The Birth Pro

Practical Wisdom for Today's Growing Family

What to Pack in Your Birth Bag

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What to Pack in Your Birth Bag

childbirth_classYou’re getting closer to the end of your pregnancy, and you’ve likely been making a mental list of everything from music to lip balm you want to be sure to have with you during labor. We have put together a very rigorous list compiled from some of the best minds of those who support and routinely attend women in labor and we have come up with this list of what to pack for going to the hospital or birthing center: 

Clothing

  • Clothing to wear for labor – from home to your birthing destination and into your labor and birth, you will want to feel like yourself. The ideal for your birth is to feel as safe and comfortable in every way possible. Often women find that something as basic as a simple pair of yoga pants and a nursing tank do the trick. Many women are also using clothing that is made specifically for the demands of labor and that will be conducive to the hospital staff as well.

  • Good nursing bra – You want something that is comfortable and will have some stretch to it at accommodate any changes you may go through soon after the birth.

  • Socks and slippers – Your feet are likely to get hot, then cold, then hot again throughout labor. And it is difficult to anticipate the temperature in the room you will be laboring in. Plus, putting on any kind of footwear that doesn’t just slip right on in labor is likely going to cause more headache than necessary.

  • Robe – One of those items you are likely to use and be very grateful for during your stay away from home during labor and after the birth.

  • Clothing for after the birth and your trip home – Sounds like a no-brainer but clearly not something you want to neglect packing. Just remember, the chances of you fitting into your pre-pregnancy jeans are slim to none so pack some maternity clothes since your body will need a little bit more time than a day or so to rebound.

  • Change of clothes for Dad – There is always a chance that the father-to-be’s clothing will become less than desirable to be worn and he will need to change clothes during the course of labor. So in addition to the standing clothing that would be packed for a stay away from home for a few nights, make sure to have something handy during labor.

  • Comfortable shoes for Dad – While it is likely he will not be concerned about making a fashionable impression, be conscientious about your footwear choices for this event. Likely dad will be very near worn out at the end, as well, and so just avoid or at least minimize the aching feet altogether.

  • Swim attire for Dad – Mom may want to get into the shower or tub and while it is normal, and a good sign of labor progression for her to be undressed, your birth team likely does not want to see dad in all his glory. Be kind and pack some trunks. (No – European-cut speedos do not count as trunks.)

Gadgets

  • Cell phones and chargers – Sounds essential  but you may be surprised. And double-check that the chargers are in.

  • iPod or other music – Make a play list just for labor or hit “random” and see what happens! Most couples want some music during at least part of their labor so be sure to get that in the bag as well.

  • Video and/or still camera – Do not be the ones that leave this at home and have no pictures for the first day or so. Essential and high priority. If you don’t have a camera at the present time, move that to the top of the baby shower list.

  • Laptop or iPad – While this is a vacation of the very most unique sort, you may still need to pop in at work or want to email everyone a picture or two the next day. Another item you may be very grateful you brought.

doulaResources for the labor

  • A Doula – This is most certainly the number one on this list. Having a Birth Doula with you for your labor and birth is like taking your childbirth educator with you. She is knowledgeable about all aspects of labor as well as variations and complications that may arise and alternatives that will go along best with your wishes. She will also likely have additional tools and tricks up her sleeve that neither you or your partner have thought of or are familiar with, such as aromatherapy specific to labor, etc. For more information see our article on “What is a Doula?”

  • Your birth plan – After all the time you’ve put into constructing it, make sure to bring it along and have extra copies as well.

  • Snacks and drinks – Research has shown that women who eat and drink throughout labor have more energy and are less likely to have excessive interventions. Choose food and snacks that are easy to digest and have the nutrients needed for this rigorous demands of labor. Be sure to have sustenance for dad and other support partners as well.

  • Rice sock – These can be heated up in a microwave and provide relieve for lower back pain, or other areas throughout labor.

Toiletries

  • Lip balm – Unscented is best since smells can cause some strong reactions in labor. It is also a really great idea to have this in the partner’s pocket for easy access so you’re not in labor telling him “Its in the blue bag, front pocket – oh wait, no. The green one… hold on here comes another contraction…”

  • Ponytail holders – She may need her hair up and then want to take it down and then 20 minutes later need it up again but you can’t find the hair tie that was in her hair before. Bring extras just in case.

  • breathmintsListerine Strips or other breath fresheners – You don’t want to have someone close to your face telling you to relax and bringing you to this blissful place with garlic breath from dinner. Be sure to have something to alleviate that situation in a hurry, handy.

  • Personal pillows – you  may want these for the labor or for after the birth for you and your partner to be most comfortable. May be a non-essential item for you or could be a top priority.

