What you'll forget to pack in your birth bag

October 27 2010 | arielmstallings
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burning man suitcase: 99% packed!
Photo by Flickr user Foxtongue, used by Creative Commons License

As the time draws nearer for my son to arrive and I prepare to go to the hospital I can't help but wonder what should you really take? Sure the hospital provides you with a list but I want to know what real offbeat mamas say worked for them or what they wish they had when they were in the hospital.

My hospital birth bag was a bit unique in that, thanks to a stubbornly breech baby, I had to abandon my plans for an unmedicated birth at a birth center, and go to the hospital for a scheduled c-section. I knew when I was going (2pm on November 25, 2009), I knew exactly what was happening (surgery), and I knew how long I'd be in the hospital (2 nights).

That situation in mind, here's what I brought:

  • 2 comfy nightgowns with easy boob access
  • My much beloved sleepy blinders eye mask and ear plugs
  • My favorite slippers
  • My favorite bathrobe
  • My favorite pillow
  • Granny panties (I wanted enormous loose underwear with a waistband that would sit well above the incision)
  • A copy of On The Day Your Were Born to read to Tavi
  • Electronics: Video camera, DSLR camer, laptop, and all chargers
  • Water bottle
  • Granola bars
  • Toiletry bag with stuff like my favorite face lotion
  • Onesies, booties, and receiving blankets
  • The baby's lambskin
  • Departure outfit for baby
  • Departure outfit for me (loose dress and warm boots)

I'd love to hear from other Offbeat Mamas: what were you most grateful to have in your birth bag? What do you wish you'd packed?

  1. My midwife said women always bring too few pairs of underwear. I lost all sense of modesty and climbed stairs at the birthing home buck neekid so I only needed a lone clean pair to go home in.

    1 agrees
  2. Take HUNDREDS of pairs of knickers (panties)! You really can't have enough with you. I went through loads of them, mostly because I didn't experience the sudden 'flush' of my waters breaking that movies would have you believe in and instead had a steady trickle of fluid over 2 days.

    I also took loads of face towels to soak in cold water that my husband used on my face, back and chest during labour to help relax and cool me.

    2 agree
  3. for my second, I kept it very simple, couple pairs of panties, a couple of nightgowns, some footie socks to keep my feet warm, going home outfits for me and baby. My travel tolietries (toothbrush, deoderant, hairbrush etc). I have long hair, so I had few ponytail holders too. I also had a runner (my sister) on call in case I forgot anything. So when I forgot to grab my normal medications for my allergies, she could run to the house and get them.

  4. We had a planned on a home birth but were recommended by our midwives to be induced after our baby was over two weeks late and still not dropping. There was some negotiation with the hospital about when they could induce me so we did not know we were going to the hospital (still hoping baby would come at home!) until the day of. So I threw together our birth bag quickly.

    My number one favorite thing I brought was my ipod loaded with a pre-made "labor song list" and our portable ipod speaker station. I would sing through the contractions until they got too intense and then relax to the music in between. When I was pushing (for three hours) the OB would periodically tell my husband to turn it up. By the time my son arrived we were blaring the tunes!

    The thing I forgot: my hair brush, not a big deal but when I realized the next day I was a little sad. Back into the bun wild hair!

    1 agrees
  5. I packed my bag in the five minutes between my water breaking, and heading to the hospital. I packed my new pajamas, , my slippers, toiletries, and a going home outfit. For Alice I only had her going home outfit, hat, blanket, etc. I never wore my pj's there and only wore my slippers while walking around on the cold floors.

    I wore the hospital provided gowns and things during my stay because I had a terrible spinal headache most of the time and didn't care what I was wearing/doing as long as I didn't have to sit up.

  6. I ended up helicoptered to hospital for an emergency c-section due to a 5 week early breech baby! I was most glad that I had downloaded Season 2 of True Blood to my laptop the day before my waters broke. Gave me something to do between visiting bubs in NICU.

    I was also glad to get big knickers, oversized tracksuit pants, comfy slippers and breastfeeding tanks. My milk was all over the show for about 2 weeks before my boobs decided to settle on one size so tanks are way better than bras for the first while.

    • I totally agree about the tanks-skip the nursing bra until you know what size you are (2-3 weeks after the babe's born). It ends up way cheaper. I liked the nursing tanks better than a bra anyway.

      2 agree
  7. I packed many of the same things and also included my body pillow, bachs rescue remedy, some eco friendly newborn disposables ( rather than the bleach and gel sposies the hospital gives you) and my nature care disposable organic cotton maxi pads because I didnt want the hospital provided bick sized maxis that have that icky gel in them as well. I brought clary sage and jasmine essential oils and a "labor spray" that my oil person made for me to bring on labor.

    1 agrees
    • Yes! Lip balm was essential during my 29-hour labor!

