The time has come. Nine months have gone steadily by and the baby is ready to make his or her long-awaited appearance. The nursery walls are covered with precious animal décor, there’s a basket full of breastfeeding snacks next to the glider, and the detailed birth plan sits ready on the counter. The only thing left to do is to finish packing the hospital bag. Deciding what to pack in the hospital bag for a multi-day visit can be a challenge.
We know it’s tempting to load up luggage with piles of treats and darling baby outfits, but the reality is that there is only so much space in a hospital bag and only so many hands to carry everything back to the car after the baby is born.
According to the National Conference of State Legislature, a typical hospital stay after a regular delivery is 48 hours and 96 hours for a cesarean section. It’s important not to leave out the sanity-saving essentials for this overnight stay, but it’s also far too easy to overpack with items that will go completely untouched during the duration of time that a mother is there. It’s important to be prepared to avoid a last minute trip home for something trivial, but no one wants to lug a too-heavy bag through the hospital halls while breathing through contractions.
Preparing a bag for a hospital stay can be overwhelming, but with a simple list, every task is made easier. Rather than sweat about what needs to be packed, first avoid packing these fifteen unnecessary things that simply take up space.
20 Save The Silk For Six Weeks
It turns out that there are incredibly cute alternatives to the bland open-back hospital gowns provided in the maternity ward during labor. Silky kimonos, cotton tees, floral patterns, and crocheted edges- women can take their pick. However, nice as it is to look pretty during the most important day of our lives, we have to consider what we’re walking into before packing a garment that may end up in a trash can by the end of the day.
Because labor is messy. Really messy.
No birth is the same, but there are some things that new mothers can likely expect that would make packing and wearing her own gown an undesirable task. For example, mothers who receive an epidural are administered the medication through a catheter in their backs. In this case, an open-backed hospital gown is the best fit for easy access to make any adjustments necessary.
Another reason mothers may want to reconsider wearing a fancy birthing gown is the nightmare that every new mother fears. Passing #2 during labor.
According to What to Expect,
the muscles that a woman uses to push out her baby are the same muscles used to pass a bowel movement, so accidents in the hospital bed are bound to happen when push comes to shove.
Along with sneaky movements, a woman’s body continually produces amniotic fluid that is expelled during the duration of her labor, creating a mess underneath her until birth is over. That means that nice lace kimono may easily be soiled before the baby even crowns. So it may be a good idea to leave the silk birthing gown at home, and embrace what the hospital has to offer.
19 Nix The Nappies
According to Healthy Children, babies typically pass their first bowel movement within the first 24 hours of life. This mess will be black, sticky, and filled with everything that the baby has been ingesting during its time in the womb. It seems like it would make a lot of sense to pack the hospital bag full of diapers for when that precious bundle of joy decides she wants to create her first stinky mess, right? After all, a new baby will go through roughly twelve diapers a day.
Unless parents are considering the use of cloth nappies, it turns out that packing a lot of diapers is surprisingly unnecessary. Most hospitals serve their patients by providing diapers for newborns until their families return home.
This is great news because diapers tend to take up a lot of space and can be expensive to use if there is an alternative. These can typically be found at the bottom of the baby bassinet or in compartments that are built in on the sides. These complementary diapers should not be taken for granted and any extras should be taken home, as any parent can testify that receiving free diapers is the best way to be pampered (pun fully intended).
18 Let The Baby Shoes Take A Hike
While we know there’s nothing cuter to see than little baby feet in tiny white Birkenstocks, it should come as no surprise that a newborn leaving the hospital isn’t going to need a pair of shoes. The purpose of shoes is to protect feet from dangerous, sharp, and hot surfaces. Because newborn babies aren’t yet walking, they really don’t need any foot protection besides a pair of socks to protect from cold temperatures.
While a new mom might easily sport a cute pair of converse as she leaves the hospital, her newborn is likely to just feel uncomfortable and be reminded of how different the world is from the cozy and comfortable womb.
According to Kids Health, new mothers typically overdress their babies for the hospital ride home. Rather than dressing the little one in four layers, a pair of booties, and a knitted hat, parents should dress their newborns according to the weather. If it’s hot, a light cotton outfit with a muslin blanket should keep a baby warm without her overheating. It the temps are colder, pajamas, the hat provided by the hospital, and a warm blanket will suffice. Save the space in the hospital bag by skipping the cute baby shoes. There will be plenty of time to sport little sneakers later on.
