If you’re planning on giving birth in a hospital, there’s a lot to remember to bring in order to be prepared for the big day. First time moms in particular may have an overwhelming urge to over pack to ensure that they’re prepared for everything. From remembering to pack items for themselves (such as maternity bras, nursing pads, lip balm and toiletries), for the new baby (such as a hat, a going home outfit and diapers) and their partner (such as a change of clothes and snacks), it’s easy to get to the point where any and everything gets thrown into the hospital bag, “just in case”. You ultimately end up with a hospital bag filled with items that aren’t necessarily needed but are there to ensure you’re prepared for every possible scenario. After all, after a baby shower most moms-to-be receive a large amount of baby clothes, blankets and other accessories. With the excitement of meeting the new addition, who wouldn’t want to dig into this treasure trove and dress their baby up in different outfits so that they’re ready for the slew of upcoming pictures?
To avoid packing too much, take a look at the following items that you don’t need to worry about bringing to the hospital. You either won’t use them or the hospital will provide them for you. The hospital’s number one priority is ensuring a safe and healthy birthing experience and guaranteeing that new moms (whether it’s a first time mom or an experienced one) have everything they need and are prepared to take their new addition home.
15 Breast Pump
Within the first 30 minutes or so of giving birth, nurses will encourage moms to try breast feeding their new arrival. The colostrum is important for babies in the first few days of their lives because it contains antibodies that they need and helps prepare their digestive track for when they start drinking breast milk. Don’t be alarmed because there might not be much of it to start, just know that what you do have is enough for your baby’s small stomach. Also, it takes a few days to start producing actual breast milk so pumping won’t do much to help with the breastfeeding process, you’ll likely already be at home by then. Besides, if you’ve just had your first child, the last thing you’ll want to do is fiddle around with a new pump trying to figure out how to use it and waiting to fill a bottle.
14 Fancy Underwear
It’s a good idea to take inexpensive disposable underwear and maternity pads instead of fancy underwear. Your body is recovering from child birth so you’ll need the extra protection and underwear that you don’t mind throwing away if needed. It takes a few weeks for your body to heal from the experience and as comfortable as hospital underwear are, you won’t have those to take home with you. Side note on maternity pads, they’re a better option than super absorbent maxi pads because they’re made especially for postpartum wear which is very different from a heavy menstrual cycle. They can typically be found at any medical supply store and they’re much thicker than regular maxi pads which you can switch over to after a few weeks of healing.
So leave cute underwear at home and transition back into them over the course of a few weeks. If not, you may have to get rid of them.
13 Diaper Bag
If it’s your first time giving birth, it might be tempting to pack everything under the sun just in case the baby needs something. Better to be over prepared than underprepared right? Well in this case, you really don’t need to bring a diaper bag full of accessories. The diaper bag can stay at home because you won’t need it for the day or two that you’re at the hospital. All a newborn baby really needs are a few newborn diapers (not too many because they’ll grow out of them within a week), wipes, a blanket and clothes for the trip home. Most hospitals recommend that the baby wear just a diaper so that skin-to-skin contact with mom takes place as often as possible.
In terms of accessories, you won’t need nail clippers just yet (baby fingernails are too fragile for them at this point anyway), aspirators, pacifier clips or a baby tub. Keep in mind that newborn babies shouldn’t be bathed for the first few hours of life but when it’s time, a nurse will bring you all the necessities you need and show you what to do. All of these accessories can wait until you’re at home and when your baby is a little older in some cases. It’s common for first time moms to receive a variety of gifts at their baby showers. Most are meant to help with the first few months of a baby’s life so they don’t need to come to the hospital. Home is the best place for them right now.
12 Formula and Bottles
For moms who choose not to breastfeed or are having some initial difficulty providing colostrum or breast milk, hospitals will provide formula if needed. If this is the case, no need to worry about bringing bottles since they’ll also provide bottles that are specially designed for newborns. Also, if you’re unsure of which type of formula to buy (there’s a lot to choose from these days) the hospital will likely have the brands that are doctor recommended. They may be liquid ready-to-use formulations vs. the powder formulations which require water for mixing. The ready-to-use formulations are less stressful for new moms who are trying to navigate through this new experience without worrying about ratios of water to formula.
