What to Bring to the Hospital

A list of things to make your labor, delivery, and recovery comfortable.

As with anything else, take the advice that works for you.  Every birth is different, and everyone’s needs are different.  A one-hour labor/delivery is very different from a 48-hour labor and C-section, and your needs will vary depending on your birth experience.  The best advice is to be well-informed!

PRE LABOR:

  • "I bought Depends to use post-birth and I'm so glad I had them on hand when my water broke.  I was shocked at how much fluid there was and (sorry, TMI) I went through at least 4 of them in the five hours before I got to the hospital.  Seriously, buy them and carry one around in your purse just in case.  It's a little embarrassing to put them on at first, but probably less embarrassing than leaking all over your office/the cab/your couch, and in the grand scheme of all the embarrassing things that are about to happen, it's nothing."

DURING LABOR:

  • MUSIC:  "My epidural stopped working early on, and my labor was a tough one (although I might just be a big wimp).  Regardless, I couldn't even focus on a basic book or the TV.  My husband had made a nice mix for me [...], and it was the only thing that helped in the slightest with focusing on breathing and trying to tune out the contractions."
  • AROMATHERAPY: 
    • "Really does make the space less clinical."
    • "For me, citrus (specifically orange) and lavender were really helpful.  We took a bunch of our own washcloths, ran them in hot water, and sprinkled the oils on them.  Then my husband held the cloths under my nose or put them on the back of my neck.  Some people recommend clary sage for the last part of labor.  The advice I got was that it was going to be great but that a few women find it really cloying; I was one of the latter!  The good thing about sprinkling it on a cloth is that if it is getting to be too much, you can get rid of the cloth."
  • POPSICLES: "I wasn't allowed to eat anything except ice chips and popsicles.  Tom ran out to the supermarket around the corner and picked up a box of popsicles.  The nurse stored it in the nurses' fridge and brought one out for me whenever I wanted one.  Having no food is hard, but with the IV, I wasn't starving.  The popsicles were great."
  • AEROBED: "My brother and his wife just had a baby and brought a single aero bed for my brother to sleep on while in the birthing room.... It worked out great.... They also brought pillows and blankets from home."

FOR YOU (GENERAL) 

 FOOD/DRINKS: For after the baby is born. 

  •  
    • "It took hours to get food for myself after I gave birth.  (My hubby had taken my daughter home, and I was too tired to call for takeout.)"
    • Encourage friends and family to bring food to the hospital if they don't think to do it themselves.
    • "Food is a must.  Bring cash, order food, or have someone bring you some.  (The hospital assumed chicken was okay for vegetarians, so I was without food for most of the time I was there.)"
  • CASH: for ordering takeout.
  • WATER: Bring a big bottle of water.
  • MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE:  "If you are married but you and your spouse have different last names, bring your marriage certificate.  It's necessary for filling out the forms; otherwise you end up filling out some additional, unnecessary ones."
  • SNACKS it’s often hard to get food in the hospital and it’s not often good!
    • "A bag of bubble gum"
    • "Drinkable yogurt - fat, protein, a little sugar. It was the only thing I could muster besides water!"
    • "Electrolyte fluid. Jack Rabbit sells little tubes of tablets (like airborn) that you can dissolve in water, and with flavors much more palatable than gatorade. I could only do half a tab in a glass, though, otherwise it was too sweet. I think the brand is Nuun." BUT BEWARE "some are caffeine enhanced!"
    • "Energy bars"
    • "Peanut butter squeeze packets and almonds" 
    • "Coconut water was definitely in my hospital bag. It is a clear liquid so it was on my approved list and I drank it thru pregnancy." 
    • "I brought fruit and granola bars and wound up eating neither. The best-laid plans..."
    • "I put grapes and berries in the freezer in small freezer bags and brought them along.  The frozen grapes were the only thing I felt like eating when I was in labour."


