When those contractions kick in, the last thing you want to think about is packing a hospital bag, so do yourself a favor and have it ready to go a few weeks before delivery. I am—even as I write this!—very close to meeting my son Rocco, so I started packing my bag this week. And by bag, I mean Rocco’s new monogrammed carry-on luggage from Pottery Barn Kids. (Let’s hope he likes dinosaurs!) In order to keep my stuff organized and separated from Rocco’s, I rely on Mumi packing cubes, but you can accomplish the same thing with clean plastic bags. It makes finding things so much easier! Whether you’re a first-time mom or a seasoned pro, tips and advice are always welcome, so I’m sharing my personal hospital checklist with you. Take a look and see what I’ve found to be essential for an impending hospital stay.
Toiletries bag and toiletries
For any overnight, you’d pack these basics: Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, soap, lotion, glasses and contacts/contact solution, hair ties, face wash, hairbrush, deodorant and lip balm. Now add maxi pads, which will be a big part of your life for the next few weeks after delivery. My confession: I actually like the generic brand the hospital gives you—they’re ginormous and very absorbent! But if you prefer a certain brand and would rather bring your own, make sure they can hold a heavy flow. If you think you’ll want to wear makeup, keep it simple and natural with concealer, mascara, lip gloss and maybe some blush. And definitely apply it after labor—otherwise, between the sweat and tears, you’ll look like a clown when you meet baby! I went au naturel with Maya, but for Rocco's upcoming birth I’m packing MAC lip gloss and concealer and Estée Lauder mascara for the postbirth pictures.
iPod or iPhone playlist
Listening to music can help us perceive less pain, so during my labor with Maya, I was all about songs that relaxed me—I called it ambience music. My playlist included artists like Coldplay, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Bon Iver, and Iron and Wine. Maya was born while Adele was playing. I’m eager to find out what Rocco’s entrance song will be! Oh, and make sure you bring a charger to keep your tunes going for as long as you need them.
Do not underestimate the power of granny panties! Pregnant or not, I swear by them, but they are of utmost importance after you give birth, when you’ll want only soft, stretchy, roomy fabric touching your tender skin.
For labor, the hospital will provide a paper gown, but if you’d like to wear your own—I certainly do—choose two-piece pjs instead of a nightgown in case you end up needing an epidural. And consider short sleeves or a tank-style top, since labor will make you sweat. I ended up giving birth in a bralette because I was so hot! But once I was ready to put clothes on, I kept things comfortable with nightgowns and pajama pants and tops. None of those monogrammed hospital gowns that are all the rage on Pinterest right now. No one has time for that—well, at least I don’t!
If you’re planning to breastfeed, pack a nursing bra and/or nursing-friendly sleepwear. Because I chose not to breastfeed, I packed sports bras. They’re tight, so they hold cabbage leaves in place, which leads me to my next item…
For moms not planning to breastfeed, bring cabbage—yes, cabbage—to the hospital. Placing the leaves directly on your breasts continuously can help dry up breast milk. (They can also help ease engorgement if you’re breastfeeding.) The nurses are usually willing to store it for you in the fridge, so just let them know you have it when you arrive.
Hospital floors can get really cold. And while I’m a big fan of hospital socks (to go with my hospital maxi pads!), I also pack really soft knitted Forever 21 animal slip-ons. They feel delicious on my feet and keep my toes nice and warm.
Giving birth to your second, third or beyond? It’s a good idea to bring a token gift for the new big brother or sister. Consider it an olive branch from the baby. It says, “Hey, I’m sorry I’m going to be hogging the spotlight for a bit, but here’s a really sweet Peppa Pig toy to make you feel a little better.”
Outfits for baby
If you’re okay with the oversize white onesies the hospital provides, then you’re covered. But most new moms love to bring a special going-home outfit for their newborn. I bring several options! Make sure to include a soft hat, socks and baby mittens—babies get cold. If you plan to swaddle, bring swaddling blankets or a swaddling pouch too. I've packed outfits for Rocco from Baby Gap, Burt's Bees, and H&M, plus a swaddler from NuRoo Baby. Wash them in special baby detergent, like Dreft, before adding them to your suitcase.
Don’t forget dad!
Pack a small travel bag for your partner too (or remind him to do it himself!). Include a change of clothes and a toiletries bag with all the basics so he can freshen up when he’s ready.
The remaining items are on my essentials list, though some moms would consider them extras. Do what works for you!
It’s time to put that shower gift to use. Give your baby memory book to the nurses so they can get baby’s footprints and handprints when he’s born.
Cord-blood banking box
Decide in advance if you and your partner want to bank baby’s cord blood. If you choose to do it, order a cordblood banking kit in advance and give it to the nurse once you check in.
Everyone takes smartphone pics when baby arrives—and you’ll definitely want to bring your device—but an instant camera (like the Fujifilm Instax, above) is a unique retro alternative that lets you capture some special snapshots.
Thank-you gifts go a long way. They don’t have to be extravagant. I brought small Chanel perfume samples (thanks to my friend Bonita, who works for Chanel) to give the labor and delivery staff as well as my maternity nurses. They were so grateful to be acknowledged for their hard work! I didn’t know the exact number of nurses I would have, so I brought eight gifts to be safe. If you’re not lucky enough to have friends with perfume samples, gift cards and store-bought snacks are always appreciated.
Expert: Kathy Buccio, fashion blogger (and mom!) from Freshly Squeezed Fashionista