It’s Time to Pack! A Pro Tells What to Bring to the Hospital

From the moment a mother realizes she is expecting she begins preparing for the arrival of her baby. The nesting instinct is often noticed around the fifth month of pregnancy, but many women report its acute presence in the final days of pregnancy.

It is during this sudden burst of energy when a mother feels like packing for the hospital. After all, the hospital will be the mother’s first nest that she will provide for her baby, and the space needs to be a comfortable, welcoming environment for the changing family.

As you can imagine, expectant mothers think to bring a variety of items with them for delivery, from items as simple as a favorite new outfit for their baby’s special first picture, to more unusual items like a small bag of dirt from their home state (so their baby is born on home soil). Of course, many of these items that are brought to the hospital are not recommended for safety reasons.

To make it simple, we recommend packing three bags in advance to take to the hospital with items that will greatly add to your comfort and convenience.
First, pack a small bag that you may need if you have to go without much warning, or if you make more than one trip for “false” labor.

In either case, a small bag containing items that will be needed immediately is advised. If applicable to your circumstance, this bag should include your insurance information; birth plan; pediatrician name and phone number; cord blood collection kit; a list of names, numbers or even e-mail addresses of friends that will be waiting to hear from you; and a picture of those who depend on you to help you focus.

Next, pack a Mother’s Bag with more comfort and essential items. Be sure to take a tour of your delivery facility to find out if you will remain in one room or be moved after delivery. The more items you take with you into the labor area, the more you might have to move later.

The hospital will provide you with linens, pillows, gowns, mesh underwear, pads and a few generic toiletries. Consider packing personal items for this bag that will keep you comfortable, such as lip moisturizer, hair barrettes, music, magazines, videos and hard candy or lollipops for labor.

After delivery you may want cosmetics and toiletries to freshen up, glasses or contacts, socks or slippers, loose clothing and a supportive bra. Don’t forget snacks for your cravings during late night feedings or a few coins for the vending machine. You also may want to bring a special pillow to assist with sleep or for positioning when feeding your baby. Don’t forget your camera to record those first few days with your new baby, but experience in the hospital has proven that most expensive items such as jewelry and credit cards should be left at home. If a new sibling will be visiting the room, consider bringing a special gift to make him or her feel part of the exciting event.

Finally, you should pack a bag for your baby. The hospital provides basic items such as diapers, T-shirts, blankets, a hat and suction bulb. If your baby needs them, the hospital also provides formula for bottle-feeding and petroleum jelly for circumcisions.

You might consider bringing receiving blankets for traveling home, a pacifier if you have a specific preference, and lightweight clothing if you want your baby to wear more than the T-shirt provided. In order to promote safe sleep initiatives, you should not bring stuffed animals, fluffy blankets or quilts, pillows or any toys for the crib. To reduce the risk of suffocation, balloons should not be attached to the crib. Door decorations are discouraged for infant security reasons, but can be used to decorate inside your room. You are required by law to have your infant travel in a properly prepared and installed infant car seat on their first trip home.

Packing items to build your hospital “nest” should be fun! Don’t stress over every outfit for you or the baby as loved ones will be visiting to bring you anything you might have forgotten. The hospital also has a gift shop with items for you and the baby.

Mary Lou Bowers is an RN at Carolinas Medical Center.