Babies arrive when they feel like it. Day or night, if baby wants out, baby wants out!
For first time parents, packing for hospital or preparing for the birth of your first child can feel a little overwhelming… there are so many things to consider and try and remember in the buzz of it all, when really you feel a bit clueless. Well have no fear, this article is here to help break down the must haves for your first birth.
Take my advice mama, split it up into these four main sections and keep reading to find out why midwives actually recommend these items, and how they may come in handy during your transition to motherhood. Some of these items can be provided by the hospital and work just as well, however, bringing your own things can add a personal touch and a sweet reminder of home when things feel tough.
During your labour and birth
Refillable water bottle: Hydration, hydration, hydration! It is important to increase your intake of fluids at the end of pregnancy and when moving into labour and birth. By staying hydrated and using a reusable water bottle, you’ll have far more energy and stamina, and let’s be honest, you’re going to need it! Additionally, if you’re hydrated, you may be less likely to need intravenous fluids during, which is something small, but still contributes to one less thing to think about during labour. Of course, your midwife will assess this and discuss your options with you on the day, so don’t stress.
- TIP: Try filling your water bottle with coconut water! A little sweet and refreshing treat packed full of electrolytes, coconut water is a great alternative to water in labour.
Phone and phone charger: So, you may think this goes without saying, leave without my phone? Are you crazy!!!! Honestly though, when it’s go time, even something as vital as your phone may be forgotten and left at home. Don’t forget the charger either, you may need it. Think of all the photos you may want to take, or perhaps even some soothing music? Phone = VITAL.
Music speaker: Playing music during labour is a great relaxation tool as it allows you to focus on something and immerse yourself in your favourite sounds whilst going into labour. I have seen a lot of mamas create a ‘birth playlist’ ranging from classical music to Justin Bieber, hey, whatever soothes you, soothes you!
- TIP: In preparation for birth you may like to listen to these songs and imagine a positive birthing experience. This may associate warming and beautiful thoughts to your familiar songs.
Aromatherapy: Bringing along your diffuser and essential oils from home can be a super effective way to feel more relaxed during labour. Aromatherapy draws on the healing power of plants with the use of essential oils to enhance physical and mental wellbeing. The oils can be massaged into the skin, in a bath or inhaled using a steam infusion or burner. Labour can feel a little bit scary at the time, you’re tense, your body is tense and undergoing a lot of stress. Research shows that aromatherapy oils such as lavender and clary sage have been proven to help take the edge off and give you some support with pain relief. Have a quick chat with your midwife about which she thinks would be best, and which oils are safe.
Birth Ball: These exercise balls are cheap, cheerful and a Godsend during birth. Sitting in a squat like position allows for movement in the hips and joints, which can alleviate pain. Peanut shaped exercise balls are great for lateral positioning on the bed. Similarly, they open your pelvis and increase the diameter to create room for your bub.
Tens Machine: Tens or ‘Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation’ is a method of pain relief that can be used in labour. It might sound scary, but it is just a small battery-powered gadget that uses sticky pads on the skin, that feel like a tingling sensation, to stimulate the nerves to relieve pain. Anything electrical can sound daunting, but honestly, this is more of a tingle; a lovely, pain reducing tingle.
Healthy Snacks: This one seems obvious, birth or not, who doesn’t want their favourite snacks around at every opportunity?! As well as bringing us immense joy, snacks can also give you a much needed energy boost. Fruits like watermelon are a great choice, as they are a source of hydration and are packed with natural sugars.
- TIP: I always recommend that mamas only eat small amounts during labour as it can make them feel nauseous. There are times where eating is not recommended in the case of an emergency caesarean section etc.
Dressing Gown: Regardless of being pregnant or not, dressing gowns are one of life’s greatest comforters. They are especially super easy and convenient if you wish to get in and out of the bath during labour. It saves getting fully dressed again, and a lot of mamas I care for often prefer to be in underwear or naked.
