This is by far one of the most discussed and debated simple subjects when it comes to birth. So simple, yet so complicated! Afraid to pack too little, but you don’t want to be bogged down with heavy bags when your dealing with contractions.
So what do you really need?
Iv seen even quite a few births over the last few years, and I've also been a nicu mom. Iv learned a few tricks along the way, and have a pretty good insight into what’s really needed and what you can do without. In my opinion, this is the best basic foundation of what you do (and don't) need during birth. Take this and make it your own.
This will mostly be catered to hospital births, maybe birth centers, and you can use some of these tips for home births- though I’ll make a separate blog post for a home birth checklist soon! Subscribe so you don't miss it!
- First, a bag! (or two! one for you, one for dad, or one for before and after) An obvious thing but sometimes overlooked. Designate a bag before you need it. You want a bag that zips! I can’t tell you how many times I have seen stuff falling out of bags as they are transferred, either before or after the birth costing precious moments to whomever has to stop to clean up the discarded items. In birth every moment really does count.
- ID, insurance, money, etc.
- Anything you want an extra baby footprint on! (paper to photo copy, baby book, etc)
- Fuel! Plenty of snacks. Evidence based studies show that is more harmful to deny a laboring women food then it is to let her eat freely. Eating during labor helps maintain blood sugars and keeps your energy up. Talk to your midwife or doctor to see what the guidelines are in your birth place. Remember, policies are just that, policy not law. YOU are ultimately the decision maker for your birth. Many hospitals are changing their eating restrictions and even removing them all together! More on this topic in an upcoming blog post!
Make sure you pack snacks for mom, AND everyone else attending. At the very least bring a baby sock full of quarters for the vending machine for dad. Iv seen some moms bring their own water, but i personally love the ice chips and water in hospitals.
- Honey sticks! yes this falls under food, but I had to add this in here because its one of my favorite tricks. Honey is antibacterial, can improve mental focus, and give a great boost of energy. Plus the sweetness can help take your mind off the pain.
- Pillows! Hospitals can be so stingy on pillows, its so weird to me. Its hard and takes a very long time sometimes to get that extra requested pillow, PLUS they are usually stiff and have plasticy covers.
Your own pillow(s) or blankets can be just the right thing to make your room feel more homey.
- Want to go an extra step? Decorate your room! Birth affirmations, string lights, tea light (fake) candles, motivational posters, you can go all out! In fact nurses LOVE when you do. You can make your hospital birth space look however you want it to!
- Entertainment. If you are having an induction, an epidural, or staying in hospital for an extended time, or if you know your going to be bedridden bring something to take up the time! Waiting can be the hardest part of birth sometimes. Cards, board games, books, music. Don't leave it to the judge judy on the hospitals tiny tv to keep your mind in a good place haha. A birth playlist is my favorite way to bond with baby (choosing songs can be therapeutic even if you don't end up using it) before birth, and can be great motivation during.
- A rebozo wrap, or baby wrap. Ask your doula! She can tell you why, and probably provide one for your to use. Oh, and you should TOTALLY bring a doula with you ;)
- Essential oils. Diffusers are 100% okay to bring! In a pinch, a cotton ball, clothespin, and the desktop fan they sometimes provide will be a great way to diffuse. Blog post coming on my favorite oils for births! Subscribe so you don't miss it!
- Toothpaste, tooth brush, socks, shower minis, hair ties, a brush. Birth gets long, don't be afraid to bring whatever you need to freshen up. A change of clothes for dad is also a good idea.
- A comb. Pain relief trick! Holding a comb in your hand is said to push pressure points that ease contractions and redirect pain sensors.
- Your own baby hat. You don't want to end up with ALL your photos to look like this. These hats may be functional (debatable) but they are not the most attractive! Some find them cute. But most prefer to bring their own hat for babe.
Then again there are many studies on why 'hat free' is the best option for the nursing bond.
- Ginger tea, for the nauseous stomach. Peppermint also works but can effect some peoples milk supply.