17 Stash The Storage At Home
Many breastfeeding moms use milk storage bags to store up any milk pumped between feeding times. This creates a handy stash in the freezer that can feed the baby for date nights, bottle feedings, and post-weaning milk sessions. This might lead a new mother to think that she should pack a box of the storage bags for the hospital stay while her baby takes in minimal amounts of milk.
These boxes can be bulky, and packing just the bags themselves can lead to disorganized clutter that will likely remain untouched during the visit.
While milk production begins during pregnancy itself, most mothers only produce colostrum during the duration of their hospital stay.
According to La Leche League International, colostrum is the earliest breastmilk that is produced and consumed during the baby’s first days of life. It is a thick and concentrated form of milk that is packed full of immunity-building protein, sugars, and fats.
Babies’ bellies are extremely small, so milk will not begin to start increasing until a couple days after birth when the baby begins to cluster feed. This means that, despite how much a mama may want to power pump while she ogles her little cutie that first night, the small amounts of colostrum or milk produced will probably not necessitate storage bags.
16 Victoria Won’t Keep Your Secret
For any other hospital or overnight stay, it is a good idea to pack several pairs of underwear for the stay. In fact, underwear is probably one of the most important items to pack for any other trip.
When a new mother is about to give birth, she may want to reconsider packing her hospital bag full of cute undergarments or even freshly purchased comfy cotton.
In the few minutes after giving birth, mothers enter the new world of postpartum recovery. It should come as no surprise that after a woman pushes a six to ten-pound baby out of her body, the recovery begins with a bit of a mess that follows.
According to WebMD, whether a mom has a regular birth or a cesarean section, her uterus will expel the extra blood and tissue that cushioned her baby for nine months. This discharge can be pretty heavy for the first few days and, as a result, leaks can easily occur.
Because of this, the hospital provides a woman with heavy duty sanitary napkins, complete with notoriously huge mesh granny panties during the hospital stay. This is the optimum pair for comfort and mess absorption. These underpants are cheap and disposable—perfect for those lovely postpartum leaks. So unless a mother wants her favorite pair of Victoria Secret panties to look like a scene from The Walking Dead, it’s best to leave them out of the hospital bag and to embrace the use of mesh underpants for the duration of the hospital stay.
15 Pass On The Perfume
After giving birth, many women want to feel fresh and feminine once more. Because of this, perfume can easily make its way into the hospital bag to give the mama something sweet and lady-like to look forward to after her first postpartum shower. However much visitors, family members, and the new parents may enjoy the smell of a fruity spritz, there is at least one person that probably won’t enjoy it as much.
While the research is not conclusive on the subject, professionals believe that the use of perfume may interfere with the way a baby naturally comforts and calms himself with his mother’s scent.
According to Baby Centre UK, a newborn’s sense of smell is incredibly sensitive and plays an important role in both eating and bonding with the mother. Because a baby’s sense of smell develops while he is still in utero, he becomes familiar with the scent of the amniotic fluid, which is similar to the smell of the developing breastmilk. So when a baby first enters the big and unfamiliar world, he will rely on his strong sense of smell to identify his mother and find his way to the milk that he needs to drink to thrive and grow.
So as much as a new mom may want nothing more than to smell like a cherry-rose blossom after birth, it may be best to embrace the mom life for those first few days and leave the “Eau du parfum” at home.
14 Leave The Literature
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents read aloud to their children beginning in the newborn stage of infancy. This encourages word acquisition, literacy skills, and bonding between parent and child.
It is not unusual to see complicated vocabulary in a children’s picture book because educators and professionals alike believe that reading the rich language to children will equip them with vocabulary skills later on in life. However, we also know that babies’ vision can be very fuzzy and unfocused at birth as they learn to move their eyes to look at more than one thing at a time.
A baby who has only been in the world for a day spends most of her time sleeping, and even when awake may not be able to see the vibrant pictures of Goodnight Moon. So while it may be tempting to pack a favorite alphabet read or those squishy baby board books, they will likely just take up too much room and make the hospital bag heavier than need be. Instead, consider bringing a favorite chapter book that both parents will enjoy reading aloud. This way, mother and father get to enjoy hearing a good story and baby gets to be soothed to sleep and exposed to vocabulary by her favorite voices.
13 Stash The Snacks
It’s no secret that most maternity wards keep women in labor from eating and drinking before birth. This practice is only beneficial in the case of a patient being put under general anesthesia during labor. In such a case, there is a rare chance that a patient may aspirate the contents of the stomach, causing severe complications.
