Packing my hospital bag as a first time mum
Packing my hospital bag as a first time mum. was one of my most favourite things to do.
I guess it’s a feeling that resonates with a lot of mums, be they, first timers or veterans in the field.
Ijay, mother of three, felt that same palpable excitement too.
“ Well, packing my stuff for the hospital before the baby’s arrival was an exciting period”, she said.
For me, it was nervousness and anticipation at the same time.
Nervousness, because this was all new for me. Anticipation, because I was ecstatic about meeting my bundle of joy.
What the packing process did for me over time, was to give me a deep sense of connection with my soon- to- be-born child, and there aren’t enough words to best articulate or describe the feeling.
With every fold, I said a prayer for myself and spoke a blessing over my baby.
The highest expectation for any family is to bring home from hospital, a healthy baby and mother. I was no different.
I always expressed my desire for a safe delivery and a healthy baby, as I packed in preparation for the big day.
I was taught to never take my healthy pregnancies for granted.
Where Do We Begin
The Hospital List
The best place to start when packing your hospital bag, especially if you’re a first timer, is with the list given to you by the hospital.
It’s pretty much standard and an excellent guide.
The Health Service Executive Ireland (HSE.ie) has a comprehensive list of what you need for labour and birth, click here to see the list.
The National Health Service, Fife (NHS Fife) also put out the video, what to bring for your baby, to help you, as well. Click here to watch the video.
Taking advice from other mums
If you are fortunate to have veterans in the field to help guide you, then that’s very good.
I want to voice a note of caution here. Things have changed and will continue to change, since the last time, I had my children.
The practices and products that were once regarded as the gold standard of childcare are becoming quickly dated.
I would therefore advise that, you check with your midwife to avoid being a victim of good intentions.
It’s entirely up to you
When it comes to actually putting your hospital bag together, there is actually no right or wrong way to do this, as everything boils down to your personal style and way of doing things.
What I would be doing however, is to guide you through the process with some perspective.
Get It Done And Ready To Go On Time
The need to do so can’t be overemphasized.
Ijay said that packing her hospital bag wasn’t a day’s job.
Putting things away gradually into a suitcase until a week before her last appointment, worked well for her.
As for me, I had my hospital bag ready and done with by 34 weeks.
The rule of thumb is that your hospital bag should be done and dusted with, at least two weeks before your Expected Delivery Date, EDD.
The word expected implies that the date isn’t cast in stone. It could be two weeks before or after.
Again, you may be in a situation where your doctor feels your baby should come sooner.
In such an instance, you would have the baby, even earlier than your EDD.
The motto is: Be prepared
Your hospital bag and car seat must be ready and left in a place well-known to your spouse.
The base of the car seat should be set up in the car already.
I can’t begin to tell you about the kinds of hilarious confusion that erupts, the moment your labour sets in.
Most times, your cool, calm, and collected husband would become so fazed by what’s happening, that he might even forget to change into proper clothing to take you to the hospital.
He may be so panicked that you may have to be the one to calm him down!
It happens all the time. So, have everything in one place ready in a grab and go moment.
Just in case
Remember that you are going to deliver a baby and not going on a vaca.
If you are an over packer, you should have another bag kept aside called your just in case bag.
Hospitals don’t usually have enough room for all your belongings, so be sure not to over pack.
That said, we know things don’t often times go as planned.
Ijay avoided over packing by packing the exact number of clothes she thought she might need, based on the number of days, she anticipated to spend in hospital.
New mum Zoe, on the other hand, had an emergency C-Section and was in hospital for longer than expected.
For this reason, she is more inclined to say that you should have a contingency or backup plan.
In her case, she was unable to use the PJs she had packed due to the C-Section.
Her husband had to get her extra nightdresses, instead.
She had spare knickers, bras, towels, and all laid out at home ready, for if they were needed.
Based on her experience on having to stay longer than planned, she said:
“I would say have extra ready at home just in case, and if you don’t need them in hospital, at least you will have them nice and clean for you, when you get home!!!”.
Be Practical And Intentional
Being practical is about cutting to the chase.
No expensive jewelry or perfume
There is no need for expensive jewelry when you are going to have your baby.
The obvious reason is that you might misplace them.
You don’t need any poignant perfumes either, as your baby may not react well to them, initially.
Opt for travel size toiletries
Zoe opted for travel size toiletries for herself because they took up less space.
I also think they are reasonable too.
You want to avoid carrying bulky things that take up unnecessary space.
