Two months before giving birth, I started to think of the essentials to pack for my hospital birth bag. Whilst doing research I came across some common items, which in my opinion were a mistake to pack. Keep reading if you don’t want to make these common mistakes when packing your own hospital bag!
I was planning to have a home birth with my first baby due in the summer. It is something that I’ve always wanted to do ever since my I embarked on my midwifery studies and was cemented when I did my Advanced Midwifery course at The Farm Midwifery Centre (founded by pioneer home birth midwife and author Ina May Gaskin).
However, as I tell my midwife clients, “this does not mean I don’t plan for any eventuality. I will be packing a hospital bag just in case I need/want to transfer to hospital. Always be prepared and travel light!”
Perhaps it comes from my Emirates flying days (I used to be cabin crew for 8 years before becoming a midwife), but I do like to pack lightly and as minimalist as possible. No point in lugging around several large holdalls which clutter up the labour room and postnatal bay which you will be sharing with others. There’s barely enough room to freely walk around the bed and you don’t want to be tripping up on large bags. Nor do you want to rummage around for ages searching for a particular item.
Having supported hundreds of labouring women for 9 years, means I have seen various forms of hospital bags and know which is most efficient. I also debunk some most common items found on other “hospital bag lists” that are a waste of space. You want to avoid these common mistakes when packing your hospital bag essentials.
Here are my top tips:
- Wheels – having a little wheelie bag makes a world of difference to manoeuvre from the car to your room on the birth centre/labour ward and then to the postnatal ward.
So, I packed my trusty Delsey cabin bag (similar here) that I kept from my Emirates cabin crew days. I usually take it as hand luggage for a holiday of up to 1 week, so perfectly adequate for an overnight stay in hospital. Another useful type of bag is a rucksack. Instead of a handbag I will be packing a rucksack with my phone, wallet and labour snacks. A rucksack means you have your hands free. Make your life easy!
- Packing cubes
I also used some packing cubes (like these) to conveniently separate my items. You can use packing cubes or just separate bags. It can help if the bags/cubes are transparent so you can easily see its contents. I separated my labour items, after birth items and baby’s things. Always easiest to keep your things separate and let your birth partner know which packing cube/bag belongs to you and which is baby’s – save him or your midwife or doula from rummaging around trying to find stuff! I also used some small netting drawstring bags (like these) to pack each complete baby outfit (vest, babygrow and hat) separately (I only packed 3 outfits). That way when the midwife asks my partner to get some clothes out for baby, he is not dumbfounded with having to put together an outfit.
- Birth Partner
Your birth partner will also need some essentials. A change of (comfy) clothing, a toothbrush and a small travel pillow (if he is staying with you overnight) should suffice.
- Unnecessary – there are a few items that I keep finding on lists in other posts that are just superfluous. Read below to avoid these common mistakes when packing your hospital bag. Leave these items at home!
Nursing bras aren’t needed yet so leave them at home. Just go bra-less so you can easily have skin to skin during your stay. Or if you need some support use a soft comfy sports bra – you don’t want any hooks or tight straps to dig into you.
Breastfeeding pads is another offender that can be left out. It boggles my mind why so many hospital lists have this one on. Your milk doesn’t come in until day 3-4 so you won’t be leaking anything until then! Even if you have an emergency c-section your hospital stay is likely to only be 2 nights if all is going well. And if you need to stay longer than you can have someone go home and get a few bits and pieces for you.
Nipple cream won’t be needed at this time (and perhaps not ever). Do you know you have your own home-made nipple cream on tap? Just use your own colostrum or breastmilk – works a like a dream!
Scratch mittens and socks – instead use baby grows with integrated mittens and feet. How I love multipurpose clothes! Trust me, those mittens always fall off and you end up losing one or both. Same with the socks.
Cellular blankets – just take one to use when you go home (depending on the weather). The hospital will have both baby blankets and baby towels – both adequate to keep your baby warm. And if there are any little accidents it means your new fluffy blanket doesn’t get stained. Someone else can do the laundry on the soiled towels. Win!
Often forgotten items
Make yourself comfortable, especially if it is a long labour. Essential comfort items include soft socks, ear plugs and an eye mask. These will help you to rest on a noisy postnatal and hide away from the glare of the harsh hospital lights. An optional item is a fluffy towel for you. The ones at the hospital may not be as soft. And you may have to ask for an extra one for your hair after your first shower post-birth. However, I don’t like the thought of packing a wet towel in with all my other stuff. So this is not something I personally bothered with. I did bring a travel towel which dries faster and is thinner.
Hope you found this helpful and can now avoid common mistakes when packing your hospital bag. To see how else you can make your hospital stay more comfortable see my previous post 6 ways to make your Labour Ward room feel more comfortable.
UPDATE: I never ended up going to hospital, as all was well and I had a beautiful home birth. However, my birth bag was still useful, because everything was all packed together and neither I, nor my independent midwife or partner had to rummage around various drawers or cupboards to get my essentials. It actually should be just called a birth bag, and if you are planning a home birth it is ever so useful to have it all together. I actually lived out of the little suitcase for the next couple of days, as it had everything I needed!
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