Have you started packing your hospital bag for labour yet? According to a BellyBelly Forum poll, most pregnant women are packing their hospital bag at around 33-36 weeks of pregnancy. If you're wondering what to pack, we've compiled a hospital bag checklist for labour, which includes suggestions from our fans.
In the categories below, we've included a list of essentials, as well as labour bag extras — for things that aren’t essential but are a great idea. We’ll also add your suggestions to our list as we go.
Hospital Bag Checklist: For The Mother-to-Be
- Pyjamas and slippers
The more glamorous the better! You’ve just had a baby – what better way to feel fantastic by having a great pair of comfy pyjamas and slippers. Make sure you bring two piece pyjamas if you intend on breastfeeding.
- Underwear, underwear and more underwear!!!
Men’s underwear are very comfortable post-natally. They have plenty of room, are cheap and you can throw them away without a worry! Choose darker colours if you're worried about leaks. If you have enough for 2 per day, you should be covered. Don’t forget to pack a separate plastic bag to put your worn underwear in. Socks will keep your feet warm in a cold hospital, so pack one pair per day of nice warm bed socks.
- Maternity bras
Even if you're not breastfeeding, underwire bras are not a good idea, as they can become uncomfortable or cause mastitis by blocking your milk ducts. Pack 2-3 maternity or wire-free bras. While your milk can take days to come in (meaning leaks are unlikely to be a problem right away), you can very hot and sweaty in the process. So it's a good idea to have more than one.
Not only to dry your hair, but if your hairdryer has a low setting, you can use it to carefully and lightly dry your vulva after a shower. This may be particularly appealing if you've had stitches and you don’t want to rub the area with a towel.
- Sanitary pads
You should not use tampons after you have given birth due to risk of infection. While there are many brands to choose from, if you like thin sanitary pads, unfortunately most maternity pads are very thick and padded! However, many new mothers find the thicker padding to be supportive and protective. You can always use ultra thins when your blood loss slows. Pack enough for about 8 a day. You might like to read the BellyBelly article about post-birth blood loss, which also contains general information on your cycle and ovulation after the birth. Menstruation, Your Period & Blood Loss After Baby.
- Breast pads
You may not need these straight away as you will only produce small amounts of colostrum for a few days before your milk comes in (anytime but generally around day 3-4, sometimes longer, especially after a caesarean). By the time you go home your milk would have likely come in, so you will only need a pack or two of breast pads.
Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, hairbrush, face washer, shaver (in case you want to shave your underarms!) and all the usual going away things. Use deodorant lightly, and perhaps not at all for the first 24 after birth so baby can get used to your unique smell.
A homeopathic preparation which aids in the healing of bruising and strains, especially for soft tissues. It’s cheap and available at most pharmacies/health stores. Arnica is available both as a cream (for external muscles etc) and tablet – tablets are the ones you need. You simply dissolve the arnica on your tongue. They can be coated in lactose so they don’t taste bad at all, somewhat sweet. Studies have been inconclusive on the effectiveness of arnica, and the studies have been proven to be flawed, yet many mothers who have given birth and also suffers of health conditions have found arnica to have made a huge difference in healing. Having personally used it after a recent surgery, I am very happy, and others even commented on how quickly I healed and bruising went away.
Hospital Bag Checklist: For Baby
It is worth checking what your hospital provides in terms of nappies. Some provide both disposable and cloth, some provide just cloth (meaning you will have to provide your own disposables) and some provide just disposables. If you need to bring your own nappies from home, pack more rather than less. If it is your first time changing a nappy, you may get into all sorts of messes trying to get the nappy on correctly. Putting on a nappy sounds so simple, but if you thought ‘pregnancy brain,’ was bad, just you wait for ‘new mummy brain’! So pack enough for 8 a day. If you run out, which is unlikely, you can always send friends or family out for more. If you are bringing cloth nappies, bring a plastic bag to place the nappies in. There are now bags available on the market now that are scented and work brilliantly keeping the smell inside the bag! They are quite cheap and available from supermarkets.
It is likely the hospital will provide some sort of clothing/gowns for baby, but if you wish to bring your own set of clothes, do make sure you have all the items clearly marked or named. Babies regulate their temperature with their heads, so hats or beanies are not necessary unless you are going outside, for a photo opportunity or if it is particularly cold. Socks and mittens generally don’t get too dirty, but are important, as babies usually have bad circulation to the hands and feet – they are almost always cold! Pack a pair per day. Vests or singlets are important to keep baby warm, so pack 1-2 vests per day. It isn’t a problem if the sizes are a bit bigger than you need, as vests get longer more than anything as the sizes go up. Growsuits and Wondersuits are brilliant. They are cheap, cover all of baby and some even have special cuffs so they can cover the hands as mittens.
In total, have about 2 outfits per day in case of any nappy leaks or spills. You can always send family or friends out for more clothing if you need it, or you could borrow the gowns provided by the hospital.
- Wipes, creams, lotions
The hospital will likely provide this also. Don’t rush out and spend money on all the lotions and creams out there, as many of them are highly fragranced and may irritate babies skin or cause a rash – even some of the ‘baby’ brands have irritants in them.