Remember that every woman is different and even if it’s your intention to nurse your baby, relying on formula for the first few days is OK for your baby. Frequent nursing and a balanced diet will help maintain milk supply.
11 Jewelry and Other Valuable Items
It’s not necessary to wear or pack jewelry for your time in the hospital. At this point, comfort is key so leave fancy earrings and bracelets at home. If you’re worried about looking your best for pictures after the baby arrives and for family visits, don’t be. No one is expecting a new mom to look like they’re runway ready. You’ve just given birth and that’s a huge accomplishment. Plus, if you leave your valuable jewelry at home, they’re one less thing to try and keep track of. While in the hospital you might need to walk around to help speed up labour or you might be transported for tests or moved to an operating room if you need a caesarean section. You may not be in your room the entire time so it’s very easy to lose track of things. Also, between nurses checking in on you and family and friends visiting, there’s a lot of activity once the baby arrives. Plus, parents are so taken with the joys of bonding with and getting to know their little one that it’s very easy to completely forget where you put something. So avoid the heartache or disappointment by leaving valuable items at home.
10 Lots of Cash
The chance of needing more than a few dollars while at a hospital is slim. Taking change and a few dollar bills will be enough to raid the snack machine or the hospital cafeteria. The quality of hospital food varies but new moms aren’t typically there for extended periods of time so braving the meals they’ll provide for you is worth is. For those who feel they need to be prepared “just in case” an unexpected cost arises, bring a credit or debit card for incidental costs (ex. TV rental, room phone use, etc.). If your partner is going to be with you throughout the experience, then pack some snacks for them beforehand so that there are options and little need to spend cash.
When is comes to parking while at the hospital, you can usually pay for it with a card but can bring some cash for that if you’d prefer that option. $20 to $30 should be more than enough to cover a few expenses while in the hospital.
9 Baby Bibs
We’ve all seen the adorable pictures of babies drooling on their bibs and are tempted to throw a few into the hospital bag. The truth is, they’re not needed this early on. While in the hospital you’ll probably spend most of your time with your baby resting on your chest to promote bonding and skin-to-skin contact. Most babies sleep a lot in the first few days of their lives and only wake to nurse. Right now a bib would be a choking hazard and not worth the risk. If you find your baby spits up some milk after they’ve nursed or after they’ve been burped, use a small hand towel to wipe their face.
Again, these can be saved for when babies are older (but not old enough to figure out how to pull them off) and are especially helpful once babies start eating solid food. This is bound to be a messy experience so they’ll come in handy at that point. Don’t worry, you’ll eventually get to use most of the fun accessories you’ve been given.
8 Fancy Baby Blankets
Hospitals provide blankets for babies once they’re born. Once they’ve been checked and wiped down, a nurse will wrap up your new bundle of joy for you to hold and marvel at. The fact that they provide blankets is great because babies are messy after their birth so you avoid messing up any of the brand new, cute as a button blankets you were gifted or spent time picking out. All you really need is one or two decent receiving blankets to swaddle your baby with when visitors stop by to meet them for the first time or while taking a few photos of them while they’re sleeping or even covering the car seat when you leave the hospital. Leave the really nice ones at home and pull them out after you’ve given your baby its first real bath.
7 Multiple Onesies
It’s tempting to pull out some of the cute onesies you’ve either bought or received for your baby and pack them in your hospital bag. If you’re an extra organized mom-to-be you might be tempted to pack different outfits in different sizes because your baby can be any size at birth. “Daddy’s Little Princess” or “Mommy’s Special Little Guy” outfits can wait for when you’re at home and taking lots of photos of your newborn. While in the hospital babies only really need to be in diapers to promote skin-to-skin contact with moms. You don’t need to pack several outfits because it’s unlikely your baby will wear them (until they start crawling, babies aren’t very messy so multiple changes of clothes aren’t needed). Even little pyjama onesies aren’t needed because newborn babies prefer being swaddled, it reminds them of being in the womb. Put a hat on baby’s head to keep them warm while sleeping.
