Ah yes, the hospital bag… the famed maternity hospital bag you hear so much about almost from the moment you become pregnant. In Ireland anyway it’s something that’s sort of reached mythic status … everybody has their top tips, with lists passed on from friend to friend filled with do’s and don’ts, and must haves and don’t bothers.
With all those opinions floating around out there, it can be easy to get overwhelmed trying to get your head around what exactly needs to go into the hospital bag and what doesn’t. I know on my first pregnancy I found it completely baffling, so much so, that I did an awful job of packing, and spent most of the time throwing things up in the air looking for things and ultimately brought in way to much stuff.
This time, I’m much more laid back about the whole thing… in fact I’ve left it until now (33 weeks!) to get it packed and I’ve still a few small bits to add in. But that’s the thing about your second or subsequent pregnancy… everything is a lot less exciting.
However, I know there are plenty of first time mums out there who might want to know what I’m bringing in my bag or might like to hear my own ‘pearls of wisdom’, so here’s my take on it…. Now I’m not saying this is the definite list, it’s just what I’m bringing in my hospital bag, borne out of my own experience on my last pregnancy.
My top tip would be to approach the hospital bag like this – have three categories and two bags. Remember there is very little space on the ward, so there is just not enough room for huge bags, plus I can tell you bringing a huge bag is just going to lead to it becoming a virtual black hole where you can’t find anything you want.
Try and remember you’re not going to Outer Mongolia, even though it might feel like it! Less is more and anything you don’t have can always be bought in for you by your other half or folks etc.
In that vein, I would also recommend having a third bag at home or in the car filled with possible things you might want to bring in, but you’re not sure you’ll need straight away or at all. For example I’ll have a pair of jeans, top, shoes etc, for when I leave hospital that I’ll have at home all ready to go and ask my hubby to bring in to me. Have extra baby outfits in Ziploc bags that are easy to grab if needed, a hair dryer etc.
The three categories are –
Things for you
Things for your baby
Things for your birthing partner
The two bags are –
1 small bag for labour (Labour Bag)
1 larger bag for the ward (Hospital Bag)
You’ll see I’ve gone for leggings over PJs and I’ve talked about my reasoning for this before in my piece about post-partum bleeding (click here for a recap), but it is that the large ‘green’ maternity pads you’ll probably be wearing while in the hospital have no adhesive (yeah great design!) and to minimise the pads moving and associated leaks, I like to wear snug (but HUGE) granny pants and leggings, to keep everything together and in place, as opposed to a loose nightie or PJ bottoms. I do have PJs in the bag too, which I might pop into at night time.
You’ll also see I’ve put in hoodies over dressing gowns. Again this is personal choice. I do think a light dressing is great for the actual labour as you may be sent to walk the halls etc, but for on the ward/after labour, I personally like to wear hoodies. Plus I’m a big believer in having things that are familiar to you, rather than all new things. Familiar tops or hoodies are like a bit of home comfort and for me, this is something that will help me feel more at ease. In this vein I’ve got perfume on the list… it might seems frivolous, but the power of scent is incredible, so if you’ve a favourite perfume that evokes happy memories then bring it in and don’t be afraid to spritz to feel more like yourself. The same goes for make-up… whatever helps you to feel more human, do it!
Snacks are a good idea, as dinner is served super early in hospital and the nights can be long and if you get the munchies it’s best to be prepared.
The water bottle with the sports top is another essential, as mentioned in my piece on post-partum bleeding.
For baby, I’d really recommend putting each outfit, so a vest, baby grow and hat in a small Ziploc bag… yes it seems totally anal and indeed I thought that on my first pregnancy and decided not to do it, but after rooting frantically in my bag for baby vests, etc, I can tell you this time I’m 100% putting each outfit in a sambo bag, because it will be so much easier to grab an outfit when you really need it. I’ve brought in 6-7, but don’t forget you can send home dirty ones (pack a plastic bag for this) and ask you other half to bring in some prepared outfits from your third just in case bag and more nappies if needed.
Also don’t be tempted to leave out a notepad and pen, because the nurses will be asking you everything from when was the last wet/dirty nappy, to the times of feeds etc, and as much as you think you’ll remember, you won’t! So get into the habit of writing it down. Also you will need a folder for the huge mountain of leaflets you’ll be plied with when you leave the hospital in a daze… honestly they give you way too much to comprehend, but some are genuinely important, so just pop them in a folder and read them when you get home and settled.