When you’re headed to the hospital for delivery, what you pack can make a real difference in the level of comfort and calm for both you and your wife. What to bring? Cheryl K. Baker, a certified childbirth educator, founder of Los Angeles Birth Partners, and doula for more than 1,000 births in the last four decades, has seen a thing or two. Here’s her advice.
Things to Bring to the Hospital For Baby Birth: Yoga Ball
Also called a birthing ball, these large, inflatable gadgets can be purchased from any sporting goods store and are Baker’s top suggestion for birth gear. “They are really helpful to sit on during labor, as they open up the pelvis and relax the perineum,” she says. “Most women find it more comfortable to sit on them than to lie in bed.” Equally helpful: The balls can be used for a gentle rocking motion, which encourages the baby’s descent. “Babies need movement to get out,” says Baker. “The more you move, the easier it gets.”
Things to Bring to the Hospital For Baby Birth: Loose Clothing
“Your hospital will offer a traditional gown, but if your wife is more comfortable in her own clothes, she should bring something loose that she’s not too attached to, because things will get messy,” says Baker. She points out that for epidurals, a hospital gown with an open back may be more convenient, although wearing an oversized cardigan backwards can achieve a similar effect. There are also several companies that sell attractive, comfortable gowns online.
Things to Bring to the Hospital For Baby Birth: A Comforter
While you don’t want to arrive for the delivery looking like those people at the airport lugging five suitcases for a weekend in Miami, you also want your wife to be as comfortable as possible. The lower her stress, the easier the delivery. To that end, pack your own soft blanket or quilt. “I did a birth last Saturday where the family brought their comforter from home and the mom was really cozy,” says Baker. “The extra warmth can be nice as many women get shivers during labor, and the familiarity of being wrapped in your own blanket is reassuring.”
Things to Bring to the Hospital For Baby Birth: Your Pillow
The hospital will provide these as well, and your wife might want to use those industrial options to tuck between her legs, or for lower-body support since they will get fluids on them. But for a soft head rest, or a comforting accessory to squeeze during contractions, nothing beats a pillow from home. And don’t be shy — bring yours along as well. Who knows how long you’ll be waiting, and having a comfortable pillow makes camping out in a hospital chair a little more relaxing.
Things to Bring to the Hospital For Baby Birth: Electric Candles
Now we’re getting fancy. Electric candles are a favorite of Baker’s because they add a warm, cozy glow without the fire hazard to an otherwise cold and sterile space. “I always carry these—and a lot of other things in my labor bag,” she says. “I’m like Mary Poppins, minus the lamp.”
Things to Bring to the Hospital For Baby Birth: Ginger Chews
Nausea is common during labor, but these natural remedies help with the sensation. Plus the chewing action stimulates saliva production, aiding with another common labor complaint: Dry mouth.
Things to Bring to the Hospital For Baby Birth: Hair Ties
If your wife has long hair, a handful of extra elastics to hold it back can come in handy during the hot and heavy minutes of pushing.
Things to Bring to the Hospital For Baby Birth: Battery-Operated Fan
Labor is hard work, and hospital rooms can heat up in a hurry. Packing a small, portable fan lets you position the fresh air directly where your wife wants it, without taking up precious real estate. “It gets really hot and sweaty during the birthing process,” says Baker. “A battery-operated fan — or even one of those handheld Japanese fans — is an easy way to take control over the climate.”
Things to Bring to the Hospital For Baby Birth: Hot Packs
If it sounds odd to pack for hot and cold climates, welcome to the wacky world of childbirth. “A lot of my moms get the shivers during labor,” says Baker. “It can be 100 degrees out, but they suddenly feel like they’re freezing.” Thermacare heat wraps can be applied to the lower back to ease discomfort, or your wife can squeeze them in her hands if she is cold.
Things to Bring to the Hospital For Baby Birth: Portable Speakers
At Baker’s L.A. hospital, all speakers were recently removed from rooms, so if your wife wants to give birth to the sounds of Bach, she’ll have to hook it up herself. “I like the Beats Pill speaker — it’s nice and small,” suggests Baker. “But really, anything that will play classical or soothing music works.” Baker’s playlist advice: Go instrumental. “I’ve heard everything, including a couple that wanted to listen to the Grateful Dead during labor,” she says. “But most of the time, spa-like music that’s nice and relaxing is the way to go.”