6 Toilet Paper
It’s no secret that hospital grade toilet paper isn’t as comfortable or as welcoming as a roll of Cottonelle toilet paper is, especially after giving birth naturally. Despite this, it’s not essential for you to pack your own roll for your hospital stay. After a natural birth, hospitals will provide a small plastic squirt bottle that you can fill with water to help cleanup after bathroom visits. Gently drying off with hospital toilet paper is all that’s needed afterwards. This method is easier on your body and doesn’t interfere with the healing process. What’s great is you can take the bottle home and use it for a few days more until you feel comfortable. With proper care, it won’t be long until your body begins feeling like itself again and it’s business as usual during trips to the bathroom.
5 An Outfit for the Delivery
While it’s important to pack a going home outfit for yourself, you don’t need an outfit for the actual delivery. Once nurses deem you ready to admit into the hospital you’ll be asked to change into a hospital gown. This will be your outfit for the next several hours (depending on how long you labour for) and likely when visitors come to see the baby (and you of course). If you’re a first time mom, it’s natural to be unsure of what to wear. You still want to look your best but labour and delivery are hard work and once you’re pushing (or even having a caesarean) you won’t care what you look like. You’ll be focused on the baby and meeting them for the first time.
Side note for your take home outfit, pack maternity clothes from when you were about five to six month pregnant since they’ll fit comfortably, especially around your postpartum tummy bump.
4 Toys for the Newborn
With all the chewing and teething toys on the market, there’s no shortage of things for babies to put in their mouths. Honestly, it’s too early for a newborn to really know the difference so best to leave toys at home for now. Newborns are content with a soother if you choose to give one to your baby or just sleeping during the car ride home. All newborns are interested in is sleeping and eating (don’t worry, they’ll start demanding more before you know it). As they get a little older they start to notice their hands and will be happy to just sit a chew on their fingers.
Some parents choose to hang sensory toys (stuffed plush toys or plastic noise makers) from their baby’s car seat which is OK but a newborn isn’t likely to take note of it initially.
Depending on how long you labour for, you’ll want something to keep you occupied. But the truth is you may find yourself napping or watching TV while you wait for your labour to progress. It can be hard to focus on anything while you wait, especially if you’re having your first baby because you don’t know what to expect. It’s with good intention when a laptop is packed, we’re thinking we can catch up on emails or maybe the latest celebrity gossip but it’s much easier to pack a magazine or two and pull those out to read. As an alternative to a laptop (or even a tablet), bring a charger (and an extension cord depending on how far the power outlet is from your hospital bed) to quickly check messages or surf the web in your room. Using your cell phone will allow you to save the extra room in your hospital bag that a laptop would take up. Remember, it’s best to leave valuable items at home anyway.
When women first go into labour, timing contractions is key to knowing when it’s time to head to the hospital. The general consensus is to follow the 511 rule. If contractions are five minutes apart and last for a minute each time and continue consistently for an hour, it’s time to head to the hospital. A stop watch is helpful when you’re at home but once you get to the hospital it won’t be needed. Moms-to-be are hooked up to apparatus that monitor contractions while the vital signs of the baby are checked with the use of a heart rate monitor strapped to your tummy. This is all very high tech equipment that provides nurses and doctors with detailed information about your labour and baby. Leave the stop watch at home (or in the car if you choose to check while en-route to the hospital) because the hospital has you covered.
This is another item that might get packed with the best of intentions because child birth is messy business. While you’ll likely want to have a shower after giving birth and after you’ve spent some time bonding with the new baby and resting, you probably won’t feel like going through all the motions until you’re back at home. If you do choose to wash your hair it’s easier to let it air dry than risk waking the baby once it’s sleeping. There are a lot of new sounds for babies to become accustomed to in their first few days of life and the sound of a blow dryer might be a little shocking and confusing to a newborn. A shower definitely goes a long way to helping a new mom feel like herself but skipping the hair dryer for one day won’t hurt.