How do you know what to get? Read the ingredients label – if there is anything in there that you can’t pronounce or need a science degree to know what it is, then it’s got chemicals in it, which is not good for your baby’s skin. Some products say ‘organic’ but may have only one organic ingredient in it. Look for the ACO (Australian Certified Organic) symbol on the products, which means the whole product is certified organic, not one or two of the ingredients only.
For wipes, it is best to use cotton wool and water for a newborn. You might also like to use a facewasher and water, but water is best for their very sensitive, newborn skin.
For other lotions and cleansers, BellyBelly recommends the Mi-Essence range, which are certified organic products, gentle enough for baby and can be used by the whole family. The products smell divine and work really well – you know you are putting the very best possible products on your baby’s skin. The sunflower body wash is particularly great, it can be used for washing, but also bubble baths for kids. Commercial bubble baths tend to be really harsh on babies and children’s skin with lots of chemicals and additives. Babies don’t really get dirty enough to need more than water, but for the occasional bubble bath, it’s great and you’ll love the smell.
- Bunny rugs / wraps
Pack one for each day. They may not get dirty at all, however when it comes to baby, it’s always better to have too many rather than too little, especially when those nappies leak – and boy do they leak!!! Muslin wraps are GREAT, as are the stretchy cotton ones. When wrapping a baby, the stretch factor really helps tuck them in tight, rather than the stiffer ones which are harder to tuck in especially if you don’t quite have enough fabric to tuck into baby – the whole wrap just falls apart!
- Face washers / cloths
Even if you plan on using disposables, cloth nappies are the best thing out. You can use them over your shoulder when burping baby (to catch any possets or vomit), for placing under baby when you change them – so it’s a great idea to take a few with you where ever you go. Face washers may be sufficient for you in hospital and for bathing, but again is something the hospital will provide.
If you are planning on bottle-feeding baby, the hospital will likely have everything you need, however you can check if you can bring your own.
Labour Bag Extras
- Toilet paper
It’s a great idea to pack your own, extra soft toilet paper. It is bad enough going to the toilet somewhere with terrible toilet paper, but after you’ve had a baby, you’ll appreciate the extra softness.
- Bendy Straws
Straws with bends in them to put in your drinks when things get serious are great – that way your support people can put the drink to your mouth and you only have to drink from the straw, without worrying about holding the bottle – it’s an essential!
- Lip Gloss/Cream
Lips can get very dry in hospital and it’s nice to have moist lips during and after labour. There is a lovely Miessence Jaffa Lip Balm which is organic – smells delicious and works really well, of course being organic, it’s safe if you ingest it.
Again, packing some extra soft tissues is a great labour bag extra. The tissues available with Aloe Vera are ideal, for any small spills, leaks, messes or anything else you might need tissues for, especially if your hospital doesn’t provide tissue boxes.
- Entertainment for mum
Not like you will need any with a new baby, but if you like, pack your favourite magazines and books. Hospitals have rest times for new mums so if you can’t sleep because of the huge rush of adrenaline you get from labour, you can always relax with your favourite reading material!
- Gentle Laxatives
You’ll need to check with your pharmacist/doctor about which brands are suitable, however it’s a great idea to consider – it’s common to be constipated after childbirth or be afraid to use the bowels due to soreness and internal bruising. Your bottom is a sensitive area which can be very sore after childbirth, so stool softeners can help. It’s important not to strain if you do become constipated as you may end up with a painful fissure (tear) of the anus, which is difficult to treat and takes a long time to heal – they can cause much pain with each bowel movement as the tear is reopened.
- Diary / writing material
While it is fresh in your head, you might want to write down what you have experienced throughout your labour as a keepsake. Perhaps you would like to send out birth announcements or things like that, so pack some pens and paper! it’s amazing how quick time passes and what you forget, even a paragraph of your emotions can make a beautiful keepsake to one day share with your baby.
- Camera / Camcorder
If you plan on recording the labour, birth or anything afterwards, don’t forget to pack your camera and camcorder! You may need to request permission to film in some hospitals, so check with your Obstetrician / hospital to find out what the go is. Even if you are not sure if you want to take pictures and film, it’s worth taking in case you change your mind. This moment only happens once and when it’s gone… it’s gone.
- Labour Aids
It’s a great idea to have a bag packed separately with labour aids for easy access when you need it, rather than your partner having to dig around your clothes looking for things when you really need them. This can include snacks for the birth partner, some reading material, some massage oils for mum, essential oils, a burner (check with the hospital as you may only be allowed electric burners for safety reasons), a wheat bag (again check with the hospital, some wont let you heat them up there for safety reasons) and something to wear for the birth partner in case they get wet if mum has a shower/bath. Other labour aids might include pillows from home (seriously, sometimes the hospital can only spare one pillow per room, plus it will have your smell on it which is great for labour), a birthing ball, relaxing music, visualisation pictures or other things you may think of.
“A great idea may be for your birthing partner to pack board shorts or bathers if they wish to assist you in the shower”
“Disposable underwear. Sounds gross but was excellent especially considering the amount of blood loss on your first day after giving birth. Saves washing yucky undies later on. You just simply throw away. Make sure you get the correct size which are available at pharmacies.”
If you have any other hospital bag suggestions, feel free to add them in the comments section below!