This is a very real post for me – I’m due in about 3 weeks, and as soon as I’m done writing this I’m going to pack my own bag! (It’s my fourth – I’m a slacker about it, because I’m fairly sure I won’t go early – I never do.)
When you’re heading off to have your baby (and you never know just when that will happen, so pack early!), you’ll want to have certain comforting things from home, things for the new baby, things to make labor a little easier, and maybe some things to keep daddy comfortable too.
Essentials To Pack For Your Labor
You’ll want to start with things that will make labor a little more comfortable.
First, talk with your doctor or midwife and find out what’s allowable in the delivery room.
Typically scented candles or heated essential oil diffusers are considered too much of a fire risk, but bringing your own essential oils is fine.
Among the things you’ll want to have for labor are:
- A copy of your birth plan
- Lip balm (you’ll be doing a lot of mouth breathing, and hospital air is very dry)
- some light, shelf stable snacks – granola bars, homemade energy balls – think easy to eat, energy giving, and not too heavy. Some doctors are very strict about eating in labor, because they’re worried about if you have to be rushed into surgery, but the latest studies show that the risk of eating in labor is minimal, while the benefits are real. After all, your body is doing a lot of work here, and you shouldn’t have to go without fuel! And if nothing else, you’ll probably be hungry afterward, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll hustle food to you right away.
- Drinks – gatorade or something replenishing like that.
- A pair of tennis balls to roll on your back in case of back labor
- Music of your choice – check to see what the sound system is like in the delivery room – you may have to bring your own speakers for your iPod.
Even though your partner won’t be in labor, they’ll still have some important things to take care of as you get closer to labor.
Ask them to download a free contraction tracker app on their phone, or help keep track of contractions the old fashioned way with a clock (bonus if they write it down).
Make sure the car has plenty of gas, or that you have enough cash set aside for a cab ride if you’re a car-less city dweller.
If inclement weather might be a problem, make your partner in charge of watching the timing and traffic to make sure you can make it to the hospital in time.
After all, you’ll be focused on other things – not that you can’t, but it helps when someone else is watching out for those details.
Have them make sure your bag is in the car (or by the door, if taking a cab).
What Your Partner Need To Prepare
Your partner will have some needs of their own as they help you through labor.
After all, it can take a long time, and the focus is on you – no one may think of offering anything to Dad!
So make sure you have a few goodies along to help Dad help you.
A few extra snacks usually are helpful, but the most important thing a partner can do to prepare for the birth is to learn what the stages of labor are, and what to expect as they progress.
If your partner is a first time dad and is in the dark about what labor entails, they may get very nervous watching you go through something so intense – especially if you’ve decided not to use pain relief.
It can be very hard for a partner to watch someone they love working so hard, feeling so much, and not being able to do much to help with the discomfort.
Try to talk ahead of time about things that they can do to help you, like hold you through contractions, rub your back or belly, snuggle, or support you with their arms while you labor in different positions.
Or even let them know that it’s OK to step back now and then – sometimes a laboring mother needs a bit of space and privacy to process what’s going on.
Some other good things for a partner to do would be to bring along some distractions – card games, possibly, or crosswords.
Reading material might help too, though they might have to read to you aloud as things get intense.
Don’t get into any heavy reading – funny is the way to go right now.
If you can laugh during labor, it’s proven to release endorphins that help block pain, and it’ll help you relax too.
Items You Need After Delivery
After the delivery, you’ll likely need a few more things in your bag to help you along. You’ll want to have:
- Your phone charger, and your camera and charger if you’re not going to be taking phone pictures the whole time
- Your own toiletries – you’re going to be a sweaty, funky mess oozing bodily fluids after delivery, and the stuff they provide at the hospital is usually pretty cheap soap and shampoo. Do yourself a favor and bring your good body wash, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush, and heck – pack a razor since you’ll be able to reach your legs again!
- More snacks. Seriously. I always got hungry enough to eat a horse shortly after delivery.
- A change of clothes – a comfy nightgown that allows for breastfeeding is good, but make sure it’s one you don’t mind getting stained. After all, postpartum bleeding is like a crazy level of period bleeding. I like packing a comfy shirt and stretchy pants, since it makes me feel less like an invalid and less “undressed” when visitors came to call.
- Baby clothes! They’ll put your bambino in a simple white long sleeved shirt and swaddling blanket while you’re there, but you haven’t been gathering up all those adorable newborn outfits for no reason! Go ahead and dress your baby in something cozy and cute, like one-piece footie pajamas. (You’ll want to have about 3 of those with you.) The clothes are small, so go ahead and pack a few choices, including a cute, weather-appropriate going-home outfit
- A nursing pillow, like a Boppy or My Brest Friend. The support will help as you navigate the nursing stuff.
- A going-home outfit for yourself, but don’t expect to wear your skinny jeans right away. It takes most women some time for their uterus to contract back down, and you’ve just spent 10 months stretching your body into the shape it was before you delivered. It WILL go back down, but give yourself some time. And if you, like me, have a grandmother that feels the need to tell you that she went home from the hospital in her honeymoon clothes, remind her that she had WEEKS in the hospital to rest, whereas you have 2 – 3 days. Then smile sweetly while you remind yourself not to cuss at the elderly. 🙂
- A nice blanket or two to cover the baby when it’s time to go home – a light one to help keep off the sun for summer, a warm one to keep them cozy in colder weather.
- An infant car seat with the base properly installed, or a convertible car seat properly installed. The hospital staff is legally mandated to make sure that you have a properly installed car seat, and to watch you buckle your baby in to make sure you’re doing it right. They’ll also check the make and model of your car seat to make sure it’s not a recalled item or one that has reached its expiration date. This is an area you don’t want to skimp on, because they’ll have no trouble telling your partner to head on down to Target and get a replacement if your car seat isn’t up-to-date. If you can’t afford a new car seat, talk with your doctor’s office – they may know of programs that provide car seats at low or no cost to families in need.
When you’re sent home for the first time with your tiny baby, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed and even scared.
No one is born knowing what to do in every situation, and being responsible for a whole other human being can be a shock to the system.
That said, there are a few things you can do to make the transition from woman to mom a little easier.
First, you probably had a burst of nesting energy before you had a baby – but if you didn’t, and the house isn’t just the way you want it, remember that as long as your baby has a safe place to sleep, a food source (you or a bottle), and enough clean diapers (cloth or disposable) and appropriate clothes, they’re good. Everything else is details.
Second, those details can drive mama crazy.
So if you are able to arrange for a few easy meals ahead of time, and gather some help to get/keep the house neat, it’ll make a huge difference in your ability to relax and take care of your new baby.
If you don’t have family nearby or friends that can help you in that way, maybe they could help chip in for a cleaning service to help you out on a one-time basis.
(I know, it sounds like a major luxury, but when will you ever deserve it or need it more?)
All that said, do whatever it takes to let you relax and bond with baby.
If that means paper plates and unswept floors, let it go for now. You’ll have time to clean later as you recover and start to develop a routine.
Right now, the most important part is that you recover and enjoy your baby!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to do my best to follow my own advice and pack my hospital bag! 🙂