- Transition clothes. Something to wear home, sweatpants are usually a good option. your maternity clothes may not fit, but neither will your pre-pregnancy stuff. something super comfy and loose does the trick. (don't forget a nursing friendly bra and extra underwear! (they will provide pads for you, and mesh underwear take extra home with you if you can! see if you can sneak an extra peri bottle too!)
- Speaking of clothes, did you know you can bring your own maternity gown? You do not have to wear the ones provided for you! They are often scratchy, huge, and talk about a draft in the back! There are sooo many great options. Look up hospital maternity gown or birth gown and see what you find! One with buttons that give easy access to nurses during emergencies are a favorite.
Bring a robe or gown for after birth too, things might get messy.
- Something to transport your placenta if your keeping it. Plastic bags, coolers, whatever you have works.
- A camera... just kidding! In case you need someone to tell you, a birth photographer is the way to go. ;) (me! me!)
Saves space in your bag, gives your team time and space to focus on YOU and not have to see these precious moments through a lens. Plus, the memories and mental benefits are priceless.
- A carseat! no need to bring it in until its going home time, but you can't leave the hospital without one!
- Chap-stick and lotion. The rooms can be cold and dry, avoid anything with heavy perfumes.
- Chargers for phones. Headphones in case you need to zone out.
- YOUR BIRTH PLAN. If you don't make decisions before your birth on every possible scenario (c-sections, epidurals, pain management, after birth, etc) they will be made for you. And though nurses and doctors do their best, in this time of "fear (or defensive) based medicine" where pregnancy is treated like an illness, YOUR best interest isn't always the same as what your doctors best interests are.
A visual birth plan is a great simple idea. You also might want to include your pediatricians contact info on here.
- Deodorant. Ill refer to my old camp saying- "more layers = more friends." Just kidding mostly, birth can be smelly. No one will judge if you skip this one. (my favorite natural deoderant here)
- Lastly, don't be afraid to bring a gift for your nurse team. Many nurses are not allowed to take expensive individual gifts, but can accept less expensive gifts as a whole team/floor! Food (not homemade) is always a safe option. Healthy food is a bonus (they get donuts and sweets all the time) They skip meals and bathroom breaks for laboring women on a daily basis. They are superheros. Other great options include badge holders, pens, water bottles, etc.
Things you DON'T really need to bring:
- Baby clothes. Maybe a going home outfit, but most hospitals will provide you with clothes during your stay. Their little white onesies are the best too. BUT that being said, you probably wont even dress your baby much, keep them naked! don't wash them right away. All that vernix protects there skin for the first days of their life, and skin on skin time is the most powerful tool you have. A swaddle is clothing enough until you establish that nursing bond.
- Baby toys, blankets, diapers,wipes. Save space, save money, let the hospital give you what you need during your stay.
- Pacifiers. most newborns wont take them, and if your breastfeeding they are a big no no until the nursing bond is established.
- Make up. Birth is a great chance to start embracing your natural beauty. Make up during labor can get messy, and bothersome as there is fluids on and around your face. It's better to have a nude face, then black mascara cheeks. Plus the last thing that you want is orange foundation covered sheets and pillows, or something running into your eyes when your trying to see your new baby.
- A breast pump. They will provide one for you if needed! Ideally though baby will be the only stimulation you need until you get home. Pumping too early can cause an oversupply which as good as it sounds is NOT a great thing. Hand expressing is ten times better then pumping once you figure it out, and giving baby a taste of hand expressed milk on a spoon first, can help coax baby to have a better latch if they are not quite opening their mouth enough to start nursing. Just a taste of that liquid gold can be so encouraging to them. If you have a nicu baby hand expressing is enough for the first day or two also.
- A birth ball. MOST hospitals will provide you with one upon request. They also (almost) all have peanut balls, squat bars that attach to the bed, sheets for tug o war, and more! Don't be afraid to request and utilize them before medication if your labor needs a little help, is stalled, or you need some pain relief or pushing variations.
I'll come back and add more tips and photos here as I gather them. Until then, peace and blessings mama's. I hope your birth is beautiful, empowering, and healthy in every way. <3
- Your future birth photographer,
Mrs. Sprinkles (Leann)