What you actually need to pack in your hospital bag!

The night before I went into labor I was texting with my pregnant girlfriends about what all we should pack in our hospital bags and how I probably should really get on that. Of course at 34 weeks I thought I had plenty of time but oh no, I found myself in the labor mere hours afterwards with nothing but the clothes I wore in and my purse - that. was. it. As someone who is always prepared, this was a disaster. With all of the craziness of going into early labor, not having the things I needed was actually one of the most stressful parts. I ended up face timing with my brother who was shopping for nursing bras for me in Walmart (bless him!), wearing a nightgown with a parrot on it that said "Feeling Tropical", and had a full on melt down in the NICU because I was so hot and uncomfortable in my clothes! Not exactly how I pictured my hospital birthing experience. I felt horrible for being so materialistic but I realize now it wasn't about the stuff - it was about having the things I needed to be comfortable so that I could worry less about how I was feeling and more about my new baby. 

While talking about this with some girlfriends, my friend shared how stupid she felt in the custom hospital gown someone convinced her was a "must have" and urged me to share my experience and suggestions here on the blog. So here you have it, for all you first time mamas out there here is my master list of all the things I wished I had in the hospital for delivery and our time in the NICU (with none of the monogrammed hospital gown bullshit):

For mama:
Nursing nightgowns: a few loose, soft, longer length, sleeveless nursing nightgowns in dark colors. I recommend nursing nightgowns that have a shelf bra to give you some support and hold in your nursing pads. After labor or a C-section the last thing you want is a waistband or buttons or sleeves that feel restricting or bunchy. You will need to easily unclip or pull the nightgown down off your shoulders to nurse and you'll want something longer so that you can feel comfortable walking down the hallways (say to go to the NICU) and so when you sit in the vinyl hospital chairs your thighs don't stick. Black or dark colors are slimming and forgiving and will hide all those breastmilk stains and leaks among other things. Trust me, keep it soft and simple. The Gap or Target's Gillian and O'Malley brand usually has some great soft modal options.

Bathrobe: a loose soft one you can sleep in if you're chilly and that you can wear to cover your shoulders when nursing. Just like for the nightgowns, go for something simple in a longer length and dark color - something you'll feel comfortable in riding in the elevator with fully dressed strangers. 

Lounge outfits: A couple options that look like clothes but feel like pajamas (and meet all of the previously described requirements) so in case you have to stay longer than expected you can feel like you got dressed but still be comfortable and functional. Keep in mind the maternity ward is usually warm and the NICU is so hot! Don't forget something for you to wear on the day you leave the hospital so you can look cute in the pics!

Slippers and sandals: that can be worn with your pajamas or your lounge outfits. Your feet will be swollen so again it's all about comfort and function - no wild fuzzy slippers or strappy gladiator sandals. 

Comfy undies: I'm talking pack-o-panties, big soft granny panties with a soft waistband.

Nursing bras: be sure you have some that are comfortable for day and night. You will need to be able to get your boob out quick and easy and have support for when they're leaky and sore. You think your boobs get big during pregnancy but you ain't seen nothing yet - when in doubt size up. Engorgement is the worst and the last thing you need is a tight bra! I like this Medella Nursing Sleep bra.

Nursing cover: great to throw over your shoulders while nursing so you’re not just sitting there exposed to the world. I love the multifunctional ones like these from Milksnob.

Maxi pads or depends: stock up on thick overnight heavy flow pads or better yet depends. The hospital pads are HUGE and uncomfortable (seriously, they're ridiculous) but the mesh undies are awesome - stock pile those babies.

New mama supplies: nursing pads, nipple cream (this cream is way smoother and softer than the others I've tried), numbing spray, breast therapy compress (you will be so glad you have these when your milk comes in!)

Toiletries: chapstick, hair ties, headband, face wash, face wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste, mouth wash, hair brush, dry shampoo, deoterant, small toiletries for shower, glasses/contacts, daily medications, 

Pillows: bring a comfortable pillow from home for you and for hubby and a couple fresh pillow cases.

Nursing pillow: this is a must have to help you feel comfortable and confident as you learn to nurse! I am not crazy about my boppy nursing pillow but have heard great things about the my brest friend one.

Hands free breast pump bra: this is probably not necessary if you have a typical 24-48 hr hospital stay but for us, we were there so long that I wished I had one so that I could multitask while pumping. I have one now and it's a game changer! Be sure to check the bra for compatibility with your pump.

SNACKS! I was not able to have anything to eat or drink throughout my labor so I was starving afterwards, and with a crazy newborn nursing schedule it was hard to find time to eat much. I suggest packing some snacks like granola bars, cheese crackers, lactation cookies, water bottles and anything else that will keep you going between actual meals.

Misc. items like insurance information, ID, cell phone charger, camera, a plastic bag to put soiled clothes in and anything else you want for the room like a fan or noise maker etc.

For baby:
Preemie and newborn sized onesies, sleep sacks, hats, socks and no scratch mittens (poor mills had socks taped around his hands because we didn't have mittens!)

Going home outfit: nothing too loose and make sure the buckle can go between their legs. 

Swaddles: soft muslin swaddle blankets (my favorite are the cotton muslin swaddles from little unicorn) and any other swaddles you plan to use (velcro, halo sleep sacks, ollie swaddle, etc. etc.)

Burp cloths: these small muslin washcloths are the best! Perfectly small and soft for a newborn.

Nail clippers: Mills had such long nails and would scratch his face constantly! The hospital won't cut them for you so come prepared. 

Car Seat!!! Wash all the fabric parts ahead of time and watch the videos on how to use it so you won't have to stress about that at the hospital. Be sure you have installed the base in your car ahead of time too!

Fun baby stuff: Anything you want to make your newborn baby photo dreams come true like a "hello my name is" sticker or a special stuffed animal or letterboard etc. etc. 

Before you go:
Have a birth plan: write up or discuss your birth plan with your doctor and your spouse. Know what you want and don't want plenty of time in advance to avoid any stress or confusion.

Setup the bassinet or crib: that first night at home can be a bit scary so be sure you have where baby will sleep all setup and ready to go so that you can be comfortable and confident with it before you're putting baby in it for the first time. The more of baby's stuff you can have setup and ready to go the easier that "bringing home baby" transition will be.

Order your own breast pump for home: mine is the spectra s2 and it’s great and was free on my insurance.

Wash all of the baby stuff: seriously everything - wash all of baby's clothes, toys, blankets, carriers, wraps, etc. etc. in baby detergent, like babyganicf or dreft, so that it's ready for whenever baby decides to make their arrival. 

Make arrangements for your pet care: have a point person to help you in a pinch. Our poor bruce was stuck at home alone for a few days.

Take off your jewelry: leave your wedding rings, watches, necklaces etc. at home for safe keeping. 

For all you soon to be mama's out there I cannot stress it enough to pack your bag and prepare early! If you read my crazy birth story here you know that there was no reason that I went into early labor and I had no idea that it would happen to me. There's nothing more wonderful than welcoming your baby into the world, but having a comfy nightgown and cute going home outfit to do it in just makes it all that much better!

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