Every pregnancy book, birth book or website has a helpful list of the things you will need to take to the hospital. They are very helpful because, thanks to pregnancy brain, remembering to pack things like your toothbrush or comfy socks might get lost in the shuffle. On the other hand, there are tons of things that you might not ever need, and how big of a bag do you plan to take? The most important thing to remember is that what every mama will need is different based on the type of birth they are planning. We were hoping for a natural birth and packed many items to help with pain management. In the end we were induced (Pooka had no fluid left to swim in) and after 12 hours of Cervidil and 7 hours of Pitocin with zero progress I took an epidural, which made many of the comfort items we packed obsolete. If you are planning to use pain medication or have a scheduled c-section you may not need essential oils, a massage ball, or hot/cold packs. The list I am making here is based on my experience, but should apply to every birth scenario. It is designed to supplement the more extensive list you get from those books and websites.
1. Pillows, Pillows, Pillows: Check with your hospital to see how many pillows are available in your delivery room. Ours literally only gave one per mama, and they were flat as pancakes. Perhaps your hospital will give you several, but if they don't make sure to bring your own. I brought two, but wish I had brought four. Sounds crazy, right? But I would have given my right pinky toe for a couple more before I took that epidural. Besides, you may be at the hospital for a few days and having some creature comforts like your pillow from home may soothe your tired soul. Oh, and make sure if you do bring a favorite pillow that it has a pillow case you don't care about because things do get messy with all that birthing going on!
2. Towels: You know how those towels at the gym barely cover your essential parts? Our hospital had the same size towels, and they didn't even begin to cover my ample pregnancy assets. I brought a big fluffy towel from home and was thankful for it after every shower during the four days and three nights we spent at the hospital. Again, bring an old towel if you are worried about any stains. In fact, just looking at that towel makes me shudder a bit so you may want to toss it when you get home.
3. iPod with Speakers: I made two playlists for the hospital. The first was gentle but upbeat music laced with songs that made me happy and meant something to me, like our wedding song and songs from concerts my husband and I attened. The second playlist was composed of my favorite lullabies from Rockabye Baby. We used both playlists during labor and after delivery. The doctor and nurses especially liked the lullabies and asked us about them when they were in our room. We had also played the same music for a few weeks prior to Pooka's birth so playing them in the hospital gave her a sense of continuity. Make sure to bring battery operated speakers and plenty of extra batteries, because most hospitals won't let you plug anything in.
4. Cozy Sweatshirt: I frequently felt cold at the hospital and was so grateful I had brought along a 3/4 length tie-front sweatshirt from Lululemon. I'm not a bathrobe wearer so having this sweatshirt was key. I wore it while walking the halls during labor, and later while nursing my newbie.
5. Comfy Socks and Slip-On Shoes: Bending over to put on shoes after you deliver is not easy, particularly if you have a c-section. So bring some big fluffy socks with grippy traction on them so you can head to the bathroom during the night without having to put on shoes. But you will want shoes when you venture out of your room so make sure they can easily slip on. Again, there is a possibility of them getting stained so you may not want to bring brand new Ugg slippers!
6. Breastfeeding Book: Unfortunately our hospital did not have a lactation consultant on duty, but the baby nurses were very knowledgeable when we needed help getting Pooka latched. But I also wanted to remember all the little tips and tricks I had learned at my breastfeeding class and from the books I had read. And by the way, I dragged my husband to our breastfeeding class (he was one of two men there). It was much easier than having him ask a hundred questions after the baby was born, and he was able to provide an extra level of support. We brought The Nursing Mother's Companion by Katherine Huggins with us and we both referred to it regularly over the three days we were in the hospital.
7. Fashionable Hospital Gown: So I know this sounds crazy, but having my own cute yellow and pink polka dot hospital gown to slip into after the birth was like a tonic for my soul and made our first memories with Pooka picture perfect. By picture perfect I mean literally, since pics of Mama, Dada and baby were being snapped left and right and I wasn't sporting a crappy hospital issued gown. It was also perfect because the nurses still had appropriate access to my IV, etc, and it was super easy to breastfeed in because the shoulders quickly unsnap. My family thought I was neurotic for purchasing my own gown, but then again I labored and gave birth in my own tank top and Binsi Birthing Skirt because I hate hospital gowns that much. But hey, I wasn't there because I was sick, I was there to have one of the most memorable moments of my life and I wanted to look good doing it! Just note that the birth process can be very messy, so you may not want to actually give birth in your cute hospital gown (the Old Navy Maternity tank top I wore was very stained and had to be cut off of me after the birth because of my IV). There are several cute options for hospital gowns, including Peanut Shell, Dear Johnnies, and B.Y.O.G. (I had the Lemon Drop pattern).
8. Baby Bottle and Pacifier: Pooka is breastfeed and has never taken a pacifier, but she does take a bottle on occasion. Before she was born I was completely against giving her a bottle or pacifier until she was at least a few weeks old and past the point of nipple confusion. But despite our best laid plans I wasn't producing much milk yet and Pooka wasn't peeing (it's a requirement for your baby to pee before you are released from the hospital), so the nurses began feeding her formula. Luckily our hospital was just a few blocks from our apartment and a family member was able to fetch our bottle of choice. If she had to drink formula I wanted her to have the most breast-like bottle. The same goes for pacifiers. If there is a particular brand you want your baby to use introduce it at the hospital.
9. Multiple Baby Outfits: So you obviously know that you need a going home outfit for your wee one, but I would bring more than one. First, if you stay at the hospital for a few days you might want your little one to wear something other than white during that time. But more importantly, you can never be sure what will actually fit. Pooka was expected to be over 7 lbs based on level 2 scans we had the last few weeks, but in reality she was less than 6 lbs. I had brought three outfits, but only the absolute smallest one worked for her. Other friends have unexpectedly had 9 lb babies when they were expecting 8 lbs. So make sure to pack a good size range so you'll be sure to have something that fits.
10. Baby Nail Clippers: I think this is totally odd, but our hospital would not clip Pooka's nails. And believe me, she had some serious daggers when she was born. Again, we had a family member bring a set from home but you should probably just throw a pair in your bag just in case.
11. Olive Oil: So you probably know that baby's first poohs are called meconium, and are tarlike and sticky. They can be very difficult to clean off your wee ones bum. A touch of olive oil can make things a lot easier. Apply a little with each change to keep the meconium from sticking and those first diaper changes will be a breeze!
As I mentioned previously, this is not meant to be an extensive list, but a supplementary list. There are many other things you may need, and probably a few that you won't. Things I didn't use included makeup, and the cute going home dress (I opted for my Lululemon pants and sweatshirt...how did my mom ever put on makeup and a dress?). I also brought Booby Tubes for breast engorgement, but didn't have good access to a microwave and ended up using hot wash clothes instead. I think in the end the lighter you make your bag the happier you'll be. There are also a few things you'll need once you get home, so stay tuned for a later post!
Photos of Pooka taken at the hospital by Hannah Hardaway Photography.