Packing a hospital bag should be top of your ‘to do’ list as your baby’s arrival gets closer. But what should mums-to-be include and when should they get their hospital bag ready?
The general advice is don’t leave packing until the last minute - and don’t bring too much. Instead, have your hospital bag ready at least four weeks before your due date, says Amanda Adams-Wells, midwifery sister at The Portland.
‘That will give you time to gather together all the essentials you’ll need during labour and birth and for after your baby is born,’ she says.
‘If you go into labour early the last thing you want to be doing is fumbling around to get everything together that you need to take with you to hospital.’
Amanda suggests taking two bags: one for the labour itself and another for post-delivery. This second bag your partner can bring in after the baby is born along with a car seat if you’re driving home.
She says: ‘This will give you more space when you need it most and make it easier for your partner to find what you ask for quickly.’
The contents of your hospital bags need to see you through labour, a shower or bath following the delivery and dressing your newborn.
The Portland provides essentials such as personal toiletries for mum, slippers, hospital gowns for labour, disposable nappies, cotton wool and baby gowns, as well as a birthing ball to assist childbirth.
However, you will need to pack your birth plan and maternity notes, and an old night dress for the actual delivery. A dressing gown is handy for pacing hospital corridors in early labour, advises Amanda.
‘You’ll also need one (a dressing gown) on the postnatal ward,’ she says. ‘Hospitals can get very warm so a lightweight one is best.’
Carol King, from the Royal College of Midwives, recommends using toiletries which are unscented. ‘Your skin tends to be more sensitive during the early stages after childbirth, so keep all soaps at least low scented for the first week until you’re healed,’ she says.
After the delivery, you’ll need clothes for your newborn and yourself. Outfits for new mums should be comfy and loose fitting and, in case you have a C-section, opt for items with waistbands that don’t sit low on your stomach.
Optional extras are down to individual choice. Carol’s suggested list of ‘luxuries’ for mum includes hair straighteners and curling tongs, and for baby you can also include scratch mitts, cardigans, a baby hat and socks or booties.
Amanda suggests bringing massage oil because a massage from your partner may help ease discomfort in the early stage of labour by releasing endorphins. A TENS machine can also help with pain relief in labour, socks are handy because feet can get cold as well as lip balm to stop your lips from drying out. The hospital has lactation specialists who can advise you on feeding your baby and, should you need a breast pump, then these are available in the hospital. These can also be hired directly from the breast pump suppliers for when you go home. For instance, Medela have an online service (www.Medela-rental.co.uk) where they can then arrange for a breast pump to be delivered and collected at your own convenience.
‘You may have long periods of down-time until the contractions build,’ adds Amanda. ‘So you might want to take something to entertain yourself with such as magazines, books or an Ipad. A V-shaped pillow is also useful to give you extra support in labour and when feeding your baby.’
Once you’ve packed, make sure your bags are left somewhere you can find them easily. ‘You need a designated area for your bag which your birth partner knows about, usually by the front door or bedroom door,’ says Carol.
‘Whatever you do, don’t forget your notes. And have a drill rehearsed on what to do when it’s time to leave for the hospital.’