10 Things You Need to Pack in Your Hospital Bag for Your Birth at Virginia Baptist Hospital
I’ll be honest — I was so excited about my birth, I think that I started packing my birth bag around 30 weeks — maybe even earlier. I carefully planned out everything that I could ever possibly need, what nursing bra I would labor in, sleep in, and wear during my stay in the mother baby unit. Every time I thought of something new that might be useful, I would run to Target or order it on Amazon and add it to my bag.
You probably don’t need to pack your bag at 30 weeks, and you probably don’t need nearly as many things as I packed, but it is a good idea to have it packed at least a few weeks before your due date just in case you go into labor early. Most likely, you’ll have plenty of time in early labor to pack everything if you really need to, but if you’re like me, I was too nervous and excited once labor started and I know I would have forgotten a lot.
Earlier this week, I posted a survey on my Facebook and Instagram to find out what others forgot, or deemed important, in their hospital bags. Between their responses, and the things I have found to be helpful through my own birth and my experience as a photographer, here’s a list of things (outside of the basic necessities like your clothes and toiletries) that you may want to include in your bag!
Did you know that, for most low-risk birthing people, it’s okay, and actually encouraged by many experts to eat during labor? Your body is doing A LOT of work, and in order to do that work, your body needs energy! You should plan to discuss this ahead of time with your care provider, but ultimately, whether or not you eat during labor is YOUR decision. So, if you are low risk, it’s a good idea pack snacks that are easy to eat and provide lots of energy! I personally ate a lot of Lara Bars while I was in labor. Some other ideas are honey sticks, yogurt, fruit, apple sauce/chia/fruit pouches, cheese sticks, baked oatmeal/muffins, and peanut/almond butter to-go packets. It’s good to have a variety of options because you never know what will sound good to you in labor!
As a side note, you can also order food for yourself and your partner while you are in labor. Just be sure to let your care provider know because they may need to update your chart saying that you are allowed to eat before you can order your plate. (For more information on the risks and benefits of eating during labor, read this article from Evidence Based Birth!)
Even if you aren’t low-risk and you don’t plan to eat during labor, it’s still not a bad idea to pack snacks for your partner, as well as for the rest of your hospital stay! Also, you can make labor-ade ahead of time, freeze it in ice cube trays, and then transfer to freezer bags to bring with you. You can crush it up and eat it with a spoon, or mix it with a little water and let it melt! (VBH has a sparkling water fountain and I like to add a few laborade cubes to my sparkling water, even when I’m just there to work!)
Peppermint oil is a great tool to have for birth and postpartum. During transition, a lot of people experience nausea, and peppermint oil can be really great for helping with that. A few drops in the emesis bag so that you can inhale it any time you feel like you may vomit is all you need! Plus it will help mask the unpleasant smell if you do vomit.
After the birth, using the bathroom is sometimes a little difficult. You’ve experienced some trauma in the lower half of your body and sometimes your bladder doesn’t like to cooperate very well. If you can’t urinate within a certain amount of time, it may be necessary to have a catheter place to relieve your bladder. If you’d like to avoid that, many people find that a drop or two of peppermint oil in the toilet help to relax those muscles and makes urination (and sometimes also those first bowel movements!) a little bit easier.
Your own pillow
Are you picky about the pillows you sleep with? If so, be sure to bring your own pillow. I wouldn’t recommend using it during labor, since there’s a good chance it will get messy. But if you are being induced or are in the hospital to be observed for any length of time before actual labor, having your own pillow to sleep with will help! Plus, you’ll want it for your time on the mother-baby unit too.
Your own non-slip socks or slippers
Let’s be honest — the socks that the hospital provide for you are maybe the most uncomfortable socks in the world. They never fit right (at least for me) and they’re not very soft. But if you’re going to be up walking around, which is really helpful during early labor, you may want to have some slippers or comfy socks to wear. A lot of places sell cute non-skid socks with birth-related sayings on the bottom! (I always try to snap a picture when people wear these!)
Portable Speaker and/or headphones
Becca shared “Bluetooth speakers with a well-curated playlist on my phone was a must for me! I needed the lyrics of the music to give me focus and strength through labor.” I’ve seen music be a comfort to many people during labor, and having a portable blue tooth speaker to play the music on is a great way to do it! Headphones are also a good option because it helps drown out the noise of the nurses, monitors, and birth team if you really want to be able to get in the zone and focus.
Your own blanket
I’ll be honest, I did not bring my own blanket and never felt like I wanted/needed my own blanket. But, I have seen a lot of people bring their own blanket to use, and it was frequently mentioned in the Facebook and Instagram poll responses so I’m adding it to the list because apparently this is a big comfort item for a lot of people! If you really like a soft, cozy blanket, bring one with you because the ones at the hospital aren’t all that soft or cozy (although they will give them to you warmed if you ask!).
