Prepared, not panicked
You’ve seen it in a hundred movie and TV scenes: Chaos ensues as an expectant mother says she’s ready to go to the hospital. In a classic “I Love Lucy” episode, when Lucy Ricardo goes into labor at home, Ricky and the Mertzes almost leave the overstuffed suitcase — not to mention poor Lucy herself — behind as they rush out in panic to hail a cab.
Don’t be Lucy if you’re the expectant mom. By packing your hospital bag strategically, you can head to the hospital feeling calmer and more prepared for your upcoming delivery experience. Include these items to promote health, safety and comfort for you, your labor partner and your newborn.
OK, you don’t actually pack a car seat in your hospital bag. Nonetheless, it’s critical. “The car seat is huge, and it’s probably the most important thing in terms of health and safety,” says Cyndy Krening, a perinatal clinical nurse specialist at Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver and president of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.
Many people don’t realize they need to have a prepurchased car seat, Krening adds. It’s important to research car seat models to make sure they meet safety standards and understand how to properly place the seat — and do so in advance.
Even at the hospital after delivery, “Some families have a car seat, but it’s still in the box and they haven’t looked at how it goes in,” the AWHONN leader says. “And because they are so many different models and different safety expectations, those of us who work with families can’t know how all the models work, ourselves.”
“My favorite thing that I personally packed was a comfy set of pajamas,” says Sia Cooper, a personal trainer based in Florida and author of the “Diary of a Fit Mommy” blog. “If you don’t bring your own pajamas, you’re in a hospital gown the duration of your stay.”
Although that can work too, says Cooper, who also packed her own hospital gown: “Many companies produce stylish and comfortable hospital gowns in various colors and prints so you don’t have to wear the gown that everyone else has worn that doesn’t really tie up all the way.”
Bottom line: “After you’ve given birth and during labor, you want to be as comfortable as possible,” she says. “Comfort’s everything when you’re going to push out a 7-pound, 8-pound or 9-pound baby.”
BYOP — bring your own pillow. “Hospital pillows are bad,” Krening admits. “They’re crunchy. All of us have our favorite pillows, and we welcome that — just remember to take it home.”
Your labor support person will be happy to have their own pillow, too. “Labor can take hours and hours,” Krening notes. “In a lot of hospitals like mine, at least in this COVID time, once the support person comes in with the mom in labor, they need to stay until she’s discharged. So they need a few of the same things: maybe their favorite pillow, a change of clothes and slippers.”
Nursing pillows offer support and comfort for breastfeeding moms and newborns alike. By reducing back, neck and arm strain for moms during mealtime and helping babies connect with the breast, these pillows make feedings easier.
Cooper swears by her Boppy feeding pillow, which resembles a large, semicircular cloth bagel, to gently prop up the baby for a more comfortable nursing experience. You can find nursing pillows in a wide variety of brands, styles, shapes and fabrics.
Anything that helps you keep calm is a plus. “Some people bring essential oils that have relaxing properties,” Krening says. “Think about what might help you with comfort and relaxation in labor.”
Some favorite music on your phone or other device can be particularly soothing. Bring along earbuds, and consider taking earplugs to enjoy the sound of silence in an otherwise loud hospital unit. You’ll also want some kind of camera, on your smartphone or otherwise.
Whatever electronics you bring, remember the charger. “Another thing that’s essential for anyone in this day and age is charger cords for their device,” Krening notes. “For some reason, that flows out of people’s heads, as well.” (If you’re lucky, the labor and delivery unit staff can lend a charger during your stay.)
Reading matter/online distractions
A few months ago, Dr. Annelee Boyle, director of maternal-fetal medicine and labor and delivery services at WVU Medicine Children’s in Morgantown, West Virginia, was on the other side of the fetal monitor — as an expectant mother.
“I packed like I was going on a three-day trip,” Boyle says. “Basically, everything you’d need like you’d go for a weekend away: clothes, a book, all your chargers and glasses for people who wear glasses.” A tablet enabled her and her husband to view an engrossing series online.
