Even if you’re not planning a hospital birth, you may need to go in unexpectedly, so it’s a good idea to have a bag packed by the time you are about 36 weeks pregnant (or earlier). It can be a good idea to lay everything out on the bed and then ask birth partners to pack the bag so they know where everything is easily on the day.
It’s pretty usual to end up bringing a small wheely suitcase and a couple of other bags!
What to pack in your bag
Pack enough just for one night but you can always leave a pre-packed bag at home with enough stuff in for you and the baby for a couple of days/nights should you need to stay in for longer. That way you can just send someone around to collect it and it will save them having to try to work out what you need!
You may want to take a few items from home, such as your own pillows, to make the environment more personal and less clinical.
What to pack for labour (Mum)
- Birth plan (several copies)
- Maternity notes (if you still have the handheld ones)
- Dressing gown
- Flip-flops for the shower (non slip!)
- Old nightdress or t-shirt. Ideally a night shirt that opens at the front for easy breastfeeding (if you’re planning on breastfeeding) & for skin to skin
- Massage oil – if you’d like to be massaged during labour
- Lip balm
- Snacks and drinks – savoury & sweet as you never know what you may fancy!
- Isotonic drinks may be useful for the second stage of labour – coconut water is very restoring to the body. You can also freeze cartons or bottles of squash/water so they stay cold for a while
- Water in a sports cap bottle &/or a straw for easy drinking whatever position you’re in
- Frozen, wet flannels to place on the back of your neck
- A hot water bottle in case you’d find warmth soothing
- Hairband. If you have long hair, you might want it tied up.
- Pillows. The hospital might not have enough to make you really comfortable. Remember to bring your own ones in non-white covers. Your own pillows will smell familiar which is a great comfort
- TENS machine – spare batteries are a good idea too
- Toiletries (treat yourself to some extra special ones 🙂 )
- Ear plugs (in case you want to block out sounds during labour)
- Lavender oil (or whatever scent you like) to put a few drops on some material to aid relaxation
- Music to listen to or if hypnobirthing, your relaxation audios (download the audios onto your phone so that you’re not relying on WiFi).
- Phone charger with an extra long cable as plugs are always in awkward places – or bring a battery pack charger
- Things to make the environment as dark as possible – eye mask/sunglasses can make you feel more private. Black out blinds? The room is yours to change as you wish!
- A fan or hand held fan to keep cool. You can get face mists too.
- A spare bag for any soiled clothing
For the birth partner
- Comfortable shoes
- A change of clothes – some partners wear shorts as it’s easier to bend and get involved physically, whatever position your partner is in (plus it’s very hot there)
- Swimwear, if you want to join your partner in the birth pool.
- Camera. If you use your phone as your camera, be careful to save enough charge for the first family pictures!
- Snacks and drinks for you – you are important too (and so you’re not nicking your partner’s!)
For after the birth (Mum)
- A going-home outfit. You’ll need loose comfortable clothes
- Nursing bras.
- Frozen colostrum, if relevant
- Breast pads
- Eye drops for tired or dry eyes
- Maternity pads. Bring around 3-4 packs.
- Nightshirt or T-shirt. Front-opening shirts are useful for breastfeeding/skin to skin
- Hairbrush, toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Old or cheap underwear
- Arnica tablets to help with bruising after the birth. Although there’s no conclusive evidence that they work (NHS 2007), many women report that taking arnica helps reduce bruising and helps the healing process.
- A big towel
For your baby
- A car seat
- One outfit for the trip home (all-in-one stretchy outfits are easiest).
- Two or three sleepsuits and vests for baby to wear while you are in hospital.
- Baby blanket. Take a warm one if the weather is cold.
- One pair of socks or booties.
- Jacket or snowsuit for winter babies – remember to always remove bulky clothing before putting your baby into his or her car seat
- Muslin squares
Of course you don’t have to take everything on the list. If you’re driving, you can separate the bags into labour/birth and after birth and keep the latter in the car.