You’ve got your hospital bag packed by the door, ready to grab when you’re in active labour.
It has all the basics and you’ll be especially thankful to have the following 5 items; these items are much needed but not often talked about.
Many hospitals have a small bottle of this in their labour and birth rooms. It’s used as a lubricant during pushing to keep perineal tissues moist and pliable and for gentler stretching.
A little while ago I discussed the advantages of using a lubricant such as olive for perineal massage before the big birthing day but where it really comes in handy for you is after your baby is born. The baby’s first poop is called meconium and has a black, tar-like consistency. That is some sticky stuff and it makes cleaning up that wee backside a real fiasco with lots of awful rubbing, however, if you put olive oil on that little tush before the first diaper goes on and then at each diaper change, the meconium slides right off like a dream. Your baby’s poop will change from meconium to a lighter, less sticky consistency as your milk comes in.
Bonus: Your baby’s bum will smell like salad, which is much better than what you imagined, right?
Flip flops or Slippers
You’ll be so happy to have easy slip-on footwear for walking around your room or the hospital hallways. This is especially true if you’re having your baby in the winter months and you’ve arrived at the hospital in big ol’ clunky boots.
Having your own pillow can be the difference between rest and complete discomfort. Hospital pillows are not designed for a good night’s rest. In fact, sometimes they’re actually made of a plastic material – easy to clean but NOT nice to snuggle into. They also make a weird noise when you move. And, when you’re in labour or trying to catch a few precious minutes of sleep, the last thing you need is one more thing getting in the way of your comfort.
Not for you, I’m afraid, but for your partner. You’ll need to keep your ears open for messages from your baby. Your partner, however, will be the most useful to you if he/she is well-rested. A hospital – with its bright lights, beeping machines, busy hallways, and attentive nurses checking in regularly – is not a restful place. As it is, your partner is likely sleeping in a chair. At least if he/she pops in the ear plugs, there’s a slightly better chance at catching a few decent minutes of sleep. Might as well throw a sleep mask in your bag, too.
An oversized button-up shirt is a great thing to labour in, especially if you’re not so into the open-back hospital gown. Bring a nice long one so you don’t need to worry about clothing your bottom half. This makes it easy for your midwife, nurses, and doctors to do their exams. Try to have one that also has sleeves that are not too tight and easy to roll or push up. This will be important for taking your blood pressure and inserting an IV if required. And, best of all, a shirt that opens at the front is perfect for breastfeeding. Tuck your baby in and you can wrap your shirt around them. It can be much more comfortable than lifting up a shirt, which leaves you with a bunched-up roll of fabric between your eyes and your baby.
And guess what?! Partners can wear a button up shirt too.
WHY? Because skin-to-skin time with baby is important and sometimes challenging for the mother who just gave birth. If there is a partner present and is wearing a button down shirt they can participate in some skin-to-skin time without taking off their whole shirt, which I’m sure they will appreciate!
Be sure to pack your hospital bag early (around 34 weeks) even if you are planning a home birth.
I often suggest you pack ‘birth’ items in a different bag than your ‘overnight’ items so that you don’t have to carry too much when you are heading into labour and delivery. And of course, wherever and however you choose to birth, a birth plan is always a great idea.
Oh, and I know this isn’t really part of ‘packing’ but be sure to have your fridge and freezer stocked with food before you head out. You will thank me later ;)
Grab an awesome and comprehensive list here. And yes, this one includes the 5 items I mentioned above.
Kama Lee Jackson, Childbirth Educator
Kama earned a BA of Health Sciences degree in midwifery, and then turned in her pager and launched Bloom, her passion project. While teaching prenatal classes at Riverdale Community Midwives, she found women were feeling unsure about themselves, the ‘system’, the birth process, and life with a baby. She is changing that for her clients and helping them to believe in their own strength through prenatal & postpartum education and support.
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