Now’s the time to gather together all the essentials you’ll need during labour and birth and for after your baby is born. Even if you’re not planning a hospital birth, you may need to go in unexpectedly, so try to have a bag packed by the time you are about 36 weeks pregnant.
Hospitals vary in their policies about what you are allowed to bring with you when you have your baby. You may want to take a few items from home, such as your own pillows, to make the environment more personal. But be aware that hospitals can be short on space.
If you want, pack two bags: one for labour and the hours immediately after your baby is born, and another for a stay on the postnatal ward.
If you’re driving to hospital, you could leave the second bag in the car. If you have a straightforward birth, you may leave hospital on the same day and not need the second bag at all.
What should I pack for labour?
- Your birth plan and maternity notes.
- Dressing gown. This will be useful if you end up pacing hospital corridors in early labour. You’ll also need one on the postnatal ward. Hospitals can be very warm, so a lightweight one may be better. A dark colour or a busy pattern will help to hide any stains.
- Backless slip-on slippers, that are easy to get on and off.
- Socks. Believe it or not, your feet can get cold during labour.
- Old nightdress or T-shirt to wear in labour. It will probably get a bit messy, so don’t buy anything specially to wear in hospital.
- Massage oil or lotion if you would like to be massaged during your labour.
- Birth ball. This can help you to labour effectively. Check whether the hospital has the right size for you. If not, take your own. Remember to bring a pump so your birth partner can inflate it for you.
- Lip balm. Your lips can dry out quickly on a warm labour ward.
- Snacks and drinks for you while you are in labour. Isotonic sports drinks are good, or take some glucose tablets to keep you going.
- Things to help you relax or pass the time, such as books, magazines, or a tablet computer.
- Hairbands or a clip. If you have long hair, you may want it tied up.
- Pillows. The hospital might not have enough to make you really comfortable. A V-shaped pillow can give you extra support when breastfeeding your baby.
- TENS pain relief machine, if you are planning to use one.
- Music. Take your MP3 player or a CD player and some CDs. Some hospitals provide their own CD players, but check first.
What should my birth partner pack?
- Water spray or a hand-held fan, to cool you down while you’re in labour.
- Comfortable shoes. They may be pacing the corridors!
- A change of clothes. Your birth partner might not get the chance to have a shower for quite a while!
- Bendy straws, to help you to have a drink during labour.
- Swimwear, if they want to join you in a birth pool.
- Mobile phone and charger. If their mobile has a stopwatch/timer function, they can use it to help time your contractions. Or if they have a smartphone, there are apps available that can do the job for them.
- Digital camera or camera phone to take photos or a short film of the birth and early moments with your baby.
- Snacks and drinks. You don’t want a dehydrated, hungry birth partner looking after you. If they bring some snacks and drinks with them, they can stay with you, rather than leaving the room to search for food!
What shall I pack for after the birth?
- A going-home outfit. You’ll need loose comfortable clothes to wear while you’re in hospital and for the journey home. It will take a while for your tummy to go down, so you’ll probably still need your maternity clotheswhen you get home.
- Handouts about how to get breastfeeding started, which you received at your antenatal classes. If you have a contact card for a breastfeeding counsellor or specialist, take that with you too.
- Nursing bras. Bring two or three.
- Breast pads.
- Maternity pads. Bring a couple of packs.
- Nightshirt or T-shirt. Front-opening shirts are useful in the early days of breastfeeding.
- Toiletries. Decant these into smaller bottles, or buy travel versions, to save on space in the postnatal ward. You may sweat more after birth, so take a deodorant.
- Towels, hairbrush, toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Old or cheap knickers, or disposable knickers. Don’t bring your best ones as they will get messy. Big cotton knickers can be useful if you end up having a caesarean, as they won’t rub your wound. The NCT sells brilliant stretchy knickers that are comfortable to wear over your scar.
- Arnica cream. Although there’s no conclusive evidence that it works, some women report that arnica cream helps to reduce bruising and helps the healing process. Don’t apply the cream to broken skin.
- Eye mask and earplugs, to help you sleep on a brightly lit, noisy ward.
What should I pack for my baby?
- Two or three sleepsuits and vests.
- Baby blanket. Although hospitals are very warm, your baby may need a blanket if it’s chilly outside when you leave.
- Nappies. Your newborn will go through as many as 12 in a day.
- Muslin squares, for mopping up any milk your baby brings up (possetting).
- One pair of socks or booties.
- One outfit for the trip home (all-in-one stretchy outfits are easiest).
- Baby car seat. Some hospitals won’t let you leave by car without one.
- Jacket or snowsuit for winter babies (remove before placing your baby in a car seat).
Once you’ve got your hospital bag organised, remind yourself of the first signs of labour so you’ll know when it’s the real thing!