Saturday, February 18, 2012

What to Pack for the Hospital

 Packing for the hospital is one of those things that is both exciting and intimidating for the first-time mother. I searched the internet for every "suggested list" I could find and then created my own tailored to my needs. I started the list at the end of May even though I wasn't due until the end of September. Unfortunately I went into labor at 28 weeks (July) and did not have my bags packed! However, I did have my list and was able to at least tell my husband where it was on the computer so that he could come home and gather my things.

Although my husband did a wonderful job, he didn't get it completely right the first time. Luckily, Baby Girl stayed put for another month while I kept her baking on bed rest. During that time I had the chance to modify my list and watch as my husband packed my bags. When my water broke at 32 weeks I was more or less ready for the hospital (but definitely not prepared for what the next few months would bring... more on that another time).

Every hospital varies so you should really take a tour of the hospital where you plan to deliver (I'd highly recommend taking your childbirth class there as well as it's a great way to meet some of the staff before delivery). I ended up needing to deliver at a hospital two hours away so I didn't know much about what the hospital provided vs. what I needed to bring. (Since I did spend a week on bed rest there I was at least acquainted with important things like the cafeteria menu and the pros and cons of the various beds available!)

Here is my list of essential items broken down in three categories: what I needed, what the husband needed, and what baby needed. In my case I sadly did not get to bring baby home after two days so we traded some of the originally packed items for other things that she needed in the NICU (that, too, will be another post).

For Mama
  • Paperwork: drivers license, insurance card, birth plan (multiple copies), baby folder*, thank you cards, stamps, pens
  • Headband and hair ties: I forgot these the first time but a girlfriend bought me some when she came to visit. These are very important when you can't take a shower and feel gross.
  • Socks and slippers: my hospital gave me socks with rubber on the bottom so I wore these while in labor, but I definitely wanted my own socks and slippers after delivery, especially since our daughter was in the NICU down the hall.
  • Old underwear: I was under the impression that these would be for me to wear while in labor (not while actually pushing but leading up to that), boy I was so wrong! If your water has already broken I would advise you to take advantage of the disposable undies from the hospital. They are one-size-fits-all stretchy pieces of fabric (more like mesh?) that you can wear with a giant pad to pretend you have some amount of modesty. After delivery you'll want a stash of disposables to change into until that first shower, after which you can don your own undies.
  • Nursing bra, breast pads, nipple cream: even if you don't have big boobs you'll want a nursing bra to hold the pads so that you don't leak all over yourself. Buy bras without underwire well into your third trimester; you'll be amazed at how much bigger you'll get right after baby is born. Many people use Lansinoh lanolin to prevent nipple issues but my hospital recommended Motherlove. I'm on my 4th container of it now!
  • Change of clothes and comfy shoes to wear home: I didn't go home, but I did enjoy wearing three different maternity dresses in rotation for weeks after baby was born and until my husband could get home and pick up some more clothes. You'll be smaller after delivery but not by much and wearing a maternity dress of stretchy fabric (along with some flip-flops!) is ultra comfortable.
  • Toiletries: every woman is different as far as what they need to feel good about themselves. I needed my own shampoo and conditioner (the hospital stuff is crap), toothpaste, toothbrush, body lotion, face lotions for night and day, make-up (I just put on some lip gloss and mascara), and my blow dryer (although the hospital did provide a junky one).
  • Chapstick: separate from your other toiletries because you will want this next to you at all times.
  • Maxi Pads: although I used the ones from the hospital (along with the disposable undies) for the first few days, I was able to wean down from those jumbo things quickly. It was nice to have my own already packed.
  • Mints, gum, snacks: You wont necessarily be able to get up to brush your teeth whenever you want so these are great to keep with the chapstick next to the bed. The snacks are great for after delivering, although my hospital had other food available too. Some hospitals have terrible food so if yours falls in that category you might be better off bringing your own.
  • Relaxation materials: I was on my laptop a lot and tried reading a book on newborns, but found magazines to be a much better distraction. Some people listen to music during this time but I found it to be annoying.
  • Your own pretty pillow(s): hospital pillows are not known for being all that comfortable or pretty, and let's face it, you'll want a pretty backdrop for all those pictures your husband should be taking! After I delivered though, the doctor told me that she has always had bad luck with patients who bring their own pillows! So while I certainly enjoyed it I'm not sure it'll come along next time.
  • Cell phone w/charger and important #s programmed: I kept a list of important numbers (pediatrician, insurance, work, etc.) in my "Baby Folder" instead of putting them all in my cell phone.
For the husband
  • Camera with batteries and charger
  • Watch with second hand for timing contractions: we didn't end up needing this but if you have a long labor you might want it
  • Toiletries
  • Change of clothes
  • Snacks
  • Relaxation materials: a book, magazine, music, laptop
  • Cash: dollar bills are especially useful for vending machines
  • Cell phone w/ charger and list of important numbers
  • Gifts/cards for Mama and Baby: I don't think you need to go crazy here but Mama should be properly thanked for pushing that baby! Even something small like chocolate or her favorite treat will be appreciated after all that work.
  • Pillows or sleeping bag: the hospital pull-out bed or chair is going to suck. You can attempt to make it better with your own pillow or sleeping bag.
For the baby
  • Packed diaper bag (see other post)
  • Newborn diapers: the hospital should send you home with some disposables but just in case bring a few of your own. If you are using cloth diapers bring those with you. Many hospitals will let you use them immediately after birth; you just need to make sure you have enough with you!
  • Receiving blanket or two: especially if it's cold outside.
  • Going-home outfits: bring these in a couple of sizes (Newborn and 0-3 just to be safe!). Also, consider skipping the ridiculous "outfit" and bring home baby in something comfortable like PJs.
  • Baby socks and hat: babies can't maintain their own body heat until 6-months-old which is why they come home in hats. 
  • Car seat: this should already be installed and ready to go. The hospital staff should help you adjust it if necessary.
  • Swaddle: These are great for newborns. We used the Halo Sleepsack and Swaddle in the NICU and once we got home.
  • Baby book: this is great to have so that you can get your first hand/foot prints and so that you can write things down while it's fresh in your mind. You won't have much time once you get home!

Completely unnecessary items:
  • Old Pajamas: this showed up on list after list of "required" items but in the end I was most comfortable wearing the Johnny provided by the hospital. The best part - there were plenty so as one got dirty a new one would be brought in for me! 
  • Bathrobe: this just takes up way too much space and it's another item that the hospital will have for you. it won't be pretty, but it will cover up your bare ass.
  • Your own towel: I read over and over again that your first shower after delivery will be the best of your life and you should not ruin it with a crappy towel. This is crap. It will be the best shower regardless of the towel you use to dry off! Plus, if you bring your own you risk losing it and you have to pack up a wet towel to bring home. No thank you. 
  • Any jewelry: you will take it off anyway once you get there.
  • Medications: this one surprised me as I thought I would need my own vitamins at least, but the hospital will provide you with every medication you need during your stay.
  • Massage oils/lotions: you will not want anyone touching you with anything oily or smelly. You may not want anyone even near you at all!
  • Baby mittens: while you don't want baby to scratch her face, you do want her to be able to find her mouth and suck on her thumb or fingers if she needs to soothe herself (most babes do this in the womb). If you put those mittens on your baby then they can't sooth themselves!
For your viewing pleasure you can download my list here, and then alter it to fit your needs.

Did I miss anything super important? What did you absolutely need for delivering your baby?

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