We’ve written about packing for medical stays, with a focus on how to maintain privacy, dignity, and comfort. Today we want to discuss a more joyous trip to the hospital – childbirth. We recently welcomed a new baby to our family and wanted to share what we’ve learned.
- Paperwork: Coordinate with your obstetrician to send visit notes and test results to the hospital ahead of time. You’ll need identification and an insurance card on admission. If you’ve made a birth plan, give copies to the staff so everyone understands your wishes.
- Toiletries: Hospitals fashion the rooms to feel more like a hotel with wood panels and soft lighting, but try as they might, it’s not a five-star resort. Our delivery room had a hairdryer, but no shampoo and only antibiotic soap for washing. Don’t forget lip balm, body lotion, hairbrush, hair tie, toothbrush, and face wash.
- Clothes: Loose-fitting, comfortable clothes are the best. Pack a supportive, non-constricting bra (nursing bra if you plan to breastfeed), a couple pairs of socks and underwear, slippers, and flat comfy shoes.
- Devices: Bring storage cases if you wear glasses, contacts, hearing aids, or dental retainers so they don’t get lost. Pack your cell phone with the charger, extra-long cable, and earphones or a small speaker.
- Food: You won’t be allowed to eat or drink if you’re scheduled for a C-section. You may have water and clear liquids during labor, but probably not solid food. Save your favorite snacks for after the baby is born.
- Car seat: The hospital needs to confirm that you can safely bring the baby home. The car seat needs to be less than six years old and not recalled.
- Going home clothes: The hospital has basic onesies, but you may want your little one in something special. We like long-sleeve zip-ups that cover the feet. Bring two different sizes (newborn and 3-month). Don’t forget the outer layers if you’re delivering in the colder months.
- Pediatrician’s contact information: Staff will ask for this and schedule the baby’s newborn appointment before you leave the hospital. If you don’t have a pediatrician, they can help you find one.
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For support person
Since COVID, hospitals only allow one or two people to accompany the mom during admission for childbirth. To be safe, pack as if you’ll be stuck there for a few days. Bring a change of clothes or two, loungewear, and toiletries because you’ll also want to shower. Of course, bring your cell phone, charger, laptop or tablet if you need to work (because most employers don’t start counting parental leave until the baby is born). Don’t forget the snacks.
What not to pack
- Diapers and wipes: Plenty of those are at the hospital. In fact, bring a tote bag to take the extra home, along with the universal blue and pink striped receiving blankets and burp cloths.
- Breast pump, formula, and bottles: If you need to pump, the hospital provides you with a breast pump and supplies. Lactation consultants visit multiple times a day to bring nipple creams, breast pads, warm compresses, and whatever you need to make breastfeeding successful. The hospital also has ready-to-feed single-serving liquid formula.
- Sanitary pads: The hospital provides extra-large pads, ice packs, perineal sprays, cooling wipes and hemorrhoid creams to help your bottom heal. The nurses are experts at wound care. If something feels uncomfortable, just ask and they will find a solution for you.
- Fancy cameras and video recorders: Visitor restrictions make it difficult to bring a designated photographer to the hospital. Your partner or support person will likely be absorbed in the moment. You may rely on the kindness of staff to capture the shot and ease of use is crucial. Simply unlock your phone and hand it over.
- Jewelry and valuables: As with any hospital stay, leave those at home.
Lastly, bring joy and optimism. No birth goes perfectly according to plan, roll with the moment (without sacrificing your safety or health) and savor the experience that’s uniquely yours. Also don’t overpack, as you’ll be leaving with a significant extra cargo.
Qing Yang and Kevin Parker are a married couple and live in Springfield. Dr. Yang received her medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine and completed residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is an anesthesiologist at HSHS Medical Group. Parker has helped formulate and administer public policy at various city and state governments around the country. He is formerly the group chief information officer for education with the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology. This column is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The opinions are those of the writers and do not represent the views of their employers.