Slippers or Flip Flops: Maintaining movement during your labour can optimise the processes and walking around your birth room is made easy with comfortable and convenient footwear!
Bathing Suits: Some mamas prefer not to be nude in the bathtub or shower (personal preference). Water immersion during labour is a fantastic form of natural pain relief, so if you don’t fancy being completely naked whilst hopping in and out of the bath/shower, remember your bathers!
After birth: in the initial postpartum
Breastfeeding Friendly Clothing: If you have birthed in a hospital, changing out of hospital gown attire is the first step towards motherhood! Pack clothing that is loose and that can be unbuttoned easily if you are breastfeeding. You’ve just undergone one of the most immensely challenging and life-changing experiences of your life, trust me when I say, you will want comfortable clothing.
Nursing Bra: Goes hand in hand with ‘mum-friendly’ clothing. Wearing a specialised nursing bra is essential if you even choose to wear one. They are made looser than normal so your boobs aren’t restricted. Maternity bras usually have an easy access clip at the front for feeding time.
Large Maternity Pads: It is normal for bleeding to happen up to 6 weeks following birth. In the initial postpartum period (first 3 days), your bleeding will be the heaviest as your uterus is contracting the most. Make sure to frequently change your pad especially if you have stitches. Day by day your bleeding will get lighter, thank goodness!
Large comfortable underwear: Your belly may not immediately return to it’s normal size, so it is very important to consider this when choosing your postpartum underwear. These should be soft, and big enough to accommodate those large maternity pads. Realistically, they’re not going to feel the sexiest of underwear, but you’ve just had a baby, so I really don’t think it matters.
- TIP: If you have had a caesarean section, ensure that you pull the band of the underwear ‘up and over’ your wound line. Having it directly on the incision can cause irritation and infection.
Heat Pack: Bringing your own heat pack from home is perfect as you can warm it as you would like! Heat packs are useful in relieving afterbirth pains in those first few days. Afterbirth pains are the contraction type pain that mothers experience following birth. They are caused by the uterus contracting back to its pre-pregnancy state. This shrinking process is called ‘involution’. The pains feel short and ‘come and go’ just like your labour contractions would. These pains will pass eventually, and are nothing to feel concerned about.
Notepad and Pen: Often forgotten by mamas. Bring your notepad to your bath demonstration session/parent education seminar to jot down tips as these classes usually cannot be recorded or filmed to respect the privacy of the healthcare professionals.
Hygiene Products: Your favourite shampoo, conditioner, soap, and face wash are things to remember to pack. Mothers describe that first shower following birth like the most incredible shower they have ever had! Hospitals usually only have basic toiletries so trust me when I say, treat yourself to some strawberry and milk scented shower cream!
- TIP: The first shower after birth can feel a bit funny, and mamas may feel dizzy. This is due to the blood lost during birth. Hospitals often have shower seats that mamas can use to sit down. So sit down, take your time and enjoy that first blissful shower.
Swaddles: 3-4 are recommended as your baby is usually wrapped in the hospitals ‘bunny-rugs’ following birth. A tight swaddle makes bub feel super safe and warm. It is said that a tight swaddle replicates the womb, which bub has obviously become accustomed to! Additionally, swaddling your baby limits their startle reflex.
- TIP: Tight swaddling with one swaddle is the safest way to sleep a newborn for the first 3 months of life. This reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. Loose blankets, pillows, or toys that can cover baby’s face cause SIDS and overheating your baby can also play a part. Ask your midwife for a demonstration on the safest way to swaddle your baby.
Baby Clothes: 3-4 singlets and jumpsuits should be on your list. As you would expect, a newborn baby can get a little messy. A quick and easy rule I like to recommend is just to put an extra layer onto bub, this ensures they stay cosy and warm, whilst not risking overheating.
