I’ve read sooo many hospital bag packing lists over the years. It’s something of an obsession with me when I’m pregnant. There are some excellent services available where you can order pre-packed hospital bags online, which is genius really, but I’m such a systematic fiend that I have to pack my own. After giving birth last time I took notes on the things I did and didn’t use, and what I wished I’d had, which was invaluable this time around as I would have forgotten most of it.
My list is written with a public hospital in mind, and I’m expecting a two-night hospital stay and a natural birth. (I know you can’t plan your birth, really, but this is my third pregnancy and I’ve had two natural vaginal deliveries so far, so I’m pretty confident that this one will be the same. My uterus seems to know what’s up.) I’ve packed the baby items in a clear tote bag, which makes it easy to find things (especially for the midwives and husband).
THE BABY BAG
- 6 onsies (In 0000 size, mostly, although baby clothes seem to vary hugely according to brand and how old they are.)
- 5 singlets, 1 cardigan, 2 hats
- 2 swaddling wraps (big jersey ones are the best – I buy mine from Bubba Blue)
- Baby wipes – I used Gaia Bamboo wipes in the past for newborns but recently I’ve found them very drying and quote strong smelling (even though they’re scented naturally). I’m currently trialling a few natural baby wipe brands to find one I like. Wet cotton wool seems like a fussy option but it is actually easier to clean off meconium, so I’m taking a handful of those too (stashed in a ziplock bag).
- Newborn nappies – Huggies are usually recommended for newborns, and my hospital asks for a 32-pack. I’ll probably take in about 20 (husband can always bring more in if I need them)
- Face washer. I have one cute fluffy one left that hasn’t been used on my toddlers to clean up watermelon and spaghetti sauce out of their hair.
- Travel size body wash – I like the Gaia Bath & Body w;lash. Newborns don’t usually need cleansers or soap, but it’s nice to have something for the first bath when they’re quite gunky. (After that I usually just use water). It smells divine – the midwives commented on how lovely it made the room smell! – and isn’t too drying on new baby skin.
- Plain oil/butter – I’m taking a small jar of macadamia butter, but you could use coconut butter or a plain oil (like almond). This is for the dry patches newborns often get on their arms and legs (just from their skin adjusting to being out of the womb) and also to use on the nappy area – I haven’t done this yet, but I’ve read that applying this *before* makes it much easier to clean off the meconium. Just remember to use something very pure, with no added scents or essential oils.
Not taking: lots of hats, cardigans, socks, or mittens. The onsies I buy have fold over cuffs to cover baby’s hands so they don’t scratch themselves. Also not taking nail scissors or clippers, as newborn fingernails are often still adhered to their fingertips. Not taking Lansinoh, either. I know some women swear by this for soothing sore nipples but I never found it particularly effective. They always give me tiny samples while I’m in hospital, anyway.
I’m not packing much specifically for the labour. I have a daggy old maternity dress from Kmart stashed in the top of my hospital bag, which I wore last time, and a small bag of labour aids which is still in my bathroom. For both my previous labours, I was at home for the early stages, which is when things like massage cream and essential oils can help, and by the time I went into hospital, I was already in active labour (8cm dilated with my first, 6cm with my second). And by that stage I’m usually too preoccupied to care about any of this stuff.
- Eye drops & lip balm
- Hair pins and band
- Lavender, lemon, and peppermint essential oils (peppermint helps with nausea; lavender and lemon are my personal faves)
- Massage oil – I’m currently using the Divine Mum’s Body Oil, mixed with some extra lavender and grapefruit (I like my oils strong!)
- Mints (for nausea, and for after I throw up or to give to husband/midwives so I don’t strangle them when they have coffee breath – seriously, it bothered me so much last time!!
- Glasses in case – I wear contacts but I want these on hand just in case my contact lenses get dry and shrivel up and fall out of my eyeball or something. Which happens.
If I don’t end up using these during labour, I know I’ll use all of them during my hospital stay.
Not taking: a dressing gown – I don’t know why, but I just don’t like them! – socks, slippers, or flip flops. I prefer going barefoot, and I know people make a fuss about how dirty hospital floors are, but I’m walking it, not eating off it. I’ll probably spend most of my time in the shower, and by the later stages I don’t care if I feel warm or cold or anything. Not taking food or drink for labour as I tend to throw up a lot.
THE HOSPITAL BAG
I managed to fit everything in one bag this time. I’m so proud. Its a nappy bag I bought recently from Total Bag Envy, by the way. Lots of pockets so good for organising instead of everything floating around.
- Labour nightie
- Nursing singlet & leggings (Bonds singlet, Noppies maternity leggings in grey)
- Nursing bra, pj pants & tank top (Hotmilk nursing bra, cheap pj pants from Target, grey nursing tank from Kmart)
- Underwear (5 pairs, one of those cheap packs from Tarjay)
- Extra pair of leggings, in case of leaks
- Cardigan – I’ll try to find something lightweight just for extra coverage over a singlet.