  • Prenatal vitamins – Just as you kept up a great routine with these while pregnant, you will want to continue taking them through your postpartum transition. If you’re wondering what kind of prenatals to take, or want to see how yours measure up, see our article on “Prenatal Vitamins”.

  • General toiletries – For both mom and dad make sure to get the essentials you will need during your time away from home.

  • An empty bag – A general use item that always comes in handy and doesn’t take up much room.

Paperwork/Entertainment

  • Insurance info – Keep this handy so that you can quickly and easily get checked in. Likely you will be in a good labor pattern by the time you arrive and will want to minimize distractions and technical questions.

  • Contact list – We know there will be at least a few people eager to hear the good news and details when your little one makes his or her entrance. Just a quick list of those who are essential to contact soon, but not too soon, after the birth is helpful. Give you and your new family at least a couple of hours in your new little love bubble before inviting other people in, even if only by phone.

  • Something to pass the time – Should you be in a situation where you are waiting or need some entertainment, bringing movies, books or games can be a good idea. Likely you won’t need to go overboard with these but get one or two things tucked away.

  • Breastfeeding book – For those first hours and a day or so after the birth breastfeeding may have some aspects of it you were not expecting. Many mothers say having a breastfeeding book handy to flip through for a quick question was very helpful.

For the Baby

  • carseatCar seat – While your new little one has very few needs, this is an absolute must. If you arrive at your birth place without this, you will not be taking your new addition home without a car seat that is properly installed. To eliminate this logistical nightmare, make sure the car seat makes its way with you.

  • Special outfit for baby – Whether its for first pictures, for the trip home or whatever occasion you imagine, many mothers love having something just a little extra special for them to wear. Remember to keep it comfortable and season appropriate. Also, keep in mind many newborns of an average size fit better into the “preemie” size for the first week or so than the “newborn” size.

  • Diaper bag – Pack that bag with a few resources – Just a couple of outfits, nothing too fancy. Comfortable and season appropriate. And a receiving or swaddling blanket or two. Other than a constant supply of diapers, cloth or disposable, babies don’t actually need a whole lot so overall you can go with the minimum for him or her here.

Things you Don’t Need to Bring

  • Birth ball – Nearly every birthing facility will have at least a couple of these or more. Snag one when you arrive but no need to lug this cumbersome treasure with you. Leave it at home and enjoy it postpartum for bouncing the baby on.

  • Excessive pillows – You may want to bring a pillow or two with you but no need bring the entire bed’s worth. Plus you don’t need to worry about getting the pillows messy – they are used to it!

  • Towels – Any birthing facility you go to will have plenty of towels and wash clothes. Leave the laundry to them and keep from bringing half the linen closet.

  • Keep it to a minimum – As crazy as that sounds with this long list of essential items, overall you want to keep it to a minimum. Just because you may want a laptop there doesn’t mean you need to bring both you and your partner’s laptop. You may even be able to get away with just a tablet/iPad. Think of ways to reduce the amount of stuff you will need to drag out to the house, into the car, and with you to the birthing facility. All while one of you is in labor.

Items to Have Ready to Go at Home

  • A Doula – Not only are there birth doulas, but postpartum doulas can be just as much of a life (and sanity) saver! Postpartum doulas help out around your home and with your new little baby, typically soon after the baby is born for the first few months or more. They are generally well-versed in breastfeeding and postpartum issues and can be especially needed with special situations such as multiples or a difficult birth recovery.

  • Some type of absorbent liner – Some women like a good ol’ maxi pad and others who can get past the embarrassment go for Depends. The first few days you are going to have some heavy bleeding and there is no sense in thrashing your cute underwear. If you’re going with a pad of some kind, some disposable mesh panties are best. Completely un-sexy but you will be grateful you were prepared.

  • Ibuprofen – Its on the safe list for breastfeeding and the afterbirth pains can be something to write home about. There is also a great deal of soreness that your body may be experiencing – after all labor is an athletic event.

  • Nursing pads – Most women will leak to some degree or another and could start within a week or so after the birth. Rather than having to run out to the store for this one very-needed item, its good to have some already there. You can get either disposable or reusable; both have their advantages and drawbacks.

  • Pure Lanolin ointment – This can help with sore, dry or cracked nipples and is fine for your baby to digest should they get some while nursing. A little goes a very long way, though so you probably don’t need the gigantic tube right at first.

Keep in mind throughout this whole process that even if you only show up to your birthing location with just you, your partner and a doula you will be just fine. Everything here can make the experience more enjoyable and go smoother, but the most important thing is to relax and have a baby. Additionally, there are almost always people coming to visit and are happy and eager to help out and can fill in the holes if you don’t get everything completely ready before your new arrival makes his or her entrance.

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