FOR YOU TO WEAR IN YOUR ROOM:

 

  • UNDERWEAR
    • Either disposable or comfortable ones you don’t mind getting messy. 
    • "I recommend taking several pairs of big panties (waist-high briefs) which hold the hospital-style pads in place better than bikinis.  If it turns out to be a C-section, having some larger size underwear (and make them briefs!) is important.  You don’t want anything rubbing up against your stitches.  (I had a C-section--not planned--and didn’t know about this.)"
    • "One funny thing I packed was super hero underwear. I wore these after labor with my second, as I knew the nurses, doctors, midwives, would be in there checking me out every 20 minutes. And we'll, after birthing a child I certainly was! Everyone had a good laugh!"
  • PJ’s/ROBE:
    • Button-front pajamas are best for easy nursing.
    • "One thing I always tell friends is not to bring fancy pj's or robes.  The aftermath of birth is pretty messy, and it would be easy to ruin special clothes with blood or other gunk!  Graphic, yes, but practical.  I was always happy in the hospital gowns but bringing sweatpants you don’t mind getting yucky can also be good."
    • "I wore my favorite pj top (button-front) with a pair of dark-colored maternity sweatpants that I was not attached to.  The pants got messy and I didn’t care, but I still got to wear my favorite comfy pj’s!"
  • COMFORTABLE CLOTHES:
    • "You won’t be going home in pre-pregnancy clothes.  Nice stretchy or even maternity stuff is best since after just a day or two (or several weeks!), you’re still a pretty odd shape." 
    • "Bring a maternity sweatsuit for your time in the hospital post delivery."
    • "Leg warmers. Once the IV was in, I was really chilly and happy to have a warm layer for my legs."
    • "Pack drawstring pants or some other incredibly loose zipper-free comfy thing to wear for the ride home.  If you own a muumuu, I imagine this would be the time to whip it out.  I was surprised to find my belly still so oddly big even though the kid had made her exit."
    • Maternity clothes sizes 5-6 months worked for one mom.
    • "Bring a nice (maternity) top to the hospital just in case you want to take professional newborn photos while there (I didn't think I would want to but I ended up doing it and I'm glad I did).  The photographers will probably be sensitive and only photograph you from the boobs up, so don't worry about still looking pretty pregnant."
    • I didn't really have time to pack a hospital bag, but if you have to do it in 10 mins like I did, the general theme is pack like you're going away for three days, will spend most of that time in bed, and everything you wear from the waist down is not coming back with you.  
    • "If you plan to have or might have a c-section, I would recommend a nursing nightgown rather than pants. I could not deal with pants and that fresh incision, and I ended up wearing the same nightgown all three days (and then a dress to wear home, too-same reason)."
  • NURSING BRAS
  • SOCKS: nice, soft, furry ones, if that is your thing.
  • EAR PLUGS: "I grabbed a pair as an afterthought as I was leaving for the hospital.  They were the single most useful thing I brought from home.  It's because of them that I actually got any sleep at all."

 

FOR YOU TO USE IN YOUR ROOM:

  • PAIN KILLERS:
    • Sometimes it’s hard to get the nurses to bring you pain medication.  Even with a vaginal birth, you will have substantial pain created by uterine contractions as your uterus returns to its normal size.  This is triggered by the hormones that are released as the baby nurses.   "Beware:  those uterine contractions as the baby started to nurse were more painful than my labor!"
    • "The nurses in the postpartum unit are not particularly speedy in responding to your requests, so it’s best to bring anything that you would want quickly.  For example, Tylenol with codeine seemed to be the preferred postpartum pain control drug.  If you don’t want that, then it may take a while to get Motrin or something else up from the pharmacy.  The best thing to do is to bring your own Motrin so you can have it when you want it."
  • STOOL SOFTENER/PRUNES:
    • "I gave birth at LICH, and they didn't give me any stool softener after I gave birth which made things really painful when I had to go to the bathroom.  Afterwards, someone told me that after the baby is born you should take a spoonful of milk of magnesia with every meal."
    • "Start eating prunes as soon as you are able to eat!  Whether natural or C-section the first 'movement' can be extremely painful as your system shuts down throughout labor and delivery."
  • MAXI PADS / WITCHHAZEL / TUCKS PADS:
    • Extra long maxi pads:  "The hospital ones are pathetic."
    • "Bring some soaked in witchhazel &and stored in the freezer.  The witchhazel and the cold are great for soothing a sore perineum."
    • "Tucks" or witchhazel pads (drug stores sell generic versions as well).
    • "For postpartum soreness, bring some 'witch vera' by J.A.S.O.N.  I could not live without it!!!  http://www.veganunlimited.com/11060.html   Someone did tell me that before I gave birth, and I'm so glad she did!"
    • "A box of depends! They were so much better than the hospital pads and mesh underwear and you can just throw them away. The nurses asked me where I got my fancy pants lol."
  • PILLOWS/BLANKETS:
    • "The plastic pillows are terrible, and they never have enough"; "It's comforting to have something that smells of home." 
    • One mom suggests colored pillowcases (not white). 
    • Warning from one person:  "Don't bring pillows or blankets that you want to take back home!!!!!!!!  If you bring extras, throw them out!  I took two pillows to the hospital.  I changed the pillowcases when I got home, but it was too late.... BED BUGS!!!!" 
    • You may want to bring an extra blanket (in case the hospital is short on them).
    • "your own pillow and blanket from home! the room temps can vary wildly and having some comforts of home make it so much better to get your much needed rest!"
  • SHOWERING SUPPLIES AND TOILETRIES:
    • Your own shampoo and soap.
    • Shower shoes/flip flops. You can use them for the delivery room and after.
    • Your own towels:  "If you do get around to showering, you want it to be comfy."
    • Definitely pack toiletries so you can shower and brush your teeth. To be honest, I brought all of these clothes and I ended up staying in a hospital gown the entire time. Make sure to pack maternity clothes to go home in.""
  • HAND/FACE/LIP LOTION:  Chapstick is good.  "Hospitals can be very dry places."
  • BREASTFEEDING SUPPLIES:
  • BREASTFEEDING PILLOW:  "Bring a Boppy (it's a kind of breast-feeding pillow).  It's indispensable for feeding and also good to sit on if you're sore down there.  My Breast Friend pillows are (in my opinion) better for breastfeeding in general, but the Boppy is the one for the hospital.  If you end up having a C-section, it is essential for keeping pressure off your incision while nursing."
  • NAME and NUMBER OF LACTATION CONSULTANT:  Before you go to the hospital and call him or her right away if you're having any trouble.  "I was under the impression that the baby would know what to do right away.  This was not so, and I could have used immediate help."
  • NOTEBOOK:  I was glad I had a notebook in which to make notes of questions I had for the nurses, the pediatricians, and my midwife, as well as to take notes when the pediatricians visited (i.e., comments, weight, test results, etc).
  • MOVIES/MUSIC Check with the hospital.  You can also bring your favorite relaxing music.  "It's a nice way to tune out all of the noise, such as nurses coming in and out, your roommate's visitors, etc."
  • THINGS TO DO:  Magazines, reading, and knitting, etc.  "After you give birth and everyone has gone home, it can be very boring to be in the hospital!"
  • OTHER SUPPLIES:
    • Peppermint oil, which is very good at holding nausea at bay.
    • Primal Defense or Primal Defense Ultra (my choice) by Garden of Life are highly recommended by naturopaths, etc.  It is high grade and does not need refrigeration which is a huge bonus, so I'll take them with me to the hospital, just in case.
    • An extra bag to take home supplies (load up on mesh underwear, disposable bed pads, pads!).

FOR THE BABY: :

  • SWADDLING WRAP:  "The hospital swaddle blanket is not stretchy, and I had a hard time wrapping Luna up into a burrito.  When I got home, my sister gave me a swaddle thingy that has velcro which works very well.  If you're going to keep the baby in your room, you may want to bring some of these fancy swaddle things with you."
  • DIAPERS:  "While the hospital does provide baby diapers and clothes, the sizes are geared for ‘average size’ babies and ended up being too big for my smaller baby.  The diapers they had were for babies 7 lbs and up, so I had a difficult time diapering my daughter.  I had to fold the front tab over twice in order not to hit her stump."
  • OLIVE OIL:  Just a little container full (maybe 1 cup's worth) for cleaning off meconium poop.  "Meconium - oh dear!  It is even grosser that what I had expected.  Many new parents never even see the meconium because the hospital staff cleans up that first poopy diaper.  [We] discovered the meconium in [the baby’s] diaper and boy, was it hard to clean.  I'd learned in my baby care class at Realbirth that you should prepare for it by wiping olive oil on the baby's butt before the meconium poop comes out.  That way it will be easier to wipe off.  Of course we were not prepared and all that black sticky stuff was like tar dried on her butt.  It was quite challenging trying to clean that off in our first diaper change in our room!  It took a few more poops for all that sticky black stuff to come off, and olive oil really helped."
  • NEWBORN OUTFIT:  "Bring an outfit which is size 'newborn.'  Even if you have a large baby, he or she will swim in the 0-3 month size until his or her legs fully extend."
  • INFANT CAR SEAT:  You need one to get the baby home.