While many medical professionals today argue that the enforcement of this outdated practice is not beneficial, the slight existing risk keeps most nurses handing women in labor ice chips instead of granola bars.
Before packing a hospital bag full of snacks to munch on during labor, a woman should recognize that she will likely be prohibited from eating until after her baby is born. Once that baby is out, it’s a food free-for-all in between nursing and skin-to-skin bonding.
Most women opt out of snacks at this point, preferring to order from local pizza shops or to call up some food from the hospital’s cafe, leaving their granola bars forgotten in the bottom of their luggage. So rather than wasting hospital bag space with quick snacks, fill up a basket with munchies next to your rocking chair or glider instead. This allows for easy access to protein and nutrients during late night nursing or bottle sessions.
12 Stuff The Toys In The Closet
The practice of introducing a lovey is all too common in the early days of a baby’s life. A lovey is a familiar toy or blanket that a baby uses to soothe herself with. Introducing a lovey is a great way to establish self-soothing habits from the beginning. However, this does not mean that it is necessary to take up a fourth of the hospital bag space with a fluffy teddy bear or rattling giraffe.
In fact, because a newborn’s vision and motor skills are still developing, she may not be able to enjoy her first toys for at least a few weeks. On top of this, newborn babies also spend the majority of their day sleeping—about 16 or 17 hours a day!
Rather than bringing a toy along to place in the baby’s bassinet while she sleeps, remember that many hospitals follow a protocol that dictates that baby’s sleeping space must remain uncrowded. This means no blankets, pillows, or toys allowed in the bed. Hospitals enforce these safe sleeping practices due to recent research regarding SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Development, findings show that a bed without blankets, pillows, toys, or any other hazardous object promote are the safest places for infants to sleep. It may be best to keep Corduroy at home and introduce him to the little one when he is old enough to hold and play with the toy himself.
11 Crush It Without The Curler
Any girl who has packed for an overnight trip can testify that hair products tend to hog space. Curling irons and straighteners are downright bulky, and their cords always manage to tangle themselves like a pile of cobras. It’s luxurious to be able to primp and look dolled up for that newborn photoshoot, but more than likely mothers have little to no time to curl their hair in the hospital. While every birth experience is unique, on average most first-time mothers labor for about eight hours. Then there is cleanup, tests, and beginning the journey of breastfeeding if she decides to nurse.
Visitors may float in and out, wanting to congratulate the parents and see whether or not the child was born with hair. After that, she will probably want to spend the remainder of the stay becoming acquainted with the new member of the family.
The time not spent cuddling or bonding will be spent scarfing down a slice of pizza or changing out ice packs.
Rather than packing the heavy duty hair equipment, opt for saving space and choose simple hairdos that require less time. Braids, messy buns, and ponytails have stood the test of time.
10 Brush Off The Make Up
There is a new practice of mothers bringing entire cosmetic sets into the maternity ward with them. If red lipstick and the perfect contour will make a woman feel like a boss during labor, then she should brandish that makeup brush and apply her makeup all she wants! However, if the desire to pack makeup stems from outside pressure to look a particular way during labor, know that there is no one way to look during labor.
Labor is hard and sweaty work, but it is beautiful work. No one is going to be questioning why the woman who just pushed out a baby isn’t wearing eyeliner with perfectly winged tips. Unless it is going to be empowering, we would suggest packing the bare essentials when it comes to make-up.
According to Make Up Geek, a tinted moisturizer can be applied in a hurry without streaking and provides full facial coverage, allowing women to keep the cover-up and foundation at home. Things like lipstick, mascara, and eyeshadow are quick to apply and take up minimal space. Packing these few items in a small pouch will save room for more important items. Not to mention a woman in later will still have that hormone-induced pregnancy glow that beats out blush any day.
9 Just Not The Jacket
Well-meaning parents will probably want to pack a winter jacket for their baby if the little one is due during the colder months. We bundle up our children to protect them from the cold temperatures in the wintertime, but what many parents don’t realize is that a bulky jacket in a car seat can create a deadly combination. According to Consumer Reports, babies wearing winter jackets or snowsuits are at a greater risk for injury in a car accident because bulky winter gear creates too much space between the child and the harness.
The loose harness becomes ineffective in a crash, leading to potential tragedy. A jacket will take up space in your luggage and will remain unused and discouraged.
