While it’s true no one can fully prepare you for the birth of your baby (hello, emergency C-section after three days of spurious labour), you can never be too prepared when it comes to packing the right things in your hospital bag. Now, don’t take me as the best example. While I fully intended to start packing at 34 weeks (some experts say anytime from 30 weeks is “go time”) I was still deciding between cardigans just a few days before bub’s arrival.
Whether you are going public or private, there are some basic principles on how best to approach the packing situation.
Note, this isn’t a packing list, you'll find that here (I printed all The Memo lists and stuck to them, with a few additions. No, I did not need “nice” shoes, but whatever is going to make you feel human in the days after the birth, bring it). Consider this your game plan, and a few items I wish someone had told me to pack.
Stick to a list
This is the one time you should take advice and experience over whim. Remember the time you packed six "going-out" dresses when the flight to Ibiza was hand luggage only, and you forgot pyjamas? You didn’t realise it at the time (heck, you were 24 and drinking cocktails the colour of Handy Andy from a fishbowl!) but that was a lesson for your hospital stay. Use The Memo list, or your hospital's list, or a trusted friend's list, or a mix of all three. Hint: packing a hair dryer seems like a great idea for all those first family photos. Also hint: you probably won’t use it. Plus, if lockdown has taught us anything, it's that unfiltered is best.
Phone a friend
Or a sister, or someone you trust and ask them what was their number-one thing that they used in hospital. Birth isn’t a one-size-fits-all game but there are certain items that will come up time and again because they work, like black underwear two sizes larger than you normally wear. Get ‘em high waisted and order them early, just in case you don’t like the feel and need time to source another option. Repeat after me: there are no g-strings in the maternity ward (unless your partner wants to bring their guitar to serenade the little one).
Throw vanity out the (mostly) window
After you have shown your bits to literally half the hospital, the hours and days after birth are not a time for your best threads. By all means, invest in some “nice” PJs (that you don’t mind bleeding/leaking/getting miscellaneous baby fluids on) and take a robe as well as some nice slippers but this ain’t the time for the cute Zimmermann romper you bought at the sample sale when you were 43 months’ pregnant to wear in your first family photos. Pack comfortable, loose clothing, in as dark colours as you have (because blood). Take one nice thing for family portraits but keep it simple, like a stretch knitted dress, as your body will still feel and look pregnant for several days or weeks afterwards.
Remember, hospital, not hotel
Even the nicest private hospitals still use an industrial laundry and kitchen to prepare your bed and meals, so take note. As you get your first taste of sleep deprivation (for anyone reading this on night two, my sympathies), it is important the precious rest you get is comfy. If that means taking your own pillow/pillowcase/hair turban, go for it. And for the love of Moccona, take your own waterbottle and mug. The incy-wincy cups in the patient kitchen at my hospital held barely three swigs of tea. And when you finally get bub down and have a chance to drink one, you want it to count.
Sorry, Mother Earth
Sure, those tiny travel bottles of shampoo and conditioner may not be the most environmentally friendly but after your body’s endured the equivalent of an OIympic campaign, you deserve to douse yourself in something that smells nice (even if, like me, you needed a nurse to help you take your first shower. In a chair. Oh, the glamour!). Babies don’t like strong perfumes, so consider layering something more subtle than your signature scent.
Because your brain simply won’t remember. There are so many things to record while you’re in hospital, from tips from the lactation consultants to who sent you flowers so you can thank them afterwards. Before the birth, buy a fancy notebook - it’s much easier and nicer to record this stuff on paper than yet another thing on your phone (and you will be on it a lot once word gets around that bub has arrived).
Beyond the birth
When shopping for your hospital kit, prioritise things that have staying power, such as maternity pyjamas you’d be happy wearing to answer the door once you’re home. Easily one of the best things I bought during the first weeks at home is a insulated tumbler. It keeps tea hot between feeds, and fits nicely into my pram’s cup holder for takeaway coffees. When enjoying a hot beverage becomes a luxury, trust me, you will want something that aids that mission.
Mel's Top 5 Hospital Bag MVPs
My milk came in like Niagara Falls, so it helped to have a way to preserve the excess for top-up syringe feeds.
For soothing sensitive nipples in those early days (and whenever you need). Like a sheet mask for your nips, pop them on in your bra and they immediately go to work.