pregnancy

'I've interviewed 300 pregnant women. Here’s the ultimate hospital bag checklist.'

When it’s time to start packing your hospital bag, the imminent arrival of your baby starts to feel very, very real.

Your care provider will encourage you to start packing your hospital bag from about 34 weeks and will routinely suggest essentials for you and your baby. It’s always a good idea to get your birth support person to pack a bag, too. 

Suggested items include: a change of clothes including warm clothes (hospitals are notoriously cold), snacks, phone charger, swimmers (in case you plan to use the shower or the bath in labour), toiletries, insulated coffee cup and a water bottle.  

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Most hospitals will swaddle your baby in the signature striped hospital blankets after birth (you'll want to unwrap them for skin-to-skin) but you will be responsible for providing everything else, including your baby's clothes and nappies and your own sanitary products. 

This list is a simple guide created with the help of many mums who have birthed in hospitals and birth centres across Australia:

Water bottle (preferably one with a straw that you can open with one hand). 

Sipping from a straw is much easier in labour as you may be prone to gagging or vomiting if you drink too much too quickly. It’s for this reason that some women prefer sucking on ice chips which your midwife will be able to provide on request. 

You may also be lying down or on all-fours and in these instances, a straw is most helpful, as it is after birth when you’ll be holding or feeding your baby. 

If you’ve had a challenging birth experience or a caesarean birth, you’ll be advised to lie down as much as you can for the first few days whether at hospital or at home. 

Remember, drinking water is essential during labour but it’s just as important that you go to the toilet at least once every hour because a full bladder can get in the way - quite literally - and prevent your baby from descending into the pelvis. 

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Insulated cup (and your preferred tea bags).

It keeps your tea or coffee warm but it also prevents spills.

Coconut water and/or labour aid. 

They're full of electrolytes which help your muscles contract efficiently. Without them your muscles become tired and weak and consequently, your labour may slow down. Electrolytes also regulate your nerve function and blood pressure. 

Snacks for you and your birth partner during labour and post-birth. 

If you birth vaginally, you’ll be able to eat straight away and you may find that you’re ravenous. Hospital food doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to taste or nutritional value so it’s always recommended that you pack your own snacks. 

In postpartum it’s really important to eat warm, nourishing food so while you may not be able to pack soup or porridge in your hospital bag, you might be able to organise a friend or family member to deliver it to you.

Tens machine.

It's a really great form of non-pharmacological pain relief.

Your own pillow.

It's comfort plus resting your head on your own pillow can help you relax and settle because sometimes its normal to feel anxious in the unknown hospital setting.

Towel.

Often hospital towels are small and you deserve a big fluffy towel after birth.

Night light.

So important for nappy changes and feeds during the night and an absolute essential once you get home, too.

Loose, comfortable, warm clothing. 

Hospitals are often cold and staying warm post-birth is an important element in healing.

Tops/dresses. 

So you can easily feed in and socks to keep your feet warm 

Belly binder or support pants. 

Your core is quite weak after birth and supporting it can definitely assist in your recovery, regardless of whether you had a vaginal or caesarean birth.

Nursing bra, sleep bra or bralette.

Comfort is key and you’ll want something that stretches to fit your breasts when your milk comes in, even if you're not planning on breastfeeding. If you don’t plan on breastfeeding, your midwife will offer you advice on suppressing your milk. 

Bottles and formula if you're formula feeding.

Two pairs of button-down pyjamas.

High-waisted underwear. 

It can help especially if you’ve had a caesarean birth as you don’t want the waistband of your undies placing pressure on your wound. High-waisted underwear can also help to support your belly and keep maternity pads in place.

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Adult nappies and/or maternity pads (more than you think you’ll need). 

There’s so many great options when it comes to period underwear but it’s best not to get black for postpartum. It’s really important to monitor your blood loss (and colour and consistency) in the days and weeks after birth and if you’re wearing black period undies, it will be harder to keep an eye on it. Remember that you’ll bleed for up to six weeks post birth so a stash of adult nappies and maternity pads is definitely recommended.

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Peri bottle.

It's available online and from most pharmacies. It’s a bottle that allows you to squirt water onto your perineum to keep it clean post-birth. 

Toiletries. 

But be mindful of using artificially scented soap and perfumes as they can disrupt your natural scent and that’s what helps your baby connect to you. That’s right, they’re comforted by your natural smell!

Nipple balm and nipple shields.

It can take a good six to eight weeks to establish a good breastfeeding rhythm and it’s common to experience discomfort and some pain as you and your baby learn to feed. My advice? Read my guide to breastfeeding while you’re pregnant.

Phone charger with an extra long cable.

So it reaches your hospital bed from the wall. 

Headphones.

Lip balm.

Hospital air-conditioning can definitely dry your skin and your lips, as can the many exhalations during labour.

Hair ties.

For baby:

It’s often a good idea to pack your baby’s things separately so they can be easily accessed by the midwife or your birth support person. 

While your baby definitely needs clothes and swaddles to keep them warm, regular skin-to-skin time is essential in the first days (and weeks!) of their life as it prompts the release of the hormone oxytocin which settles and calms you both and encourages your milk to come in. 

Here's everything else you'll need:

  • Nappies. 
  • Nappy wipes. 
  • Singlets. 
  • Zip onesies. 
  • Swaddles. 
  • Beanie.
  • Booties.

Sophie Walker has a Masters in Public Health, is a mum to three boys, and is the founder and host of Australian Birth Stories podcast that has over eight million downloads and is endorsed by the Australian College of Midwives. She also has a range of education resources available, including her online birth preparation course, The Birth Class. Every week on the podcast she shares an interview with a woman who steps into her most vulnerable space to detail all the precious details of her pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience. Each story is unique hence the podcast is an amazing education resource for pregnant women, their birth support partners and professionals working in perinatal health. 

You can download the printable hospital bag check list here.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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