Moms-and-Dads-to-be, as you get ready for your delivery date, do not forget to pack a suitcase or two for the hospital. When you arrive at Labor and Delivery or the birth center, you will receive with basic necessities (like a dressing gown and socks). Anything else you feel you want or need with you during labor you should pack in advance and keep handy either by your back door or in your car. This packing list can help you decide what is necessary and what you may find useful at the hospital.
Regardless of your officially estimated due date, your baby could make its grand entrance anytime after 8 months. 37 weeks is ‘full term’ and many doctors will not stop labor after this point so long as mom’s and baby’s health is stable. Therefore, do not wait to pack your hospital bag until just before your due date. Remember that this is an estimated date and your baby could come before (or after…) that date. It is a good idea to reduce stress when you go into labor by having your bags pre-packed.
If your hospital of choice allows you to pre-register for labor and delivery, it is a very good idea to get this done before you arrive with labor pains. If you are not already registered at the hospital, expect to receive a pile of paperwork.
Do not forget to arrange for transportation from the hospital after baby is born. If you are driving your own vehicle, you must install the infant carseat before the hospital will release the baby. Many parents choose to have the car seat officially inspected by an authorized company prior to use.
Note on car seats: once a car seat has been in a car wreck it is not deemed safe for use. Car seats also have “expiration” dates, typically on the warranty stickers on the seat. If you are purchasing a used car seat – be sure you either a) know and trust the word of the seller that the seat has not been in an accident and b) check the warranty date.
While packing your bags, think about how best to manage and cope with labor pains and pack accordingly. What makes you relax? There are many options, such as:
- Breathing Techniques: practice relaxed and controlled breathing at home with your partner. Have your partner tell you when a contraction is beginning and ending so that you can take cleansing breaths before and after each contraction. A balance ball, at least 65cm and anti-puncture, is also a great tool for supportive positions while breathing.
- Pressure Points and/or Massage: a great massage can come from three tennis balls placed inside a sock; rub the balls along the back to relax tense muscles.
- Fragrance: do not bring incense or candles to the hospital; use fragrance lotions or oils.
- Soothing Music: you will need headphones, music player and charger (though you may not be permitted to plug anything into an outlet in your room)
- Activities: reading and writing material, DVDs, cards, or games
- Application of Heat or Warm Water: though you may not be allowed an electric heating pad, you can have a hot water bottle, a sock filled with rice that can be heated in the microwave and applied to neck, shoulders and back, or many delivery rooms have access to bath tubs for taking a long hot soak. Partner should bring a bathing suit for the bath option.
- Changing Positions and/or Walking: different positions can help alleviate pain and pressure during labor, and walking can help progress labor. Practice positions ahead of time to learn what may feel good to you. But remember, just because you like a position before labor does not mean you will find that position comfortable during labor
- Meditation or Focal Points: focusing on something outside of yourself can help with labor pain. Bring a photograph or another object that you can look at and concentrate on during contractions.
I suggest you pack two small bags: one bag for the delivery room and the second to remain in the car until after the baby is born. Keep in mind that mom and dad or partner will need personal items while at the hospital. Plan on being there for 2-4 days depending on how your delivery goes. (If you will be giving birth by scheduled c-section, be sure and discuss with your doctor what items you may need to bring to the hospital).
Many first-time moms over pack for their first labor and delivery only to discover that they used less than half of the items they packed and maybe even felt frustrated during delivery by the clutter in the room. Some experienced moms just bring changes of clothes. You will not know what you want or need until you go through this experience for yourself. So, if in doubt about packing a certain item, just bring it and leave it in the car so you have it at-hand if you want it.
Mom’s Delivery Room Bag
- Documentation: photo ID, insurance card, hospital paperwork, birth plan
- Baby Book: if you want baby’s foot- and handprints recorded in the book after the nurse has recorded them on the birth certificate
- Toiletries: toothbrush & toothpaste, hairbrush and extra hair-ties, deodorant/ antiperspirant, and face wash
- Eyeglasses and/or contacts with solution and storage case
- Clothing: nursing bras and/or sports bras (2-3), panties, bathrobe, nightgown (1-2), socks & slippers. Hospitals will provide Mom with a gown and socks, but many moms find it more comfortable to have their own clothing, and layering options, during labor. Slippers and a robe are also handy if you intend to walk the halls during labor. You may sweat through your first nightgown, so a second pair is a good idea. Your nightgown should have straps or short sleeves to facilitate having your blood pressure taken and allow for any IVs to be placed.
- Coping Techniques (discussed above)
- Optional Items: water bottle, personal exercise ball, a handheld fan to help cool you off, lip balm for chapped lips from panting/breathing during prolonged labor, and fresh-breath spray. (It is not a good idea to chew gum or suck on mints while in labor, and you may not want to get up and go brush your teeth. There is nothing worse than spending hours breathing bad breath on your partner or smelling your partner’s bad breath).
Partner’s Delivery Room Bag
- Documentation: photo ID
- Money: to pay for parking, hospital bills, newborn photographs, and change for vending machines
- Toiletries: toothbrush & toothpaste, hairbrush and extra hair-ties, deodorant/antiperspirant, face wash
- Eyeglasses and/or contacts with solution and storage case
- Clothing: plan on spending 2-4 days at the hospital; pack a swimsuit so you are able to support your partner if she intends to bathe during labor
- Digital Camera and/or Video Camera: remember the batteries, charger and memory card (format your memory card ahead of time so you do not lose any photos or photo quality)
- Watch with Second-Hand so you can time and anticipate contractions. Help your partner prepare for contractions and ready her for taking that first, deep breath prior to the contraction
- Pillows: as you might be sleeping at the hospital or supporting your partner in different positions during labor, two or more pillows may be useful. Bring colored or patterned pillowcases (hospital pillow cases are white).
- Snacks (and change for the vending machine)
- Toiletries: make-up, personal soap/shampoo, etc.
- Clothing: nursing bras, maternity panties (or you can use the mesh ones provided by the hospital)
- Going-home Clothing for Mom: remember, all that baby weight does not come off immediately after birth so pack clothes that you wore during your pregnancy
- Cell Phone and Charger
- List of Phone Numbers and people to call after delivery
- Snacks: though hospital food will be available, you may want to bring some special snacks like fruit, nuts, or granola.
- Going-home Clothing for Baby: pack that cute outfit that you plan on keeping forever, a little cap, socks and mittens. The outfit should have legs (with or without feet) so you can buckle the baby into the car seat.
- Receiving Blanket: you may want to swaddle your newborn before placing him/her into the infant car seat
Items for the Car
- Installed infant car seat
- Back seat mirror to keep an eye on baby
- Diaper bag
Other Items to Consider
- ‘Pushing Gift’ from Partner to Mom
- Reading and Writing Material (and/or Baby Book): if you’ve been reading up on newborn care, you may want to bring your book with you to the hospital. Write down your baby’s feeding schedule and any fond (or not so fond) memories that you want to be sure to remember later. Copy down any instructions or suggestions from the nurses and doctors. Also, write down your own questions as they arise so that you don’t forget to ask.
- For Siblings: if you have other children, bring their photographs with you to the hospital and it’s a good idea to have a big-brother or big-sister gift ready.
Do Not Bring The Following Items to the Hospital
- Medications: unless you have discussed this with your doctor
- Jewelry, Expensive Clothing or Accessories
- Lots of Cash
- Diapers or Breast Pump