By Leah Black
For the first-time mom, packing one’s hospital bag is an optimistic endeavor. You simply have no idea what you (and your body) are in for. Images on Facebook of cheery friends holding their babies and seeming completely unfazed don’t help. I remember stocking my hospital bag with, among other things, a novel, cute nursing pajamas, makeup, adorable baby outfits, and lots of underwear—none of which I used. Now I realize my packing job was better suited for a mommy & me spa than a maternity ward.
Luckily, you don’t have to be as unprepared as I was. Based on my own birth experiences, as well as those of a handful of savvy new moms I spoke with, here is list of 10 must-haves for your hospital bag.
- A roll of good toilet paper: This item will be much appreciated after you’ve given birth. As a friend recently described to me, hospital toilet paper is “crisp and thin.” Not exactly what you want to use on your body postpartum. Instead, bring a roll of soft, absorbent toilet paper from home. Your lady parts will thank you later.
- A robe: The cute nursing pajamas I packed? I never had the wherewithal to put them on. Instead, I stuck with the standard issue hospital gowns, of which I went through several. Other moms I know, though, are glad they brought a robe from home. If you do bring one, choose one that’s lightweight, short, and front-opening to allow for easy nursing and post-birth exams.
- Hair ties: No one wants their hair falling in their face during labor—the process is maddening enough as it is! Consider packing a handful of hair ties, bobby pins, elastic headbands, and whatever else you need to keep your hair securely tied back so that you can be as comfortable (and focused!) as possible.
- Your own toiletries: While the hospital provides basics like shampoo, soap, and toothpaste, they won’t be the quality you’re used to. After the most intense physical experience of your life, you’ll definitely want your own toiletries to freshen up with. One mom told me she randomly packed a bottle of lavender face wash in her bag and was so glad to use it after labor. It made her feel pretty and clean even when she was too tired to shower.
- A pillow and pillowcase from home: I’ve heard about maternity wards running out of extra pillows, but even if that’s not the case where you are, it’s still nice to have a pillow from home for during and after labor. Not only will it be plusher and more comfortable, but I found I liked the familiar feeling of my floral pillowcase by my side. It made my stay at the hospital feel more cozy and natural. After all, you practically live in bed for two days!
- Snacks: If you haven’t stayed over at a hospital lately, you may not realize how uninspired the food is. Lots of moms describe being ravenous after giving birth; it would be so disappointing to not have something yummy to eat! While your partner or family and friends can always run out for takeout, it’s nice to have a supply of favorite snacks on hand—especially if you give birth in the middle of the night and food options are limited. Think granola bars, chips, nuts, popcorn, homemade cookies…whatever you like to munch on. Oh, and expect your husband or partner to eat at least half of your supply!
- Flip-flops and/or socks: The hospital may provide you with non-slip socks, but it’s nice to have flip-flops or comfy socks from home, too. And you definitely don’t want to walk around the hospital barefoot (think dorm-like bathrooms and halls). Flips-flops are especially ideal for showering in. If you bring socks, bring several—they can get gross fast.
- Music: During the long and sometimes tedious hours of labor, your favorite music can help you power through the boredom and the pain. Many hospitals have stereo systems you can plug your iPod or smartphone into (call ahead to check) but, if not, you can always bring your own portable speakers or play music off your phone or tablet.
- Empty bags to bring stuff home in: When you leave the hospital, you are sent home with a lot of loot. It’s like an Oscar gift bag for new moms, only instead of thousand-dollar watches, you get a sitz bath, disposable underwear, diapers, and a mountain of documents and reading materials. Rather than trying to stuff all this into your hospital bag, bring a few reusable shopping bags to cart it all home in. It will make your life so much easier!
- Loose-fitting clothes (or maternity clothes!) for the ride home: If you thought you’d be ditching your maternity clothes immediately post-baby, think again! Lots of moms maintain some form of their baby belly in the days and weeks following delivery. And, even if you’re one of the lucky few who don’t, you’ll still want something non-restricting to wear in your delicate state. A pair of maternity sweat pants or comfy yoga pants, as well as a stretchy or loose fitting top, is perfect for the journey home. And forget about wearing your own underwear! You’ll likely go home in the disposable mesh underwear the hospital gives you.
During your post-delivery hospital stay, the nurses and hospital staff are amazing at helping you care for your recovering body and ensuring you have all the supplies you need. But when you return home, you’re left to your own devices! Here are three simple items most new moms would be relieved to find waiting for them at home.
- Depends: I was never clever enough to think of using these, but several moms told me they were key to making their postpartum recovery easier. A convenient alternative to bulky and ill-fitting pads, they eliminate the need for underwear.
- Tucks pads: These medicated cooling pads soothe and protect irritated areas such as tears and hemorrhoids that result from the birth process. The hospital may give you some to take home, but probably not enough to last long.
- Fridet the MomWasher: While the hospital sends you home with a peri bottle, it’s worth looking into this new-to-the-market version created just for new moms. If you’re not familiar with it, a peri bottle is essentially a mini squirt bottle you fill with warm water and use “down there” to help you heal. Fridet the Mom Washer is a thoughtful upgrade thanks to its narrow neck and ergonomic design that makes it easier to use.