The Real Woman’s Guide to Packing a Labor Hospital Bag

Fuzzy warm socks and slippers, check. Lip balm, check. Camera with extra batteries, check.

All the lists tell you the same basic things to bring to the hospital. What you’ll find here is a list of things they forgot to mention, or some of the same things they mentioned but for different reasons altogether.

1. Underwear, underwear, underwear.  Your water will break. You will bleed. You will bleed more. You might experience diarrhea. You will definitely sweat. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to expose any parts of myself, even in a hospital, until the moment I absolutely have to. And therefore at least ten pairs of underwear are in order– and that’s for UNTIL you gotta peel them off to let the baby out.  Then once you’re waiting to be discharged you’ll probably want to shower every twenty minutes because you’ll be such a mess and in pain. Bring lots of underwear. Bring everything you have.

2. Shirts. You may only be in the hospital for one day, but I would say that it’s good to bring a couple more than you anticipate needing.  After all, the one you came in is probably going to be tossed in some bag or corner until you leave and if you’re going to be staying for any time after the birth, your milk might come in and surprise you by decorating your chest with wet spots.  Plus, you’ll be a totally different size.

3. Battery Charger.  All the lists tell you to bring your camera and extra film (groan– Kodak doesn’t even MAKE film anymore) and extra batteries. But most important is actually — for most of us with modern cameras anyway, the battery charger. Also the one for your cell phone in case that’s where the camera is located.

4. Pads. Sorry for bringing up blood once again but birthing is a messy business, before, during and after.  The hospital should take care of most of this, but being the source of most of this mess, you’ll be responsible for at least some of it.   I don’t know who sponsors the pads at your hospital, but at mine they initially gave me these incontinence-sized ones– those are the ones you really need in the first few hours– and then they wouldn’t give me anymore. All they had were these awful ones the size of telephone receivers– and I’m not talking cell phones. You know, the kind that are stuffed with actual cotton the ones with the dangerous potential to shift around. Bring your own pads. The hugest ones you can find that you are comfortable wearing.  The overnighters. But I wouldn’t count on the hospital ones.   My sister recently told me that the cotton ones are actually better because then you can tell how much you’re bleeding and make sure you’re not hemorrhaging, which is a concern amongst postpartum women. However I think that if you follow the general rule– you’re not filling up more than one pad per hour– you’re probably all right. I duno, I feel as though I would probably know if I was hemorrhaging. But maybe not.

5. Spoon.  They would bring me breakfast on a tray in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, and dinner in the evening, but those weren’t always the times that I felt like eating. Or sometimes I was in the middle of nursing or else I was sleeping. When it came time to take my tray away, I was allowed to keep the food but not the cutlery.  I had no way of eating my little individually wrapped cottage cheese besides slurping it down from the package.  Somehow, there were no disposables to be found on the ward or elsewhere in the hospital (the caf used real utensils) and so I had to have someone bring me a spoon from home.  Also, in the breastfeeding lessons they gave, they said that if you couldn’t get the baby to latch on properly or something, you could express milk into a spoon and then spoon-feed it to him. This didn’t turn out to be a problem for long, but in the meantime I had no spoon.

6.  Straw.  Also for breastfeeding, but this one is for you, not the baby. Makes it much easier to guzzle and nurse at the same time, especially for first-timers.

Obviously, this is not the complete list of what you have to bring to the hospital. Consider this list a helpful supplement from an insider who spent just a little too long on the ward after giving birth. Good luck to you!