Take the weather with you
Always consider the weather when packing your hospital bag. Pack for the appropriate weather.
According to Ijay, “ The weather is a very important thing, not to be overlooked. There’s a need to understand the season to know which season your baby is coming in”.
In her case, she had packed some babygros, which was of no use to her, because her summer baby didn’t feel comfortable in them.
I would say, pack a few babygros regardless, and remember not to wear your baby, a woolly hat during summer or a cotton hat in the winter!
Go dark and use disposable briefs
Dark colours are best for the hospital. Dark coloured undies and sleepwear for mum is the practical choice.
Ijay and Zoe opted for dark colours too.
Labour and postpartum is a very red affair.
So, you want to wear colours that are easy to manage.
Like Ijay, disposable briefs are my best choice because they are easier to manage.
One of the greatest favours you can do yourself, is to have a well-organised system in the hospital.
When I had my first child, I threw my baby’s and my things into one big bag.
I had to constantly rummage through the bag with things falling out, to fetch things for myself or my baby, it was a joyous nightmare.
Here are some tips…
Packing and labeling outfits in Ziploc bags
Zoe found packing a set of outfits for her baby into Ziploc bags very handy.
Each Ziploc bag contained a nappy, a vest, a babygro and a hat.
The bags were also labeled newborn or 0-3 month depending on what was needed.
While most people will advise that you go with one medium-sized bag for the hospital, others would say go with more than one.
Every circumstance is different.
If you are having multiple births for instance, you might need a fairly large bag or more than one bag.
Ijay for example, took just one bag for both herself and her baby but differentiated her baby’s things by wrapping them up separately.
She also had an extra bag for the dirty clothes.
Zoe had three bags. One for the labour room, one for the baby and the other for herself.
She eventually converted one of the bags for the wash and put everything else into one bag.
I would say, designate a little bag with things for the labour room.
That bag should fit well into your main hospital bag.
You really don’t need much for the labour room, a set of pre labeled outfit, a diaper, a blanket (depending on the weather, it could be light or thick), and a towel will do, unless stated otherwise.
And for yourself, a dark coloured or disposable brief and a pack of maternity pads.
Getting a bag that can fit all three bags, is my perfect idea.
If you are like me, and you love to familiarize yourself with things that remind you of home, then you may want to bring something to make you feel a little better.
For Zoe, it was her blanket.
She said: “ A blanket from home was a nice comfort, being away for so long, and unfortunately the beds aren’t overly comfy. So, it helped to pad the bed a bit more.”
She also added: “I think the most important thing is to feel comfortable, for me that was fluffy socks, a clean face and a clean nightdress.
For others, it may be a face full of makeup.
I guess for that reason, packing to a point is personal.”
Look After Yourself
My late mum likened the process of childbirth as having an intergalactic experience. She was right!
The immediate aftermath of going through labour could be daunting, the stitches, pain and postpartum bleeding.
Be rest assured though, that it comes with the territory. The least you can do, is to be comfortable.
Look after yourself; sleep, if your baby allows you to, have a warm shower or bath, a well cleansed face and face full of makeup, if that’s what floats your boat .
Give Yourself A Treat
Staying in hospital could be a little boring sometimes, so I would advise, you get some magazines and books.
If you love to nibble, get yourself some treats.
Some hospitals allow food to be delivered to patients, but you need to confirm with the hospital first.
I honestly think a little treat here and there can make you feel a lot better.
Supporting Your Spouse
Supporting your spouse at this time is a very gracious thing to do.
They are the foot soldiers that get things going.
They are also under extreme pressure especially when they have to be there with you, throughout the process.
Some literally develop pregnancy symptoms too. Honestly.
To make things easy for him, get things ready beforehand.
Some snacks, toiletries, and a change of clothing , if they have to stay around.
I know that most hospitals have shops you can buy things from, but they do close. So, have something handy.
Prepare For When You Get Home
This is the next most important thing for me, after packing my hospital bag.
Put things in place for when you return from the hospital.
You should have food already precooked and packed away.
Everything should be in place.
If you are unable to do it yourself, you can ask for help from your pool of human resources.
Last Minute Reminders
Make sure you have an extra charger packed away in your hospital bag.
Another thing should be your hospital file. It should always be left in the already packed bag after each hospital appointment, as the day draws near.
Some cash or a credit card for unexpected spending.
Your mobile phone should be duly topped up, your just in case bag with some extras kept aside and a camera to capture the moments.
As Zoe says: “Try and send home stuff, before you know you are coming home, so you can travel light going home”.
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