considering in advance how you will both feel about even a short separation to get the bag soon after the birth of your baby. 

You may opt for an early transfer home, depending on your birth and how you and your baby are doing afterwards. This may mean that your stay in hospital is only a number of hours, or possibly one night. When packing your bag, it is probably best to prepare for a stay of 2 or 3 nights.

Your meals are obviously provided by the hospital, but it is a good idea to bring a few snacks. Tea is usually served quite early in the evening so you might appreciate having something for later, or even for during the night when you are up with your baby. Pack some healthy options and some sweat treats for when hunger strikes.

Most pharmacies stock medical standard maternity pads and I would recommend using them in the early days. And again some dark coloured, cotton underwear in a larger size than you usually wear is a good idea.

When packing clothes to wear going home remember that you will be wearing maternity or bigger fitting clothes for a while after the birth. Your body has spent months growing with your baby and it is perfectly normal to have a bump after your baby is born.

There is quite a lot you need for yourself and your baby for your hospital stay but there is no reason to be concerned about forgetting something. Your partner or any other visitors can bring in any additional items you need from home, or they can pop to the nearby shops for you.

I have put together a list that you can refer to when organizing your bags.

Labour Bag

  • Snacks
  • Hair bobbles
  • Hand cream
  • Lip balm
  • Aromatherapy oils
  • Massage oil or cream
  • Earphones – don’t forget to create some playlists
  • A hand-held fan
  • Water spray for your face
  • A face cloth
  • TENS machine
  • Birth ball
  • Some of your favourite pictures, photos and affirmations
  • An eye-mask
  • A pair of cosy socks in case you find the labour ward cold
  • An item that reminds you of being comfortable at home eg. a favourite blanket or pillow.
  • Nightwear
  • Underwear
  • Maternity pads

Postnatal Bag

For you

  • Slippers
  • Dressing gown
  • A couple of nightdresses or pyjamas
  • Underwear
  • Toiletries
  • Towel
  • Flip-flops for the shower
  • Breast pads
  • Breastfeeding bra
  • Maternity pads
  • Clothes to wear going home
  • Snacks
  • Phone charger

For baby

  • 6 vests
  • 6 baby grows
  • 2 cardigans
  • 2 hats
  • 1 pack of nappies
  • Cotton wool or baby wipes
  • Cellular blanket and clothes for going home
  • A couple of muslin cloths and bibs
  • Towel