We probably don’t need to remind you to pack your hospital bag. It’s one of the more exciting steps of your pregnancy. You’re almost at the finish line! While you may be tempted to bring everything you own (or just the opposite), we have a few tips on what to pack and what to leave at home.
What you may not have realized, however, is that around the same time you’re packing that hospital bag, you’ll also want to make sure you have your breast pump ready to go for when you bring baby home.
Did you know you might be able to get a breast pump at no cost to you? Click here to fill out our brief qualification form to get started. (You’ll need it to fulfill item #5 in our list!)
Here are our recommended must-have hospital bag items:
- Breastfeeding Pillow. Breastfeeding those first few days are extremely important to establishing your milk supply. You will be spending the first 24-48 hours (or even longer) in a hospital bed. And wouldn’t you know, some babies want to be nursed around the clock, especially in those first few days. Make sure you are as comfortable as possible by bringing your breastfeeding pillow.
- Comfy Clothes. You will feel more like yourself in your own comfortable clothes than in a hospital gown with a gaping back. Pack pants with an elastic waistband, forgiving of a postpartum belly. Find nursing camisoles in soft fabrics. Throw in your favorite cardigan to layer over your camisole. A soft robe is also an excellent thing to pack. Wearing a robe in the hospital is comfortable, warm and perfect for round-the-clock breastfeeding.
- Snacks. If ever there has been a time when eating is important, it is now. Creating breast milk requires more calories than even growing a baby. Also, hospital kitchens are often not open 24 hours a day. When you are up in the wee hours of the night nursing and feel hunger pangs, you need to be prepared. We suggest things that do not need refrigeration like protein bars, granola bars, fruit, individually sized peanut butter packets, crackers, trail mix, etc.
- Your Own Pillows. The hospital is your very sterile home-away-from-home for several days (and sometimes longer) after having a baby. Make sure you do everything to get the rest you need and be as comfortable as possible, by taking one or two of your own pillows from your bed at home. Your spouse should also take pillows if they plan to stay overnight with you.
- Breast Pump (First Time Mommas). Most experts feel that mothers don’t need to begin pumping until they have established their breast milk supply by nursing. We recommend bringing it though, so that you can have a pro-lactation consultant (available during your hospital stay) show you the ropes. That way when you begin using your pump, you’ll know exactly how to use it. Haven’t picked your breast pump out yet? Fill out our qualification form, then you’ll be able to select your breast pump. 1 Natural Way offers the Medela and Spectra brands.
- Pads in Various Sizes. After a vaginal birth, there is typically some vaginal bleeding. Most of it is lochia, which is a combination of blood, uteral lining and bacteria. Your body will expel this for several days. The amount of bleeding that occurs depends completely on the individual woman and what occurred during her delivery. Your hospital will carry a one-size-fits-all sanitary pad, which does not always “fit all.” It is best to be prepared with some smaller pads in case you do not need the large pads provided by the hospital.
- Toiletries. Using your own toiletries goes a long way in helping you feel like you again after giving birth. Take your own shampoo, soap, conditioner and lotion. If you like wearing makeup when being photographed, take your makeup bag too, because there will be a lot of photos of you and the baby, especially as you are leaving the hospital. The familiarity of your toiletry bag and its contents will help you feel more put together.
- An infant car seat. You won’t be able to drive home from the hospital without it, so we recommend installing your car seat in the car you plan to take to the hospital a few weeks before your due date. Take the time while you’re installing it to learn how to loosen and tighten the straps. You won’t want to try and figure it out in a hospital parking lot with a brand new baby!
- Nursing Pads. If your milk comes in while you are in the hospital, it may come suddenly and in overabundance. Be prepared to use nursing pads in your bra to keep from soaking your clothes. If your milk comes in, place them into your bra when you are not nursing.
- Coming-Home Outfit for Baby. While this is not a “necessity,” most moms will agree that taking their baby home is a momentous occasion that requires many photos. Plus, it is fun to choose what your baby will wear for this special occasion when packing your hospital bag. Choose clothing that is comfortable and in a few different sizes. Birth weight estimates are often wrong and a few pounds can make a big difference in sizing.
Things You Don’t Need
- Diaper Supplies. The hospital will carry everything you need for diapering, in a variety of sizes. If you plan to cloth diaper, most people wait until they return home to begin this process (hospitals will not launder cloth diapers). If you plan to use disposable diapers, the hospital will also encourage you to take home the diapers they provided to you in your room. Do it!
- Pacifiers. Most breastfeeding experts recommend not introducing pacifiers for a few weeks so the baby does not prefer the pacifier over his mother (sometimes called nipple confusion) – and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until a baby is one month old. Typically, hospitals will give you pacifiers that you can take home and try with your baby at the appropriate time.
- Baby Toys. They’ll get used eventually, but not likely during your hospital stay! Leave baby toys at home so they don’t get lost in the mayhem of the first few days.