You’re at that “any day now” point in your pregnancy, and you’re ready to pack your hospital bag. These days, most hospitals provide essentials like diapers and formula, but it’s comforting to know you have the brands or types of items you prefer.
“A general rule is to minimize stress in this situation,” notes Catherine Ruhl, CNM, MS, associate director for women’s health programs at the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.
To some women, that might mean taking as little as possible; to others, it means bring everything but the kitchen sink. Either way, Ruhl suggests having a friend or family member haul everything that you don’t need back home for you the day before you leave the hospital. “So when you leave, you can concentrate on mom and baby,” she says.
Keep this list handy for packing your hospital bag:
Baby Nail Clippers
You’ll be shocked at how long your baby’s nails are when he’s born. To prevent him from scratching himself and you, trim them as soon as you can. Get help from a nurse if he’s too wiggly. You can also use an emory board.
Diapers and Wipes
Some been-there-done-that moms note that hospital wipes aren’t always pre-moistened. To make clean up quicker, bring your own; then you can choose scented or non, too. You may also have a particular type of diaper—cloth or unbleached, for example—that you’d like to use. Bring the newborn size, as well as the next size up, as some larger babies barely fit into newborn diapers.
Many moms remember the “going-home” outfit, but forget to bring clothes for in the hospital. Pack some comfy sleepers in that hospital bag too. For going home, pack a few size options, as some newborns immediately fit into 3-month clothing, and a couple of choices for changes in weather. Also, while hospitals provide beanie hats, they notoriously slip right off, so pack one or two of your own.
The hospital-issued blankets work, but they’re not very photogenic. Bring a blanket that you’ll be happy showing off in all those first-day photos. Also, swaddling takes a certain knack, so if you think you’ll have trouble, invest in an alternative to the plain square cloth. See Resources for one option.
You may have all you need if you’re breastfeeding, but even moms who plan to breastfeed sometimes hit a snag. If you prefer a particular type of formula—organic, for example—pack it. Also, bring the bottles you plan to use, so your baby will get used to them early on. Another helpful feeding item is a Boppy or other type of pillow to place baby during breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
This hospital bag essential is for both you and baby. Choose a cream that contains lanolin and rub it on your nipples to prevent cracking. Use it for your baby to soothe chapped lips and cheeks.
The hospital takes an ink print of your baby’s foot, so pack your baby book and ask the nurse to put a print in there too. You’ll also be able to fill out some sections of the baby book while baby is sleeping and before you forget.
Happy Mom, Happy Baby
What you need to pack in your hospital bag for yourself makes up a whole other list, but the key, says Ruhl, is “Make mom happy, make baby happy.” Her number one suggestion: Bring your own cozy pillow.
“Hospitals never have enough pillows and they’re kind of crunchy and just not comfortable,” she says. One mom’s tip: put your pillow in a bright pillow case so you don’t forget it when you leave the hospital. Another essential for mom are snacks. Your hard work through labor will leave you hungry, and hospital food isn’t always enough. Coffee drinkers should bring their own coffee too.