- New comfy socks
- Travel size contact lens solution & case
- Toothbrush in travel case & small toothpaste (you can buy travel size ones from grocery stores etc, I had some samples from my dentist floating around so taking one of those)
- Folding hairbrush
There’s a tub of macadamia butter in the picture, which I’ve packed in the baby bag. It’ll work as a hand cream if I need it, as well.
- Body wash (I’m taking the Gaia Bath & Body Wash in Orange & Lavender as it’s suitable for babies as well as being one of my favourite body washes ever). I’ve decanted it into a travel bottle, but you could also buy a sample pack from Gaia.
- Deodorant – while I do think it’s a good idea to avoid strongly scented products on your body while your baby is getting used to you, I have yet to find a natural deodorant that actually works. And I refuse to go deodorant free as one uber natural parenting website suggested. I’m a sweaty person on a good day, but after giving birth you’re sweating out all that excess fluid and will feel like a pig.
- Facial moisturiser. I’m taking a travel-size Sukin moisturiser, which is not my regular one, but will do for a few days
- Facial oil. I have the Moogoo Vitamin C serum packed here. Again, it’s not my regular product – my beloved Sukin Botanical Hydration Oil, which you can read about here – but I’ve included it just in case. It’ll work as an all-round oil for hands & body, as well.
- Various samples that were floating around my bathroom cabinet. The Gaia Foaming Cleanser (I blend foaming cleansers with a dot of facial moisturiser if I find them too drying on their own), Gaia Baby Moisturiser, something from L’occitane en Provence, and the MooGoo Shea Butter sample they sent me.
- Tinted lip balm from Burt’s Bees, and a sample of some Nude by Nature illuminator in case I feel like wearing makeup *laughs cynically*
Normally, I would include my own towel. The hospital ones are wayyyy too small for women who have just given birth – literally don’t even go all the way around your body, which is like a six-month-pregnant body, except your belly is all saggy and wrinkly and spongy instead of firm and cute. However I’ve left it out due to running out of room and refusing to pack another bag just so I can take my own towel. I might get husband to bring it in later if I want it. I always use the hospital ones on my lower half, obvs.
Not taking: shampoo and conditioner. My hair usually needs a wash every couple of days, so it can cope with two days of no washing in hospital. I have a very sensitive scalp so I can’t use dry shampoo (and haven’t found a natural version I like), but other woman swear by it for hospital stays. It means you can freshen up your hair while you’re still in bed, so good for c-sections when you can’t get up and shower whenever you want.
Also not taking: hand sanitizer. It’s not something I use at home anyway, and they’re usually alcohol based which is seriously drying. Also, it’s dangerous to have around toddlers due to the alcohol content.
I *might* take a hand mirror – to stare at my reflection, not for looking at the baby’s head crowning, btw. It seemed like a great idea to bring this last time so I could fix my hair and apply makeup without getting out of bed, or before photos, but (A) haha and (B) nobody gives a shit about how you look because they’re only interested in the baby. And the only photos they will take are of the baby or of themselves holding the baby, so they can post it on Facebook and all their friends say “Congratulations!” And you’re just sitting there like “EXCUSE ME but I actually did all the work and you’ve never met me so why are you congratulating the baby’s aunt because it didn’t come out of her!” But, again, nobody cares. Your only job is to get the baby out and then supply people with new profile pics. And while I am taking a bit of makeup I know I won’t use it and it will stay in the bottom of my bag for seven weeks after I get home until I finally finish unpacking. Probably around the same time I get around to throwing out the dead flowers on the dining table that someone gave me in the hospital.
(I mean it’s lovely in theory to bring someone flowers, but really it just gives you something else to carry out if the hospital (and you always leave with like twice as much stuff as you brought in) and then it sits on the kitchen bench shedding pollen everywhere and you stare at it every day while your newborn wails in your arms and your toddler demands more Tiny Teddies and really, my point is, people should clean your house before you come home from hospital or just hang out the washing or put on the dishwasher for heaven’s sake instead of giving you something that will die in four days time and make a mess. I AM JUST SAYING.)
- Maternity pads – for obvious reasons. I use Libra. I know some people swear by Tom’s. I don’t really care as long as they do the job. I don’t tend to bleed much after giving birth, so I’ve packed 1 packet and stashed a few more in various pockets to save space.
- Nursing pads – I’m only taking a few, not an entire box, because I’ll only be in for a few days and I won’t get to that super leaky stage while I’m there. Rite Aid is the best – they’re a good shape, not just a flat disc, and the sticky patches work well. Coles brand is much cheaper but the sticky patch tends to peel off and roll into a ball, like the glue on the back of a L’oreal sample out of the Women’s Weekly.
- I’m also taking a couple of the Rite Aid gel pads, good for sore nipples.
- Laundry bag – I’ll take a plastic shopping bag for really icky clothes (like whatever I give birth in or something the baby pees on, etc) and a regular washbag for everything else (the drawstring lingerie bag type)
- Panadol – the hospital does supply this for free, but they only bring it when you ask for it – which for me is usually halfway through a feed when the after pains start. And paracetamol has to be taken consistently *before* you’re actually in pain for it to work. So I’d like to have my own supply on hand, so I remember to take it regularly.