      Also, if you're having a hospital birth, there's really only a need for 1-2 pairs of granny panties for when you're going home as the hospital gives you "gauze knickers" (as my Kiwi friend calls them) to hold your mammoth sized pads in place– they're disposable so you don't have to worry about ruining anything you've bought– and you will leak EVERYTHING after you have a vaginal birth…

      3 agree
  8. i brought my boppy for my 2nd one so it was more comfortable for me to hold him since i had a c-section as well. i also brought goodies for my nurses and for my room to make visitors more comfortable also i wanted my nurses to know how much they rocked!

    i was also very aware that there was a good chance my 2nd one was going to be a NICU baby so i made sure i was prepared with stuff to keep people occupied in my room while taking trips to and from the NICU

    otherwise i think ariel was right on the nose for what you need for your hospital birth

    1 agrees
  9. i did not have a bag packed at all (in denial) so i ended up going with only the clothes on my back! of the things i continually wished for though; water bottle and lip balm.

  10. I love the fact that this was posted today!!! I asked all the girls that I work with today what I need to pack! This came at such a good time!

  11. The one thing that kept my sanity was my hair wrap. I have a lot of hair and cannot stand it in my face when I am trying to do anything. So for labor and caring for my babies, I used it. Thank goodness for it!

  12. Shampoo/Conditioner! When I was finally allowed to take a shower after my c-section, the hair soap they gave me was awful — I would have loved to have my own sweet-smelling shampoo.

    1 agrees
  13. In addition to most of the things on Ariel's list, I had a little portable speaker set to go with an ipod, so I could have Bach in our room (so comforting for early nursing), and a good book (for after the baby was was born, that is!).

    2 agree
  14. I hadn't packed yet because my son came a bit early, so as a lesson to you to be more prepared than I, here's what I packed while in labour: going home outfit for the baby (useless. ended up fitting him when he was 2 months old), nightgown (never wore it because I had to wear the hospital gown due to excessive tubes attached to me after the crazy birth), ipod dock (forgot the ipod), massage oil (actually useful!), change of clothes and a bunch of pairs of socks (like, twenty pairs of socks… I swear I was insane with contractions). That's it. Toothbrush? Somebody bought me one the next morning. Hairbrush? I still have the one my mum gave me from her purse. What a disaster I am.

    Know what? I still came home with a healthy babe ๐Ÿ™‚

    3 agree
  15. This is a random tip for the birth partners: I delivered in August and it was steaming hot and so my husband was in a short-sleeved t-shirt, and I got so hot during pushing that the nurses turned the AC waaaaaay down, and my husband about froze to death (which he only told me afterwards; no complaints!). So, now, our advise to all birth partners is to dress in layers.

    4 agree
  16. I really wish i had brought my usual body wash and a body puff thing and soft towels from home. Cuz the hospital towels suck! I'm not sure how you'd work it, but if I have another, I am absolutely taking a bath mat. That little rug that goes on the floor in front of the shower. Cuz the hospitals dont have them and I nearly wiped out both times I bathed. The laptop was maybe the best thing we brought, because the hospital had wifi, which meant netflix! so thats how we spent the very litle down time we had.
    The suckiest thing Ive ever had to take with me to the hospital was a restraining order with current photos of those restrained. : (
    But it was really good I had, because security enforced it!
    If you have a restraining order, remember to bring a copy and those photos!!!!

    Most of the time-killer stuff we took this time was kind of wasted wight and space, because there was SO little downtime. There were nurses in and out lots of very short naps. Visitors. Feedings. I couldnt imagine doing crosswords, ya know?

    THE MOST important thing I brought with me…. was a sense of humor. ( i know you know what I'm talking about )

    1 agrees
  17. I wish I had brought nicer clothes. I had a 2 day stay in hospital, which I would have been happy to potter about in joggers, but my husbands family came for a visit (all 10 of them! All taking photos!). I think I would have felt a bit more human if I had prettier clothes to but on for visitors and maybe a bit of make up!
    The other thing I couldn't live without in the hospital after the baby was born was snacks. Healthy, filling snacks. I ate mini sandwiches by the handfull! Labour was exhusting and the hospital food was pretty terrible, so having my own food on hand was amazing.

    1 agrees
  18. My lip balm was well-used during labour, and I was soooo glad that I remembered to pack a toiletry bag, because the shower after labour was like heaven. I wish we had remembered to pack a cell phone charger, and I also forgot to pack a bra!

  19. I didn't pack much in my bag and ended up not using much of what I did pack. I had read to pack clothes and snacks for my partner. I made sure he had everything I thought he would need including a bathing suit so he could hang out in the shower with me. I was really glad we brought our computer. We got to update facebook and watched a couple movies while we snuggled between the bombardment of visitors we got. I really craved a birthing ball or seat: something to squat on and be able to move, not the hospital bed!