Did Boyle actually manage to read during her personal labor-and-delivery experience? “I was a little ambitious,” she admits. “But I did try to sneak to my office while I was in labor to redo the schedule, because I gave birth about two weeks before I’d thought. And the nurse was very kind and said the monitor didn’t show that far — and so please come back to my room.”
Insurance and identification cards are mandatory for any hospitalization, including labor and delivery stays. Your support person should bring ID as well.
As part of maternity unit and newborn nursery security, the staff will place a tiny bracelet around your baby’s ankle or wrist immediately after delivery. Your baby’s sex, birthdate and time, your name as the mom and an individual code number are listed.
You and your support person will receive and wear matching bracelets with the same information to allow verification throughout the hospitalization and upon leaving the hospital.
Pineapple juice and granola bars were go-to snacks for Cooper to slip into her bag. “Snacks aren’t always available 24/7 — and if you have your baby in the middle of the night, it can be hard for Dad to get something to eat,” she points out.
Bring money for vending machines, too. When the hospital dining room closes, you want your labor support person to keep up their strength at the bedside.
Hospital toiletries such as soap and lotion are fine, but they tend to be pretty basic. “I brought my own stuff: conditioner, shampoo and definitely soap,” Cooper says.
Certain other supplies for mom and newborn — like breast pads and nipple cream, or baby wipes, baby shampoo, diapers and pacifiers — are available on most maternity units, but expect to be charged more than you would pay retail. Going to the drugstore to buy these supplies in advance can be cost-effective.
Pack only a few changes of clothing for yourself. “Labor and birth is sort of a messy experience,” Krening points out. “So you’re going to want to wear a hospital gown for that.”
If anything, your labor support person might need more street clothes if your stay becomes extended for whatever reason.
So-called “granny panties” make much more sense than tight, frilly or lacy underwear when you’re recovering from delivery. Cooper recommends “big, comfortable underwear that’s very stretchy.”
Although you don’t necessarily need to pack them for the hospital, you might want to stock a supply of absorbent, disposable undergarments in advance. “This is not sexy at all, but what you really need when you get home is a box of Depends,” Boyle says. “That’s just because postpartum you’re going to have bleeding like a heavy period,” she explains. “And you might also have a little leakage of urine if you’ve given birth vaginally or had a long labor process.”
Never, ever walk barefoot on a hospital floor. While the staff will provide you with gripping socks to keep you from slipping, you can also pack your own slippers or socks to keep your feet safe, warm and toasty.
And don’t forget a pair of flip-flops or shower shoes to protect your feet from various types of fungus or other organisms that could be lurking if you feel up to an in-hospital shower.
Going-home baby outfit
Consider the weather and season when packing your baby’s first real outfit. You might want to tuck a little sweater in your bag.
“Everybody wants to bring a cute little going-home outfit, and I was not the exception,” Boyle says. “So my son had a little matching outfit, hat and blanket.”
That said, Boyle admits she overdid it on the tiny garments when preparing to deliver her first child. This time, she says, “I packed a lot less baby clothes.”
Bundle your baby up well. “The hospital blankets are thin and not very warm,” Cooper says. Take along a small baby blanket, maybe a shower gift or hand-knitted offering from an eager grandparent-to-be. You can wrap it around your infant for the outgoing trip through possibly chilly hospital hallways and the momentous first ride home.
Less is more.
It’s tempting to go overboard with clothes and comfort items, but remember that childbirth stays are usually short and hospital rooms have limited space.
“It’s probably the basic packing rules for any of us who go anywhere: You don’t actually need that much stuff,” Krening says. “Most people are here for a couple of days. I do see people coming in looking like they’re going to stay with us for a month, with two giant suitcases. So, probably less is more.”
Packing tips for expectant parents
Your hospital bag — and going-home vehicle — should include items like these:
— Car seat.
— Nursing pillow.
— Relaxation aids.
— Reading material/online distractions.
— Identification and insurance documents.
— Toiletries and baby sundries.
— Clothing changes.
— Practical undies.
— Going-home baby outfit.
— Baby blanket.
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What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag When You’re Expecting originally appeared on usnews.com