It can be difficult to decide what to pack in your hospital bag. It’s best to have your bag packed from about 36 weeks of pregnancy, and to have a bag ready even if you are planning a home birth in case things change. To make it seem a bit more manageable, it can help to split everything between a labour bag for mum and a post-labour bag for mum and baby.
When you’re thinking about what to put in your bag for labour, there are some practical things that you’re going to want and it is also worth thinking about what you can take to create the best birth environment for mum and baby. What will help to keep the oxytocin flowing? Oxytocin, often referred to as ‘the love hormone’, causes the uterus to contract during labour. Once labour starts, we want to keep the oxytocin flowing to keep labour progressing. It is natural for oxytocin levels to drop and adrenaline levels to rise when you move from the safe, familiar surroundings of your home during early labour to the hospital environment once you are in established labour. Think about what you can take with you to help you feel relaxed and comfortable.
Here are some suggestions for what to pack in your hospital bag for labour:
- Battery operated fairy lights or candles, so you can have dim lighting rather than the harsh hospital lights. An eye mask can also help to block out the light.
- Music and headphones, something that is familiar. The music we use in Daisy Birthing classes can be a great anchor to a more relaxed state.
- Aromatherapy oils if you have been using them.
- A pillow or cushion or scarf from home.
- Something to provide distraction, like a book, if you are in hospital from the early stages of labour. (I sent my husband out to get the paper so we could do the crossword at the start of my last labour)
- Food and drink for labour. Think about easy to eat, bite-size snacks that will release energy slowly, things like bananas, bite-size flapjacks, dried fruit. Bendy straws are great for the later stages of labour when you need to keep hydrated, your birth partner can put the straw in your mouth between contractions.
- Maternity notes (if anyone has physical notes these days!)
- Lightweight top or nightdress, dressing gown. Front opening tops help immediate skin-to-skin and breastfeeding after birth.
- Flip flops
- Cosy socks as your feet often get cold during labour
- Open fronted shirt for your birth partner so they are ready to do skin-to-skin after birth
After birth, things to go in the postnatal bag for mum:
- 2 x front opening PJs/vest tops
- 2 x nursing bras and pack of breast pads
- Big pants! Disposable ones can be great to start with so you don’t have to worry about washing, then think big and high over your tummy.
- Maternity pads – in the first few days a normal sanitary towel isn’t going to cut it!
- Clothes for going home in, when you won’t have a big baby bump any more but you will have a bump.
- Newborn vests, baby grows (ones that open flat and popper up the front), hats. If the clothes seem a bit tiny and daunting, it can help to make up individual freezer bags with one outfit in each.
- Warmer layer (cardigan, blanket) for leaving hospital
- Muslins – they have many uses!
- Nappies and cotton wool for those first nappy changes (you won’t need baby wipes at this stage)
I had planned a home birth with my youngest but he had other ideas and was born in a bit of a rush at exactly 37 weeks. As he was baby number 4 and none of the others had been early we were fairly unprepared. There was no hospital bag ready to go and I had to rely on my husband bringing in what we needed which was a bit hit and miss!
The practicalities of getting prepared for birth and what to pack in your hospital bag is one of many areas we cover during our Daisy Parent course. If you’re interested in learning more about preparing for birth and the early days of looking after a newborn baby, come along to the next term of classes!