Working as a women’s health nurse in a hospital setting, I find myself wishing I could get the word out to pregnant patients about a few things they could include in their ‘packed bag’ that will help make their stay much more comfortable and organized after having a baby. Here is that list:
Notebook and pens. This will come in handier than you know. It’ll become a place to record your newborn’s feeding times and amounts, diaper changes, questions for the nurse or doctor, phone numbers, gifts given while in the hospital – for future thank you notes, which leads us to…
Thank you cards. You’ll be busy in the hospital, but you’ll be busier once at home. Get these out of the way when possible.
Slippers with tread and flip flops. Slippers are for the walking around your room and laps around the unit you’ll be asked to do. Use the flip flops for the shower. You never know how well the shower stall was scrubbed prior to your admission.
Pajamas, a robe, and old underwear. The robe is to throw on over that ever-so-glamorous hospital gown you’ll be wearing. After a day or so, your daytime attire and nighttime attire will be one in the same during your short stay in the hospital (2 days for a vaginal delivery, 3-4 days for a c-section, usually). The first couple of weeks post-delivery will remind you of how lucky you were to be without a period for 9 months. So do yourself a favor…forget the sexy thongs or satin skivvies and go with old, cheap, and what will become disposable underwear. Some hospitals will provide you with disposable underwear. Remember that it’s a one-size-fits-most and if you’re bigger than an XL, you should definitely bring your own to avoid an uncomfortable situation.
Sports or nursing bra. If you plan on breastfeeding, come with a nursing bra and practice putting it on and opening the flaps ahead of time. Ask to put this on BEFORE insertion of an IV if possible to avoid getting tangled and/or having to wait until the IV is removed before putting in on. If you plan on bottle feeding only, bring a few tight bras (sports bras work well). Plan on using ice, refraining from the urge to express your milk, and ask the doctor to prescribe an anti-inflammatory and the nurse to administer it to you. These steps will make the process of your milk coming in to be as bearable as possible.
Pillows. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones that can sleep whenever, wherever, you’re going to want the comfort of your own pillow and pillowcase. The hospital pillows can be used to assist in breastfeeding positioning if you forget your Boppy at home.
Cell phone and charger. Besides the massive group text and picture you’ll want to send out post-delivery, you’ll find the alarm feature comes in handy to set throughout the night for feeding times as well as pain medication times. No, you cannot let the sleeping baby sleep through the night and skip any feedings in the beginning of their lives. And, especially after a c-section, you’re not going to want to go many hours between pain medication doses, otherwise you’ll be “chasing the pain” and regretting it the rest of the day.
Camera and extra battery or charger. Duh!
Newborn outfits. For pictures and day of discharge.
Extra hat or blanket for baby. If you have a pet at home, take one home with the infant’s scent on it so the dog or cat can get accustomed to the new baby.
Pads. Not panty liners, not the thong-fit ones. A couple of packs of the huge, highly-absorbant pads with wings to stay in place. The ones you swore you’d never use once you saw them in your mother’s cabinet. Hospitals will supply you with their version, but your own will be better. Trust me.
Bottled water. Surprisingly, many hospitals will only give out bottled water if requested for a meal. You should be drinking lots and lots of water and unless you like it right out of the tap, bring a case of your favorite bottled water.
Snacks. Are you used to eating many times throughout the day? The hospital will give you three, portion-controlled meals per day. Breastfeeding burns about 500 additional calories a day. Even more reason for you to bring some healthy snacks. If you’re lucky enough to have a fridge in your room, great! But most hospitals will at least have a main fridge that you can label your food and store in there. Otherwise, try to stick to non-perishable snacks. Remember, you cannot (and should not) eat right after surgery (for c-sections). Most docs want to wait until you are passing gas or least 12-24 hours has passed. Also, to avoid getting even more swollen, steer clear of salty foods. And drink lots of water!
Toiletries. Makeup, makeup remover, shaving cream and razors (just in case you feel up to it), shampoo/conditioner, lotion, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, contact solution, anything else you use on a daily basis.
Baby socks. A couple of pairs. Number one, hospitals don’t have these and those tiny hands and feet have poor circulation in the first few days. Number two, they will fall off and be lost quicker than you can take a picture with them on. Number three, use them for hands also - to prevent their long nails from scratching their delicate skin.
Medications. If you’re on a prescription medication and will need to resume after delivery, you may want to bring your own. Just be sure to tell doctors and nurses what you’re on, why, the dosage, the times you take it, etc. You will need a doctor’s order for it while you’re in the hospital and the nurses will have to sign off that they witnessed you taking it. Also, pharmacy will have to to identify the medication first to ensure that the pills you’re given them are, indeed, what you say they are. Why all this trouble? Some people want to avoid having to possibly take a generic version of their medications. If this isn’t you, leave yours at home and let the hospital pharmacy provide you with their medication while you’re a patient.
Magazine and books. You won’t have a ton of spare time, but you may crave some reading material during meals or burping sessions (for the baby, that is). But remember, you need to sleep when the baby is sleeping! He or she may keep you up much of the night, and you’re going to need little cat naps to be synchronized with theirs.
Car seat. The base will remain in the car. Be sure to have that set up wayyy ahead of time and bring the instructions just in case you need to make adjustments. The carrier part can be taken up to the hospital room. You’ll most likely be taking the baby out after he or she is already buckled in. This will minimize your time fidgeting around outside.
Hand sanitizer. True, it’s already on the wall in your hospital room, but you should bring one to keep at your bedside. You will also need to remind most of your visitors to use it before they hold the baby.
Gum. Also good to have at the bedside for when doctors, nurses, and impatient visitors drop by early in the morning before you’re had a chance to brush your teeth.
Use this as a foundation and add whatever else you will need to make it your own list. Anything that may make you feel prepared, relaxed, or comfortable (such as pictures of family, a religious symbol, etc.)…go ahead and pack it. What’s the worst case scenario? You don’t use it. So what? You’ll feel much better knowing you’re overly prepared.
Good luck and enjoy your little peanut!