So, what can be packed instead of a winter jacket for that first car ride home? Since the baby is not likely to be going on a brisk walk in the snow before heading home, he doesn’t really need anything warmer than a pair of cozy footie pajamas for the transfer in and out of the vehicle. Baby can then be tucked in with a knitted blanket and a car seat cover can be used to shield him from the elements if need be. These items should take up much less space in your hospital bag and are considered safer for your baby’s first ride home.
8 Free The Ladies
Most ladies could tell a new mom that going without a bra for the duration of the hospital stay is much easier than trying to wrestle into one that may or may not fit for the time being. Ultimately, a woman can wear whatever she wants to wear after she gives birth. If she chooses to have an epidural during labor, a small catheter will be placed in the back, and she will need to wear a hospital gown without a bra until the epidural is removed.
Between engorgement, chafing, and a baby who wants to nurse ten to twelve times a day, it is best if the ladies are as accessible as possible.
According to Kelly Mom, a woman’s bosom will undergo many changes during those first few weeks as the milk comes in and begins to regulate to meet the baby’s needs.
No one wants to have to wiggle in and out of a stubborn underwire ten times in the same day. If a woman is feeling uncomfortable going without a bra with guests coming and going in the room, a soft nursing bra is a comfortable substitute to that fancy push-up taking up space in her bag.
7 Warm Up To Minimalism
There is one notoriously useless baby product that manages to pop up in baby showers and hospital bags across the nation. The diaper wipes warmer. For a new parent, the idea of a wipe warmer is romantic. Why wouldn’t we want to save those precious baby bottoms from the cold harsh world of the diaper wipe’s natural temperature?
It’s our job to protect our little ones, right? Well, as it turns out, babies can handle the temperature of cool diaper wipes pretty well.
It may seem like a nice gesture to a newborn, but keeping a moist environment consistently warm can provide a major breeding ground for bacteria.
In 2014, CBS News reported that ten brands of baby wipes became part of a nationwide recall due to the presence of bacteria. Since bacteria thrive in places that are damp and warm, a diaper wipes warmer seems like the prime place to spread and grow bacteria. Not to mention that a product that is designed to keep a wet product warm screams fire hazard, especially when shoved into the bottom of a hospital bag. So, avoid the trouble of packing a diaper wipe warmer and consider trading it in for a pack of diapers instead.
6 Ibuprofen Is A Pain To Carry
After pushing a watermelon out of her lady bits, the road to recovery begins, and many women experience at least minor pain after birth. It is wise to choose some form of pain relief to tackle the recovery head-on. According to Royal Berkshire, women with good pain relief recover more quickly and are able to return home sooner. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are suitable painkillers for minor and moderate pain levels.
But before packing emptying the medicine bag into your hospital bag in preparation, know that the nurses will likely offer a woman recovering from birth different forms of pain relief every few hours. They will quietly assess the patient’s breasts, uterus, and blood flow to determine how well she is recovering and administer medication as necessary. As part of the hospital stay, full coverage insurance will cover the cost of painkillers administered during the 48-hour visit.
Therefore, there is no need for a patient to pack her own ibuprofen. On top of painkillers provided by hospital staff, moderated activity, witch hazel, and ice packs are all natural alternatives to relieve aches and pains after birth.
If so much of what we are tempted to back in our hospital bags are really a waste of space, then what are the essentials that need to be packed?
Here are five crucial things to take into the labor and delivery ward.
5 Shower Shoes Save Soles
The nurses have finally given the clear for that glorious postpartum shower that will rinse away the evidence of the work that was just accomplished during a long birthing session. We may want nothing more than to pull off those sexy hospital socks, drop the johnny, and run into the arms of the warm and comforting stream of water that awaits. However, statistics show that we may want to slip on a pair of cheap flip-flops before walking into a shower that has been used by thousands of new parents before us.
Plantar warts are generally contracted by walking on unclean surfaces where others have walked. These warts are hard, sometimes painful growths that appear on the bottom of the feet and can be a pain to get rid of.
According to Mayo Clinic, there are more than 3 million US cases of plantar warts each year. Labor and delivery wards can sometimes see hundreds of patients in a month, which means the chance of an infected foot touching the floor of that hospital shower is pretty high. It’s always a good idea for women to toss a pair of cheap flip-flops in her hospital bag to save her soles. They take a minimal space and create a barrier between a woman’s feet and whatever may remain on the shower floor.