Burp Cloths: Even if you aren’t bottle feeding, burp cloths or bibs are great to have as your baby is still adjusting to the outside world. All babies are a little mucusy, as they have just spent 9 months relaxing in the fluids of your womb, and now they have to adjust to the air. You may notice your baby vomit up clear or milk like fluid – this is normal, so relax mama! Ask your midwife the best positions to relieve them… this is usually on their front on the side, not laying on their back.
- TIP: Did you know that colostrum can break up mucus?. The ‘liquid gold’ is great at helping babies bring up all the mucus which makes them feel more comfortable and feed better in the long term.
Socks: Keeping your little one’s feet warm is really important! You may notice that their hands and feet may look a little grey or blue. This is normal, so don’t panic! If you are ever worried, have a look at their chest and look at it’s colour and it’s ‘work of breathing rate’. Additionally, seek immediate emergency medical care in the case of a ‘blue’ or dusky baby.
Baby body/hair wash: Delaying your newborn’s first bath can be a really great thing to consider, as it allows all the goodness (vernix) on their skin to soak in. Also, it gives them some more time to bond with mama and regulate their temperature. Sometimes your hospital may run a baby bath demonstration class for you to learn how to bathe bub, so you’ll want to bring along a natural, sensitive, and baby-friendly wash of your choice.
Nappies: Firstly, take your time, it takes a little while to become an expert at nappy changes! Secondly, the hospital will probably give you a few nappies, but you may be expected to bring your own, so definitely bring a pack just in case.
- TIP: Fold the nappy down and secure it a little lower during the first few days. This is to make sure that the umbilical cord clamp is outside the nappy and not rubbing on bub’s skin. Within 5-7 days following birth, it will dry up and fall off.
Baby Wipes: Similar to when we are deciding which products to put on our face, my recommendation would be to choose a wipe that is as natural as possible. In the beginning, when you are learning, use as many wipes as needed! Having babies is a messy job, so don’t worry about that. Also, if you have a baby girl, always wipe from forwards to backwards to minimise contamination.
- TIP: If you have a sleepy baby, try wiping a cool wet wipe over their bottom. They hate being annoyed and cold so this usually does the trick at waking them.
Breastfeeding Pillow: This can help with finding that all so special correct positioning when breastfeeding. Correct positioning and attachment encourages nutritive sucking and minimises nipple pain, which you will be oh so thankful for.
Car Seat: Make sure that your car seat is correctly fitted by a professional (ask your mechanic or nearest baby store) and suitable for a newborn baby. Law and regulation indicates that newborns must travel in a certified car seat.
For Partner / Dad
Button down shirt: Essential for your partner, for, if, and when they want to do some of that magical, heartwarming skin to skin time. Skin to skin is amazing for bub as it regulates their temperature, heart rate, and breath rate, and allows for some amazing bonding time.
Bathing Suit: If mama is having a water birth or using the shower, the partner can get involved and hop into the bath too! How awesome is that? Just make sure you pack some bathers because that’s the only way you’ll be allowed in.
Snacks: Being a beacon of support can be a tiring gig! Sometimes, labour and birth can last for a long time, and our hospitals usually only provide a meal for mamas. So, like I recommended earlier, bring some of your favourite foods in case you get hungry whilst at the hospital.
Phone/ camera: Support person, cheerleader, partner AND photographer. Another very important role that the partner can play is to capture the process (if mama wishes).
By categorising your ‘ultimate hospital checklist’ into 4 main categories of: labour and birth, postpartum, for baby, for partner, the duty of packing for hospital can become more achievable. In my time as a midwife, I see families from far and wide… those that have been preparing for months, some that haven’t, some in between, and all I can say is: Congratulations! Amazing work to you people as new parents in welcoming a bub into the world. Your transition to parenthood has already started and remember to always seek support from your midwife or medical professional if you have any questions or require additional advice.
Is there anything else you’d add to this list? Let us know in the comments!
Expert author: Aliza Carr