After the long months of pregnancy and however it went, packing the pregnancy bag is a sure sign that that journey is about to come to an end, and a precious little one to be welcomed into the world. This is why it's a pretty big deal. It is usually advised that the bags are all packed and ready to go by 36 weeks - as most babies arrive any time from that date, and the last thing any pregnant woman needs in the middle of contractions is the hassle of trying pack a bag or two.
But like many new mums I've spoken with, not many people actually have their bags all zipped up at 36 weeks. Personally, I was hoping to avoid a situation where I had my bags all packed early and then left with nothing else to do but wait. So while I did a tonne of research about what should actually go into the bag, I didn't have a fully zipped bag into a few days before my due date.
And I really think I undertook the research for the fun of it - constantly adding items to the list. Ok so what did we actually pack and how?
3 separate bags are typically recommended. One for mum, one for baby, and one for daddy or whoever else may be with mum for the delivery.
I didn't have much involvement in this. I simply asked Tee to pack his bag and I let him know the items that had been suggested:
- Change of clothes and slippers
- Toothbrush and toiletries if possible
- Coins / loose change for the car park
- Camera, Phone & Chargers
He wasn't fussed and I don't think he packed a few items till my contractions began. You can see why though - there's barely anything to pack. And since our hospital was only a 10 minute drive from home, he went home everyday to shower and change - for the entire week we were in the hospital.
We also didn't need coins/loose change because the car park accepted card payments.
One tip that would have been great to know is that we could have paid for a week's parking rather than pay per entry! Considering Tee probably drove to the hospital about 10-12 times during the labour period, the parking fees stacked up!
The baby's bag is also relatively easy & straight forward to pack seeing as none of the items are required until the baby is actually born. In fact when our son arrived, our baby bag for some reason was still in the car, and only after about 45 mins to one hour later did we get the items. The hospital provided the initial blanket and hat used.
So what did we need for the baby:
- Car seat - this was already fitted into the car and we wouldn't have been discharged without it
- 4 Sleep suits & 4 Body Suits - I had at least one first size and one size 0-3 months as we weren't too sure if he'll be a large baby.
- 2 Hats
- 2 Hand mittens - these were not very necessary as the sleep suits had an integrated hand mitten
- A pair of socks
- A pack of new born size 1 diapers - I'd received a pack of pampers free from some subscription service so it came in handy
- A pack of baby wipes - Some midwives / mum's prefer cotton wool and water for newborns though.
- 2 Blankets
- 2 Muslin squares - really just handy to have for all sorts - mopping up baby spit, placing on your shoulder to carry the baby etc.
- Milestone cards - again I'd received this first three sample cards in the post by signing up to something for new mums.
- Moisturising lotion and baby barrier nappy cream - didn't think we'd need these in the first few days but I threw it in for completeness!
Generally speaking we used pretty much everything we had packed for the baby! And even more. But that's because we ended up staying in the hospital much longer than planned, so Tee had to go home a couple of times to get new clothes.
The most important bag of all - the mummy bag! All to ensure that the pain and discomfort of labour is not made any worse by failure to pack the relevant items. And so very many mums-to-be tend to overdo. Especially when you're given the liberty to take as much as you can to feel comfortable and as close to home as you can. You're even encouraged to take family photos or your own pillow / pillowcase if that will help. I have no emotional attachments to my pillow, so I didn't bother with that.
Some items in the mummy bag are however very essential. Here's pretty much what I packed:
- Hospital Birth notes containing all my ante-natal records. I didn't have a written birth plan so didn't include this.
- Disposable underwear & maternity pads: Childbearing is a messy business. And with all the blood that's likely to get out after birth, these are a must have. If the underwear is disposable you can just dump them in the bin. If not, it's helpful to get old or cheap black underwear. Your favourite ones are not for the labour room!
- Nipple Cream: Trying to breastfeed after birth will likely be painful. This eases it. Definitely a need.
- Lip Balm: At least in the UK, I needed this and I had one. Yet most of my pictures still show me with cracked lips because I forgot to use it. Also thick socks would be helpful. I had one but the hospital provided one as well.
- Hair Bands: You don't want your hair getting in your face
- Toiletries & Bath Items: Deodorant, Facial wash, Moisturiser. Toothbrush & Toothpaste, Towel, Shower cap, cotton wool & cotton buds, bathroom slippers (I chose to go with the crocs to avoid any messy bathroom waters overly touching my feet). Basically you decide what's important. Sample sizes for toiletries help a great deal. I also had an eyeliner and lip gloss. Oh I also had nail polish remover. Don't laugh, I have an explanation. I'd read that sometimes access to your bare nail be required. I had gel polish on my fingers and didn't take that off. I had normal nail polish on my toes but didn't want to wipe it all off pre-labour. So I took my nail polish remover to use if need be. The need did not arise!
- Isotonic Drinks (Like Lucozade): For Energy
- Food: I definitely wasn't taking chances on this. Obviously couldn't take cooked food in, but I had lots of fruits! Tangerines, Apples, Bananas, Grapes, and snacks such as biscuits. (After the birth, Tee brought in home cooked meals for me daily!)
- Nursing nightwear and bras: a new pair nursing nightwear that I had bought, I found unnecessary. In fact, I hated them. My regular ones would have sufficed, and for nursing, button down PJs are fine too.
- Dressing gown and indoor slippers: I frequently had to walk across the corridors in these and the dressing gown is also handy for shower time.
- Disposable nursing pads and nursing pillow: the nursing pillow was so useful for feeding in the hospital. I didn't quite use the nursing pads because I barely had any leak.
- Massage Oils: I had Lavender and Tea tree oil. Might be helpful for massages during labour. Didn't use mine and they remain unopened as at the time of writing this.
- Camera, iPad + Chargers and Ear Phones, Book: We didn't use the camera and Tee used his phone for photos. I didn't make a playlist and simply played songs via YouTube. I had planned to read Trevor Noah's Born a Crime, during early labour when reading is still possible but finished it while still at home.
- Birth Ball: The hospital had one in each room, so i didn't need to bring in mine.
- Hand Fan - I'd read that some labour rooms are so hot! Mine wasn't, so I didn't need this.
- Clothing: It's helpful to include a couple of easy to wear clothes - you're likely to still have quite a bump after the baby. Loose joggers (dark colours!) and vests are also good to have!.
At the end of the day, I think very few items are absolute must-haves. A couple of my friends have had their babies in their car and bedroom floor - definitely had no bags packed! Little wonder a couple of nurses seemed to give me eyeroll after a quick glance at our bags, probably thinking "all of this just to have a baby?" But then again, why take chances?
If you've had a baby, did you overpack? What were your essentials you couldn't do without?