Having a baby is such a wonderfully exciting time of life. Not to mention busy! Between reading baby books, surfing parenting forums, buying cots, prams, clothes, nappies – plus setting up the nursery and installing the baby capsule in the car (whatever else you do, don’t forget to install the baby capsule in the car!) – it’s amazing how quickly the nine months of pregnancy disappears. And before you know it, you'll be on your way to hospital.
Which brings us to your hospital bag. Having a written checklist of things that you want to take to hospital with you can make the world of difference to how comfortable your stay will be. And when you are setting out on the parenthood journey, comfort is key!
Here's a guide to some of the basics you might want do or have ready before, during and after the birth.
- Paperwork : your medicare card, private health fund card, birth plan and a folder to keep it all in. The hospital will give you registration forms and family assistance office paperwork to complete as well, so a couple of pens are useful.
- Something to read: while some labours are over and done before you can say “epidural”, others take significantly longer. You may well be in the ward for over a day before bub arrives, so some light reading material for both you and your partner can help ease the nerves.
- Something to eat: snacking on small, tasty items will help pass the time – and keep your energy levels up. Muesli bars, fruit, lollies, juice and biscuits are all easy items to fit in your bag.
- Spare change: you shouldn’t need a great deal of cash in hospital, but some spare change to buy newspapers, extra food or other small items is handy.
The funniest situations we see are when the partner heads home to quickly pack up some stuff and comes back with a whole range of entirely the wrong things
- Extra clothes: slippers or warm socks, board shorts (for your partner) and extra t-shirts for both of you can be handy – as well as a plastic bag to put any wet or soiled clothing in.
- Your camera/mobile: whatever you do, don’t forget to bring the battery charger with you, just in case!
- Toiletries: Some lip balm (your lips may get dry), moisturiser and a hairband to tie your hair back are all useful. You might also like to bring your own heat-pack, face washers and spray bottle of water to make you more comfortable.
- Mobile phone/list of people to contact ... you'll want to shout your wonderful news to the world!
- Some comfy clothes: it’s great to have a nice outfit to wear when visitors arrive or to go home in, but comfortable tracksuit pants and loose-fitting T-shirts are going to be the most practical attire for breastfeeding and general recovery.
- Comfy bras and undies: don’t forget a couple of nursing bras, and you also may need more pairs of undies than you could ever imagine! Most mums recommend large, cheap pairs of black "nanna" undies that can be bought cheaply in bulk packs; these are especially a good idea for women who have a caesarean, as they can be positioned comfortably around the wound.
- More toiletries: pack all the toiletries you would usually pack for a holiday (hair care, moisturiser, etc). A hairdryer is great for drying stiches. A box of disposable breast pads will be helpful, as well as some sanitary pads and tissues (who knew you could leak from so many different areas at once!).
- Clothes for your baby: generally the hospital will provide wraps, nappies and singlets for your baby, but check this with them before you're admitted. You'll also want three or four jumpsuits and a few blankets of your own.
A few easy-to-forget items …
Associate Professor Hannah Dahlen has had an extensive clinical career in midwifery, and says there are a few items which mums-to-be often don’t think to pack, but which can make a world of comforting difference. They include:
- Your own pillow: having your own pillow could be the difference between a good night’s sleep – or not.
- An eye cover: it’s surprising how bright it can be in the hospital room at all hours of day and night.
- Your favourite brand of tea or coffee: if you're fussy, you might find the beverages on offer are uninspiring.
Professor Dahlen advises all expectant mums to have their bags packed by the 36-week mark, just in case. “The funniest situations we see are when the partner heads home to quickly pack up some stuff and comes back with a whole range of entirely the wrong things,” she says. “Many men often have trouble finding things at the best of times – so don’t leave it to chance!”