Here’s some critical advice: Don’t wait until the water breaks to pack your hospital bags. There’s a lot you need to be prepared for in the hospital, a place you will be staying for two to 72 hours under the most sleep-deprived, stressful, blissful circumstance in your life. But what to pack? We got the scoop from Brooke Patmor, certified birth and postpartum Doula at Natural Resources, a non-profit parenting organization in San Francisco, on what you actually need to have packed and ready to go to the hospital when your baby is ready to come into the world. Don’t wait — pack it now.
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Birth Bag Essential #1: The Right Bag
“Generally speaking, usually having one main bag for you and your partner is solid,” Patmor says. “A suitcase or duffel bag suffices for that.” But remember, you’re going to be in the hospital or birthing center for a few days, so you’ll need a few different bags. “Bring a couple of changes of clothes for each of you in your suitcase. And then on top of the main bag bring one or two tote bags full of food.” We’re a big fan of the Aviator 40-liter roller duffel from Douchebags since it comes with customizable compartments and can be hooked to the 30-liter Hugger backpack. That way, all of your bags are easily transportable and on wheels together. And for food, nothing beats a Yeti Hopper. It’s soft-sided, insulated, leak-proof, and is comfortable to carry (which you can’t say of many coolers).
Birth Bag Essential #2: Comfortable Clothes
Pack a light robe and house shoes for your partner who will be laboring in your main bag. “A robe is such a clutch thing to have for laboring because it’s easy to take on and off and it’s your own—not a gnarly hospital gown,” Patmor says. “You have to take any opportunity to be more comfortable when it comes to labor.” Patmor also recommends packing slippers or some other form of house shoes for the both of you. “Bring slippers or Crocs or something,” she says. “Because there should be no bare feet in the hospital. That floor is disgusting.” Patmor also suggests bringing lots of layers: socks, sweatpants, and cozy jackets since hospital rooms can get chilly. Oh, bonus points if you pack swim trunks for yourself so you can jump into the shower or birthing tub with your partner if she needs you to.
Birth Bag Essential #3: Tools for the Birth
No matter what other websites may tell you, you don’t need a yoga ball. “Most hospitals have them, and they’re obnoxious to carry around if you don’t have to do so,” Patmor says. But what should you bring when it comes to helpful birthing tools? Well, things that make birth more comfortable and more relaxing for your partner. “These are the things that could be seen as ‘extras’ but make the entire experience better for everyone,” Patmor says. “Bring a speaker with a playlist that you’ve already picked out together. Have photos from home that you and set around the room. Bring a birthing statue or a focal point that your partner can focus and meditate on during birth. LED candles or string of lights can be really nice if the hospital doesn’t have dimmers—that light is so harsh. Bring oil or massage lotion for before and after labor. Have a heating pad or a hot water bladder—sometimes hospitals don’t have these on hand. And sometimes it’s overkill but it can be great to have one of your own pillows. It’s nice to have after your baby is born it’s better than a sterile hospital thing.” Patmor also says that a lot of clients like to use essential oils and a diffuser for aromatherapy—anything to keep any funky smells at bay and to create a good atmosphere in the hospital. For that, we like doTerra’s aromatherapy oils. Also not a bad idea?—bringing along positive affirmation cards so you know what to say or cue the nurses with helpful phrases for the person birthing. “These are all unnecessary, but they’re nice perks that make all the difference,” Patmor says.
Birth Bag Essential #4: Hygiene
Even though hospitals are “sterile,” you’re going to need plenty of personal hygiene products for you and partner. “As the father, who’s going to be in the mother of his child’s personal space during birth, you need to have the toothbrush and toothpaste—duh—but also gum and mints,” Patmor warns. “It’s so important to have fresh mouth smells around the laboring woman—who is incredibly sensitive to smells during labor.” Pack your normal Dopp kit (shower essentials, deodorant, and a razor), but also pack a few extras for your partner. “The hospital will have pads and underwear but nipple cream and coconut oil are important additions to pack,” Patmore says. “Any new mother will love nipple cream.” (She recommends MotherLove Nipple Cream as a client fave).
Patmor also suggests having some witch hazel to put on the sanitary pads after birth, since it’s soothing and healing. And don’t forget to pack extra hair ties if your partner has long hair to keep it out of her face during and after labor.
Birth Bag Essential #5: Snacks!
This is probably the most important thing you’ll bring to the hospital. Pack loads of food and make it food you actually like. “That sounds funny and redundant, but if you don’t like bananas, don’t pack them,” Patmor says. “You’ll be peckish and you need to be eating frequently and be able to enjoy it and keep it down.” She suggests packing nuts, seeds, fruits to munch on since they’re all high in nutrients and easy to digest. What else should be in the snack tote? Coconut water and/or bone broth to replace electrolytes after labor. Plus, pack some real meals (that’s where the cooler comes in.) “Bring something that you can heat up at the hospital that’s hearty and easy to digest for after birth—like a stew or something because oftentimes you’ll just get a cold hospital sandwich and that’s not enough for what you just went through as a family,” Patmor says. “I can guarantee that you’ll be hungry and you deserve more than hospital food.”