- Hemorrhoid cream – again, they do supply this, at least in theory. Last time I had a midwife say she’d bring me some and then never came back (presumably she forgot and then her shift ended). That’s how my public hospital tends to work. The midwives are usually quite nice and helpful but they’re ALWAYS busy and they ALWAYS forgot things. And I’ll be an absolute zombie myself, so if they pop in to ask if I need something I’ll probably say “no I’m fine” even when there are a gazillion things I need. So I’ll find a pregnancy/nursing safe one and take that along with me. And again, it’s nice to have this *before* you realise that you need it.
- Eye mask & ear plugs – I haven’t taken these in previous stays and always regretted it. Hospitals are very noisy and very bright. Plus I’ll be sleeping in the same ward (and room) that I gave birth in, so I’ll be surrounded by other women in labour or crying newborns. The eye mask is essential for blocking light (because the blinds literally never shut properly and the hospital is in the CBD, and I find it hard enough to sleep at home with a crack in the curtains. I really do sound like a princess here don’t I?? And also so I can sleep during the day). If you use ear plugs, you might want to let the midwives know beforehand.
- Aloe Vera gel – this is for the lady parts. The medical community goes back and forward on whether dry or moist conditions are best for wound healing, so if you have stitches or an episiotomy they usually recommend that you keep it dry. Which is kind of ridiculous because you’re bleeding there for weeks after you give birth. Anyway, I’m just writing that as a warning that they might tell you not to use anything down there. I use this because it’s seriously soothing when everything is all sore and swollen, and it’s not a problem if your perineum is intact.
- Cold pack – another thing they supply at the hospital in theory but often forget. I’m taking one of those instant disposable kind (a couple dollars from a chemist.)
- Flushable wipes: easier on your poor bum than regular toilet paper. Less irritating on hemorrhoids, too.
- Muesli bars & snacks – I was staaaarving last time after I gave birth. But not at all hungry after my first baby. I’m assuming I’ll be starving again this time, and obviously because I’m currently pregnant I think about food all the time so I want to take in half my pantry. I’ll definitely want some good muesli bars and protein balls, and my pregnant brain is suggesting long-life chocolate milk, jelly cups, my fave biscuits, pfeffernuisse, and tons of random snack food. I probably won’t pack any of these and just ask husband to buy it for me as I need it. The hospital is across the road from a shopping centre that includes a huge grocery store and about 2 minutes away from a McDonald’s. So we’re set.
- Powerade, coconut water – I’ll take a few cans of coconut water (my favourite is the stuff that costs like 90c from the Asian food aisle at Coles) because it’s very hydrating. I’ve got a small container of Powerade crystals to save space (you could also use Gastrolite or Hydralite crystals)
- Fibre supplement – have I mentioned the constipation thing yet? No? Well, it’s a thing. You’ll be seriously dehydrated after birth and pushing can leave you with hemorrhoids, so you need something to make that whole deal a lot easier. Fibre like Metamucil can often make BMs harder because they bulk up your stool, so look for something softening. Prunes or pear juice might work. I took a small container of the Healthy Mummy Smoothie powder last time and it worked really well (just mixed int into my yogurt or milk over breakfast). I started adding this to my smoothies while I was pregnant (though I didn’t use it as a meal supplement then) and noticed it helped with pregnancy constipation, so assumed it would help after birth as well. It’s safe to use while breastfeeding, too.
- Water bottle – so I can have something sitting by the bed and can use one handed during feeds. Hospital also supplies straws so you can drink while you’re in bed during labour (they’re seriously useful, so take some of your hospital doesn’t supply them)
Last minute things:
Pillow (I like having my own pillow to sleep on afterwards. The hospital ones are really thin and useless. I’ll leave this in the car or get husband to bring it in later).
Going-home clothes: I may not pack anything for this, and get husband to bring in anything I need. Chances are I’ll wear jeans and proper shoes into the hospital and take them off straight away, so I’ll wear them home with a fresh top and maybe a cardigan or scarf if it’s cool.
Not packing: entertainment, a camera (I’ll use my iPhone and maybe get husband to bring my good DSLR in later, where it will sit on the hospital floor because I’m too tired to take photos and other people only care about their new profile pic (see rant above)), stuff for husband – he’ll probably go home to sleep, as he wont sleep well in the hospital room and our other kids will need him at home. And he’s a grown man and can pack his own bag if he needs too.
Okay, so I know this is a long list, but this stuff alone doesn’t take up too much room. As I said, I fit it all into one bag. I have a second bag half-packed, with extra maternity pads, nappies etc – things I might run out of if I end up with a longer hospital stay. I’ll probably toss in spare clothes for me and the baby and leave it in the car or at home, so my husband can bring it in if necessary.
So, that’s it – enough waffling. Here’s to well-packed hospital bags, dead flowers, and not overpacking (lol lol lol)