What to Pack for the Hospital

A fuss-free checklist of what you really need

Once you know you're in labor (or even just suspect you are), the last thing you'll want to think about is packing for the hospital or birthing center. That's why, sometime in your third trimester, it makes sense to put together a bag that will be ready to grab and take along as you waddle out the door. It's also a good time to download some relaxing music onto your iPod. Labor can last a while, so it pays to be prepared. Here's what every expecting mom will want to include in her hospital bag:

  • Your insurance card. Even if you've preregistered, you'll need to check in and have your info at hand.
  • Your birth plan. Bring a few copies so the whole team knows your preferences. No one will lose respect for you if you abandon your plan as labor ensues. They've have seen it all before, and they are there to support you.
  • Labor helpers. Your lips can get dry during labor, so bring lip balm. Don't forget your music and a photo or two to focus on (a beautiful sunset, your beloved dog—whatever makes you feel happy and at peace). You may also want to bring lotion so your partner can massage your neck, and tennis balls, which feel great pressed into your lower back if that is bothering you. Finally, a book or magazine can help keep you calm during the early stages.
  • A camera and/or videocamera. This is probably the most important item of all!
  • Your cell phone. That first call announcing that the baby is here (to your mom, of course!) is something you'll remember all your life. And then you'll have to call your 1,000 other relatives and friends, or at least update your Facebook status. If cell phones can't be used around the hospital equipment, never fear: Just use the hospital phone to make those first, most important calls.
  • A nice robe. This is what you'll put on when everyone flocks to your room for a look at the new baby. Skip the fancy nighties, though, and wear the comfy nightgowns the hospital supplies. It's not just that those pink-and-blue striped gowns are a rite of passage, it's also that you don't want to stain your own clothes.
  • Slippers and two pairs of socks. They'll help you feel cozy when you're resting or strolling to the bathroom or nursery.
  • Healthy snacks. Once you have your little darling, you'll be at the mercy of the hospital kitchen and vending machines. Bring trail mix, granola bars, and sugarless gum.
  • Toiletries. Pack deodorant, soap, shampoo, your toothbrush, toothpaste and hairbrush plus a little makeup and your glasses or contact lenses (and saline solution).
  • Two nursing bras and a nursing pillow if you plan to breastfeed.
  • Several pairs of underwear. The hospital will probably provide disposable undies, but you may prefer wearing your own.
  • An outfit for the baby to wear home (and in endless pictures!)
  • An outfit for you to wear home. No woman, we repeat no woman, fits into her old clothes after giving birth. This means you'll wear maternity clothes home and for some time to come. But believe us, you'll be way too busy—and too happy—to care.

This article was written by the publishers of Parents and American Baby magazines.

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