    1 agrees
  20. Our hospital advised to take cotton wool in for cleaning babies bum but I managed to 'sneak' in some wet wipes too. These were a god send when I went to the loo as I had stitches and loo paper caused a lot of pain.

  21. cds! music helped me a lot during labour, and afterwards – we had to stay five days at the hospital – an audiobook on my mp3 player was a lifesaver.
    also the hubby brought his speedo to get in the tub with me.
    for the baby we had a blanket, in which he was wrapped pactically all the time. we had taken it to our bed for a couple of days before the birth, so that it smelled like us ๐Ÿ™‚

    oh- and a roll of the softest toilet paper availiable!

    1 agrees
  22. I can't stress enough that granola bars and some of your favorite snacks are essential. I couldn't eat a bite of the hospital food and I forgot my bars which meant I didn't eat the first day I was there!

    Also I love that Boneshaker was in your bag! Such an awesome book! I just finished Dreadnought!

    • Our hospital didn't have wifi for patients, only for employees so I couldn't use my laptop while I was in the hospital. I wish I had brought flip flops/shower shoes…3 weeks after I got home I had athletes foot. Ewww.

  23. We brought so much stuff, it was ludicrous. The most useful: Nursing jammies, nursing tanks, loose bottoms, and lots of socks. Socks disappear even in hospital rooms.

  24. I have to agree with SNACKS. I had an induction and they tried to tell me not to eat after my epidural — to hell with that! Birthing babies takes energy and I needed some goddamn calories! After they cut me off from the hospital food I depended on my husband to sneak me our own food, and during the two hours of pushing I was SO FREAKING GLAD I had kept eating. Energy = important.

    Also — YES chapstick, YES many pairs of big, roomy, comfy panties.

    1 agrees
  25. Weird, I don't remember needing anything that wasn't available except for PILLOWS. The pillows at the hospital suck no matter how many you ask for. 1 lame, flat pillow + 1 lame, flat pillow = 1 slightly taller lame, flat pillow. Generally I am in the less-is-less-and-I-like-it-that-way school of packing, but the second time around I will for sure to throw in the extra bulk & comfort of a decent pillow. {Think of your partner/coach too! Those chair to "bed" conversion thingies were terrible.}

    • Pillows for sure! As if its not hard enough to try to lay on one flat one, they're awful for breastfeeding, too. It is nice to have a fluffy one to put baby on or to hold up your arms while you hold your baby. My arms were so shaky and weak after labor.

  26. My babes were all born with long finger nails. So bringing clippers was a lesson I learned by my 3rd. Our hospital didn't supply them or emery boars to file them down. Also I brought the baby some socks and some warmer clothes. My babies needed these as they ran a little cold. Our hospital had them in a cloth diaper (amazing I know!) and just a t shirt and hat. My baby's toes were freezing! I put them in snug socks under their stretchy pjs to keep them extra warm.

  27. I have the standard things packed in my labor bag, but I've also included a supportive bathing suit top instead of a sports bra so I can labor in the shower, and gardener's kneeling pads. The gardener's kneeling pads are foam pads which you can pick up at a Home Depot or any garden store, and they are under $10 each.
    My midwife suggested picking them up so my knees don't give out if I'm on all fours in the shower, and I bought an extra one for my husband too.

    1 agrees
  28. I had my first son in the hospital, and the BEST things I had with me …

    Shampoo/Conditioner, face wash and flip flops (a must).

    In hindsight, a magazine and more food (hospital food and hospital cafeteria food just didn't satisfy post birth hunger).

    1 agrees
  29. Some great ideas on here! Never be afraid to ask your nurse for some of the silly things you left at home. I work at a hospital and can tell you that fun snacks for you and your partner, water bottles, lip balm, and music are all things that ANY decent L&D department should have on hand and be happy to get for you.

    1 agrees
  30. A pumping bra!

    Your milk may or may not come in and pumping can help encourage that process. Also, your baby is born knowing how to suckle, but not how to breastfeed, so issues with latch might have their weight drop too far or leave your nipples too painful to nurse. I had all three of these and used a hospital pump to get milk flowing and to get colostrum to dropper into my baby's mouth. Having a pumping bra means you don't have to hold the flanges up yourself, since you're probably going to be sitting there for at least 30 minutes and it is nice to have your hands free during that time. The cheap ones that are basically a cloth elastic (necessary for a tight but flexible fit) band with two holes and a zipper in front work just fine.

  31. Things I would have left at home:

    Slippers- My hospital provided a few pairs of grippy socks that were nice and warm. They also didn't have to be put on while I was lumbering out of bed and there was no risk of them sliding off my feet as I lumbered around my room/down the hall.

    Underwear- The mesh undies provided by the hospital were far more comfortable because there was no one place they applied pressure and I didn't care about getting fluids all over them. They also were slipperier than my usual cotton undies so the clothes I wore didn't rub against my incision.

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