I keep seeing adorable posts on packing the hospital bag that have me all excited to start reading them, and then by the end I'm shaking my head at the screen going "no no no no no! You have it ALL wrong!" I finally found an acceptable one, which you can find here: Whats in a bag But... I still have some 'corrections', so bear with me.
And this mama doesn't name herself, so I shall call her Ann for ease of referral.
So to start with, Ann mentioned she packs one bag for her, and one bag for baby. Cute idea, and I understand her reasoning why, but I have two problems with this.
1 - I've been at enough births to know that you usually move rooms at least twice. I've seen couples change rooms up to five times. The less you have to move from room to room, the better.
2 - I overpacked for baby when I went to the hospital, and I still don't think I could fill an entire bag. They're tiny. Their stuff is tiny. And they don't need that much stuff. Having a whole bag just encourages you to keep throwing stuff you don't need in there.
Instead, I highly recommend getting a travel size suitcase on wheels. They're easy to use and pack, easy to move, the wheels keep them off the gross floor, and you can pile things on top of them while you're playing merry go rooms.
What goes in them? I'll follow the same format as Ann, for ease. Baby stuff it is! She acknowledges that the hospital will provide your baby necessities- diapers, wipes, creams and baby washes. All true. She also says that she prefers to use her own. I get that. We went a similar path. I brought none of that. None. Can you believe it? Me, the overpacker! We used all the wipes and diapers we needed, and then you'd better believe we cleared every diaper out of that hospital room before we high tailed it out of there. As for baby washes? Easy, we declined the standard post-birth bath (for many reasons, which I won't go into now)- Voila! No baby wash needed. No lotion needed either, because we rubbed baby's vernix into the skin and it stayed soft for days. That said, I might bring a sample size of a nice organic and chemical free baby wash to the hospital just in case.
A bulb syringe is redundant- I promise they have those at the hospital. As are the nail clippers- you're not going to want to cut baby's nails the day after the birth, no matter how sharp they are. You know what you want? Sleep and food.
I didn't bring a pacifier. I wasn't planning on using one post birth, I wanted to wait until breastfeeding was established first, to avoid nipple confusion. Turns out, but 6am, I was desperate for one. Our nurse told us that they don't actually offer them to babies on the regular floors anymore, only the NICU has a stash of pacis. Huh. Now, our nurse was so fantastic, she went and found us one. But it might make me think to pack one next time. But again- I highly recommended not making the jump to paci lightly- it can be very confusing to a newborn learning how to latch properly in those early days.
So what did we bring? Not a lot! We knew we wanted to leave the hospital as soon as we could after the birth, to get back to the comfort of our home. So I only packed two outfits. I planned before that to use the hospital gowns, and to just have skin to skin time and enjoy snuggles with my girl under our blankets. I still only needed the two outfits- we didn't dress her at all until we were ready to go home, but I will note that the hospital gowns are -not- like I remember. We attempted to put one on Tenley once, and gave up. I assume they're made for monster children or something. tiny bodies, with arms twice the length they needed to be. We literally could not thread her arm down the long tiny opening. So, if you feel you will want your baby dressed at the hospital- bring a few onesies. Don't go overboard though-- you're just going to keep unwrapping them to stare at their tiny perfect toes, and navels, and soft skin.
Hats. People always talk about hats. Heck we brought a hat. Wanna know something funny? It's better for babies not to wear hats immediately after birth. Seriously. First, it disrupts the scent recognition between mama and baby, and secondly, it actually makes it harder for them to regulate their body heat themselves. So bring a hat, but leave it until you get dressed to go outside and go home.
Scratch mitts and booties. We packed these. I got one or two cute photos. Way more work than it was worth. See above for description on how you're just gonna keep taking them off to inspect the perfection of your newborn. If you don't take them off, baby will help you.
One thing I wished I'd packed more of? Blankets. Last thing I would have thought. We just assumed we'd use the hospital receiving blankets, which we did, but after a few hours I wished I had something that smelled like home and felt like ours, rather than feeling like someone elses laundry. I brought only one thick fleece blanket to the hospital. Next time I would still bring the special warm blanket, but I would also pack two to three large receiving blankets, and one Aden and Anais swaddling blanket. Those things are priceless in the first days and weeks!
I packed a book. I think I even tried to pack two, and then stopped myself. And I packed a crossword book. Haha. Ha. ha ha ha ha ha. I was funny. See above comment about the laptop, and smartphone. Don't take up valuable space for something you will never use. I was convinced, I would have a few hours to kill where I'd lay nicely in bed with my newborn in my arms, while I read a trashy novel. Again- Haha ha ha ha. Load a book onto your smartphone if you need. That way it will be ready for you when you get home, without the extra bulk.
All the heavy and weird items in my suitcase were intended for labor. A lot of them I didn't use, but I would still pack next time, just in case. Depending on the type of birth you're planning, your list may vary. We wanted a hands off, relaxed labor in which I moved around as much as needed, and used no pain medications. I was very lucky and thankful that this is what I did indeed end up with.
A magic bag or rice sock to apply heat to your back, or belly. Such a relaxation, and great reminder to loosen those muscles, not tighten them. Tennis balls are great massage tools to roll over a tight back that is filled with knots. Massage oil to help you relax and stay loose during and in between contractions. Pick something without a strong scent, as many women find they get more sensitive during labor. I packed lavender essential oil for relaxation and Rescue Remedy.
As mentioned, have an ipod or smartphone, and headphones or a small docking station. You can buy plug in speakers for $15 at Walmart. The right music can really help to relax you and keep your head focused, or it can even distract you from early contractions or drown out other people you don't want to listen to.
I packed a loose stretchy cotton skirt to wear during labor, and then promptly forgot about it. I wish someone had reminded me, because I think I would have been a lot more comfortable wearing it. Pack whatever you'll feel comfortable in during labor. They will hand you a hospital gown when you check in. You don't have to wear it. If it will help maintain your dignity and feel better to wear your own clothes- then wear them. A bikini top of sports bra as mentions, and a pair of loose pj pants or skirt works perfectly.
A good water bottle is worth its weight in gold. Also- people talked about how bendy straws were the be all and end all of labor. I thought they were nuts. And then my doula asked if I wanted a drink. I said yes, she brought over a drink with a bendy straw, and I took a sip. Ok, I'm sold. I definitely was not present enough to have sat up properly to take a tip out of the cup. So pack a water bottle you can drink from without spilling, or one with a straw, or pack bendy straws, just in case. And ps. Take a sip of water in between every contraction to stay hydrated. And pee every hour to keep your bladder empty so the baby can move down.
There will be more I'm sure, but I hear stirring, so that's my cue it's time to go slip into bed before baby wakes. I'll be back with more experience to share later!