Cash or check for birth certificate
Ok, so when I was surveying other birth professionals about this, I mentioned this being the first thing I thought of because I personally forgot to bring it, and they were all surprised because no one had ever heard of paying for your birth certificate at the hospital. Apparently this is just a VBH thing! While staying on the mother-baby unit, someone will come around to get yours and baby’s information to fill out the birth certificate, and if you pay with cash or check, they will mail you baby’s birth certificate! It’s really great, because then you don’t have to go wait in any lines at the DMV later to get it. Kelli, a VBH nurse commented on my post and let me know that it is $12! Thank you Kelli! So get a money order ahead of time or pack a check in your bag so you can skip the lines! Many people who commented on my Facebook and Instagram posts also recommended having cash or some change packed for vending machine snacks, but I think that the vending machines at VBH take cards now too. Never hurts in case they’re broken though!
A Robe.. or two!
I had a long, fuzzy robe that I wore during labor whenever I got out of the birth pool. It was cozy and kept me warm, allowed me to cover up when I wanted, plus it also provides easy access for cervical checks, giving birth, nursing, and pretty much anything else you need to do while nursing! The only bad thing about wearing it during labor meant that it got kind of dirty and then I wished I had a second one to wear during the rest of our hospital stay! The next time, I would probably pack two.
If you are planning to have a birth photographer and you’re wondering what you should pack to wear during birth, I wrote a post about that which you can find here!
This is a trick that I first learned from Debbie Perdew of Special Treasure Doula Services, but I completely forgot about it when I first made this list of things to pack! My friend Toni shared this: “We put it on baby’s butt so the first sticky poops wipe right off!” Those first few days of poop (meconium) can be really hard to clean up, but a little oil rubbed on their bottom before their first diaper is put on, and then after every diaper change, makes it a lot easier! If you don’t have coconut oil, olive oil should work just as well!
Not too much stuff!
When I asked what people should pack on Facebook, Brittany said “I packed way too many clothes for myself! 😂” Many first time parents don’t know what they will need during their first birth, and overpacking is pretty common (I definitely overpacked)! Ultimately, there really aren’t too many things that you truly need that the hospital can’t provide for you, so don’t stress too much about trying to bring everything you think you could possibly want. Some people also find it helpful to pack two small bags, one for labor, and one for after. That way, there’s less stuff you have to lug with you from room to room, and your partner can get the rest of what you need from your vehicle once you’re settled into your room in the mother-baby unit.
Bonus Tips from Experienced Parents
There were so many great tips from the people who responded to my posts, and I didn’t want to leave them out! Here’s a few, but if you want to read through all of the responses, you can find the Facebook post here, and I posted the responses in my Instagram Highlights.
Chapstick - it is so dry in the hospital.
White noise machine or app. Made napping over the incessant machines beeping a lot easier.
Activities for the older kids.
Coins for snacks, comfy but cute clothes and makeup and hair stuff for photos (i was swimming with my first and my water broke and we left right away to the hospital... i had messy chlorine hair lol and nothing to wash my hair with or change into minus the hospital robe. a macbook for movies for downtime. my own swaddles or cute etsy swaddles that would be pretty for photos! i love the idea of bringing essential oils, i never had done that but i know how helpful those can be.
So - weird but hydrocortisone cream! I had a terrible reaction to the heavy duty epidural tape and the MB nurses weren’t allowed to administer benadryl cream— isn’t that weird? My back was covered in itchy welts. Easy enough to grab from the pharmacy but still I definitely packed it for my next two births.Otherwise - I always included favorite toiletries for that glorious first shower and some make up—which for me was a way to feel like myself and provide some sense of familiarity in the midst of so much change.
I missed my body pillow so badly!! Also, I wish I had brought my own baby soap... I died a little inside when they used Johnson & Johnson on my brand new baby. Eeeek.
I packed a small dimmable lamp. I HATE fluorescent lights. It was great for all the nursing assessments and late-night feedings. It made it much nicer in the postpartum room!
A focusing item! We brought a nursery item and a sonogram for the wall opposite the bed.
Everyone told me to bring my own towels and nursing pillow but I just used the hospital pillows and towels and it was fine. I was glad though to have brought two robes, one for laboring in and a fresh one for after my first shower. And I always forget the checkbook for the birth certificate and waiting at the DMV with kids sucks.
I was on that labor and delivery bed for 5 whole days before my baby finally came and my butt and back hurt so bad! One of my nurses got me an egg crate, and while I don’t recommend bringing your own, if you have any kind of extended stay in labor and delivery, you can definitely ask for one!