4 Yay For Yoga Pants
After giving birth, a woman’s waist size decreases remarkably fast as the uterus contracts and begins to shrink. A mom may expect to comfortably slide into those pre-pregnancy jeans that have been sitting in the dresser for nine months or at least to fit back into the trusty pair of maternity pants that have stuck with her through thick and thin. However, it may come as a surprise when neither pre-pregnancy pants nor maternity pants fit comfortably! During the weeks after birth, it is not uncommon for a woman to experience her body changing shape in a way that is unfamiliar to her.
While some woman immediately bounce back to their pre-pregnancy weight, a number of factors may cause other women to return to their pre-pregnancy weight more slowly. It’s important to look back and remember that all the ways that our bodies have changed shape during those months have led to the births of our beautiful children! It took time during those months for our bodies to change, and it will likely take time in the months after for them to change again.
Because a woman has just given birth to nine pounds of adorable human, she has also lost nine pounds of waistline that used to fill her maternity pants. This may leave her in-between sizes, something difficult to determine before birth. That’s why it is nice to have a cheap pair of stretchy pants rolled up and ready in the hospital bag for the drive home. Stretchy pants are perfect for changing body shapes and for optimum postpartum comfort. No one wants to wear scratchy jeans over granny panties and an ice pack!
3 Pass The Time With Playing Cards
The baby is sleeping, the visitors are gone, and the new parents are left to wonder at the miracles of birth and life. Most parents take this time to catch up on any sleep that was missed during labor. After all, it’s difficult to sleep while contractions are working away at the womb.
After the first 24 hours after birth has passed, it is nice to have a few forms of entertainment to bond and to pass the time while the little one rests, particularly in the case of a cesarean birth. After a cesarean birth, a mother and baby’s hospital stay is extended to 96 hours, leaving plenty of time for boredom if unprepared.
Most of this time will be spent snuggling and learning the ropes of breastfeeding and parenthood. But activities such as board games, crossword puzzles, and Sudoku are a good way to pass the hours if time seems to be moving too slowly. Packing a deck of cards in the hospital bag ensures more than a pocket full of games, taking up minimal space. Rummy, spades, go fish, and ninety-nine are a few of the many games that a deck of cards has to offer to speed up the clock.
2 Bag Up The Bags
One of the smallest, most inexpensive, and most important things to pack in the hospital bag can be obtained for free at a local grocery store. A plastic grocery bag is a crucial addition to containing any soiled clothing that can be salvaged upon returning home. According to Wiley Online Library, about 1 in every 10 women experiences her membranes rupturing before labor.
She will then continue to make amniotic fluid, the liquid that protects her baby in the womb until the baby is born.
This will continue to leak out, either as a small trickle or an uncomfortable gush for the duration of her labor.
While this fluid will ideally be caught and collected by hospital staff with the help of sanitary napkins and towels, it is inevitable that clothing will fall prey to the many messes of labor or the birthing tub. This can be a bummer, especially if a woman’s water breaks in her favorite pair of jeans.
Along with amniotic fluid are its messy are its messy companions both before and after birth: lochia, baby spit up, and late-night coffee spills. A plastic shopping bag serves as reasonable storage for any clothing that may have been soiled until the family can return home to wash and disinfect salvageable garments.
1 Don’t Brush Away Your Comb
One of the most forgotten items in the rush to the hospital is a woman’s trusty hairbrush. If a woman has long locks that tangle easily, going a day without a hairbrush or comb can be the beginning of a knotty mess. Packing a hairbrush is essential to avoid those nasty post-birth knots that can gather and tangle over time and be more difficult to get rid of later on. Numbers of moms on baby forums such as BabyCentre complain of staggering hair knots accompanying postpartum recovery.
With hair loss being a common post-birth symptom, no woman wants to have to rip through a bird’s nest on her head while balancing a newborn in one arm. The first step to tackling knots head-on before they become a problem is by packing a comb or boar bristle brush and combing the hair from the ends to the scalp before taking a shower each day in the hospital. Brushing the hair while wet only damages and further knots hair, while slowly working up towards the scalp while dry releases the knots and leaves the hair smooth before showering. Not to mention this simple beauty tool can work wonders in place of bulkier items such as flat irons and curling wands.
References: Healthy Children, WebMD, Make Up Geek, American Academy of Pediatrics, Wiley Online Library, Baby Centre UK, La Leche League International, Kids Health, CBS News, Mayo Clinic, Royal Berkshire, Kelly Mom, Consumer Reports, National Institute of Health, What to Expect